December 29, 2007

on the (un)importance of marriage...

This morning, as I was surfing the broad expanse of the "internets", I came across this article on Oprah.com. Titled, "Single and Loving It", the old married woman in me was curious about what would make them ask the question, "Are women better off alone? Marriage is no magic bullet for happiness, some say." (First of all, love the fact that they had to squeeze the little nubbin of "some say" onto the end of that sentence. How cute.)

And yes, perhaps I'm a wee bit biased as I'm in a happy marriage and both my parents and in laws have strong, loving marriages - but to be honest, I've been able to witness such marriages all throughout my entire life. It's not as one-in-a-million as people think.

I will admit to being conservative on certain issues. (Call me old fashioned. I might like it.) But, really. I found this article to be so...shoddy. For lack of a better word. (If that even is a real word, I don't know.) Regardless, I'm not sure what they were trying to prove or explain. Am I really that off-base when I wonder why we aren't getting down to the nitty-gritty of why marriages can't seem to last in this day in age? Could it be our selfish culture? Could it be the rejection of the roles of husband and wife? Could it be our flawed view of morality? (Wooha. Sounded like a televangelist right there. I accept donations to my Gulfstream fund via paypal, thank you.) I guess that I just don't understand why we're told to assume that there are better ways to live, instead of working towards a fulfilling, loving marriage.

For the record, I'm in no way saying that the being-single time in your life isn't important. Or that those who are single should be pining away for the day they tie the knot. It truly is the time when you grow so much, learn so much. And I know there are people out there that are happily single. But something about this claim that being single for the long run is more blissful than marriage? Hmmm. The article even states that it's been proven that those who are married are, for the most part, happier and healthier in the long run. Although, that's about the only positive thing they seem able to muster.

"It's an old-fashioned message, that you're better off if you find
a man," DePaulo tells WebMD. "It's this idea that you can be single, have your
big career and all your friends, but that's not the route to happiness, it's not
deep or meaningful like marriage is. That's ridiculous. The best friendships
often last longer than marriages…you don't have ridiculous expectations of your
friends like you do a spouse
."


Hmmm. I feel as though they are missing the point here. I know there are many different situations, many different types of people, but for the most part I think it's human nature to desire someone to spend your life with. If we all had the mindset that being single was just as fulfilling as being married, then we would all go through life mostly without the thought of preparing ourselves for someone else. And in the above statement, this person is excluding those marriages in which a wife considers her husband her best friend - which is how it is in the strongest marriages I've seen. And those ridiculous expectations we apparently all have for our spouses but not our friends? Sure, I could see outside friendships being stronger if I had all these "ridiculous" expectations of my husband. But that's not how it should be. You grow together, learning what it is you desire from each other. You work through those expectations together. I'd like to know which expectations she finds ridiculous, anyway. Always putting his shoes where they belong and/or wiping the crumbs off the counter after making toast = ridiculous expectation. Having a selfless mate who will get out of bed to help you find a parking spot when you get home from work because parallel parking makes you physically angry = real expectation.

"It's like if you're married, all you have to do is roll over
and have perfect sex. Anyone who reads the divorce columns knows that's not
true! Single women can now get sex outside of marriage.
It's probably quaint not
to."


Wait, what? You can now have sex outside of marriage? When did this happen? Because, you know, everything in life and marriage revolves around perfect sex. Well, too bad I didn't know about this idea before I was married and discovered what true, genuine intimacy is like with the person I'm going to spend the rest of my life with, within marriage. Shucks. (God forbid anyone be quaint, by the way. God forbid. STD's, anyone?)

But, oh, it gets better:

"Single women can even have kids without a husband, and without
having sex!" DePaulo's favorite line: "Single women can pick up the check
at work and sperm at the bank."


Oh, yeah? And how is that working out for the babushkas? It seems odd to me that women wouldn't even want to chance finding a man who is worthy of being a husband or a father to their children. Do we really feel that there is such a lack of good men? Or is it the thought that we can all do it by ourselves - "who needs a man to muck things up"?

"One study tracking 1,000 couples for 15 years found that marriage
brought only a "tiny blip" of happiness during the brief time closest to the
wedding ceremony
."


Seriously? No, really, seriously? I find it highly unlikely that most people could only pinpoint a brief smidgen of happiness in their marriage. And even then, it was only a "tiny blip". A blip? What is that? Married people, please tell me that you've had more than a tiny blip of happiness. I know I'm not the only one. I can find at several of those blips per minute, on a good day. That's not to say things are perfect, because life is never perfect and of course there are ups and downs. But you take the good with the bad, and I've found that if you're willing to do that, the good will always outweigh the bad.

"Here's an eye-opener: In one survey, moms were asked what they most
wanted as a Mother's Day gift. 'The overwhelming answer was 'time to myself.'
Women who have the dream—marriage and kids—just want time to themselves,' says
DePaulo
."


Is it just me, or is this a huge misinterpretation? Wanting "time to yourself" on mothers day shouldn't automatically assume the poor woman is thinking, "Geeze. How did I get myself into this mess? Wish I was single, and not married with these children of mine. Gag me with a burp rag. Gah." What an unfortunate generalization. I'm sure my mom could be lumped into the category of mothers wanting time to themselves once in a while. But my mom was and is one of the most dedicated, caring women you'll ever meet. Sure she'd like a shopping trip to herself or an evening to enjoy a bubble bath without children knocking on the door or having to empty the tub of bath toys. But she would never for one minute give up all she has with her husband and children just to have some time to herself. Who would? Unless you were in a seriously abusive relationship, I don't understand why anyone would think this way.

"But on their worst days, single women worry about old age and
dying alone—or with only their cats at their side. "Do you think marrying cures
that?" asks DePaulo. "You and your husband would have to die at the same instant
for that not to happen to you! If you get sick, don't assume your mate will be
the one nursing you. Maybe he just can't deal with your illness. Or he could be
the one with the big physical issues, and that will tie you down
."


My question is: why are people marrying someone they don't see taking care of them when they're sick? Loving you when you're unlovable? Whom you would care for out of love, without feeling tied down? Life has no guarantees. But isn't that why you stand in front of friends and family, quoting "in sickness and in health"? Marriage is truly the biggest decision of your life. It's the greatest commitment. I know that in this day and age the words are only words, and "till death do us part" seems fleeting. I guess that it just breaks my heart to think that women are now being told, "Well, don't assume you're going to find a loving husband to take care of you forever. And what a drag it would be if you had to put someone else's needs above your own, and take care of him! How tied down would you be? Where would your free time be then?"

We wonder why more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg, but it really got me to thinking. Call me old fashioned. Call me quaint. But I don't like the way things are looking. I'm continually amazed at the state of it all.

Well, if you made it through this entire post, thank you for reading. I owe you a cookie. Or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich.

Do any of you have any thoughts on this? (The article, not the sandwich. Well, okay. You can talk about the sandwich if you want to.)

11 comments :

  1. You make really good points, I want to come back and read this again later.

    You're great. :)

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  2. thank you for being quaint and old fashioned! It is nice to know that just because we are young, doesn't mean we can't believe in what has now unfortunately become and "old" idea of a successful, lifelong marriage. Marriage is a beautiful thing, a hard thing, but very wonderful and fufilling.

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  3. In some ways, you are totally right... but I can also see their point. I'm an only child with divorced parents. I'm pretty cynical when it comes to love, so it's pretty weird that I've found a wonderful guy who has quelled my marriage fears. But the truth is, no matter how hard you say you're going to work at a marriage, no matter how devoted you are in the beginning, unforeseen things happen. I guess I'm saying lots of women end up single. Sometimes it's not a choice. But I totally agree with you - why not give marriage/civil unions/cohabitation/genuine longterm monogamy a shot? Who doesn't legitimately crave companionship?

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  4. I agree with you. I read the article. I think the points could have been valid had the author bothered to see both sides. That apparently didn't happen, and still, I'm not sure I'd have been convinced. Old fashioned and quaint are certainly preferable.

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  5. I'm a firm believer in independence, the idea that you don't NEED a man. I think these women have simply embraced this idea.

    To many people, ideally, there would be a two-parent household, but I didn't grow up that way and I don't think that it's necessarily the only way.

    No one WANTS to be alone, but being single also shouldn't hinder attaining other goals, such as motherhood. You've chosen a life with a husband, and the article is anti-marriage, so I can see where you would take offense- but I've lived and my mother has lived as we don't need someone by our side- nothing is going to stop us from getting what we want- especially not being single.

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  6. I agree with you and I've been married four years and the blips of happiness have remained more like a constant stream of happiness or rather joy. It is a joy to be with my best friend all the time- I was very happy as a single gal- got married at 24 to my first boyfriend(guess you could call me old fashioned too), and have loved every minute of the journey. Yes life has ups and downs, but it is so wonderful to have someone being part of a team. Great post!

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  7. I agree with you - personally I think the "selfishness" of our society is what causes marriages to end - there seems to be an unwillingness to compromise - my marriage has seen a lot of rocks in the past 2yrs. and we came close to divorce - b/c we're both stubborn and were concerned for ourselves - but we sat down and talked about it - and made promises - and have been following through with them - and our marriage is improving by leaps and bounds everyday. I don't think I need a man - but I do need the intimate friendship that my husband provides.

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  8. I'm with Amanda. While I believe myself to be independent and have never NEEDED a man, that's not why I got married. I got married, because I WANTED a man - this man in fact - as my best friend to be with me for the rest of my life. We're a team, and while I occassionally enjoy my alone time, it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy our together time too.

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  9. I want to thank everyone for the awesome feedback on this post! It's always interesting to see something through the eyes of another person, so I thank you all for taking the time to let me know your thoughts on this.

    Being a strong, independant woman is such an asset in this day and age. We are all so lucky that we have the opportunity to grow and experience the world on our own! The single years may be few for some, or come at a later time in life for others, but I never want to make them sound less important than they are, or that people always choose to be single. I understand that sometimes there are unforseen circumstances that none of us could plan for.

    That's life, right?

    Anyway, it's nice to hear that there are some other quaint ladies out there. And that you're experiencing a whole handful of happiness blips! And to you single ladies: I would never look at any of you and think of you as unfortunate, weak and lonely. I think that sometimes, I just wish the certain type of happiness I receive through marriage for everyone. Because I know just how fulfulling it can be. And my tragic flaw is that sometimes I live in my own little bubble and have trouble seeing things another way.

    Because it's comfy in here. Heehee.

    Thanks again for the great words you all shared with me!

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  10. For the record, Shoddy is a word. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/shoddy)

    And I think you totally hit the nail on the head. Our society tells women that they can have their cake and eat it too. We are supposed to have men, children, careers- everything at OUR beck and call; without being willing to sacrifice anything. It is a sad lie and that is why our marriages are falling apart. Not only are our expectations of others too high, but also of ourselves.

    When I read "What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us" by Danielle Crittenden, it changed my life to realize that feminism has hurt women is so many ways.

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  11. I am part of the statistic, my parents are divorced and that was not a good marriage at all. I think your points and what you write is wonderful, because it shows that there are still people out there who believe in good marriages and believe in making marriage work. It is the mindset that all our movies, media, celebs give - it sets the tone of taking marriage lightly & that it's no big deal.. for sure. I used to be afraid of marriage because I never really observed any truly good marriages growing up. But you just have to make it work. Well said, love the 'article' ;)

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