Tuesday, March 04, 2008

This Question Was Worth a Post to Itself

Many people have strong opinions on marriage.

Divorce is always bad. You should settle before you're old and ugly. It's better to marry young. It's better to wait until your 30s. You should wait for your totally perfect soulmate. Marriage should be dissolved altogether and replaced with civil unions. Marriage is always a raw deal for the man (or for the woman).

What I've found, though, is that the people with the strongest opinions on marriage are most often people who have never been married. Why is that? And do these people have any real knowledge to offer, or do you have to be either married or divorced to really "get it"?

What do you think?


Michael J. West said...

All right, I'll bite.

Sure - a person's marital status says something about the value of their thoughts about marriage. But I think an even more valuable indicator is the marital status of their parents. People's opinions about marriage form largely according to the model that their parents provide - which is why children of happy, healthy marriages are far more likely to engage in happy, healthy marriages themselves.

So when I consider whether somebody has anything to offer to discussions of marriage, my first question is normally about their parents' marital record, not their own.

Hey Pretty said...

I'm honestly indifferent to marriage. Yes, I want to be viewed as somebody people would want to marry, but that's just a self esteem issue and it may go away soon. But the institution of marriage is sort of meh to me. My parents are divorced, my boyfriend is divorced, I have plenty of divorced friends. Clearly this marriage thing isn't always a permanent contract and I'm wondering what's so great about it.

Ever lasting true love is an idea I can get behind, and I do very much hope that it befalls me someday. But I don't know if I'll need a legally binding contract and a ceremony to seal that particular deal. But ask me again in 5 years. Could be a whole new ball game.

Shannon said...

Mike, that means I'm screwed on both counts (divorcee child of divorced parents). Thanks, buddy!

HP, I think you're right to question the value of marriage...or, rather, the value of marriage for you as an individual.

Where I get cranky is when blanket value judgments come in. As a blatant overgeneralization, the "divorce means you just didn't try hard enough" crew are never-married people with still-married parents.

I suppose it's a case of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." They have their parents as positive role models, but not enough real-life experience to really understand the nuances.

For the record, getting divorced is the smartest, healthiest decision I ever made.

Ibid said...

I think it has to do with how much a person pays attention as a kid.

I listened to other people talk about their mortgages and knew enough to get a 6% fixed that they won't sell to other companies. I'm not losing my house. Would you rather listen to me or someone who has three mortgages?

I heard parents talk aboug how much having kids screws with your finances, sex life, sleep patterns, etc. But if you ask them they won't remember to tell you any of that. If you want to know what having a kid is like talk to someone who doesn't have one.

To find out what marriage is like you need to find someone whose marriage has been rough so they won't blow sunshine up your ass or someone who has listened. Opinions about when to marry and who should marry are almost always religiously based and should be ignored.

Shannon said...

"Opinions about when to marry and who should marry are almost always religiously based and should be ignored."

Agreed, mostly. I don't know if "when to marry" is religiously based, per se. I think that the same shoe isn't going to fit every foot, and laying pressure on folks to "just get married already" is going to jack up divorce rates even further.

Justin said...

My philosophy has always been that I'll get married when I meet the right girl, and never before.

So far I'm 25 and haven't found her yet. It may be a few years or it may be next week. I'm not in a rush, but I certainly do get lonely.

But just because I get lonely doesn't mean I'll settle for someone to make me happy in the here and now. I'm in it for the long run.

Shannon said...

Justin, that's an excellent attitude to have.

Anonymous said...

I, like you, have a starter marriage. I was married at 21 and divorced by the age of 25. Marriage requires a huge amount of compromise. It's difficult to comprise and not lose the essence of who you are. I felt myself losing that. I am now 34 and unmarried but in a relationship with a wonderful man who has never been married. No doubt, I will marry again but I am totally and completely aware of how much energy and effort a healthy marriage takes. I think few people realize this.

Anyway, I enjoy your blog. You are funny and smart.