Adapted from a recent online discussion.
It's better to believe in a person before believing in marriage
Va.: Why do women keep believing in marriage when all evidence points to the contrary?
Carolyn: "All" evidence? That seems a bit skewed. There are definitely some significant, generalized benefits to marriage that women — and men — enjoy, and there are some individually awesome marriages.
That said, I think it's a mistake to believe in marriage. You have to believe in the person you're marrying; then, and only then, does marriage make sense.
Anonymous: My girlfriend of two years wants us to go to counseling together. I think that would be appropriate if we were planning a future together, which we aren't at this point, and a waste of time and money otherwise. I guess I believe if she isn't satisfied with our relationship at this point, it will only get worse from here. She has not issued any ultimatums, but I still feel like if I refuse to go, it'll be the same as saying I've checked out of our relationship. Do you think there's any way I can refuse to go without having to break up with her?
Carolyn: What's the harm in going once? She obviously cares about this, and you seem to care about her, so see what it's about — then take a stand, if you still feel you need to. That way, it'll be an informed stand, instead of just an assumption that whatever is wrong can't or won't be fixed. Open yourself to the possibility of enlightenment.
For what it's worth, I tend to agree in theory that if she's unhappy now with who you are, then the signs for the future aren't good. However, there's always the possibility that you both like each other in necessary and fundamental ways, but could use a 101 course in communicating — which will inform all of your relationships, regardless. Show up for one session. You'll either be pleasantly surprised or that much closer to seeing that this relationship isn't going to work.
Yet another wedding question: My partner of 14 years and I are planning a small civil union ceremony. About 25 people are invited, and the remainder of our family and friends will receive an announcement in the mail.
Here's the issue: I am estranged from my father, and have been for almost 20 years now. This is my choice, not his, and I have good and valid reasons for it. He is obviously not invited to the ceremony, but I don't know if I should send him an announcement.
We see him at family functions once or twice a year and are cordial. We also send him a Christmas card, mostly so he can get a picture of his grandchild.
I know he would want to be here. I guess I just don't want to rub his face in it. Any input?
Carolyn: If you were in his shoes, which would hurt you more — hearing of your child's union from a mailed announcement, or the grapevine? I'd say the latter, but you need to try to think as your father would.
There's also a third way: telling him personally. Phone, in person, handwritten letter — any of them would indicate more respect for his place in your life than a printed card would.