I have far more to say on this subject than I can fit into one blog post. Check back for more thoughts on this subject later. Or just click the Category entitled “The State of Marriage” for all posts that I’ve written on the subject.
I recently was in a play called The Beaux Strategem, and played a character named Sullen. This character was a drunkard and an asshole, and married to a very lovely woman, named Kate. At the beginning of the second act, Sullen has a very amusing monologue about the “state of marriage.” Here is an excerpt:
“Getting married is easy enough, staying married is the tricky part. What’s so difficult about marriage? Everything. Do I believe in it? No. Why did I get married? Stupidity. Why do I stay married? Stubborness.”
Given my own history with my one brief marriage, I feel these lines were made for me. I actually agree whole-heartedly with all of these sentiments. In fact, I even got married due to stupidity, and stayed married three years longer than I should have, partly due to stubbornness. But I feel that I have learned my lesson; once my divorce was final in March of 2013, I was asked by a friend if I would re-marry some day, and I was adamant that I wouldn’t. I have changed in many ways in the last 16 months, but one thing that hasn’t changed for me is my lack of interest in marriage.
This, obviously, puts me at odds with the vast majority of people in our society. It seems that marriage is a goal of almost everybody. I often talk about societal norms, and why they exist, and how we can overcome these norms. Norms of heterosexuality and monogamy are quite strong, obviously. But these norms are being broken down rather quickly, and we find ourselves in a brave new world where straight individuals partnering with only one other person isn’t the only option. But even among gay and polyamorous populations, the ideal of marriage is still sought.
I realize I must tread quite lightly when I write about this subject. Many of my readers are married or seek marriage. Most of my close personal friends are married, or seek marriage. So, here is disclaimer time! These are my own personal feelings on marriage. I know that we’re all different, and we all have different needs. I acknowledge that for some people, the “need” to get married might be a very real, and ingrained one, just as the state of monogamy might be a very real and ingrained relational orientation for some. But through a series of posts that I will do on marriage, I encourage my married and marriage-minded readers to keep an open mind. These posts will in no way be an attack on your marriage or desire to be married. I can understand the knee-jerk reaction to turn defensive when an important part of your cultural belief system is attacked. All we need to do is look at the extreme reactions to homosexuality among some Conservative Christians to understand that it is easy to feel threatened when an entire way of living is called into question.
I also want to say that the goal of this and my future posts on this subject won’t be to destroy marriage as an institution. My goal is to analyze marriage from a practical and pragmatic viewpoint, while strengthening it for years to come. Just as I believe the model of traditional monogamy is deeply flawed, and not workable in the modern era, I believe the same of marriage. And this can’t be that surprising, as marriage is, at it’s heart, a direct ancestor of monogamy. I believe that if monogamy hadn’t emerged as a societal norm, then marriage (as we know it today) also wouldn’t have emerged.
And yes, I do believe that marriage as an institution has lost much of it’s power. When nearly 50% of people entering into marriages will end them, it’s clearly not a system that’s working. But I truly believe that marriage can work, if those entering into the marriage contract do it with a realistic frame of mind. I know, it sounds like blasphemy to be practical about this part of our lives which we’ve romanticized so much – but I think it’s absolutely necessary to move forward into life-long commitments with not just our hearts, but also our minds.