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Eating Marriage Cake

October 20, 2010

Wedding Cake Design

What's in your cake?

Some of you may have seen the comments about marriage on my Friday blog post (


One of the things I wrote was that we should “decide what a successful marriage looks like to us and then create it.”

I wrote that because I don’t like the traditional get married, have kids, woman in domestic role, man as a provider model of marriage. And one of my readers agree with what he thought I was suggesting by my idea that we can create a different kind of marriage and he e-mailed me privately about it. In the e-mail he suggested that I was not only a nihilist, but more specifically an American Nihilist.

And in case some of you thought the same thing, I wanted to share my thoughts on that specific point. I have included and edited version of my response to my reader below:

Okay, I looked up nihilism, and it is a broad concept. I only currently have access to it in the condensed definitions of Webster and the like, so I can’t be completely certain of which aspects of nihilism you feel I exhibit. That being said, after looking into it a bit and reading what you said about it, it doesn’t really sound like me.

I think I can see where you may have gotten that idea though.

My idea that we should “decide what a successful marriage looks like to us and then create it” does not spring from the idea that there is no truth or true way. Nor from the idea that there is nothing concrete about man and humanity. (Or even masculinity and femininity.) Furthermore I am not suggesting that the form or idea of marriage is so corrupt that it should be annihilated.

I believe there are things that a marriage must include for it to really be a marriage (commitment, fidelity, co-habitation, etc.). Just like there are certain ingredients that must be combined in the proper proportions create a cake: eggs, flour, milk, sugar. Despite the demands of the form, there are a lot of possibilities within that form. And in almost everything in life I’m a big fan of the freedoms within the forms.

However, I think a lot of people are stuck looking at marriage like pound cake. It has to have a pound of flour, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs otherwise it isn’t cake.

But you can make cake without flour. Or without eggs. But you need to replace those ingredients with a similar element; otherwise it won’t become a cake. Furthermore, you can make white cake, red velvet cake or chocolate cake. Heck, I’d consider banana bread to be cake if hard-pressed. It can be done in millions of ways if you are willing to experiment with all of the ingredients and other variables.

And, well, I don’t want pound cake. It was good enough for my grandparents. And my parents iced their pound cake quite nicely. But I’m more of chocolate girl. I’m thinking dark chocolate with raspberry filling and milk chocolate frosting…

I wasn’t suggesting we annihilate marriage and discard or rebuild it, but rather referring to exploring the freedoms within the form. And I do believe that without certain ingredients it just isn’t a marriage.

Furthermore, I was also looking at it more from a historic and societal perspective. My parent’s marriage is incredibly successful in their eyes and very successful compared to other marriages formed at the same point in history. They’ve been together for 33 years and they are happy – both independently and as a couple. But it isn’t the marriage I want. Even though it is so much more than the marriage my grandparents had – which was also considered highly successful compared to other marriages formed at that time in history (they had plenty of sons after all).

As society changes, so must its constructs. And I do consider marriage to be, at least in part, a societal construct. So, the larger force of society must also be considered.

If marriage is to continue to survive in modern society it must serve modern needs, not antique ones – no matter how beautiful those antiques were. For a modern woman who may not even want children, let alone sons, the old, child-centered model of marriage does not serve modern needs. And, more specifically, is unlikely to serve mine.

My dad actually thinks that the only reason for the modern man (and I mean men, not humans) to get married is to have kids. Which is interesting, because my parents didn’t want kids, but they got married anyway. And I don’t even have kids in the equation as I look toward the possibility of marriage. I think I’d like the option, but it definitely isn’t the plan.

Of course, maybe my dad is right. Maybe marriage only happens and works because of kids. Maybe I won’t be able to have the marriage I want and instead I will have to have children to make a marriage work. But if I can’t have the marriage I want, I guess I don’t know if I want to be married.

What do you all think? What elements does a marriage have to include to still be a marriage? And what ingredients do you want in your cake? Are kids the whole point? Or, can a marriage exist in a worthwhile form without children – the way that a cake can exist without eggs – if you add some other bonding agent to the mix?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2010 2:23 pm

    This might surprise you, but I see nothing wrong with having a marriage on your own terms even not having kids. Kudos for being honest enough to reject that tradtional role model and decide that for you, kids are not in the picture. Kids are a huge demand and only parents who are committed should have them.

    There is a lot to be said for marriage without kids. Just when you had me dismissed as a misogynist huh?

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder


    • October 20, 2010 2:39 pm

      I don’t dismiss misogynists — I just don’t ask them for advice. 😉 Not that I thought you were a misogynist anyway.

      Thanks for your input.


  2. Matt79 permalink
    October 20, 2010 2:56 pm

    I personally think that a marriage can be whatever two people want it to be. As long as they are both gaining happiness and fulfillment from it, I don’t think that there’s any need for anyone else to discount their choices. Live and let live!


  3. Aaron permalink
    October 20, 2010 4:53 pm

    Interesting topic to say the least. Although it may sound disingenuous, I think and speak of marriage rather frequently–from the necessity of it, to its implications… Since I was a teenager, marriage seemed useless…egoistic even. Now that I am divorced, saying that I don’t consider marriage valuable at all is truly an understatement.

    Marriage is whatever people find of value. The whole idea is inherently personal. The fact that the “rules” outlined in religions (from major to extinct) vary so widely, it should be apparent that these are decisions to be made by the “believer” of the ceremony… At this point, the only “marriage” that I consider to be more aligned with reality is Polygamous arrangements… Statistically, people don’t “happily” stay together long enough for any real need of marriage…the variety is necessary–essential for proper Survival of the Fittest mechanisms to be realized…

    I’m just saying…


  4. Joel permalink
    October 20, 2010 8:56 pm

    There is truth in the fact that marriage can be what you as a couple define it as, but there are several factors that are essential in this consideration. First and foremost, both people have to be on board with what they expect marriage to look like. You start treading into rocky waters when things aren’t defined. Even marriages built upon traditional roles can struggle in this regard. Second, never underestimate the call of nature. Traditional roles aren’t simply a product of social conditioning. I believe some things to be natural tendency. Personal example: I always insisted that my wife had the choice of staying at home or going back to work after having children. She instisted that she was okay working and we acted accordingly from the moment she told me she was pregnant. The baby comes and when she’s work-ready, she’s bawling about having to go back. She didn’t realize how hard it would be. On the other side of the coin, I’ve certainly felt inadequacies at times at the fact that I’m not the primary income for the family. This isn’t a product of any pressure anyone’s put on me. It’s just something I believe is ingraned in my role as the “man of the house”. It doesn’t make me any less of a man because I’m not the primary income or my wife less of a woman because she’s a working mom, but there’s a natural part of us that wishes things were otherwise. Everybody’s got a different makeup. The important thing is to be on the same page as a couple and to recognize that generalizations and traditional roles have a basis in reality.


    • October 21, 2010 8:29 am

      Wow…I don’t know what to say, Joel. This is one of those comments that seems so divorced from what I was getting at that I feel like you didn’t understand the post.


      • Joel permalink
        October 21, 2010 11:43 am

        I thought it went to the question of what defines a successful marriage and I thought your point was that traditional understandings are worth reconsideration. Perhaps I’m missing something key here.


        • October 21, 2010 11:55 am

          I dunno, I guess I wanted to get a bit more out of the box about the whole thing. I appreciate you sharing your experience. It is useful input.

          And actually, if I have kids I will want to stay home with them until they go to school. I realize it will be a sacrifice for the family to be without a second income, but after spending time with my friend Tanya who is doing the stay-at-home-mom thing I really think working outside would be a bigger hassle than it is worth for at least the first two years.


  5. October 21, 2010 11:35 am

    I agree that a marriage can (and probably should) be defined by the participants. I think part of the reason that so many marriages end in divorce is that we are trying to attain this cookie-cutter image of marriage, and when that fails, the marriage or relationship feels like a failure. I also don’t think people put enough time going into a marriage defining what they really want out of a life partner and what they want their marriage to look like. They get so wrapped up in the excitement of being engaged or having a wedding and finally moving forward with that part of their life – that they don’t spend the up front time building the marriage. I am still defining in my head what I want out of a life partner … but above all, I want to be in a relationship, in a marriage, where the person truly loves me for me (and I love them for them) and we support and build each other up. That building each other up is the most important component of each of our lives, and then when we have kids, we build them up as well. And for me, kids is part of a plan, not just an option. But I think that’s an important detail to establish before getting married as well (whether you want to have children).

    I wish I had more to add here, but I’m still in the process of reevaluating what I want out of a marriage now that my wedding/pending marriage was cancelled. I always knew what I wanted – it was what I had, what I would have. Now that that’s gone, I’m trying to figure it all out.


    • October 21, 2010 11:45 am

      I don’t have the most concrete ideas about what I want either. I spend more time thinking about who I want. But every time the topic comes up I feel the limitations that most people have associated with marriage and I just don’t feel those.


      • October 21, 2010 3:19 pm

        On another note, how ridiculous is it that I found your wedding cake picture to be soo pretty? LOL. Sometimes my head is still in wedding planning mode. That’s annoying.


        • October 21, 2010 5:26 pm

          I did pick that picture because I thought it was pretty. I don’t plan on having a traditional wedding cake if I get married though. I’m thinking my party will have to be a lot of bring your own and I might assign some guests to be BYOC and set up a cake bar with tons of different flavors of cakes. Life is too short to only have one cake at a party.


          • October 22, 2010 9:35 am

            That sounds like an awesome idea!
            At my wedding, I was going to have an ice cream sundae bar. I’m definitely doing that next time around – I love ice cream sided with a good cake.


  6. keroome permalink
    October 22, 2010 12:51 pm

    I have no clue as to why anyone would want to be married. Is it to “get” something you don’t have? Is it to share something you already are? I’ve thought a lot about the whole situation and still come up with it completly depends on the people involved. It really is a shame that sucess in marriage is defined on 1) length, death being the goal, or 2) happiness. Happiness is relative, pick one that works for you. One thing I am sure of? Cake gives me a stomach ache.


  7. October 22, 2010 2:30 pm

    I agree with you, Crystal. I think trying to conform to society’s view of “marriage” is why so many good (and bad) couples can’t pull it off. Each person brings his or her own attributes to any relationship. You have to figure out how those attributes need to work together to be successful, and there’s no real formula to follow to make it happen.

    Marriage isn’t some Geranimals system of matching. It’s two people with individual thoughts and feelings and dreams and ideas that change over time. So you HAVE to be adaptable, or there’s no way you can be happy together for long.


  8. October 24, 2010 10:05 am

    I like the way that you think. I am about to be divorced after waiting until 41 to get married. I certainly think that more discussion about exact expectations would have been helpful. As for weddings–I think everyone should do as they please. I wore purple, and banned ties (only one gentleman broke the ban). It was a good day–even if the outcome wasn’t as hoped. Here from freshly pressed–I will visit again.


    • October 25, 2010 9:39 am

      Thank you for the compliment. And I’m sorry to hear that you hare going through a divorce. Even though the marriage is ending I hope you gained a lot from it. And I love that you wore purple and banned ties. I plan on wearing red myself. I don’t think I’ll ban ties, but I will probably make it pretty clear that it will be a a come as you are event. No ties required — you know, whenever I happen to get married. 😉


    • October 25, 2010 5:00 pm

      Your wedding sounds as if it was awesome. And, although it may sound pretentious, your divorce is just as awesome.

      Five years ago, I would’ve thought I would never say that…especially considering that I was going through a divorce at that time. That’s not the exclusive purpose of this reply though.

      You mentioned, “I certainly think that more discussion about exact expectations would have been helpful,”…but I can’t quite concede that that is ever possible. Truly, are you the same person you were at 31? 21?

      Surely, your expectations are different. Thus, even if you would’ve spoken about these expectations for years prior to your marriage, the proceeding updates would’ve crashed the system anyway (sorry, I service computers at work and at home…hope you followed that metaphor).

      I dated my ex-wife for six years prior to our marriage, and we still lasted but five years…probably would’ve been sooner had we not expanded our family. No regrets either way. Going through that has taught me that we never really know whether or not someone would make a great partner. A good mate, perhaps (I can still say that my ex-wife is a good mother even though I can’t be on the phone with her for more than three minutes without a trace of resentment), but just not someone you can coincide with. My mother and I have this relationship… Hey, maybe it’s me…lol

      I’ve gone tangential, but I guess my point: Enjoy the journey. You never know where you may end up…


  9. October 27, 2010 1:14 pm

    Crystal, I can only speak for myself, but I married my husband because he was (and still is) the absolute only person that I wanted to share the rest of my life with. By marrying him, I took a vow (as did he) to be with him for the rest of my/our life. There’s a sacredness about the act of vowing yourself to another person (and I’m not talking about from a religious perspective) that we felt was very powerful and special.

    Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, and I do hear your point, just sharing things from my perspective. 😉


    • October 27, 2010 2:26 pm

      I don’t think that’s hopeless in any way. And I don’t think that is outside of my ideas about what a person might want to create with a marriage.


  10. Just Saying permalink
    October 28, 2010 12:59 pm

    I agree with a lot of the comments here. But I agree with Matt 79 best.
    Live and let live.

    My grandparents would have a heart attack (if still living) at the way marriage can be varity of things. What works for one couple, may not work for another.

    I have to give more thought to my own personal wants etc surrounding marriage.

    The older I get the less I’m stuck on walking down the isle and more about finding long last companionship with someone I dont want to kill on a regular basis.

    Great post!


  11. November 1, 2010 4:58 pm

    This is a wonderful discussion, thank you for posting it. I have 4 dd and 4 ds. I just want them to happy married or not, with children or not. I really truely want them to be happy because they deserve to be. I’ve been through so many things to discover what happyness is and how to get it. That said, a married man and women are a family. I didn’t realize for sometime because I was taught by very well meaning ppl, you had to have children to be a family. There are so many couples that can’t and don’t have children. So you wouldn’t be in bad company. Beatrix Potter didn’t have children that I know of. Your entitled to want what you want and be free to do what is good for you and never stand in judgement of it. That is only between you and G*d.


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