Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happily Ever After?

So my hubby has this great new job, and we're thrilled about it. Me especially, since the compnay throws a big fancy Xmas party every year at a beachfront hotel for employees and their "partners". They've reserved us a room for the night, and I get to buy a new dress, and it's all very exciting (It would be even more exciting if I wasn't dieting like a fiend now to try and look good in said dress. I've got 15-20 pounds to lose. I won't get there, but if I can get close I'd be happy. Anyway.)

So of course, hub's new boss asked if his "partner" would be going. And I think hubby just said yes, instead of what he would have liked to say which is, "No, but my wife will be."

See, I find this immensely irritating, this British habit of calling everyone "partners". The reasoning being, they don't want to assume people dd something so declasse as get married, so rather than insult the unmarried, we'll just say "partner". Won't everyone be happy then?

No. Everyone will not be happy then. We didn't spend $10,000 on a wedding so we could be treated like an unmarried couple, thank you very much. He is not my "partner". We didn't sit down one day and decide to form a corporation. We got married and started a family, and I really resent the implication that I don't deserve any respect for that but instead should be demoted from my legal and social status as a wife to some loose, we-can-get-out-anytime relationship.

It occured to me last night, though, as I was stewing over this, that very few romances have a "Happily Ever After" where the H/h decide to just move in together. They get married. (Unless they are married, in which case they're very happy to be married.) Or at least they get engaged. Or, even, sometimes in paranormals someone has a psychic vision of them later in life, married with kiddies.

I find this a really interesting dichotomy. If romance novels can be said to be the true, secret fantasies of women, and the overwhelming majority of Happily Ever After endings include, marriage...then how many women out there really, truly don't ever want to get married? In other words, while "partner" is all well and good, it seems to me I'm not the only woman who would rather be called "wife".

This may be a bit of a stretch, saying romance novels are fantasies. But really, honestly, how would you feel is you read a romance and the ending was, "Baby, we don't need a piece of paper, let's just live together, okay?" Bit of an anticlimax, wouldn't it be? (Besides, if it's "just a piece of paper", what's the big deal about getting it? I never understood that.)

Marriage is commitment, and we want our H/hs to commit. We don't want them to live together for a while and hope it works, we want them to commit. We want to know they've looked at each other and said, "You're really the one, and I want everyone to know it", not "Hey, I really like you but I'm not entirely certain this if forever so let's try it and see" or "I love you but I need my space" or even "I love you, but I love my alimony too".

So if we won't accept less in romance novels, why are so many women accepting less in real life? Has something really changed, and women no longer want to get married, or are they being told their fantasies and desires are silly or foolish, and they should grow up and accept that just living together is as good as marriage? After all, aren't romance novels foolish and silly? Isn't it a good thing to make fun of them and their readers, as women stupid enough to believe that there really is someone for everyone, and that they can get that happy ending? That they deserve that happy ending, with someone who'll do whatever he has to do to make that happy ending happen for her? (Now I'm repeating "happy ending" so many times it sounds like I work at a cheap massage parlor.)

Maybe this is on my mind a lot too because for the first time, my WIP does not have a HEA. It has a "we'll see", because it's planned as the first in a series. So it's a little wierd to think of wrapping up a book and not having that final kiss and fadeout.

But I really believe women today are being encouraged, are being forced, to settle for less than they want. And I think that's horrible. And that's why, although my current book may not end with a wedding, you can bet if the series pickes up there will be one at some point--even if it isn't with this book's hero. (I know what will happen, of course, but I'm so not telling.)

What do you think? Are romance HEAs weddings because it's what women want, or is it to cater to more conservative elements of the readership? Can it be a truly satisfying and believable HEA without marriage? And how do you feel about "partner"s?


Bernita said...

"Partners?" Pallid.
They could just say "you can bring a bed-mate," but I've been married so long I don't care how society names our arrangement.
Funny, my book ( which is also part of a projected series) ends the same way.

Anonymous said...

My wife melts in my arms when I call her my bride or introduce her as such. She thinks that is the most romantic thing. It's a pitty many women sho accept a "partnership" will never genuinely experience that.

Hopefully, your hubby's new boss doesn't think he is gay. Isn't that what they call their "lovers"? By the way, isn't it interesting that gay couples are fighting for the legal right to get married?

All the PC is irritating. ESPN suspended one of their football ananlysts for using the word "gay" in an "offensive" way. Political correctness is just lying for those who can't handle the truth.

Anyway, are you going to wear a corset to the party? -JTC

December Quinn said...

"Partners" is pallid, Bernita. It makes it sound businesslike. "If you pay x% of the bills, I will kiss you every morning. If you do the dishes, we can share a bed. We could up our investment and buy some furniture together, depending on the projected returns." So bland and unromantic.

"Bride" is such a great word to use, JTC. I'd melt, too. And I agree, it is a shame. What is so bad about belonging to someone else, when they belong to you right back?

Yeah, I do find it interesting that while gay couples fight for the right to get married, straight couples are behaving as through the marriage license sucks up a piece of their souls on signing.

PC language is terribly irritating.

And I'm thinking about it, yes. I'd like to, I just don't know if we can afford a new one.

Sherrill Quinn said...

Be proud of being married! The only complaint I have when dealing with married women is the perpetual "I have to check with my husband". You want to go to a one-day FREE conference, and you have to check with your husband? What is this with asking permission? Just tell him you're going. So many women seem to lose themselves in their marriages; they cease to exist as an individual.

I'd love to be married, but, man, don't suck out my brain in the process! *G*

December Quinn said...

I'm guilty of that, Sherrill, but with me it's because I have a terrible memory so need to be reminded if we already made plans. :-)

I do find one thing really irritating, though. Hubs' ex wife always, always calls her husband "my husband", even though we know the guy's name--we've met him, even. But she never says his name. It's soooo annoying. Like, yeah, we get it. You got married again. Yippee.

Isabella Snow said...

It *is* annoying. I hate it. Lots. Tacky as hell.

I do like when they say "your good lady" though. Kind of cute. But I wouldn't want that used on me either, lol.

Anonymous said...

sherrill, that works the other way too. I sometimes refer to my wife as "The Warden" because when it comes to letting me out of her sight, she is very . . . something, insecure? -JTC

December Quinn said...

I think "your good lady" is cute. It leaves the relationship open--it doesn't insult by assuming you're not married.

S. W. Vaughn said...

He is not my "partner". We didn't sit down one day and decide to form a corporation.

December, that's a damned good line. :-)

I'm not thinking straight right now. I'm sure I have thoughts on this subject. I am a wife and proud of it. I know exactly one person (my sister) who is outwardly satisfied with living together and doesn't care about the "piece of paper."

They're hard on married people here, for some reason. We have stricter tax laws, and far more paperwork at the DMV. It baffles me. If the US is so big on marriage as a sacred institution and the core of our society, why do they make things so difficult for married people?

Anonymous said...

s.w., The answer to your question is pure economics. It is all about taxes and fees, putting money in the local (or whatever) governments pockets. -JTC

Anonymous said...

LOL... I don't even remember my wedding. My husband and I were married on 08/05/96. On 08/07/2005 we were stopped at a red light and I turned to my beloved and said... "I have this feeling we've forgotten something."

He replied, "Hmmm, did we make sure and put the dog out before we left?"

I said, "Yes, that's not it... what's today?"

And for a moment we looked at each other and realization hit us both in the forehead... yes, we BOTH completely forgot our anniversary...

Oh well, we decided to go and have a nice dinner.

December Quinn said...

Lol, Rashenbo! I think that's awesome, though, being so happily married you just don't even think about it.

And thanks for the response!

Elle said...

Nah, you're not the only one annoyed by the whole partner thang. I prefer wife too. That being said about a year after being here I had a call from a client who referred to her husband as "partner" so I took it they weren't married. She then proceeded to get angry with me for making such an assumption. Go figure.

I will also state that I tend to be unpopular with my unmarried friends because I'm totally against any type of legislation that is meant to make the legal lives of unmarried partners easier. If they want the benefits of a marriage then they should get married rather than whinging that they want rights but don't want to make the commitment on paper.

Anonymous said...

Okay, a few things:
elle- My family sucks. My (not legal) husband loves me. I don't want my family to be able to steal my books or even my right to funeral the way I want it out from under me. But the things I want can be done by just saying so in a living will.

Marriage vs not- Originally it was only the rich who would get married "legally" ie, by paying the church. Us poor people did the ceremony but were never recognized as married by the church because we couldn't pay for it. Personally, the government has no right to tell me who I can and can't marry. I shouldn't have to get their approval, pay them for the right or any such thing. Marriage is personal and religious. I also do not need to get the approval of a clergy member either. While there are ways around this I have encountered these problems which has put me off the whole legal marrage thing. I still consider myself married, as does my husband. We are commited to each other deeply. We performed a ritual as per our religion to show our dedication and that's all we wanted.
As for HEA=marriage... I don't know how that's the case, seeing as in the States there's a 51% divorce rate. People don't take it seriously anymore because they can just get divorced later. Which is why I have no problem with gay marriage (I'm not pushing it, but I'm not against it) because they can't screw it up much more than celebrities and straight people have.
Happily ever after is what you make of it. Obviously december you work hard to keep up your relationship. People today, married or not, just like to be able to cut out when things get rough.

Anonymous said...

When more than half of all marriages end in divorce, marriage is no guarantee of HEA. However, the idea of a public declaration of love and affection is always romantic. I get just as teary at a gay wedding, where the ceremony isn't at all legal, as I do at straight ones which bestow all sorts of rights on the participants even though there's 51% chance that the happy couple will one day end up hiring lawyers to divvy up small appliances and dinnerware they'll unwrap after the reception.

Come to think of it, I get even more teary over gay weddings, precisely because I know the couple gets nothing out of the ceremony but the joy of pledging their love before friends, family and God.

Personally, I think "partner" is a good word to use for the SO of someone you don't know very well. Over the years I have been the ungrateful recipient of more than one diatribe about marriage - against it, for it, for gay marriage, against gay marriage, and one very uncomfortable lecture about Covenant Marriages, which, I was informed, "are better than regular marriages" because they are godly and, also, harder to get out of.

I'm married, myself, but I'm absolutely sick of other people's lectures on the subject. Marriage is so politicized, I often prefer to stay on neutral ground.

December Quinn said...

I totally agree, elle. I was appalled when they changed the laws so unmarried couples could adopt. Why are we giving a child to a couple who can't even make a commitment to each other?

And if you call your husband by a euphemism for "unmarried", you have no right to be offended when people assume that means you're not married, ffs.

But Michelle, you are married, then. That's a bit different from just moving in together.

I don't mean getting married is HEA in real life, I mean, don't we expect that from a romance novel HEA?

Jenn on the Island said...

I am a Mrs. not a Ms.
I actually get odd looks when I correct people. I am not however, Mrs. Hubby's Name. I only took his last name when I married him. (that one bugs the hell outta me)

I think I've only read a couple contemp romances, and I don't recall if they ended up married or not...I wonder if there is a difference between the endings of those who do the church thing and those who opt for a JP? (there was a discussion elsewhere about the whole church and state thing that made me think about that)

Oh and as for the corporation bit...I wonder sometimes if we didn't. Hubby's answer to requests for social engagements is "let me check with management." ;)

December Quinn said...

"Partner" isn't a horrible word to use when you're not sure of someone's status, Bettie, but when said person s wearing a wedding ring...I think that's an indication of status.

Yes, there may be a 51% chance of divorce, but considering that if you live together before marriage it increases your risk...I'd say one's just as much of a crapshoot as the other.

December Quinn said...

Lol, Jenn!
That's what I wonder, too. How does it change the feel of the book, is it less satisfying for readers, without the ring at the end?

Bernita said...

Checking with one's husband/wife is not a sign of control or submission. It's courtesy to the most important other.

Elle said...

Eggzactly, D. A few years ago a friend of mine fell pregnant with her boyfriend's baby. He sent an announcement email round to everyone to let friends and family know, which was nice. What blew me away was him saying that they weren't ready to get married yet but they were committed to each other. Ok, so you're not ready to get married but you're ready to have a baby together???? Colour me clueless on that one. Although just to say they did eventually get married and now they're expecting baby no. 2.

And Michele, I'm sorry I do not see any clout in your point and it doesn't sway my opinion. Yes, things like Wills are wonderful when it comes to ensuring that your wishes are adhered to when you are gone. There unfortunately is not always a legal document around to protect an unmarried partner's position though. People are becoming more savvy about the legal issues surrounding cohabiting which is a good thing. They should take steps to protect themselves and their significant others. More often they don't though and it's those people who seem to be crying the loudest for legislation. There's too much ambiguity when it comes to cohabitation and not-legally-married couples. It would be nigh on impossible to draw a line that would make even the majority happy.

Anonymous said...

elle- I wasn't meaning to be snippy (or come off that way). I accept that I don't have the legal back up so I took steps to make it myself. I mean, that's a price I have to pay. And yes, everyone should have to make said choice.
As for unmarried couples adopting... well, what about single people? I strongly believe that adoption should be allowed to anyone willing and capable of taking on the child. Orientation and marriage status shouldn't apply normally.

Jenn on the Island said...

OK, I just finished a Harlequin. At the end she gets a ring and a proposal. They decide to do it next week, as soon as they can get the priest.

And every time she thinks about marrying him, she calls him her partner.

Anonymous said...

"...when said person is wearing a wedding ring...I think that's an indication of status."

I would think so, too. And yet, you would not believe the number of people who have referred to my husband as my "boyfriend". The problem, I am told, is a) we have different last names, b) my simple wedding band hasn't got a big ol' diamond engagement ring attached. Some people assume my ring is a "commitment ring" (a truly vague bit of jewelry which can mean anything from "I'm saving myself for Marriage." to "We've been going steady for a week!" depending on one's social circle) instead of a wedding band.

Honestly, I would much rather hear "partner" than "boyfriend" from people who know me slightly but can't be bothered to remember my marital status or imagine that there exists in this wide world a middle-class married woman who doesn't want a diamond ring. "Partner" at least acknowledges commitment and implies that they are trying to be polite.

"How does it change the feel of the book, is it less satisfying for readers, without the ring at the end?"

There's nothing more romantic than taking vows before friends, family and the deity (or JP) of one's choice. I don't care about the ring or the white dress or any of the other claptrap the Wedding-Industrial Complex has tried to foist on us over the years, but a story that lacks a public declaration of 'til-death-do us part adoration will always leave me wanting more.

December Quinn said...

See, I guess I just think it's rude to assume people aren't married when they are--more rude than assuming they are when they aren't. Could be just me. :-) I'm inulsted when people see my ring and ask about my "partner" or, as the doctor did the other day, asked if I was "in a committed, monogamous relationship". Uh...yeah? Married! (Yeah, I know not all married people are faithful, but when "Mrs. Quinn" is sitting in front of you, at least do her the respect of assuming she's faithful.)

And thanks for that last point. Without knowing that something permanent and public is happening, it isn't a HEA!

Elle said...

Michele, just to clarify, I'm a family lawyer. Because I see this from a legal perspective, I tend to get very opinionated. I still accept however that my unmarried friends will make the choices they deem best for their situation, even if it makes me cringe and worry that they might get shafted down the road. I can also accept that any couple who has gone through a ceremony of their choosing to get married should be considered married. Unfortunately, the law doesn't see it that way, especially in this country. I can also have some sympathy for the argument that you don't want the government involved in your marriage. The fact of life is it's the government that regulate it. I don't always like what they do with my tax money but I still pay my taxes. So what is so gods awful bad about getting the piece of paper to make it legal? (rhetorical question). It's something I will never understand.

As for adoption, well, that's an argument for a different post probably! It's always been my understanding that those who have the money to adopt do so anyway no matter how they go about it. I don't think laws do much in this realm anyway.

kis said...

There are people who don't need a "piece of paper" to be secure and commited and happy. But those same people often refer to their common law spouse as husband or wife. Me, I'm a fan of marriage.

That said, my husband and I spent exactly $185 on our wedding. We slept late, wore jeans, and had a nice dinner afterward. We both forget our anniversary nearly every year--that's what you get for getting hitched three days before Christmas. On our fourth anniversary, he phoned to say goodnight from his ex-wife's house, where he was forced to stay over, when we both realized what day it was. But heck, he was picking up his kids, and the weather was terrible, and there just wasn't another option. Whaddayagonnado?

December Quinn said...

You're a stronger woman than me, kis. I'd be well pissed if my husband had to spend our anniversary with his ex-wife--she already ruined a couple of them by calling and picking a fight that night (knowing wht day it was, of course.)

Part of me wishes we'd done a smaller wedding and saved more of the money. But we wanted a big party, I wanted a big what the hell.