Today’s Marriages

We will begin this week looking at marriage—the history, some of the current realities, and the components needed to have the best chance at marriage being successful. Marriage is a term that goes well beyond the space that we have here for a full commentary; as such, we will be looking at a very small and culturally influenced perspective on this area.

From a historical perspective I have always found it interesting that when marriage first initiated as an institution the life expectancy levels were somewhere in the area of 35 years old—so the “till death do you part” really wasn’t likely to be a long time! Albeit that people were married at younger ages, it still was not likely to be a 60-year union. I bring this up as it relates to commitment (the topic addressed last week). Even a bad marriage could be tolerated for these lengths of time—however, with today’s current life expectancy rates, a bad marriage would be akin to a prison sentence if issues are not resolvable; all the more reason to select well, keep working on it, and understand the appropriate concepts of negotiation and acceptable compromise.

The place where we start with marriage is where we left off last week—commitment. Last week four premises were offered up in relation to what commitment is… It is an action behavior based upon solid cognitive choice making, it understands that emotion is ever changing and ever evolving, it stands steady in difficult times and evaluates along the way, and it does not institute impulsively.

Where the first roadblock presents with respect to marriage is in the area of maturation and development; in today’s environment of lengthy life spans, unfortunately many young people are not fully cognizant to the understanding of what this commitment really means. Since the 60’s I believe we have lived in a world that is much more selfishly focused, things are more disposable, and youth mature at a slower rate due to our attentions to the developmental phase of adolescence. These combinations and others have contributed significantly to an escalating divorce rate. Where people would have struggled and potentially worked through difficult times as a part of their relationship many today throw in the towel and look to start over believing next time it will be better—even though second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages. These comments are based upon the belief that we are talking about reasonably equitable dysfunctional relationships not those where pervasive abuse is a feature. Where patterns of abuse exist, I can fully comprehend the rationale for separation/divorce. What I am referring to above is your garden-variety dysfunctional relationship that through some meaningful work could be agreeable to alteration and thus functionality and health; however, people are walking out before they even explore an option for resolution because “it’s too much work”, “I don’t love them”, “my life is no fun anymore”, and on and on infinitum. What these comments amount to is that this is solely about self (what am I getting out of being here), commitment is too much work (I did not know this would be work), and it is easy to dispose of this and just start new (ask the vast majority of divorcees and you will find it was not that easy and neither is beginning anew).

Where many of these issues initiate is based upon maturation; many young people do not understand or comprehend terms like life-long, commitment, and retention. This is not a statement of blame but a means of understanding why we have come to this place in the world of relationships. Until someone has lived a little, we cannot fully comprehend the above three terms. Next time we will explore the various features of a successful marriage— what are the key foundational pieces for a marriage to thrive?