Your Marriage Isn’t Typical

 

Sadly, our most common criticisms of marriage reveal much more about the critics than the state of contemporary romance.

As I mentioned in a previous article, I recently posed the question When did you figure out what marriage isn’t? to men over social media and during conversations with married (or divorced and separated) friends and colleagues.

I’ll present the “best of” in a future post. I realized I could very easily arrange the responses into two groups. The first group believes there is something inherently wrong with marriage. The second group believes there’s something flawed about our culture’s expectations and the way marriage is advertised to young lovers. The small sample of responders can’t indicate any larger social trend, but it’s worth noting that the former group outnumbered the latter by about three to one.

Interestingly, I did not ask people When did you figure out what the problem is with marriage?  My question didn’t qualify marriage one way or another. Yet people chose to offer critiques, often lengthy ones, some of them rather angry. I happened on a conversation with a man in a cafe who claimed “Marriage would still be good if they didn’t ruin it.” I asked him to clarify who they were, and he went off on tangents, implicating feminism, government, the university system, traditional religions, postmodernism and Hollywood. I actually wish I had recorded the little rant. It showed just how hysterical we can get when we approach this subject, and how quickly we’ve learned to personalize blame, to fault things we don’t understand.

This post is a response to people like the angry man I met in the cafe.

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The error made by people who believe there is something intrinsically wrong with marriage is indicative, as I argued in a previous essay, of larger cultural problems. There has never been a time or place in human history when we could point to someone’s marriage and say, “This one’s typical,” or “Here’s the ideal.” Marriage has been a topic of interest long before 1950’s American suburbia became a fetish. Count the number of Shakespeare’s plays that present the institution’s nuances. Consider the relationships presented in Dangerous Liaisons. If you want a fascinating discussion (most likely a heated argument) about gender roles in marriage, read The Wife of Bath’s Tale, a late 14th century text, at your book club. It’s possible to interpret the prologue and story as an argument for a “model wife,” but it also suggests such a wife is rare. Another book that does this is The Bible, penned long before the Connecticut suburbs had blueprints.

How can I compare marriage to Rome? Quite easily. Rome, created by people, is ancient, complicated, never typical, less than ideal. It’s sublime at one turn and smells of sewage at the next.

America, of course, where the divorce rate is high—and where many of these criticisms of marriage spawn—has a short memory and a deeply flawed relationship to history and information. We don’t just fascinate ourselves with myth and romance but actively switch fantastic beliefs for paradigms and vice versa. Our airwaves and Facebook feeds are filled with tracts from deluded folk who believe in Raptures, FEMA camps and the WWF. As an instructor at an urban community college, I’ve met many students who once belonged to gangs. Their noses and knuckles have been broken in street brawls, yet they believe WWF bouts are actual fights. I managed to convince one guy to rethink his belief by looking at the effects of blows in UFC matches. When he finally came to his senses, he was visibly shaken and rather moved. “WWF’s theater,” he said. “It’s like a play.” The young man, barely nineteen, actually said he felt betrayed.

America is very skilled at fabricating myths and realities, for ourselves and the rest of humanity.

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We don’t just create and watch Seinfeld. We believe in Seinfeld’s version of New York, that Tom’s Restaurant is usually empty and quiet (In reality it is almost always packed, bustling even at late hours), and that most New Yorkers have close relationships with the people in their buildings. We don’t just watch Friends. We believe that once we have graduated from college and found jobs, our relationships and apartments must resemble the kind in the show. And when we get married, our marriage—following an amazing wedding, accoutrements fit for royalty—will resemble the relationship of our favorite mythological lovers. I envision young women in five to ten years complaining to their therapists: “My husband’s nothing like Edward Cullen.” The men, in turn, will complain their wife is no Bella Swan, or borrowing a British romance, no Ginny Weasley.

Marriage feels like betrayal when we believe that any myth or romance—Harry Potter, Twilight, Cinderella, Maid in Manhattan, Pretty Woman—is a promise. The experience will be the same as staying up all night to meet Santa but witnessing dad bent under the tree in his briefs. If we believe that hot lovers will be waiting for us when we get off the train at Paris, we’re pissed when we find custodians and baguette shops full of old men. But that does not mean Paris is the problem.

This effect of mythology on our psyche becomes worse when we base sweeping conclusions on our very limited experience. Imagine, for example, that our friend goes to Rome. He finds clogged toilets and stale pizza in the train station, sweaty men waiting for busses, tables of cured meat pungent on a hot day. At the Vatican he is told, as he is wearing shorts, that he must buy trousers made of cat food bags if he’s to enter the Sistine. He buys the trousers because he’s about to meet God. Once in the Sistine, our little friend is shocked to find the ceiling adorned with uncensored butt cracks, small dicks, Eve’s tits and other semi-nudes. Pissed off at God and the Pope, his faith shattered, he goes to the nearest cafe to order a cappuccino and seethe. The waiter trips over a stray cat and the cappuccino lands in our friend’s lap, scalding his testicles. And this on the day before he must sit in a plane for eight hours! When he’s finally home, we meet up and ask, “How was Rome?” He rants: “Rome sucks. Just a bunch of clogged toilets, butt cracks, dicks. Rome will burn your balls.”

How can I compare marriage to Rome? Quite easily. Rome, created by people, is ancient, complicated, never typical, less than ideal. It’s sublime at one turn and smells of sewage at the next, yet no single corner of the city can be used to describe the whole, and no story will tell the city’s history, as no photo or painting will recreate its sprawling landscape. What remains of Rome today is small, perhaps trivial compared to what has lived and died in this labyrinth of so many souls: slaves and Caesars, actors and architects, orators and mutes. People come to Rome looking for all sorts of things: gods and sex, music and silence, Anita Eckberg swimming in the Trevi, photos of the Coliseum. There’s history and myth and love and death and coffee and gelato.

But the gelato is not Jupiter’s gelato or the Pope’s gelato, and the Anita Eckberg of 1960 will not stick her boobs in my face when my tongue licks vanilla. It’s just cream and sugar. I cannot blame the gelato for failing to conjure Anita Eckberg’s boobs, no matter how full and white and perfect the globes of frozen cream looked before I inserted my spoon. When Anita fails to appear, I must blame, if I am wise, my expectations, and then trace them back, wonder how I could have expected anything beyond cream and sugar when I had specifically ordered cream and sugar. If I am not satisfied by cream and sugar, I must order something to my satisfaction. But it must be on the menu before me, not the one in my dreams.

Photo by Moyan_Brenn

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About Gint Aras

Gint Aras has two decades of experience teaching, over ten of them in a Chicago-area community college. He writes a weekly column, True Community, about young men and education. His writing has appeared in St. Petersburg Review (forthcoming, 2014), Antique Children, Criminal Class Review, Curbside Splendor, Dialogo, Šiaurės Atėnai and other publications. He's a photographer and the author of the cult novel, Finding the Moon in Sugar. Check out his website, Liquid Ink. Follow Gint on Twitter @Gint_Aras and "like" him on Facebook.

Comments

  1. The problem with marriage is men have no protection whatsoever. I can’t even comprehend why any guy in my generation would get married as opposed to just staying in a relationship (or one night stands).

    • Not sure what your generation is but I am 24 and will be getting married next year. My best friend from high school just recently got married and my brother and best friend will be getting married this year. The first question I have is what do we need protection from? I love my fiance very much and am really looking forward to being married to her for the rest of my life. I don’t feel like I need protection from her or anything else that will come with marriage. To help you understand why someone from my generation would want to get married is that we want to spend the rest of our lives together and share experiences as two people who are fully committed to each other. We aren’t getting married because we want to enter a legal contract or because the church says we have to; we are doing it because we want to and think it’s best. My dad passed away when I was 12 and mom was married and divorced before that and is now married again. Her parents are currently getting a divorce so it’s safe to say we didn’t come from the “typical” family backgrounds. I personally like the idea of marriage. I see it as the ultimate commitment you can make to someone. I want to get up there in front of all my friends and family and tell the love of my life I will always be there for her and love her until we die. To borrow an idea from the Bible, marriage is when two people become one. We will no longer be two people in a relationship but one together, working for each other and knowing that everything one of us does affects the other. I think if more people thought of marriage like this instead of a legal agreement or as a religious thing they would be more open to it. I’m not saying marriage is for everyone but it’s right for us. Hope this helps with your comprehension.

      • I’m 23. And let’s see if you sing the same tune once you’re married. Or even when you’re divorced. I figured ignorance and/or blind love was the reason.

        • You didn’t answer the question. What is we(men) need protection from? You state that you don’t comprehend why anyone would get married but you give no reasons why we(men) shouldn’t get married or why we(men) should stay single.

          • John Smith says:

            23 and he thinks he knows what is wrong with marrage… At 23 your in no place to tell people they should not get married, when few, if any, people you can talk to as equals are married.

            If your going in to a marrage worrying about what you are going to get out at the end it’s probably not right for you, but that dosn’t mean its wrong for everyone, or even most.

      • Zac,

        Best of luck on your marriage! I am 41, married when I was your age and had the exact expectations and best intentions that you now have. And so do most people in this country that marry, even though the divorce rate is over 50%. You’ve heard the saying, “hindsight is 20/20…” I’m not here to tell you not to get married, rather point out that we aren’t always equipped with what we need to keep our relationships healthy for the long run, even if we think we are. I’ve been married over 16 years and we’re struggling to reinvent our marriage and save it. The story is too long and complicated, never would have imagined when I was in your place that we would be where we are now. There’s a world of good advice I could give you, but here is one book I wish I would have had before I got married (and now old dudes like me, struggling to save their marriages are finding incredibly helpful): The Five Love Languages. It is an inexpensive book, has some talk of God, but it is not a religious-based book, if that matters to you. Keep this in mind: The first two years of every relationship is amazing…after that the romance starts to wear off and marriage requires work (search “stages of marriage”). Unfortunately, love and good intentions are not enough. If you can get some of this marriage wisdom now, believe it, follow it, you will be setting yourself up for success. Best of luck!

        • @Derek….

          Great advice!

          I tell young men and women to really try to educate themselves on all that marriage involves. Most people go into it blindly. So did I. I never thought I would need to do anything other than what I observed others doing.

          Thanks for the book reference.

      • Zac, you ask what men need to be protected from… unfortunately, we ALL go into marriage feeling EXACTLY like you say you do. But shit happens, people change, grow apart, myriad of things get in the way and it is so hard to predict (unless you do your homework and stay proactive)… but traditionally, we men get screwed in divorce, especially if you are the sole bread-winner. Those are the facts. Times are changing, but still women are more likely to get custody, alimony, etc… We came very close to divorce, hopefully are beyond that now, but even if all things were split equally, the life I have built for 18 year for my family would be turned upside down and quality of life for all would take a huge hit. Divorce is no good for anybody, but the guys who say “men need to protect themselves” are the ones that unfortunately probably got screwed in a divorce–you sound like a intelligent young man, and we all thought we were, but no man or woman or marriage is immune from problems, and divorce. I wish you the best and hope you have a long, happy marriage…just keep in mind, regardless of how much you love each other now, it will take work, there will be ups and downs…that is marriage, that is life.

      • wellokaythen says:

        In reply to Zac, et al,

        First of all, I don’t think age is a decisive factor in whether someone is right or wrong about “what marriage is like.” A statement is true or false (or a mixture) on its own terms, not based on the age of the person saying it.

        That being said, I think the “fusion” idea of marriage can be disastrous for a lot of people. A spouse still has an individual identity, whether the marriage is supposed to allow that or not. Being fused into one flesh sounds very romantic and spiritual and transformative, but you still have to leave room for the fact that you are both still individual human beings. It is possible to sacrifice too many parts of yourself to your marriage. That doesn’t make your marriage stronger, but over the long term weakens it. In some cases, people stop committing to their marriages because earlier they sacrificed too much. At least, that’s what happened in my case.

      • No need to protect yourself? Tisk tisk, a fool and his money will quickly be parted.

    • Gint Aras says:

      “Sadly, our most common criticisms of marriage reveal much more about the critics than the state of contemporary romance.”

      • So… rather than actually addressing people’s problems with marriage, you’re going to stick your fingers in your ears and scream, ‘La La La La – I can’t hear you!’. Or rather, in this case, ‘I won’t address your issues. You agree with me, therefore you are a bad person!’.

        Marriage is a coin toss, and family court, a joke. You can’t stonewall your way out of that problem — though it should be said, you clearly intend to try.

    • I wonder what kind of protection do you mean?!

  2. Safe to say that marriage wasn’t built in a day. Some days its Mussolini, some days DaVinci, the best days are espresso.

  3. John Smith says:

    What a wonderful comparison. Like Rome Marrage is a living breathing enterty, full of life and wonder. There are smelly, noisy, dirty bits, but this is part of what makes it a joy. As nice as a romance novel in Rome may be, all empty piazzas and loving moments, it would soon loose its sheen.

    I went to Rome for my honeymoon, and I am glad nither my marrage or Rome are like a romance novel, they are full of life and sometimes life smells of rotting garbage. I love both my wife and Rome because of there imperfections, not dispite them.

    My only problem with Rome is the tourists in shorts getting upset at being refused entry to the vatican and standing around in large groups taking pictures.

  4. “When Anita fails to appear, I must blame, if I am wise, my expectations, and then trace them back, wonder how I could have expected anything beyond cream and sugar when I had specifically ordered cream and sugar. If I am not satisfied by cream and sugar, I must order something to my satisfaction. But it must be on the menu before me, not the one in my dreams.”

    Great article. You said it bluntly and perfectly…you must blame your expectations. I’m 27 and divorced and 100% agree with you that we cannot blame society, the media or even our parents for the divorce rate and way we behave in marriages. It’s about taking responsibility and being proactive to either fix the “fuckery” we’ve created as two people sharing a life together or cutting our losses and admitting we made a mistake. Or perhaps, being smart enough to really feel a relationship out before we go running down the aisle because we want to one up our friends cupcake wedding cake.

    My grandparents marriage is the only one I wish to emulate, but even then I know I cannot possess exactly what they had. Every situation is different, every relationships is different. I had to learn what marriage isn’t by getting immersed in one at the ripe age of 21. And perhaps, going through it and failing, I now see the importance of accepting things for what they are and stop putting so much damn glittering expectations on romance.

  5. Raegus, it is a shame you are so cynical at such a young age. You have much to learn, and I don’t mean that as an insult. I say that with almost 20 years more life experience than you. May you find peace and happiness in your life.

    • You’re talking liek that but you have NO life experience being in a relationship with the women of my generation. Not many are worthy of anything more than one night stands, even though love at the beginning of a relationship can blind you to that.

      • Raegus, yeah, things are different these days, but girls are still girls, women are still women, life is still life. People and relationships do not change that much. I know people in your generation, relatives, friends…I do not believe the differences are as drastic as you may think. And that is exactly my point, I’m sure you think you have a pretty good idea about the world, probably think you’re pretty wise…we all did at your age. That statement may be interpreted as an attack, but I assure you it is not. It comes from life experience. Sure, I don’t know anything about you, you may have a lot of life experience, good or bad…but your perspective is still limited to the years you have lived–not sure if that makes sense, but I know that who you are (who we all are) changes drastically in our 20s, and even into our 30s or later. I’ve learned a hell of a lot after 40, for the better. And that’s a good thing if you are open to continual learning and growing as a person. Dude, I could be completely wrong, but I’d bet I’m not. Best wishes to you!

        • I wish that were so. Instead girls are more like boys than girls. Women more like men than women. My problem is I don’t find masculinity attractive, so I don’t want to be in a relationship with a guy who has a vagina. But these aren’t really things you can notice from the occasional interaction with girls my age. You have to live with them and be around them a lot to really notice it. And that’s the problems BEFORE marriage. I envy the generations before me

          • Raegus – Women respect a leader-like quality. One recommendation is to start developing a healthy reading habit on leadership and exposing yourself to leadership activities in your early 20s. By your mid-late 20s those leadership habits will transcend into all of your relationships. You’ll start attracting “quality” women over quantity and avoid some of those macho women.

            John Maxwell’s books are a good start. 21 Irrefutable Laws on Leadership and Developing Leaders Around You are two inexpensives titles.

            • That’s the problem Joan, I’m not talking about random trash off the street. I AM talking about quality women (attractive, college educated, good career about to start). And please note that I didn’t say macho, I said masculine, might not seem it but there is a big difference. Women of my generation have basically been taught femininity = weakness. You know, they have to present themselves as being as strong as men and if they show a feminine side they’re letting women everywhere down. If they let a man make a decision they’re letting women everywhere down. That’s a common theme in this generation. Every single little thing is a fight for dominance in their mind and it’s like, why even bother trying with them? There’s a reason so many men are looking beyond the West for wives now lol.

              None of this is an attack on women though, more the way of thinking.

            • So Raegus, if I’m reading you right, you find empowered women (those who take control in their own lives) unattractive, and are attracted to women who are less dominant/tdominating, who are OK with you taking the lead and being the decision-maker, and who aren’t committed to upholding certain femi nist expectations.

              Nothing wrong with that, but I’d agree that you will probably have a harder time finding such women in our generation (I’m 25). Cultural shifts have created an environment where girls are brought up already trained to be empowered women. Even women who shudder to associate themselves with the women’s movement are influenced by the cultural shifts that the women’s movement has spurred.

              The only thing I’d advise you is to remember, or recognize, that for most women, acting in an empowered way is not a deliberate, intentional act of trying to be the dominant sex or something. I sort of get the impression from your comments that you think there’s some sort of malicious, or at the very least harmful, intention behind this behavior; when for many women, it’s just a matter of survival. After all, those cream of the crop women with the qualities you listed – education, career, attractiveness – didn’t get there by being wilting daisies. So you’re almost setting yourself up for a catch-22 by having these two sets of qualities you look for, high achieving but relatively submissive. I’m always one to argue that it’s fine to have standards, and I’m not suggesting that you have to change yours. Just understand that you’re looking for a pretty rare combination of traits. Remember, even in your bitterest moments of frustration and disappointment, not to blame women for this – we are not intentionally trying to make your life harder. It is how it is.

              And just a little insight into the female experience: we women struggle with that dichotomy too. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve struggled to reconcile my views favoring empowerment and agency among women with my own rather traditional and submissive behavior. For example, while I do feel like an important and valued member of my marriage, I still consider my husband the head of our household. Maybe I don’t give him that title, but I *behave* that way, running things by him before making decisions and, when we’re out in public, generally giving him the lead unless he asks me to take it. It’s something I’m barely conscious of. And in the past, it has made me feel like I talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. It’s tough to make peace with that. Just sharing some insight – do with it what you will.

            • I apreciate you taking the time to reply to me, KKZ. It’s not that I find empowered women unattractive, in fact I’d much rather a woman with a career comparable to my own (which isn’t anything too great, I’m a newly-qualified teacher) than a housewife. It’s that there are a lot of women these days who take ANY sign of decision making from the man as an oppressive relationship. Either he is a completely emasculated servant or he is an oppressive throwback from the 1800s. This is my experience with (fairly prestigious) college educated women, they have victim mentalities of the kind you wouldn’t believe. I don’t think they’re being intentionally malicious, at all, but the results are still the same. Exasperation and a will to marry a non-western woman (I do count myself lucky to be born in a generation where not every woman in the world is like this).

            • @Raegus,

              I sense your exasperation, and I remember how much I disliked dating (at least the search part). You don’t have to look hard to see a lot of superficiality and injustice in just getting a chance to get to know someone you find attractive (unless you look like Brad Pitt, or in the case of your generation, a sparkly vampire). I read in your posts, as well as KKZ’s, a lot of gender role confusion and shifting expectations. This is nothing new, I think this has been happening for a few generations. It is hard enough for men and women to understand each other, much less with the struggle between traditional vs modern relationship expectations adding to the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” conundrum.

              I think there are no typical marriages (or relationships), there are too many variations in individuals and their expectations. So we need to cut through all the expectations and stereotype crap and look at the root of what every individual responds positively to: kindness, empathy, compassion, respect, honesty. It took me 40 years and an almost failed marriage to figure this out. It seems I was expected to know this, but I must have missed the memo (and it seems I’m not the only one).

              My advice, for what it’s worth, is to look in the mirror and evaluate what you can bring to a relationship…it seems relationships are all about mutual giving–imagine that. As for meeting Ms. Right, that is the hard part, and I wish I had any advice. I’m not sure where you’re meeting women, but I doubt you are going to find a genuine relationship in the club. For me, I would get more involved in the activities I like, to get out and just meet people, you never know where you’re going to meet an amazing woman or a new friend that has an amazing sister, etc. Be the best dude you can be, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and you’ll be fine. Good luck!

            • Well said, Derek. I’d agree that confusion over gender roles is hardly a new thing, but each generation experiences it in their own way – or really, each individual.

              Raegus, I too sense your exasperation, and you’re certainly not the only man I know who’s frustrated that the selection of women at hand (whether that be women in your geographical area, or women you meet online) doesn’t live up to your expectations/standards. I’m not sure what pool of women you’ve been drawing from, but I’d like to say that attitude you describe, an extreme resistance to anything that smacks of oppression, isn’t a universal among our generation. There are certainly women our age who do feel very strongly along those lines, but most reasonable women I know are more interested in compromise and communication than in making sure their boyfriend isn’t oppressing them. They don’t mind if you make decisions but just want to be included in them.

              One very light caution about your interest in pursuing a non-Western woman who you feel is more receptive to the relationship roles you prefer: there’s so much more to any non-Western culture than simply the gender behaviors and expectations. If you do start dating a woman from another country, do take care to learn about her culture and appreciate everything it has to offer, not just its women. This sort of goes without saying, and I don’t mean to imply that you wouldn’t do that, I only offer it as a helpful reminder.

              Still, while I don’t doubt your experiences, I don’t really believe you *have to* look outside of Western cultures for a woman with those qualities. The women’s movement and empowerment culture played out differently in different countries, and even in different regions of the U.S. I’d guess that you’d be more likely to find the staunch anti-oppressionist woman in Portland or Seattle than in, say, Louisville, KY. If you’re in an area overpopulated by these women, which it sounds like you are, I’m sorry to hear that and can imagine it’s very frustrating for you. But before you write off this whole glorious country, or even Western cultures as a whole (I’m sure there are women in Europe, Australia and Canada who would fit your mold?), I encourage you to explore the variety – because it IS there.

              One question before I get back to work: Is your opinion of women in our generation informed by personal experience dating women who you’ve found to be too bull-headed about the empowerment/oppression issue, or is that a perception based on general observations about society and our generation?

              Cheers!

        • @Derek…

          I am 50 but spend quite a bit of time around young people. These young men and women are in their 20s.

          My observation is that their behavior and conduct is radically different. It seems to me that relationships are no longer valued with this generation. Also, the definition of a relationship (know as ‘ship) is pretty loose and lacks any real kind of consensus meaning. It is a like some kind of mush. There is “going out”, dating, “hanging out”, hooking up, just friends (but screwing), ….The words boyfriend and girlfriend are antiquated with most of them.

          I was in the grocery store last week. I am a regular and joke with them a lot. They have a new named Ashley. Very pretty and around 20-21. She was wearing a beautiful bracelet (Juicy Couture). I gave her a compliment on it. Then, I asked her, “So, did your boyfriend give this to you for Xmas?” . She replied, “My friend gave it to me.” So, the guy is “just a friend” according to her. Oh nice friend. “Oh, he is just a friend.”

          Now, as a 50 year old guy, I am like no guy is going to give that to you unless he is more than “just a friend.” I know I don’t roll like that! Otherwise, they guy is a chump.

          While I cannot say things are as extreme as Raegus is making them, make not mistake: they are very very different. Things seems to be more in a state of flux more than anything. And that is not just with his generation

          • Jules, one thing I was unclear of from your story, did Ashley specify a male friend gave her the bracelet? (I lost you a little in the quotation marks at the end there.)
            Because as a woman, my first thought at “My friend gave it to me” is that she received it from a female friend. But it could be that she was specific and I just read you wrong.

            Being in the generation you speak of, I would agree there’s a good deal of fuzziness between platonic, romantic, and sexual relationships between the genders, a blurring that maybe generations before us didn’t experience quite the same. But I’d argue my generation does value relationships, we just enter them differently. Cautious of commitment, perhaps? Just from my own experience, I have a male friend who is single, and while he does participate in casual sex, he very very much wants a relationship with the right woman. I was trying to think of any friends of mine who I might introduce him to, only to go through my whole list of friends and find that I have exactly 0 female friends in my age group who are single. Then again, it could just be that because I’m married, I tend to associate with other people who are married/in LTRs. Lots of factors at play.

            I always marvel at how geography plays into this. In reading so, so many articles and publications that are generated in NYC and authored by writers who live in very large metros, the dating & relationship scene in those cities is SO different from what I’ve witnessed here in Ohio. That’s why it’s tough to say my generation shares a particular set of values or views on marriage and relationships, because there’s a huge variance between the NYC mainstream and the Midwest (and Ohio is *barely* considered Midwest) suburbs and rural communities. Just food for thought.

  6. My 2 cents …
    The only thing that I wanted to emulate in relationship to my parents long marriage until death did they part was their tenacity and determination to make it work during good times and in bad. I was 20 when my dad passed away at the age of 62. I am now 58 so do the math. There was a great generation gap between us. My wants and desires were expectedly different then my parents, we lived in different times yet there was one consistency and that was an undying love for our wives, no matter how difficult times became.

    I have (had – three have passed away) 5 married brothers, who like me, their marriages endured through good times and bad. Although we were siblings, our lives were different in that our goals, wants and needs were different. I didn’t want my marriage to be like theirs nor were they interested in theirs being like mine.

    No two marriages are alike as they shouldn’t be. We make our marriages into what we want and need them to be. How we were when we first got married is so far different then we are today, you wouldn’t know who recognize us as the same people. It’s not reinventing a marriage, it’s building on to a marital; foundation that was built many years ago.

    I think fell in love with my wife 48 years ago. Yes, We’ve known each other since I was 10. She was an older women, she was 11, 6 months older then me.

    What I don’t get is that so many are looking for something they already have. Reciprocal love between two people. It took us 8 years of have our first child. 8 years where we had a hell of a lot of fun as “DINK’s” Double income no kids. Then we had our kids. We became mom and dad without giving up husband and wife. The kids grow up and we find ourselves building upon what we had and adding to it. A cool older couple. The foundation was laid many years ago, it hasn’t changed. And now, we’re grandparents … how totally cool is that?

    38 years of good times and bad and I wouldn’t change any of them. Quit “looking” for that which you already have. Quit looking at others and simply be yourselves, with all your faults …. Build a foundation and continue building your life off of that foundation.

  7. Gint, Bravo on another article well done. Your analogies are perfect and you make a very salient, concise point. Every marriage – every last one of them! – has its flaws.

    The most disturbing myth I’ve encountered is this idea that Love Conquers All. You see it everywhere, in fairytales and sitcoms and even serious dramas. Family Guy and the Simpsons, for instance, featuring wives that put up with absolutely batsh!t crazy behavior from their husbands only to give them a kiss and a “at least you tried” or “I love you anyway” at the end of an episode. Just as an example off the top of my head.
    I read advice columns that are female-dominated, and one thing that comes up again and again especially from young letter-writers is the theme of “my boyfriend/fiance/husband is great and I love him, but he does [insert problematic behavior here] and that bothers me, but I love him so much!!!!” The undercurrent is this strong belief that simply loving someone enough is all it takes to make a relationship work. Love is an essential backbone for a relationship and it DOES help you weather hard times, but it’s not a magic life preserver that will make other problems go away. Love alone is not enough. Interestingly, on the advice columns, it’s often the older female commenters who come forward to break this news to the hopeful young LWs.

    On that note, I want to say I deeply appreciate seeing Derek above, and others, give helpful and valuable advice to younger generations in such a compassionate way. And I second the recommendation for 5 Love Languages. It helped me understand some of the communication breakdowns that were happening between me and my husband early in our marriage.

  8. I agree about the expectations. I divorced young and while there are a lot of reasons why it had to be done I went in with the expectation that it was all going to be ok and didn’t think of the practicality of it and the fact that love doesn’t pay the rent and like issues. Now 10 years later having experimented with different relationship scenarios I’m just not interesting marriage. I could happily be in a relationship without having to do the whole marriage thing because it’s just not important to me. If I agreed upon in the relationship I can be monogamous, devoted and loyal without the piece of paper. I’m not religious so I have no real reason to go through another religious ceremony. I have a living will and will I can modify accordingly. So there’ snot many legal reasons I would have to get married at htis point. And as the typical breadwinner in a relationship the idea of paying spousal support until the end of the time if it doesn’t work out kind of turns me off to that whole thing too. As does a pre-nup. Because really if I’m planning for a contract to end I really have no reason to go through the hassle to enter one.

    I think sometimes people expect the marriage to save the relationship too. And when I go to weddings I hear the old ball and chain talk and the talk of not being able to do this or that anymore. And having to be tied to one person for the rest of their life. I’ve watched a lot of young people get married over the years. I’ve only seen about 2 of those marriage last so far and the last 2 who knows. But to a person everyone of them expected the marriage to save the relationship.

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  1. [...] The article’s point is essentially stated in the title. Of course, I concur, as I’ve written on similar topics [...]

  2. [...] reality is—just like with marriages—each one is unique and challenging, and different at various points in the process. Since I believe a big part of getting divorced [...]

  3. […] The article’s point is essentially stated in the title. Of  course, I concur, as I’ve written on similar topics […]

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