Thursday, January 7, 2010
"Committed" and Marriage
Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, has released her next book Committed and recently did an interview with Powell's Books. As I read through a piece of her interview, she made a declaration about marriage and the statistics that go along with it.
"Q: Why do you think U.S. divorce rates are so high? What statistical findings did you encounter that people might consider before tying the knot"
A: First of all, it's important to know that the famous "50 percent divorce rate" that we hear about so much these days is a little bit misleading. Across the board, there is a 50 percent divorce rate, true, but those numbers really change based on the age of the couple at the time of marriage. Young couples divorce at astronomically high rates, which blows the curve for everyone else. The fundamental conclusion we can draw from all the data is this: Marriage is not a game for the young. Wait as long as you humanly can to get married and your odds of staying with one partner forever will increase dramatically. If you wait until you are, say, 35 years old to get married, your odds of success are pretty terrific. The other question is one of expectation. Modern Americans bring to their marriages the most over-stuffed bundle of expectations the institution has ever seen. We expect that our partner will not merely be a decent person, but will also be our soul mate, our best friend, our intellectual companion, our greatest sexual partner, and our life's complete inspiration. Nobody in human history has ever asked this much of a companion. It's a lot to ask of one mere mortal, and the inevitable disappointments that follow such giant expectations can cripple marriages."
You can read the rest of the Q&A at Powells.com
I have heard this before, possibly in a movie of all things, but that we are putting so much on another person to make our lives complete. I believe in the idea that people can come together and change and grow as they get older but in some ways I feel that this idea is highly romanticized and makes it okay for couples to stay together in hopes that the other person will eventually evolve in the same way that their partner wants.
When I described my idea of marriage to a friend, I tried to explain to him what I thought marriage should be. It's not anything fancy or grandiose or pretty; it is simply the fact that you will have a partner in this life who you can depend on when you need them and helps you celebrate the good times. You will create a family (whether that be just the two of you or the addition of a pet or child) and a life together which is what you both want it to be. It is someone you collaborate with and then venture out with a new set of values and passions and goals. I think the reason that people who marry older are typically more successful in relationships is because they have been through (and given) all the B.S., they know themselves and have achieved things thus far. This person who they commit their lives to is a wonderful addition to their life, not necessarily someone they need to complete it.
As young girls, we watch so many movies where the guy saves the girl and then life, as we know it, is bliss. It makes me a bit resentful towards these kinds of movies because it gives some of us the false sense of hope that every one's life will lead to marriage and then family and then we as people are complete. It is not attractive to show the time when we eat ice cream on the couch in our ratty, dirty pajamas instead of searching out that "amazing" guy because screw them, it makes us happier. We are less often shown the time in when a guy/girl kicks out the "just okay" people because they refuse to "settle for anything less than butterflies" (thank you, SATC). If they DO show that scenario, there is usually the "perfect" partner just around the corner so that no, they will not end up single and loser-like.
My philosophy on life (although I may not always remember) is that do what makes you happy. Never an easy goal nor one that many people get to experience but isn't it worth it to try? As long as you aren't hurting anyone else or yourself, this motto seems like win-win situation: You get what you want and never have to ask yourself "What if?" When you are telling your children about your life when you get older or you are at the end of your days, what do you want to share stories about? What do you want those stories to be?