9 Ways to Be Married: Explained

It's one thing to say "I Do"—and another to keep on doing. At a time when statistics show many forces working against it, how does marriage continue to thrive? MORE talks to a variety of women in committed, if sometimes unconventional unions about how they choose to tie their knot

by Doren Allen
Photograph: Jens Bonnke

#1 Role Reversers
Ariella Rogge, 39 and Matt Rogge, 44
Florissant, Colorado
Ariella Rogge is one of a growing group of wives bucking tradition: She works full time as head of a girls’ camp while her husband, Matt, stays home with their boys, ages eight and four. “Shifting roles and shattering the gender paradigms of our part of the country has been taxing,” she admits, “but I feel it’s an incredible opportunity for our sons to learn what it means to be a man.” Married for 13 years, the Rogges met in Kansas, then both landed jobs with the nonprofit Colorado Outdoor Education Center. Ariella loved hers, but Matt wasn’t thrilled with his. In 2006, when their older son was 18 months old, Matt suggested he stay at home with the child and handle most of the cooking and shopping. He still takes the occasional gig as a corporate trainer, earning a third to half of what Ariella does.

The Rogges’ relationship reflects two national trends: They’re among the 22 percent of married couples in which the wife earns more than her husband, up significantly from 4 percent in 1970. And Matt is part of another rapidly growing group: According to the latest U.S. census, the numberof dads staying home to takecare of children under age 15 has more than doubled in the past decade. Ariella shares her thoughts:

Blazing a path Matt and I are constantly fighting what we knew as kids. Sometimes I fall into my dad’s role: I come home thinking, I worked all day; it’s time for me to sit and read a magazine. But we allwork all day long—parenting is a full-time job for both parents.Reality is more challenging than theory; it looks more like a kid’s finger painting than a Monet.

We’d rethink things if . . . Matt was deeply unhappy. Our relationship is paramount to the success of our family; being the partners we need to be for each other helps us be the parents we need to be for our kids.

I want my sons to learn . . . that nobody’s role is more or less important than anyone else’s within a marriage.

Unexpected rewards There’s a little bit of feeling like pioneers—us against the world—because we do marriage differently.

When the going gets tough . . .  there’s power in remembering “in sickness and in health” and “till death do us part.” You’ve said in front of God and everyone you love that you’re going to work on this. That’s important, because there are days when it’s hard.

#2 Living Together, No License
Maryann Karninch, 60, and Jim McCormick, 56
Estes Park, Colorado
Maryanna and Jim met in San Francisco at a conference for adventure athletes; their first date was skydiving. She’s a literary agent and author, he’s a motivational speaker and corporate coach, and they’ve lived together for nearly 17 years. Neither has children. Last year the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 15.3 million heterosexual Americans were in live-in relationships; 47 percent of them are 35 or older, and 13 percent are 55 or older. Some may eventually marry, but Maryann and Jim have no such plans.

“We like our independence, and we like our ability to work as a team when we want to,” she says. “We’re in a state of unwedded bliss.” Maryann continues:

Why not wed? We’re happy the way we are. We’d both been married before; it didn’t work. Our expectations for this relationship are that we’re mutually supportive, that we have a hot love and that we have fun. Would marriage make it hotter or more fun? I don’t think so. We feel a continual renewal of our appreciation of each other with no sense of obligation.

Who’s happier—the married or the un-? It’s highly individual. I have a good friend who’s married to a super guy, and they have what Jim and I have. People in this country are at a place where they realize that if you want the church or state to bless your union, you can go ahead; if not, you still have a union.

Don’t you miss anniversaries? We celebrate our anniversary as the day we met, so we still have hoopla. We give each other cards and do nice things because we want to commemorate the moment that we first laid eyes on each other. The first thing he gave me was a peanut butter cookie, at the conference where we met. If we have a spat, he gives me a peanut butter cookie.

#3 Gay Marriage
Samantha Aulick, 41, and Alexa Lemley, 38
Columbus, Indiana
They fell in love as teenagers, when Samantha—Sam—took a job at the catering company owned by Alexa’s parents. Both went off to college and on to other female partners, though they remained friends. Sam lived in Maryland, Alexa in Kentucky. In 2000, Alexa returned to the catering company to be its executive chef; Sam went back in 2005 to handle sales. Working together, they rekindled their relationship, and have been together seven years. “We’ll get married as soon as it’s legal in Indiana,” says Sam.

Nine states and the District of Columbia now recognize gay marriage, and 50 percent of Americans support it, according to recent national surveys. The latest census shows 646,464 same-sex households in the U.S., a number that has nearly doubled since 2000. Among that group, 131,729 couples identified themselves as married. Many gay-rights advocates believe both figures to be low. Sam reflects:

On Small-town life We’ve found acceptance. We’re an out couple in a very conservative rural community; we’ve had people tell us that until they met us, they didn’t believe gays and lesbians deserved rights. We love each other very much, and it’s obvious.

Why not a civil partnership? Marriage legitimizes the relationship in the eyes of other people. We want the respect and legal protection a marriage provides, especially if we have children. A civil partnership doesn’t offer that.

Wedding dreams We have about 10 different scenarios: taking friends and family to Europe or to a lovely place in Maine. We’ve also thought about having a big to-do, because marriage is a celebration of unity and community. (“We want to have kids,” adds Alexa, “but I’m a good Catholic girl; I’d like to be married first.”)

#4 Ricochet Marriage
Cozy Meyer, 49, and Joe Newman, 48
Las Vegas
Cozy and Joe met at their California junior high; then her family moved to another district. When she was 17 and he was 19, a friend fixed them up, and they married a few months later, in 1983. Joe was in the Navy and often away. When he was assigned to another base, Cozy decided not to move with him, but the divorce was amicable. She later remarried and had two sons, now grown.

For nearly a decade, the former couple had no contact until Joe, who hadn’t remarried but did have two sons, phoned Cozy to talk over what had gone wrong between them; he wanted closure, and he wanted to learn about himself. Cozy, separated from her second husband at the time, realized she still had feelings for Joe. “But I’d made a commitment to try to reconcile with my sons’ father,” she says. She and Joe lost touch for another decade until Cozy, by then divorced and living in Las Vegas, trained to be a massage therapist and was required to provide contact information for her first husband as part of a background check during the licensing process. “I had to find him,” she says. “When I did, I went to Los Angeles in 2003 and we had lunch, which turned into dinner and then breakfast—and the rest is history.” Joe, a tech-support agent for the video game company PlayStation, moved toLas Vegas. They remarried two years ago.

Nancy Kalish, PhD, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University at Sacramento, has surveyed more than 4,000 rekindled relationships since 1994; 3 percent of these participants had been married to and divorced their lost loves. The reunions she followed displayed a high success rate: Nearly 75 percent were still together after 10 years. (One group that fared less well: those whose reunions were extramarital affairs.) Kalish thinks the durability of early love in the successful couples is often due to growing up together, sharing friends, culture and values. Cozy has her own insights:

Why The Reunion Worked When we got together for that lunch, we were both at a point in our lives where we were hitting the reset button.

Doubts about reconnecting?I was scared shitless. But the choice was either take a leap of faith and try it or regret it the rest of my life.

What’s different?In our time apart, we’d grown up. Everything we needed to work out, we worked out with others. We played the sad country music song backward.

Why remarry? Marriage is a commitment. I know some people say it’s just a piece of paper, but it makes us feel secure. Now I have my mate; now we can move forward together. We’re like big teenagers. We have responsibilities, but we have a good time. The sexual spark is there, but it’s more than just a sex drive. We call it divine drive.

#5 Open Marriage
Harper James, 52, and Michael James, 48 (Not their real names, and some details have been changed.)
Urban Southeast
ACCORDING TO a National Science Foundation survey,80 percent of Americans believe infidelity is wrong. Harper and Michael James agree. Yes, both have sex with other people—they call these encounters “-excursions”—and sometimes participate in threesomes (or moresomes). “But we’d never cheat!” says Harper. Their definition of cheating? “Having sex without telling the other person,” Harper says.

Harper owns an organic-products business, Michael works in tech sales, and their teen and young-adult children don’t know about their lifestyle. The couple sometimes meet other partners through a “swinger” website that has 50,000 members. They discuss each extramarital adventure beforehand and get to know the other couple before any swapping goes on.

Estimates of the number of American couples in open marriages range from 1.7 percent to 6 percent. Harper explains her unusual union:

How it happened When we got married 17 years ago, an open arrangement was in no way on the radar. But nearly five years ago, we were in kind of a sexual lull. I had a higher libido but I wasn’t going to cheat, so I was trying to figure out ways to rectify this. I read an article online about open marriage from a husband’s perspective and shared it with Michael.

Ground rules No sex with clients, coworkers or anybody in the state. We both travel for work, so that’s not a problem. No spending the night—that creates the opportunity to start developing a relationship. We always talk about how we feel, and the other person has to accept the feeling, good or bad. If one of us is uncomfortable, we say, “You can’t do that person anymore.”

Safe sex? Absolutely. Condoms always.

Benefits Since we started having excursions, our own sexual relationship has been a lot more fun. If we hook up with anyone, the idea is to bring that energy back to each other. We’ve always been good communicators, but in an open marriage, you end up communicating a lot more about your feelings.

Why stay married? First and foremost, we’re a committed couple. We opened our marriage for the experience of having varied sex with others, not to replace each other.

#6 Serial Marriage
Cindy Nye, 51, and Ben Nye, 42
Plano, Texas
The first time Cindy wed, she was 19 and wanted to move out of her parents’ house. A year and a half later, she discovered that her husband was unfaithful and left him; after the divorce, she gave birth to a daughter by a boyfriend. At 22, seeking security, she married a man 15 years her senior and had two more daughters.

“As the children got older and my interests broadened, my husband and I grew apart,” she says. They divorced after 16 years. When she wed again at 45, marrying a man nine years her junior, her goal was a healthy partnership. Cindy, now an executive assistant at a bank, and Ben, a systems engineer who had never married before, lived together for two years before making it legal. “I’ve never been happier,” she says of their eight-year marriage.

According to the latest available census figures, 12 percent of American adults have married twice, and 3 percent have married three or more times. Cindy looks back:

What she knows now When I married at 19, I was old enough to know what I didn’t want but too young to know what I did want. When I remarried at 22, I was looking for a father figure for my child—and maybe for me. I married Ben with no ulterior motives, just the desire for happiness.

Regrets? No. When I was young, I thought you married forever. But I grew up, and the first two men I married didn’t.

What’s different this time The atmosphere is more relaxed. We enjoy each other’s company, and Ben is there for me; he tells me he loves me more often in a day than I heard in a year in my second marriage. We have an equal relationship.

Why marry for a third time? We wanted to make a public commitment. His family worried about me because I’m -older. We wanted to let them know we love each other—and that I’m here for the long run.

#7 Companion Marriage
Lynn Johnson, 52, and Dave Johnson, 54 (Not their real names, and some details have been changed.)
Suburban New Jersey
“I’m always telling my girlfriends that I live with my brother!” says Lynn, a real estate agent whose husband, Dave, is a consultant for government agencies. Their 26-year marriage is rewarding, she says, but she can’t remember the last time they had sex. Four hotnewlywed years were followed by a decade of trying to get pregnant. “Sex becamelike a job,” Lynn recalls. “That’s how our love life got off track.” The couple made peace with being childless and settled into a close, comfortable routine—-confiding in each other, dining out together but pursuing separate activities. “I want to try new things—hang gliding or traveling to Italy,” Lynn says. “He likes cigar bars and golf with his buddies.” Sexual encounters became increasingly rare, especially after Lynn had a hysterectomy, and that was fine with her. “I guess it doesn’t bother him either,” she says. “It’s a weird relationship, but it works.” She tells why:

Mutual respect We’ve never stopped each other from doing what makes us happy. I go out with my girlfriends; he goes out with the guys. He’s my best friend, my go-to person for talking through issues. He cheers me up when I’m down.

If I found out he was cheating . . .
I’d probably say, “If someone wants to do it [with him], bless them.” But he’s never given me reason to think that. He comes home from work exhausted, and for years he’s been on blood pressure medication that lowers his libido.

When I said “I do” . . .I thought we’d have a couple of kids. Everyone wants the perfect life, but very few people get it; those who do are either very fortunate or lying. I just wanted someone in my life who wanted to be there every day—and that’s what I have.

Why stay married? Finding time to be an individual is part of being a couple. Marriage is not a joined-at-the-hip, 24/7 partnership, but rather a blending of two people who want to weather any storm that life throws their way. I may have had moments when I didn’t like my husband very much, but I’ve always loved him, regardless. I’ve never thought about ending the marriage. I’d miss my best buddy. And I signed on for better or worse. I would hope he’d say the same thing.

#8 Married, Living Apart
Kambri Crews, 41, and Christian Finnegan, 39
New York City
He’s often on the road, she needs to stay put, and they’re separated at least 10 days a month, often more. Yet they’ve been together for 10 years, married for six.

Christian, who has a recurring role on the TBS sitcom Are We There Yet?, performs in comedy clubs all over the world; Kambri runs a New York public relations and production company. The couple saw each other only four days in October but spent three weeks together at Christmas. “I can’t imagine a different arrangement,” she says. “There have been instances when we were together for longer than we expected, and after four weeks, we said, ‘Who’s going on a trip next?’ ”

Kambri and Christian, who have no children, are among the estimated 3.5 million married couples involved in some variation of a Living Together Apart marriage. That number has more than doubled since 1990, according to the U. S. Census Bureau, driven chiefly by economic necessity—and often by the mutual pursuit of satisfying careers. Kambri’s views:

Benefits It’s corny but true: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. We’re always excited to be back together. And both of us like having time to ourselves.

Drawbacks Sometimes he’s gone when something special is happening. I don’t think we’ve had Valentine’s Day together since . . . ever. Luckily, I don’t care. Logistics can be a problem. Who bought toilet paper? Who’s taking the dogs to the vet? But those are minor issues.

No Temptations We’re committed, faithful, monogamous. I’ve never worried; it’s not an issue—knock on wood.

Why Marry? That declaration of your commitment to each other in front of friends and family is important. When I saw everyone surrounding us at the wedding, I was absolutely overjoyed. I said, “I get it—it’s bigger than us!”

#9 Modern Traditionalists
Terry Grahl, 43, and Scott Grahl, 43
Taylor, Michigan
“There’s a little old-fashioned in me,” says Terry Grahl. Her husband of 20 years is a rail-terminal manager and the primary breadwinner. Terry runs a nonprofit that redesigns the interiors of shelters for abused women and their kids; she also has a part-time job cleaning an office. But when her children (three sons, 18, 17 and 14,and a 13-year-old daughter) were small, she was a stay-at-home mom. “I’m still here when the kidscome home from school,” Terry says. “If that’s what traditional is, then that’s what we have.”

Sixty-six percent of American families with children have dual incomes. Only about 16 percent of households consist of a breadwinner husband and a stay-at-home wife, according to the most recent figures available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. How has the 1950s marriage model changed to meet the needs of today? Terry explains:

Why she decided to stay home After my first son was born, I continued to work full time in the accounting department of a manufacturing firm. My sister took care of the baby. When I told my mother that I wanted a second baby, she said, “Who’s going to raise your -children?”

Regrets? It’s the best decision we’ve ever made. My husband was excited when I said I wanted to stay home with the kids. We were a little scared about money, but we cut down on things like the cable bill.

The duty roster Scott likes me to take care of the money. I don’t want that responsibility, but he works hard, and you have to make some sacrifices. I don’t feel like a Stepford wife. We’re a team; he does his part, I do mine. My job is having food on the table—although he loves to cook, and he also scrubs toilets.

The balance of power We share decisions about things like child rearingand finances. Scott doesn’t have veto power because he earns more. In fact, I have veto power. Our marriage is a little bit ’50s, but it’s 2013, too.

First Published Thu, 2013-02-07 09:12

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