“Please let us not interfere with the other’s work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements. In this connection I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself, now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all times the confinements of even an attractive cage.”
Did Amelia Earhart write these words in a letter to her future husband, George Putnam, before tying the knot, or was it you? Or maybe it was me! It sounds only too familiar to our postmodern feminist dilemma.
The imperfect, independent, different kind of freedom of an unconventional marriage seems to be as news today as it was in the 1930s. For the largest part of history, marriage seems to have been taken hostage by One unhealthy idea, almost like One religion, One dogma, One credo — to which you either belong or you’re unsaved and unfit and unprepared and impossible.
But seeing, with a loud amen, how brave and intelligent women of all time have resisted this definition, rather than write it off altogether—I can’t help but, like Amelia, imagine the alternative options:
A deal where You are more than before, not less; where both of You add to a fuller, more complicated (and interesting) equation, where no one steals freedom from the other. A win-win.
Because one has things to do in life, you know? Like be the first female aviator to fly a solo transatlantic flight, or write books, make documentaries, or babies, save the monkeys, find a cure for cancer, start a revolution. And it gets busy on the way. And lonely.
After resisting six failed proposals from George, Amelia finally said yes and (un)tied the knot on February 7, 1931, after stating her disclaimer in this unusual prenup. They were together until her tragic disappearance, in 1937.
The Square House
There are some things which should be writ before we are married — things we have talked over before — most of them.
You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations but have no heart to look ahead.
On our life together I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly. If we can be honest I think the difficulties which arise may best be avoided should you or I become interested deeply (or in passing) in anyone else.
Please let us not interfere with the others’ work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements. In this connection I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself, now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all times the confinements of even an attractive cage.
I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.
I will try to do my best in every way and give you that part of me you know and seem to want.
As a faithful believer in this type of non-dogmatic relationship and a lover of Rainer Maria Rilke’s solitude wisdom, I can’t help but be reminded of his brilliant and equally unconventional notion of marriage:
“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust.
A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development.
But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
And here is a third, more lyrical, renaissant version of the same type of freedom, via Kahlil Gibran, another one of Amelia’s rebel contemporaries:
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone. Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Thank God love wasn’t made in Hollywood.
More Loving Independence:
P.S. Sign up for my Museletter: FREE creative resources, soulful life tips & game-changing inspiration.
Latest posts by Andrea Balt (see all)
- 21 Thoughts on Life, Art & Love. — An Interview with Tyler Knott Gregson. - September 4, 2014
- Cowspiracy: Are Cows Taking Over the World & Destroying All Life in the Process? - May 30, 2014
- The Indie Spiritualist: 11 Spiritual Practices for Rebels & Misfits. - March 24, 2014
- 10 Tips to Grow your Audience while Feeding your Soul. - January 17, 2014
- Ken Wilber on Speaking Your Truth in Whatever Way You Can. - November 11, 2013