For someone who’s seen the ugly side of divorce I’m a staunch defender of marriage. I more than most have every right to be adamantly opposed to the absurd notion of lifelong companionship and “Till death do you part”. But the fact is I fervently believe in matrimony and remain intent on the Queen and I one day being that couple everyone looks at with awe while wondering, “What’s their secret?”
The internet is brimming with blogs, articles, comments, and videos touting how marriage is on its final hurrah and only sentimental fools, hopped up on Disney movies, would ever consider the long shot at striking a relationship mother lode – spending the rest of their life with one person in marital happiness.
As a whole their reasons boil down to this basic belief, marriage is outdated as it’s become implausible to think that two people, each with their own dreams, goals, characters, and personalities, can remain happily together for a lifetime. They say that men’s and women’s biological cards are stacked against and offer up high divorce rates as exhibit A. Who would get divorced if they were happy? And since over half of married couples do divorce it’s proof positive that marriage is an unhappy affair and as such a practice in futility. Furthermore, they predict that in light of such high divorce numbers it only stands to reason that those who stay together are doing so out of selfishness most notably of which is financial or children, all while unhappily kicking and screaming.
What’s most interesting with all of these arguments is the parallel between marriage – and happiness. It would seem happiness has become the litmus test for a successful and worthwhile marriage. We even go so far as to define a good marriage by how happy the couple looks.
But what or whose measuring tape are we using to do this?
Happiness has been mass-marketed like the latest bestseller, automobile, or clothing line. Advertisers and marketers have created an industry on peddling happiness in every form imaginable shrinking the message down until it’s something to be grabbed and put in our pockets. And that message this: happiness is a life lived completely on our terms. And anything or anyone who abides by them while stroking our egos, diminishing our insecurities, and validating our neediness by definition makes us happy. This has forced each us to unwittingly label everyone and everything by what I call their happiness quotient. The higher the ratio, the happier we are and the more importance it has in our lives plus the longer it stays around. But when that number drops below tolerable levels…we look to trade up for something we feel will provide a higher happiness return. This is especially widespread when it comes to where we live, what we drive or wear, and the job we have.
But we also do it with marriage.
Since we live in a culture where happiness is now viewed as a right, which gets reinforced every time we read a book or see a commercial, there’s little or no distinction between our five-year-old Honda and our spouse of five years. We’re told the moment either stops making us happy there’s always another bigger and better and that we deserve it. If the air conditioning breaks, the sunroof won’t open, or she stops putting out every night it’s eaiser to upgrade instead of taking the time and effort to work on it.
Can we honestly say that marriage is any different? At the first sign this predetermined happiness is gone we’re told ‘life is too short’, ‘you deserve to be happy’, ‘she doesn’t deserve you’ and so on. And before we know it we’re off looking to see what our spouse’s trade-in value might be.
But if happiness is a choice it’s ours to make and it’s different for each of us. And no one including Hollywood, Playboy magazine, or Danielle Steele has cornered that market. Happiness is more than one-size-fits-all and this is no truer than in marriages and relationships.
Both of my grandfathers were married to their sweethearts until they day they died, fifty plus years for each. On paper their marriages were how the brochure said it should be. But would their marriages have suited me? Were they happy based upon what Cosmo or Men’s Health says a happy marriage ought to be like? Were both of my grandmother’s naïve women who didn’t live life to the fullest because they chose dependence on a man over dependence on no one? Are you wondering if they were happy? Is it hard to imagine they had a fulfilling marriage? Does any of that matter as long as it suited them? And does that make marriage useless?
Ultimately happiness in a marriage rests solely with the people in it and not another person. And because we’ve created some sky-high notions of what a happy marriage should look like based upon romance novels and Hollywood doesn’t mean marriage is suddenly dead because no marriage could ever or will ever live up to that definition of happiness.
I think marriage is wonderful and God-given, and I look forward to my next and final go at it. And in the meantime I will refuse to buy into this idea that marriage has seen its end because of what someone else says a happy one must be.