A few thoughts on marriage and divorce
Considering my not-entirely-standard views on marriage and r'ships, it may come as a surprise to some that I have some fairly traditional views on marriage. Not all, and probably not even most, of my opinions about marriage are traditional, but there are a few. First off, I think if you're going to bother to get married, you should bother to put the appropriate time and attention into it and do everything you can to make it work. While I do see marriage as an extension of "dating", it's also on an entirely different level. What you're saying when you marry someone is, "I want to share the rest of my life with this person." And that's no small thing.
People get married for a lot of crazy reasons. Some get married because they think they should; it's what society expects. Some get married because they think it'll solve whatever problems they're having trouble working through in their r'ship. (And when that doesn't work, some of these people think having kids will do the trick.) Some have an idea of marriage as the Be All and End All of relationship-life or that it will fulfill them in ways that a non-marriage r'ship couldn't do. Some think marriage is validation.
The decision to share one's life with one's partner(s) is about the self as much as the other. And I do think that the process of planning a ceremony and making a public, specific committment to make a life together has a symbolic weight that bears out in real terms.
Once a couple has taken that step, the hope is that the marriage will, in fact, last 'til death do them part. But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, that doesn't happen. People make a lot of noise about the "high" divorce rate in the US. I think it's around 50% these days. So approximately half of all marriages in the US fail. I happen to know quite a number of them, as, I'm sure, do you, dear reader. And sometimes I feel slightly disgusted by it. Isn't marriage a sacred institution? Why don't people take it more seriously?
But I've recently come to my own internal conclusion that there are some very very good reasons for getting a divorce, and not all of them obvious. I'm not just talking about abusive spouses or infidelity, but also about plain old mundane unhappiness. I think it's a mistake to stay in a dead marriage simply because at some time in the past, the future looked bright. I think that in many cases, our country's divorces reflect a positive direction in people's thinking about personal and interpersonal fulfillment. I don't think it makes sense to stay in a marriage that is no longer working, even if once upon a time, you thought it would last forever.
Now, one could look at that and say, "Well, gosh, I'm not entirely happy in my marriage. Maybe she thinks I should get a divorce." But that's certainly not what I'm trying to say. I think the decision to get a divorce should only be immediate if something has become radically and suddenly broken. Otherwise, it should probably take approximately as long to decide to get a divorce as it does to decide to get married.
Marriage is no cup of tea. My mom has assured me that one of the hardest things to do in life is to live with another person. When you get married, this is likely to be one of the major obstacles. But beyond that, keeping the r'ship healthy and growing takes work. Suddenly, you're married so you might forget to go on dates, or to take time to woo each other. Seduction can (and probably needs to) be an ongoing process :)
Anyone who thinks a ring and a ceremony will make the relationship easy and fun is fooling him/herself. It's work! And when done right, the results are worth it, no doubt. I'm very critical of people who give up without putting in the work, because I think if you bother to get married, you should bother to make an effort.
But I'm also critical of folks who insist that they should stay in a marriage once it's no longer good. People change, and sometimes the best thing for all involved is to move on...
For that reason, I see a 50% divorce rate as high, perhaps higher than it should be, but not astronomically so. If you remove the maybe 10% (this is just a guess) that last 2 years or less as people who really jumped the gun and didn't take it seriously, and the 10% that involve some kind of abuse (I bet that estimate is fairly low, actually), then you have a 30% divorce rate, which I actually think is pretty reasonable. I approve of people giving themselves and others room for improvement. Just because the rate of divorce in the past was much lower doesn't mean that marriages "back then" were better; it only means that people sucked it up even if they weren't happy. That seems silly to me.
I especially see the increased rate of divorce as a positive thing for women, who are more empowered in their r'ships these days than they have been in the past.
Now, none of this is to say that I think every married person should rush out and get a divorce immediately if not sooner. If I get married, I hope it lasts a lifetime, and I hope the same for all of my friends and loves. And I don't think one should get married if one doesn't think it has a chance of doing so. But, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," as it's been said. And if things have changed so drastically as to make a reevaluation necessary, then I think divorce can be a very positive thing (though not uncomplicatedly so!).
Back to politics.© 2000, Rosa L. Carson