[image by makelessnoise]
Yesterday I posted about therapist David Schnarch’s view that marriages (committed relationships) are “people growing machines.” But for us to grow in a committed relationship obviously takes a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice. It’s not unusual to work with couples who are shocked by the amount of work a marriage does take, and soon begin to wonder if the sacrifice has been worth it. In fact, I think every relationship asks these questions at times, but some continue to go on and thrive, while others shut down and lead towards separation, divorce, or just two people living separate lives under the same household.
There has been a slew of articles and news stories recently on the state of marriage today, and I still remember sitting in my first graduate course in marriage and family therapy as the professor talked about the “state of marriage today.” Obviously we all come from various backgrounds and different experiences when it comes to the issue of marriage, whether it be our parents, or our own. These experiences often color our view of how we perceive marriage and whether or not we want it for ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago the Today Show had a segment on On Marriage: Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off. You can see the video below:
And then just this week, TIME Magazine’s cover story is, “Is There Hope for the American Marriage?” In the article, the author states:
In the past 40 years, the face of the American family has changed profoundly. As sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin observes in a landmark new book called The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, what is significant about contemporary American families, compared with those of other nations, is their combination of “frequent marriage, frequent divorce” and the high number of “short-term co-habiting relationships.” Taken together, these forces “create a great turbulence in American family life, a family flux, a coming and going of partners on a scale seen nowhere else. There are more partners in the personal lives of Americans than in the lives of people of any other Western country.”
An increasingly fragile construct depending less and less on notions of sacrifice and obligation than on the ephemera of romance and happiness as defined by and for its adult principals, the intact, two-parent family remains our cultural ideal, but it exists under constant assault. It is buffeted by affairs and ennui, subject to the eternal American hope for greater happiness, for changing the hand you dealt yourself. Getting married for life, having children and raising them with your partner — this is still the way most Americans are conducting adult life, but the numbers who are moving in a different direction continue to rise.
Lots of thoughts have been running through my head after reading through the articles and watching the videos this week.
There are lots of questions I want to ask. But I’ve started to wonder if people are afraid of marriage because of the large amount of failure they have seen around them when it comes to marriage. Maybe your own parent’s were divorced, or live in a marriage that you hope to never live in yourself. Or maybe your best friend from college is married and is miserable. Or maybe you have already been married, and are now divorced. Lots of scenarios.
Are you afraid of marriage?
Do you want to be married? Why or why not?