Until divorce do us part.
As a married 20-something, weddings and relationships are a big topic on my social scene, but I’ve observed what was once seen as a lifelong union evolve into more of a trial and error phase in many young people’s lives – something many do because it’s ‘expected’, not necessarily because they’ve found the love of their lives.
Even though the age we’re getting married at is increasing, creating the illusion we’re making more measured decisions, divorce rates are shockingly high, with 40 to 50 per cent of marriages ending in divorce in the US alone.
Statistics aside, what I find most disturbing is society’s attitude towards relationships, marriage and divorce. Almost every day we hear about another celeb couple filing for divorce, often after only a few months of being married. Who can forget Kim K’s infamous marriage to NBA player Kris Humphries that lasted just 72 days? Kim filed for divorce because “things didn’t work out as planned,” making me wonder how hard someone can try to make things work in less than three months.
Then of course there was the time Britney Spears wed her highschool sweetheart Jason Alexander on a drunken night in Vegas only to have it annulled 55 hours later because, according to the court, Spears “lacked understanding of her actions.” Which part of ’til death do us part’ she didn’t understand will forever remain a mystery to me.
But it’s not just celebs setting a bad example. I often hear about friends who haven’t even reached their 30th birthdays yet, but gotten married, pregnant, and divorced, often all within less than two years. While I’m trying not to judge, part of me always thinks that they should have known better.
Don’t get me wrong, some divorces are absolutely justified and I think it’s good that there is less of a stigma attached, especially for divorced women. People change and fall out of love, and it’s better to go on separate ways than to live in an unhappy marriage for the rest of your life. However, I can’t shake the feeling that the majority of divorces could be prevented if people started taking marriage more seriously.
We live in a society where dating involves swiping left or right on your smartphone, and nobody’s putting effort into relationships anymore. If you’re bored or annoyed with the guy you’re seeing, you simply stop answering his calls and move on to the next Tinder match.
This non-committal attitude seems to continue even when people get engaged. Prenups have become more common, and while I agree it’s better to be safe than sorry, it’s almost as though people expect to get divorced sooner or later.
We’re raised to believe we’ll live happily ever after, but the older we get, the more we seem to lose faith in that idea and settle for less – happy, as long as we don’t get bored. It’s not surprising the seven year itch is more often referred to as the three year itch nowadays.
Paradoxically, this realistic view that our relationships might not last forever doesn’t seem to lower our expectations. We want it all; a loving husband who can read our mind and will always put us first, a successful career, but enough time and money to start a family, and on top of that, support from friends and family in everything we do. When life throws us a curveball and things don’t quite work out that way, we simply quit instead of trying to make it work.
Arizona State University Professor of Sociology Mary Laner shares this view.
“We think that our partner can meet all our needs, know what we’re thinking, and love us even when we’re not terribly lovable. When those things don’t happen, then we blame our partner. We think that maybe if we had a different spouse, it would be better.” Ironically, divorce rates among people in second and third marriages are even higher according to Laner.
Some people argue humans aren’t meant to be with the same person for their entire lives, especially considering our steadily increasing life expectancy. So maybe we’re just giving in to our natural instincts, but then what’s the point of marriage? If you’re not entirely sure if you can see yourself growing old together with your partner, don’t get married.
Maybe it’s as simple as looking at the words in traditional wedding vows: “…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.” It can’t be much clearer than that. Marriage isn’t about one person’s needs, it’s about compromising and finding a way to make each other happy. If you’re too selfish to do that, don’t get married.
Image via weheartit.com.
Comment: Do you agree that marriage has lost its meaning?