Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marriage Today

Marriage is a subject near and dear to my heart. While my peers were partying in college, traveling abroad, enjoying hedonistic fun during Spring Break, and acting their age, I was in

monogamous relationship with the same fella and earned my MRS before my BA. My relationship with my husband is the thing I am most proud in my life as it is evidence of hard work, steadfast commitment, and the epitome of my not believing in the no-win scenario (with credit to

Captain James T. Kirk for that gem). But nowadays marriage has a bad rap, an expiration date, and an “endangered” sign. On the heels of my husband and my nineteenth wedding anniversary (January 9th), I figured it was time to wax poetic about marriage and sing its praises.

Marriage is hard. Period. There, I said it. But I will argue that anything worth having/doing is worth working hard. In this age of instant gratification that is a difficult concept to grasp. Life has become so quick, that if one is not happy in their existence they simply change like they are flipping their circumstance with a television remote. Cultivating a marriage and tending to it takes time. Reinventing oneself while still living in the confines of the marriage is vital and challenging but so worthwhile. These things, however, take time; in some cases they take a lifetime! Most people are unwilling to stick it out.

Marriage is give and take. We all would secretly love to get our way every time, but in a marriage with two healthy, strong-thinking adults, that is not likely. Instead, compromise, and, more specifically, executing the plan that satisfies the most desires in the best possible way is what should win out. Sometimes you give more and take less, other times you are getting more than you give. It’s not about “winning” over your spouse; it’s about the team or the partnership winning. Too often couples still view themselves as two separate entities. That works occasionally so you don’t lose yourself completely, but it’s truly ideal to think of yourself as an inseparable team working toward a common goal. Evidently, for the masses, it is easier to divorce than to compromise. Marriage becomes the casualty of the need to be superior over one’s spouse.

Marriage is a living, breathing institution. It must grow to prosper. The people involved need to continue to learn, evolve, and stay excited and exciting. If complacency sets in, personal grooming habits wane, and mental stimulation flatlines, there is nowhere to go but to the graveyard of marriages. If he ignores the needs of his spouse and becomes consumed with only things she cannot identify, they will grow apart and intimacy will be lost. If she refuses to make herself attractive, from the inside out where she believes she is sexy, then intimacy dies. Eventually, in either scenario, the marriage is a shell with no innards. Other people can catch the eye of the spouse who has moved on and marriage then dies.

Marriage trumps children. Children, especially minor children, are heavily dependent, really adorable, and special additions to the family. They are also not the focal point of the relationship; if they are, then the marriage is done. Date nights, even ones that are stay-at-home when the kids are in bed, are necessary. Keeping the marriage alive and a priority is the best gift you can give yourself and your children. Parents who love one another, feel valued and heard by their spouse, and who understand that they are the bosses in the house have a happier existence and stronger marriages than others. Children’s needs must be met, they should feel valued, and they should understand that Mom and Dad are a team who value one another deeply. When the children are given the power, rule the roost, divide and conquer their parents, and set their own parameters, there is an unbalance in the force and all is not right in the world. Having children, as rewarding as it is and as big of a blessing it is, is stressful enough, do not put the scale out of whack completely by handing over power the children neither need nor want. But, many are abandoning their parental control to their children and it is taking its toll on marriages and society as a whole.

Celebrity marriages have been a topic of conversations ever since there were celebrities. And, long before divorce was the national norm, celebrities have been divorcing. Today is no

exception; recently it was announced Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were divorcing after thirteen years of marriage (a feat in Hollywood) and two shared children. The children’s careers have been cited as the possible reason for the split. Last year saw the dissolution of Arnold

Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s marriage of twenty-five years. His infidelity was the obvious reason; an affair that resulted in a love-child born a week after his wife and his youngest son was born. Living under a microscope like celebrities do and having entitlement issues certainly wreak havoc with their marriages, but it also appears to be a microcosm of what is happening in America. Marriage is simply not valued in our society anymore.

Well, it would seem that way, anyway. Marriage, however, is big business in the country. Like their heroes, many couples are trying to create celebrity-style weddings when they get engaged to live like their idols. The wedding industry is so huge that a “b” is used to note the revenue created - it is in the billions, not millions! Weddings and thus marriage are still popular and a viable ideal. Hope springs eternal and optimism reigns.

This piece was meant to be a positive take on marriage as positivity is truly what I am about. It appears I have fallen a bit short on my goal and doled out unsolicited advice rather than simply sing marriage's praises. But, I try to practice what I write. I try to glean information from married people I look up to and trust. I see marriage as a marathon, not a sprint. I see marriage has its own rewards and Simple Joys along the way. And I see marriage as a constant, not a variable. Marriage is not easy; it kicks my ass and it challenges me daily. Marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (next to raising children) and the most rewarding! I am still the most proud of my marriage because it has lasted. It’s as simple as that. Has it been tough? You betcha. Has it been terribly hard? Absolutely! Has it seemed so difficult that quitting was the only best answer? No. Because, at the end of the day, I know the person I chose to walk through life together, raise a family together, and grow old together, was/is worth every obstacle along the way. I wish more people could see what sticking it out could be like. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing, living my best life, and teaching my children what a good marriage can be.