November 2009

He Says, She Says: Marriage

Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton

Is marriage an outdated institution? I’m a big fan of romance and love, so I don’t agree with the opinion that it’s outdated. The family is still the basic building block of most stable, productive societies, and marriage is one of the most important building blocks of the family.

Trend forecasters whose job is to push cutting edge fads and technology are the ones saying that marriage is outdated. I’m such a big fan of marriage that I always keep an extra blender on hand just in case I need to attend a wedding. Never show up at a wedding without a gift, I always say.

Here in the USA and other modern countries, however, statistics show that marriage is on the ropes. Just like watching a boxer past his prime in the ring, I see marriage getting pummeled with body blows, uppercuts and jabs by the younger opponent, and it looks like the ref should stop the fight. The trendy thing is to have a “Significant Other” or a “Friend with Benefits.” No one wants a spouse anymore, despite the many obvious advantages to the men and women who have one.

For instance, say you want to watch that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoon marathon but you’re afraid to call in sick. When your wife calls in and says that you’re ill, immediately your boss pictures you hooked up to a respirator in a hospital with Katherine Heigel, from Grey’s Anatomy, walking around in a lab coat. When your live-in girlfriend calls in for you, your boss knows that you’re not really sick, and he tells human resources to find someone to fill your soon-to-be-vacant position. A wife trumps a girlfriend, fellas, when it comes to turning a drab Monday into a sunny three day weekend. Wives are also useful for many other things, like carrying firewood during camping trips. I’m kidding, of course. Wives should be cooking during camping trips. But the question is, how did things get so bad and who’s at fault?

I hold men responsible for the devaluation of marriage. I should point the finger of blame at our lovely, but misguided members of the fairer sex. They are the ones after all, who fired the first shots in the war of the sexes when they decided that “what was good for the goose, was good for the gander.” Some men are so disillusioned they’ve proclaimed a “marriage strike” and decided to live as swinging bachelors forever, playing the field and having one “modern” relationship after another. In the old days, this was called “The Peter Pan Syndrome,” after the boy who would never grow up. Today, it’s a viable lifestyle choice if you’re a charming, swinging bachelor who can find a few gullible women willing to waste their valuable time dating a man with no intention of ever being in a real grown-up relationship.

But it’s men who do the pursuing and women do the accepting or rejecting, as I’ve pointed out in the past. Nature has decided that men and women have different roles to play. When women declared war, the proper response from men should have been indifference and they should have carried on doing business as usual. Besides, you can’t have a war if only one side shows up at the battlefield. Not to mention that no one actually owns geese anymore, so the whole gander and goose analogy was just lame.

Notice how marriage seems outdated or quaint only in the modern countries. The so-called backward countries don’t seem to have the same problems with marriages or relationships that the modern world does. Not suprisingly, the modern countries also have a larger number of gadgets, doodads and thingamabobs that are supposed to make their daily lives easier. Coincidence? Maybe, but every time man has tried to modernize society with some great new invention, disaster has been the unintentional result.

Yes, the ability to fax, text and e-mail while driving sounds great, but has it made our lives any better? We’re a nation bombarded with the idea that instant communication is a good thing. The communication that’s being advertised every 20 seconds, however, calls for us to become less connected in a very real sense. Face-to-face contact and interaction has been devalued. Is it any wonder that marriage seems to be outdated when the ways we communicate are so impersonal? When we’ve replaced interaction with real live people in favor of interacting with computer programs?

The truth of the matter is that we’ve let ourselves become too concerned with high tech gizmos at Best Buy and we’ve let our interactions with flesh and blood people deteriorate. Marriage is still the ultimate goal for any grown-up couple. Call me old fashioned if you wish. Who wants to be a boyfriend or a girlfriend forever? A friend with no real benefits?

The men who are hoping that their swinging bachelor days will last forever are kidding themselves. The same goes for those women who think that having a career or a house filled with cats is an adequate substitute for being married.

Me? I’m looking forward to the day when a man can have more than one wife at a time and not have to live in Utah. Hey, I did say I’m a big fan of marriage. Someone’s got to carry all that firewood.

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Is marriage the ultimate goal?

German philosopher and writer, Johann Von Gothe once wrote: “Love is an ideal thing; marriage is a real thing.”

Love is the driving force behind the greeting card industry, power ballads and romantic comedies. You can’t see love; it doesn’t appear under a microscope or respond to analysis, scrutiny and evaluation. Love is an ideal. Love fuels the girlhood notions that start in the Barbie Dream-house, pushes forth through slow dances at the high school prom until it glistens and glitters off a dazzling white wedding gown.

If love is an ideal, then marriage is reality. When one walks down the aisle, shoves some cake in their true love’s face and rides off into the sunset, the real work of love begins. Marriage is not the end of the road, and it is certainly not the ULTIMATE goal. I say this as a single woman who carries with her all the ideals that were spoon fed to her as a young girl: There is someone out there for everyone; it will happen when you least expect it; you complete me; someday your prince will come…blah, blah, blah.

I believe in marriage, commitment and dedication. I think that marriage works for many people, and I’m proud to say that I’m the product of 39-year happy marriage. I’ve been surrounded by great marriages throughout my life: grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, siblings and many friends who seem to have done something right.

But I’m a naive single girl with no first person marriage experience and, as such, I harbor other notions, that maybe there isn’t someone out there for everyone and maybe my prince has already come and gone, or perhaps he’s lost—leading me to believe that marriage is not an end point, ultimate goal or finish line.

A relationship that doesn’t end at the altar is often deemed unsuccessful in our narrow definition of what the results of love should be. People are drawn together for thousands of reasons and part ways for equally as many more. It is sad to think that a relationship is remembered by its ending rather than its inception, when it’s the beginning that has all the good stuff, right?

People who formally commit themselves to one another—whether in a church, courthouse or on the beach—are no more likely to maintain that commitment than any other couple. Marriage vows do not put people in a hypnotic state where they are forced to stay together. We all know the statistics about divorce, and marriage is certainly a hot topic as a political debate.

I see marriage in two ways: the first is the public display of one’s dedication to another person—showing friends and family that you are choosing to be a partner and will honor another by being faithful and true. I think a wedding ceremony is a great way of sharing this pledge of loyalty to another person because you love them.

The second aspect of marriage is the legal contract that binds people, their belongings and money together, and this is where things get “real.” Marriage is a business, and when the rice has been thrown and the gifts opened, the work of making that business successful begins. Girlhood notions of a wedding day are fleeting, and a wedding day does not make a marriage. The love that draws people together may not be enough to get families through tough times. People cheat. People abandon. People lie. Marriages end and so do other commitments. Sometimes marriages end for all the right reasons and sometimes for all the wrong ones.

It is the way that one holds respect and regard for their partner that matters most. Marriage is not the end point in one’s life and shouldn’t be considered the ultimate goal for a relationship. Married people haven’t been availed to secrets about life to which we single people are clueless. A successful relationship leaves the two people changed for the better, enriching their lives and exposing truth about an individual, their purpose and passions. Maybe this will be a result of marriage or revealed through marriage, and maybe not.

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