A Hostage Situation

I grew up being part of an obnoxiously happy family. If we weren't such jokesters, we'd bore the crap out of everyone with our tales of my parents' long and happy marriage, all of us getting along as a family, helping each other out, and missing each other when we're not together. We're such radicals! Even so, this warm and cozy scenario certainly did not stop me from having the fear of God instilled in me about marriage. It was painfully clear to me, that if you didn't get it right, the way my parents had, that marriage could be worse then any hell an imagination could fathom.

Growing up in a very small town, I was terrified of falling into the usual small-town girl pattern of getting married almost directly out of high school, and not able to get drunk when I turned 21 due to my second pregnancy. I had bone-chilling images of marrying a man, who at first might have had a great name like Glen, Micah, or Keith, (and hi Glen, Micah and/or Keith, if you guys ever read this it will explain a lot about my 'flight-risk' relationship behavior), but at the end of the day his name takes a dramatic turn somehow to Floyd. In my day-mare of marriage, Floyd has made it his religion to nurse a cheap beer every night, on a hideous (perhaps tweed, someone get me a paper bag, I'm about to hyperventilate), couch, while he gets on me for 'readin' too many of 'em books.' Floyd is two years pregnant with a keg, and expecting any day. On our wedding day, he was Keith--smart, funny, and a joy to be around. But now that he's Floyd, he's completely unmotivated, demanding, charmless, and losing I.Q. points every evening. I want to leave, but I have one kid on the boob, and the other tossing cheerios across the room. Like any other hostage, I pray for the release that could never come soon enough...even if the release is death.

So that's where I was on the subject of marriage for my teens and early twenties, and on a trip home in January, I was talking to my brother about his buddy's upcoming divorce. We decided to run the 'what went wrong' numbers about the marriage. I was irritated by his friend's choice of partners. He had chosen a woman who was certainly nice, but had serious self-esteem issues, no skills of any kind (is being nice a skill?), no ability to fend for herself in any way in the world--in fact she didn't even have a driver's license. You'd almost think I was referring to a mail-order bride, but frankly, she was too under-qualified to be an illegal immigrant. Illegal immigrants have skills, and tend to be pretty darn driven. I was annoyed.

"Troy, he totally set that up. He hunted a girl without any confidence, convinced her to leave familiar surroundings, called her 'god-fearing,' for having no skills. That's just crazy. It''s...well, it's a..."

"It's a hostage situation," my brother responded flatly.

"Yes, exactly."

And on we went on the topic. Is no one else completely unnerved by the part of the ceremony where someone with authority makes the frightful command 'til death do you part?' Um, how does that sentence get slipped in there while everyone keeps a vacuous smile plastered on their faces? I haven't read the hostage handbook, but I'm fairly certain that the phrase, 'til death do us part' is in there, or at least it should be. Has anyone else noticed, that much like a runaway slave, you can't prove your freedom from a bad marriage without your papers? Isn't alimony just paying a ransom that never stops? How is this happening?

I believe that my marriage fears were deepened by the time I spent waitressing in my small town during college. I couldn't help but notice that for some couples, it was obvious that my asking 'what can I start you off with,' was about as much conversation--and foreplay--that they were going to have for the night. As silent as one couple was, my next couple would make them seem like lovebirds. The next couple scenario, let's place them in their early thirties with children, looked so irritated with each other they should've worn armor to dinner. This couple despises nearly everything about one another, from the way the other orders, to how the other eats. They literally can argue over paper napkin placement. For all the ways I may have disagreed with a boyfriend, I hadn't known this kind of animosity in my relationships. We were always able to disagree fairly, and we certainly could settle an issue like paper napkin placement out of court. But... would we still maintain this type of civility if we got married? And so the cloud of marital doubt was formed, and hovered overtly over my head. One guy I was with can tell you about the "don't freak out" post-it notes that I had everywhere about our coming engagement. He'd tell me about ring shopping, and I'd threaten him with the prospect of buying unflattering, unappealing outfits for myself--in polyester or flannel. I've been told that I don't play hard to get, I play impossible to get. But I maintain that my reservations are valid. As if I didn't have enough fear about the idea, I've had wives tell me in gloomy and cryptic voices, "the thing that scares me about you, Shannon, is that you'd make a really good wife..." Why the heck would they say that to a person with the nickname, 'Flight Risk'? They sounded like crypt-keepers. I shuddered. What was it about the words, "I do" that made so many people wish they hadn't?

The other day, I was at breakfast with a friend, and I overheard a middle-aged couple talking. I'm one who has a difficult time with small-talk, and empty chatter. I'll hang out with a girlfriend, and the minute the conversation lingers too long on nail polish, or insecurity, and my inner dude wants out of the room. This said, I could hear the wife portion of the couple going on relentlessly about curtains. She was very happy about these curtains, and couldn't say enough. I asked for the check, and started looking for the exits. The restaurant was crowded; it was a California Sunday morning, and leaving was the only manner of escape from this curtain chat. The husband, he was not fascinated by this conversation, nor these curtains (how could he be?). But when I caught a glimpse of his face, a face I thought would be drooping with boredom, I noticed that he was, however, fascinated by her. Even me, little miss "Marriage Flight Risk," had to smile at this. He truly was happy to see her happy, I guess. And it reminded me of my own parents. Clearly, for this couple either Stockholm syndrome had truly settled in, they were on the best anti-depressants in the world, or they had somehow managed to get it right. They were in a hostage situation--and didn't even mind.

Comments 27 comments

always exploring profile image

always exploring 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

You made me laugh,and i identified with the hostage situation.

Well done!

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Always exploring...thank you! I always appreciate your comments.

warrioRR profile image

warrioRR 6 years ago from Rawalpindi Pakistan

Love to read it

and Hostage situation is great

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Thank you, Warriorr. I saw the mail, and thanks for that also.

Dee Ann 6 years ago

I don't know if you got it "right" or not, but it is delightful to read! I, like you, grew up small town, parents in love 65 years later, wishing siblings well and generally feeling blessed by the family I genetically inherited. But I seemed to escape the marriage aversion syndrome of which you speak. In fact, I have tried it and have enjoyed the fruits of mumbling the dreaded "I do." I never felt trapped as a hostage in the sixteen years of my marriage but I definitely have known of people that do. I think a large contributing factor to the feeling of entrapment comes from not being self-sufficient enough; whether from financial dependence, self-esteem issues or fear of being a single parent. I tell my kids there are way worse things that being productive alone. One has to wonder if our expectation for ONE marriage to last forever is still a realistic one. I know a large number of people who are happily married but can count on one hand the number of people who are happiliy married to their first spouse! Maybe our propensity to change as individuals makes us forfeit the dream of a lifelong partner. Who knows? Maybe "Mr. Right" can be postponed for a time by "Mr. Right Now." Hope springs eternal but in the meantime life marches on. Keep marching but don't be afraid to leap when the time feels right.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

My Dee Ann! Oh no, you're reading my work...just as a buffer, know that I wrote most of this in jest. When I look back at the relationships I fled, I usually had a good reason for not believing it would work. When you have a personality that will tend to defer in a situation to avoid any real hostility, you wonder how much you're going to give up before you do not recognize yourself anymore. I do believe in, and have witnessed long lasting and happy marriages. Personally, I've dated great guys, but I had great reasons for walking away. I remember being out with one, and I was thinking you, sir, are the "fair weather guy." --As long as it's good, and I'm good, and we're good, and I look good to you--as long as we can make the cover of Family Circle magazine, then you're in. But the minute that ridiculous bubble bursts, where will you be? And would I really ever want to go through the hard parts of life with you? It's a lot to think about. And my parents' marriage--long and happy, but it is my dad's second marriage. It's a TOUGH call to make, huh? I'm not against it, just against a bad one.

Dee Ann 6 years ago

I concur: let's hear it for the really great ones as there are many of those around! My hope is to read something written by "A hostage situation" from the other side of the fence some day, my friend! And I'm not even going to mention that flock of really beautiful children that are, as yet, still a dream! Keep up the spirit and the spunk!

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

LOL, Dee Ann!! You don't quit do ya?? You really are not going to be happy til I am WIFED and MOTHERED!!! Lord, are you going to raise those children for me? Yes, and three cheers for happy marriages, and/or happy families!

JoAnn 6 years ago

My Dearest Shannon I have been married for 36 wonderful years! Marriage like life takes hard work and a willingness to forgive and forget and make the marriage work!!! Plus I love Barry sometimes more than myself!!

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Headed to the meeting, JoAnn, thanks for reading, and thank you for the comment. This article is popular today. I know you love your husband, and I'm very happy that you have a success story!

Margaret 6 years ago

I loved this story and I think that I just escaped from one before it began......After reading this I know that I did....I love marriage and my parents married for 30 years but you got to be careful till death do us part can be a long time....LOL

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Yes, til death do us part is long and it ALSO involves DEATH! ;-).

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, yes it can go horribly wrong! lol as in my case, but my mum and dad were very happy. I do think that these days nobody seems to want to work at it. I think marriage is overated! if you do ever get married, make sure that you live in the same road, you in a house at the top, and him in a house at the bottom...! lol thanks nell

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Nell thanks so much for reading...I'm a space hog! My boyfriends in the past got extremely possessive--I did not interpret that as love, perhaps that was the idea behind it, but I don't love that way--I felt crowded, and wanted out. Marriage...who knows? I'm always just aiming for happy...and I am.

cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

married for the first time at 52. been over a year. loving it.

had a bad engagement in the 80's. understand your hesitancy. possesiveness is a warning sign that a partner may turn out to be abusive; you are instinctively right to be wary of it.

also have a hard time with small talk, but working with people, have developed some skill at it.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Congratulations, Cathylynn! I hate small talk, but I can do it. I just prefer not to. Part of my hesitation with marriage is that I know I'll likely keep my word. I know I'll likely do what I can to hold up my end of the deal--what if he doesn't? And most of my marriage anxiety is completely ridiculous, I come from a great family rooted in my parents happy marriage, I'm just being crazy. I wrote this in jest. Tonight, I was cooked an Indian meal that was among the best meals I've ever had in my life--I both loved and envied it. I drank wine, I kicked butt at a very risky game of scrabble, and watched one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It was great, and I realized, this is who I am. I've had a lot of both turmoil and fun figuring that out, but I'm just the old-fashioned relationship (with all its flaws) type. My most honest self wants a happy relationship, and a safe environment for my pretend little children. I am without a doubt the family values girl. Looks like I'm starting to surrender. :-).

lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Your anxiety will serve you well, Shannon-I finally know your name, should have read this hub a long time ago!!-and keep you out of the black holes that many marriages can become.

My marriage history is strange, but suffice it to say that I am not currently married, living with an ex-husband. We've been in love since 1986, married, had a baby, divorced, then got together after a number of other botched relationships.

My point? Well, he's 13 years my junior and when I fell for him, my entire family was appalled. I think I was, too! You simply never know who's the right one...

After all these years, though, we are the best of friends and to this day enjoy a shared history.

Enjoy being who you are, my friend-you have a fabulous career and style that any man would be lucky to share!

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Hi Lorie, I wanna respond real quick. People call me Shannon, SJ, or J, or any one of an assortment of nicknames, I respond to most things. The only person who consistently, and unwaveringly calls me Shannon is my dad. I decided I wanted to write under SJ. I love your story, by the way, mainly because it's yours. There's just not a cookie-cutter way to do family, marriage, or love.

As far as my style goes, I usually don't tell guys I date that I write. Not sure why, but I believe I might be complicated. :-). I'm pretty conflicted about marriage right now, as always, but part of it is a protection for my children. I don't have kids, but I started protecting them years ago, and not marrying the wrong guy is part of that plan. The idea of marrying a guy who would turn into some complete a-hole, and ruin the lives of my children? No thanks. What the hell does marriage do to people?

Lita C. Malicdem profile image

Lita C. Malicdem 6 years ago from Philippines

Marriage is a very good contract between 2 people in-love, who pledge to love and to hold 'til death do them part. I was happily married to the boy I'd loved before but we only got up to 23 years. He died of cancer at 45. But our wonderful times together is more than enough to fill me with joy all my life. I still believe in our marriage, so I add this-"not only 'til death do us part, but 'til life after death". Well, does that make me a hostage, too?

Nothing to fear, Dear, give it another try! Cheers!

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Sorry for your loss, Lita. Love like that is what marriage is about. Just so there's no confusion I haven't been married before, and technically I haven't been engaged either. Technically. I've made the decision that I'm going to marry Ray Lamontagne. I can tell by his songs that we're pretty much on the same page. Looking forward to reading your hubs later today. Thanks for reading!

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

I stumbled across this hub because I saw your interesting pen name . Clicked, found this hub and dug in. You had me guffawing and almost in tears by the time I got to the part about a "tweed couch....somebody get me a paper bag, I'm about to hyperventilate..." Love the dry humor!

You have a new fan!

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Thanks, bayoulady! A tweed couch is a soul-killing monster. I have been considering lettting this acct go, but I like this pen name too, and apparently you can't ever retrieve it, if you change your girl-mind about deleting it. Oh well. I'm trapped. I look forward to reading your work later today!

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

I really enjoyed this wonderful read - thank you! You certainly have a way with words and ideas.

Love and peace


ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago Author

Thank you, Tony! I'm pretty sure I had fun writing this one.

Love and Peace back to you!


parrster profile image

parrster 5 years ago from Oz

I was quite the opposite growing up. I think I started praying for a wife at about 14 (the reasons escape me, but I'm sure they were more romantic than realistic), and four years later I met her; that was 23 years ago. You might say we kidnapped each other. On the scale of ups and downs it's been a safari, but a shared adventure. I can't actually imagine life without her now... and wouldn't want to. Enjoyed the hub.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 5 years ago Author

Believe me parrster, I LOVE that. I have nothing against marriage, and I love your story. When you choose well, it's awesome. My parents did, and the solidarity of their marriage and God are the foundation of our family--and we are very happy people. My family has always been described as "remarkable" and "magnetic." I actually grew to stop talking about how close we are, because it seemed I was running in to many people with no concept of this, and it didn't feel right to blabber on about family happiness. My dad says the greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother, and he really did, and does. They have the real thing, like you and your wife. What gave me pause in the past with marriage was the realization that if you did not at least come close to what my parents had, your life could be an absolute disaster. Many look for marriage hoping it will make them happy, and I was and am already happy. When you have the potential to lose something as wonderful as genuine happiness, it makes you think twice. Your story is fantastic though! And if I'd found what you did, even at that age, all the wisdom in the world probably wouldn't have stopped me from marrying. Thanks, once again, for reading!

The Blagsmith profile image

The Blagsmith 5 years ago from Britain

Get the coffee and cheers for a great hub and thanks for the words of encouragement during the earthquake crisis five months ago.

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