Honey, you do not need to be bringing a batch of rolls and dessert to Thanksgiving dinner, you need a wedding ring on your finger and a husband.
Dude, you do not be coming in here with a dog. You need a woman on your arms.
When are you going to decide to settle down and consider getting engaged?
You need to get a life and get married.
He/she is almost 30 and they are not married. I wonder what is wrong with them?
You are not married, you must be so lonely and feel miserable and so on…
Over my more than half a century of life, these are just some of the comments I have heard from other individuals who have recited stories of rude, obnoxious arrogant, opinionated individuals ranging from relatives, friends, acquaintances and in some cases, total strangers! To be sure human beings are an intensely opinionated species. This is particularly true when it comes to marriage.
Indeed, it seems that more than a few people have little, if any, reservations in weighing in on the subject of holy matrimony. Psychologists, sociologists, sex therapists, psychotherapists, health therapists, average Joe’s, plain Jane’s and other assorted folks. One thing is for certain, there is no shortage of opinions on the topic.
Stand up comedian and host of the popular and controversial HBO program, Real Time With Bill Maher is one high profile person who has been intensely outspoken on the issue. In an interview with British celebrity and media personality, Piers Morgan, and in an amusing, yet candid discussion with fellow comedian and talk host Chelsea Handler, both entertainers discuss what they saw as society’s obsession with marriage, children and family hood in general.
During the interview, Morgan asked Maher how he managed to evade getting hitched. Maher, to his credit, did not dance around the issue or pull any punches. He stated without apology that he never was interested in getting married and has no regrets about never doing so. On his own program both, Maher and Handler were adamant, passionate yet humorous in their position of not wanting to walk down the aisle or have a spouse.
It was notable by the reaction of audience members that they had hit a nerve.
There were pockets of applause throughout the crowd, but there were considerable silence and nervous laughter from more than a few people. It was apparent that Mr. Maher and Ms. Handler had waded into awkward territory and, moreover, had done so by espousing politically incorrect comments. What was intriguing to me was the fact that people appeared to be so uncomfortable with two other adults stating their positions, albeit candidly and unapologetically. The fact was neither Maher or Handler were rude or outright blatantly disrespectful to people who were married or were pro-marriage. Rather, they just voiced their own viewpoints as they were certainly entitled to do.
To be sure, Bill Maher and Chelsea Handler are certainly not the only celebrities or Americans who are unmarried. Millions fall into this category. In fact, recent studies indicate that over the past few years that the number of single people in America outnumbers that of married individuals.
There are likely a number of reasons as to why this is the case:
- High Divorce Rates – Our nation has over a 50% divorce rate. In some segments of the population, it is higher, We refer to marriage as an institution. Can you imagine any other supposed institution where there was such a high failure rate? If a hospital had a 50% mortality rate or a college has a 50% failure rate, questions would be asked, answers would be expected, in fact, demanded, and heads would be rolling! Yet with marriage we often say, try, try and try again.
- Infidelity -Let’s face it, for good or for ill, some people have more active libidos than others. Moreover, to be honest, there are a number of people, especially men, who are more inclined to be sex addicts. For these men (and some women), remaining monogamous and faithful to one partner is an ongoing struggle and test that they usually end up failing miserably. These are the people who have no reason being married to anyone. By remaining single these lolitas and lotharios can spare other people much eventual anger, drama, and heartache.
- Transforming of Social Norms – Since the dawn of the republic, in some social circles, marriage was seen as a necessity. In fact, it was expected that one would be married by the time that you were in your late 20s/ or certainly early 30s at the latest! Otherwise, you were viewed as a social outcast and were usually marginalized if not outright shunned by others of your peer group. Today, such rigid notions and expectations have rapidly subsided in many quarters.
- Fear of Failure – Some people, perhaps, many felt that if they do ever get married and their marriage flounders that other people will look upon them as a failure. Truth is, some people undoubtedly will. This is largely due to the fact for the longest time married people have been seen as the gold standard that others should aspire to. The truth is that many of these married couples are likely residing in marital unions that are far from harmonious.
- Temperament – There are some people who are astute to reality early on that they are not marriage material. These are the man and women who realize that they do not have the discipline or disposition to be legally married to anyone and wisely have decided to forego such an option. In earlier eras, many of these same people would often reluctantly follow society’s expectations and enter into marital unions that were anything but stable. In fact, violence and dysfunction were often commonplace.
- Independence – The fact is that in some cases, marriage can impose an unwelcome self-definition. Fortunately, in our 21st-century environment, human beings, in particular women, have considerably more freedom than they had just a half a century earlier. The fact is that there are a number of people (count me in this group) who like to come and go as they so desire and do not want to be confined or restricted to the whims or needs of a partner or children. Having such an ample degree of freedom is a valuable and treasured asset and we are either reluctant or outright refuse to relinquish.
There are other reasons to be sure.
The truth is that for some people, marriage is wonderful as well as appropriate. They possess all the crucial attributes necessary to succeed in such a union. Moreover, some of them will have happy, healthy, successful marriages. The loving, doting spouse, a happy home life, perhaps eventual children and all the other trappings that can accompany married life is ideal for them and suits them just fine. God bless them and more power to them!
Others will attempt to duplicate a similar scenario and fall woefully short in their efforts. This does not mean that they are any less responsible or worthy than their happily married counterparts. What such an end result does symbolize, however, is that marriage is something they may want to seriously reconsider, particularly if they have been married more than twice.
Truth be told, historically speaking, previous generations put so much effort and investment into the institution of marriage due to a plethora of factors. For many women, marriage was a bridge to a degree of stability. Opportunities for women in the workforce were limited. Some professions were off-limits and being married to an upwardly mobile husband was often one of the few paths of financial stability. Fortunately, today, this is no longer the case for a sizable growing percentage of women.
There are other people who feel that they are less than complete without a committed partner.
They see marriage as making them legitimate. Despite whatever level of drama or dysfunction prevalent, they will remain in such a relationship. Some of this is also due to being insecure or fearful of being alone.
For the longest time, adult single people were often looked at as freakish oddities, social deviants, tragic figures, misfits and other sorts of aberrations. As time has progressed, such previously retrograde held beliefs have incrementally dissipated and will likely outright be dispelled with progress. The fact is that not everyone needs to be or even should be married. For those of you who feel the need to inject your thoughts into the lives of other people’s relationship status, unless they solicit your advice, mind your own business and tend to your own affairs! Period!
Elwood Watson, Ph.D. Is a professor, author and public speaker. He is the author of the forthcoming book Today’s Man: Essays on 21st Century Masculinity that will be published by Connection Victory Publishers.
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