Many coupling singles today are finding satisfaction-oriented relationships more attractive than relationships based on commitment. Getting a good start on a career, especially for women, is making more sense than finding a good-for-life mate, a good nanny, or even a good mortgage rate.
And bailing out of relationships, including marriage, at the first sign of “issues” is so commonplace that one might wonder why anyone thinks twice about doing it.
However difficult it may be to acknowledge, the attractiveness of traditional marriage now seems based more on fanciful wishing than on realistic hoping. Sexual intimacy is fully enjoyable without commitments to permanency, and other compensations that marriage is supposed to offer for life’s hardships — e.g., for money shortages, job losses, frequent moves, illnesses — are often overwhelmed by the effort it takes just to keep the marriage itself alive.
Having children doesn’t help all that much. Many come too soon. And all children demand and deserve a self-sacrificing love, for which neither parent may ever be ready. Although children may add much to a good marriage, they challenge not so good marriages even more.
For centuries, we have believed that marriage is the real beginning of adulthood. More starkly expressed, the idea has been that, if you don’t get married, your life is going to be a failure in anybody else’s eyes.
By the late 1940’s, this belief became even more threatening than it already was. To it was appended a notion bordering on creepiness that, except perhaps for Adam, there is a “right person” out there for everyone. Finding and falling in love with that person guarantees the meeting of all emotional needs forever. Missing out on him/her, however, dooms life to the misery of an all-consuming and unrequited yearning.
The idea, that there is only one Mister or Miss Right for anyone, became a truly terrible idea as prospects of finding him or her grew dimmer. But even before that, it was as preposterous as was the idea that unless you’re married you’re only half a man/woman. Is it any wonder that couples, for whom ideas like these represent traditional marriage, question seeking such a marriage for themselves?
There has to be a better alternative to what we have come to believe a traditional marriage is than the current one of hanging with each other “for as long as love lasts.” And there is. But about this: more later.