With divorce rates at around 40-50% of marriages within the United States (giving us a higher divorce rate than all other countries), one would think that people would fight to NOT get married. That we would be creating parades, signing petitions, and lobbying to casually date and not have to call someone when we say we will. Power to commitment-aphobes, I say. However, with current political arguments over equal marital rights, it seems as though marriage is still a popular American pastime. Not only in the homo-sexual community, but in the hetero-sexual community as well. I refer to it as a hobby, simply because of the frequency of marriages, and then its normal American ending: divorce. Divorce rates are higher within the younger population, and seem to become less frequent with people over the age of 25.
My question is, does the option of divorce allow those of us the option of marriage who shouldn't be married? Does the right to file for a divorce in itself create more divorces? As American women we treasure our rights that are superior to most women in other parts of the world. We are thankful to be able to live the life we want. But is the right of divorce allow us to commit to people we do not know?
I am going to argue that the option of divorce has in itself created more divorces, simply because you can't bake an apple pie without apples; you can't have a lot of divorces surface without it being socially and legally accepted. As a result people rush into marriage and feel that it is a fulfillment of their societal, gender, and sometimes emotional needs. When it is none of the above.
There are risks in marriage, just as there are risks in dating, or being in a monogamous relationship. It takes a long time to truly get to know someone on a romantic level, and on a friendship level. I have known numerous couples married for years to only divorce after saying that they never really loved each other. This type of action not only debunks marriage as a perfect union, but also questions what marriage actually is-- Is it a piece of paper? A blood test showing biological compatibility? Is it waking up next to someone every day? Is it trusting one person with your entire mental/physical/emotional body? The only differing characteristics between monogamous relationships and marriage are the verbal vows made in front of family, the piece of paper, and the blood test results that have to be shared between a married couple. What this means is that marriage does not unify what has not already been unified, nor does it make a relationship right that is wrong. Ultimately it only makes it more difficult on a couple if one cheats, does the other wrong, cannot support the other financially, etc. Allowing marriage to be a solution for loneliness, physical needs, or a proper fulfillment of one's religion creates the basis of why divorce rates are so high.
Many religious people marry very young in order to have sex quicker because the wait is excruciating (( because our bodies are made to have sex)). The highest amount of divorces are seen within Conservative Christian families. Though Christians (who make up the majority of religious people within the States) believe living together without the context of marriage is sin. Now it is known that most couples who live together usually end their relationship whether it be in divorce after they marry, or while they are not married and still living together. It seems as though statistics are crap - that we are damned if we get married, or damned if we live together.
What does all of this mean? Should we never marry, nor live with someone in a serious relationship? Well, yes. Many people who are married or living with someone should not be doing it, and for the few that do have healthy relationships they are few and far between. Perhaps there are no healthy relationships, that all are full of some poison that serves to infect one or both parties at different times. That is usually said by people who are enabling abusers, or are abusers themselves.
That is why if we are to get married, or if we are to live with someone, we must grow to know them over a long time through many different trials thus building a solid bond that only adds some sort of enlightenment to the world. Do some people get married after dating a few months and find happiness in marriage? Yes, but I have never met one of those people.
Alright, if living together is usually not a great idea, nor is marriage, than what are we left with? Is monogamy a bad idea too? Yep. I see many bright women who think it is their life's mission to spend most of their time and energy on their significant others or s/o's (scholarly essays always involve some sort of shortened version of a commonly used word which seems to make points more valid). Anyway, instead of pursuing their own goals, these young women focus on helping their s/o's find happiness. Pimping out your time, or focusing one's social/emotional happiness on a s/o when you're young, either results in heartache, or handicaps you from reaching full development as a healthy well-adapted adult.
Is it ever safe to depend on someone to always be there for you in a way that brings you peace? I'm not sure. I don't think so, but the jury is still out. Is it safe to ever depend on someone at all? Well, what is safe? Their is a level of frustration that goes along with being in a relationship, but pain and suffering are for martyrs and Saint Theresa, and should not be a part of a young woman's dating life. Instead we should get to dance in fields, run through waterfalls, kiss to songs like "Cheerleader" by Grizzly Bear, and then do more dancing with our s/o's (if we choose to have one).
What does this all mean? No marriage, no living together, no monogamy? Yes, again. A truly healthy commitment can only be in between two people who are healthy and whole in and of themselves. One cannot commit to another unless they are committed to their self-awareness, mental and physical health, as well as their dreams and aspirations. It is impossible to give to someone what you don't have to give, or what you can't give to yourself. It takes a long time and a lot of emotional work to become committed to oneself. That is why we should not be apt to get into relationships. For if we do when our confidence is still fledgling, we are bound to get into a relationship for the wrong reasons, and find unease when we could find unity. Worse, we could attract the wrong people because we are not yet the people we want to be. None of us should jump into relationships, marriages, or living situations without spending enough time around the person to know if they are the type of people who bring out the best in us, or distract us from our life's work.
As young women, we are apt to nestle, to nurture and nest. We want to take care of others and help them in every single way. As a result we may prematurely commit to relationships and marriages that do not serve us well (either at this time in our lives, or in our entire lives) because it is a biological habit for us to connect physical intimacy with emotional intimacy, and ultimately relationship longevity.
That is why it is in our best interest to WAIT to have sex WAIT to commit WAIT to live with someone until we are sure that we are not wasting our precious time. If you are being pressured to do any of these things then you are dating the wrong people, or you do not value yourself enough to make what you want top priority.
When I say wait, do I mean for a few days, weeks, months, years, until you are married (if you get married)? Yes and no. It is best to wait until something happens when you know that you are comfortable with yourself enough that if the relationship doesn't work out, you can let the person go. That sounds absurd to wait to become more intimate until you are not afraid of losing the person, but in actuality it is about making sure you love yourself enough to not allow another person to become an important part of your life until they have done the work to do so. Anything with delayed gratification is more appreciated than something that happens quickly without work. If someone just handed you a diploma after you stepped into school you would laugh, throw it at them, and get the heck out of there. You would then proceed to enroll in a different school. The fact that you have to spend years at school in order to receive a diploma makes you want it all the more, and makes you sure that when you are about to get it you are really going to appreciate it, and you won't do anything to mess it up. Should we wait to fall in love and engage in sex after we have dated someone for the duration of an undergrad program? Not necessarily, but waiting forces you to be creative in expressing love for that person.
What if you do not want to correlate sex with love? What if the idea of monogamy, marriage, or living together all sound absurd to you, and you want to just have sex while you still can? There is danger in having a relationship outside of sex. Well that's quite true, but not what I meant. What I mean is that there is something dangerous about having sex outside of a relationship, as I mentioned in previous blogs. Though we all need a certain amount of touch to survive, and abstaining is not our natural state. If we do decide to engage in intimacy with someone outside of a relationship, a treaty usually has to be signed where both parties understand the intentions to keep someone's heart from getting smashed. Even then one or both may be lying, which no one can really plan for. So, it's simple- if we are used to not being in love and engaging in sex, our emotions don't just turn on all of a sudden if we meet someone that is worth our time and effort. Our brains and bodies do what they know best without serious re-programming. I use the word effort with great restraint as a relationship should not require huge sacrifices (such as changing our life's work, our most important hobbies, etc) or strenuous effort. Too many things in life require that sort of devotion, and our relationships should be a vacation from constant trials.
So, I can see how you may feel about what I said. You may think I am preaching complete romantic anarchy that involves a lot of chain smoking, one night stands, and a list of names which you cross off every week. In reality I'm only stating that the concepts of hesitation, patience, waiting, seeing, knowing, understanding, questioning are safer and ultimately more rewarding than fearful dating in which we are too ready to commit to a guy who actually listens to what we say. Though it may seem like these types of men are very rare, and that we should marry them/commit to them before someone else finds them. But just because a guy remembers your birthday, says nice things once in awhile, and likes to rub your back when you're tired does not give you enough foundation to build a long lasting healthy relationship on.
Young women also endure a lot of difficulty in relationships because of the promise that their mates will "change" or "be better." But no one changes. Yes we may change our interests, our jobs, maybe even our perspectives on life, but how we treat others will always remain the same. Unless of course we spend years in Tibet getting in touch with our inner self, or we live a life that demands constant emotional growth through therapy or study. But even those things seem sporadic and not long lasting unless they are done forever. In lieu of this understanding, we should not commit to others prematurely, and especially not in the hopes of an eventual change occurring within the other person.
Ultimately you may have less relationships, and spend more Sunday mornings reading in the bath than 11ams nuzzling over tea. But think of all the things you can create and the places you can go when you are not busy putting back together a relationship that was broken a long time ago. The mental energy you are left with when you are happy, or when you are with someone that appreciates you (that someone being your cute self) will be immense.
One day you may marry, you may be in a relationship, or you may live with someone for the rest of your life. I am certain that if it takes you a decent amount of time to allow yourself to partake in these things, you will be happier and ultimately be with someone who is willing to make the effort in keeping you.
All the best,
HerStory Head Editor