21 October, 2009

Is the Crime Idealism?

A few months ago I remember listening to a sociologist suggest that one of the reasons that the divorce rate in the Us is so high is due to the way marriage is viewed by society as a whole. We covet marriage in that we hold it as the ideal, a romantic ideal that may or may not be either healthy or possible. We focus on the wedding, the ceremony, and the romance over the marriage, the work, and the partnership. We sell ourselves short, in some aspects, before we ever walk down the aisle and say “I do” because the wedding and such is a priority. We are not ready for the marriage that happens after the wedding - but we want that wedding and the status of the title “married.”

So we marry young.

We marry people we truly don’t love or with whom we aren’t compatible.

We marry the romance of the wedding and the title over the person with all their idiosyncrasies.

We marry another before we ever truly know ourselves, and then, when we grow and change and find ourselves… we are no longer compatible with our spouse.

We marry because we are afraid to be on our own or because we are not sure that we will ever find anyone as good as this college sweetheart or high school boyfriend even though we already know that it isn’t what we want.

We love the romance of the wedding and the white picket fences and the marriage.

WE love the sparkling rings and the partnership.

America is in love with weddings and marriage.

And some of us are so in love with it that we condemn divorce.

One of my good friends has been divorced for years. Making the decision to leave her marriage was likely the most difficult decision she ever made – and yet it is one that showed great strength and courage. One could argue that it is the most loving thing she ever did for herself and her kids too. She stood up for herself, for the model she wanted for her kids, and said that she wanted more; she wanted a situation in which there was trust, freedom, and love. She wanted that for her kids and for herself.

Every situation is different. This friend chose to leave a marriage as she no longer wanted to spend her time wondering where her husband was, whether or not he was lying to her, and the realization that no matter how hard she worked and they tried, the trust and respect just weren’t there.

I have other friends who simply married the wrong person for the wrong reason at the wrong age. They didn’t find other people to love for years, but in the meantime, they learned who they were and found people who could and would love without expectations. There is a wonderful relationship formed when two people know themselves and are confident and comfortable in their own skins.

Yet, in every situation of which I am familiar, the divorce was difficult. It was not an easy choice. It was not a choice that was made over night or at the drop of a hat. The decision to end the marriage came with much thought, tears, and the knowledge that it was the best move for all – the most loving move for all – and it was scary and hard.

This is what I thought when I read the post at Dad’s House this morning about divorce being a crime.

As David heard divorce grouped with drugs, I have heard single parenting grouped similarly. I always want to ask – who are these people who can make such generalizations and groupings? Who are they that they are so perfect? An acquaintance felt very smug about her marriage in light of the divorces and challenges facing her friends, until she discovered that she had been living in a fantasy marriage for years.

Marriage is difficult. Divorce is difficult. People do both for so many reasons – some healthy, some not; some involving love, some not. Each relationship is singular unto itself no matter how much we would like to generalize. Each party makes choices as a single and as a part of that couple. Who are we to stand outside that situation and suggest that we know what is best?

Life is not ideal – it is not romantic and pretty and easily wrapped and tied with a pretty bow. Life is about people and feelings and emotions. And we are living longer than ever with marriages expected to last longer than ever. We hold those marriages to such high standards that I question whether the crime is the resulting divorce or the romanticism surrounding marriage itself?

Is it possible that our children and our society might be best served by a focus on the challenges of marriage and its real, non-romantic side over condemning the institution of divorce?


Mike said...

Hey look at movies and books. It all focuses on the romance up to the big day. However it rarely follows up on how the next morning is. I think a lot of people think a marriage will save/fix them. They don't understand that it's a lot of work. I'm not saying it's bad work, but anything worth having is work.

dadshouse said...

Great post! I think you hit the nail on the head - society turns the wedding and marital status into an ideal, but people aren't necessarily prepared to enter a life long relationship, let alone deal with their own self!

Martian said...

I think that a lot of those attitudes are echoes from the past, and that they're slowly dying. There was a time not long ago when a woman's "place" was clearly defined, but today that attitude has thankfully changed. Similarly with divorce: it was once a disgraceful thing, but now people are starting to recognize that even though divorce didn't happen a lot in the past, the relationships were still failed. Recognizing divorce is just recognizing reality.

And I think you're right, Exception. People are enamored with the idea of being with someone, but it's hard to do the work of maintaining the actual relationship.

It's interesting, though, that once you finally meet someone who really does fit with you, it's an amazing experience. People marry young just to be with someone, and then later in life they run into someone who just feels right. No wonder the divorce rate is so high!

The Exception said...

Mike - Like everything, the harder we work at something, often the more rewarding it is. Marriage is give and take and letting go while holding on - not easy especially when we are caught up in what society views as marriage over the reality of the marriage that we each have.

DH - Thanks - and thanks for the idea.

Marsian... Wow!! Welcome back!! And yes, when you find that person that clicks with you and when you know yourself... it is wonderful.

Martian said...

Why, thanks, Exception. :)

I would add: the right person is often entirely unexpected. Entirely.