Our posture towards marriage and its ability to be good and healthy is so often one of disbelief, or even antagonism. But does that say more about marriage itself, or us?
Any mention of being happily married will get you an immediate knowing look of, You have to say that, don’t you? along with probing questions about how it’s really going. People seem to find it impossible to believe that anyone could truly be happy in their marriage.
Of course, this is hardly surprising. The high divorce rates coupled with the countless married couples who really are unhappy and constantly talk trash their spouse make it so that our culture’s first reaction to the idea of a good marriage is one of either doubt or animosity.
But is this because a happy marriage is truly unrealistic, or are there other things at play?
We’re Obsessed with Singleness
It’s no secret that we live in a world that idolizes singleness. We treat our single years as our glory days — the only time in our life to have fun, date as much as we can, capitalize on our freedom to do whatever we want, and are encouraged to date just for the fun of it and without purpose so as to prolong this period of life.
This is because we think of marriage as a loss of our independence, excitement, and ultimately, ourselves. The thought of not only tying ourselves to the same person forever, but being obligated to take them and their needs and wishes into account as much as we do our own, forces us to sacrifice our human desire to put ourselves first — an uncomfortable idea for a culture that prizes a me, me, me mentality.
Glorifying Singleness Means We’ve Stopped Believing in Committed Love
Our infatuation with singleness doesn’t just have to do with our desire for unlimited independence, but our disenchantment with the idea of romance, men, and commitment in general as well. Singleness and our praise for it has become a defense mechanism against what we assume will only bring us disappointment.
Praise of singleness has become a defense against what we assume will bring us disappointment.
The rise of casual relationships has chipped away at our belief in romance, as women too often find themselves wondering when they’ll be taken out on a real date without a “favor” expected in return. Their faith in the quality of single men continues to dwindle as they find themselves surrounded by either toxic or purposeless guys. Their hope for commitment seems a pointless dream as they’re once again told that commitment is the death of excitement, and the guy they’re seeing would rather “see where things go.”
For many young women today, it feels almost silly to still believe in the possibility of a good marriage, akin to still believing in Santa Claus. To single women looking for a good guy, it can often feel like there’s so little evidence that enough exist to go around, making for a hostile response toward married women who attempt to reassure them that good marriages are possible.
Let’s Be Honest About What a “Happy” Marriage Looks Like
As a married woman with a majority of single friends, I’ve noticed a trend with my unmarried-but-itching-to-marry friends: they have this idea that getting married is their missing puzzle piece – that the moment they say I do, their life will be complete, filled with flowers and giggles and bliss every day.
While I love the enthusiasm, it’s this unrealistic treatment of marriage that only compounds the cultural belief that marriage is for suckers. Seeing marriage as the end all, be all is just as unhealthy and destructive to our chances at happiness as seeing it as inherently meaningless.
Seeing marriage as the end all, be all is just as unhealthy as seeing it as inherently meaningless.
The truth is that a “happy” marriage looks like this: two fallible people trying their best to love and care for the other, and sometimes doing it imperfectly. Marriage is never going to answer every desire, be perfectly 50-50, or feel totally natural, despite how much we love our spouse.
And yet, we’re in the trenches of marriage with someone we (hopefully) love deeply, trust, chose, and were made happy by before walking down the aisle. That connection we felt before we got married doesn’t disappear under the weight of commitment and time passing, but instead, deepens beyond what we could’ve imagined before pledging our life to being and growing with them – this is what a good, happy marriage can look like.
Why We Need To Talk About Good Marriages
A woman mentioning that she’s married to any singles will get a few responses: a thinly-veiled, resentful remark about how great that is for us; a wide-eyed look of shock that we’d ever want to ruin our lives this way; a sharp question that asks if we think we’re better than the rest of women for it; and sometimes, a genuine congratulatory comment.
Often enough, married people are told they’re bragging if they mention how happy they are to be married, or treated like they’re just in denial if they actually believe they have a chance at long-lasting happiness. For a lot of happily married people, it’s easier to just not openly talk about it in order to steer clear of such responses.
It’s not up to single people to understand marriage; it’s up to married people to show them what they’re missing.
But these attitudes are what make it entirely necessary that we speak openly about the wonderful aspects of being married, while being honest about what marriage really is: choosing to love the same person forever while building a profound connection with them. The cultural disenchantment towards marriage isn’t just due to the tragic state of modern dating, but also married people’s failure to accurately characterize just how incredible, challenging, humbling, rewarding, and fulfilling marriage can be.
It’s not up to single people to understand marriage – it’s up to married people to graciously show them what they’re missing, inspiring a new perception of the purpose and beauty of marriage that can’t be found anywhere else.
Marriage is a challenge that’s worth taking on, but only married people can truthfully attest to that. It’s in the best interest of our unhappily single friends that we offer them an honest illustration of what a good and happy marriage really looks like.
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