I was having a marraige debate with a friend of mine who is recently divorced at a Brewsters a couple weekends ago. She believes in traditional marriage in the strongest possible terms. Given that she's been through and is going through a rough divorce, that is definately to her credit. I suppose the best way to start is to state the obvious; I believe that marriage IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE is a completely outdated concept when applied to society as a whole. Now, in order to avoid having more shit thrown at me on the street than O.J. Simpson, I'm going to back that up with some statistics.
The latest estimates from Statistics Canada in 2008 suggest that 38% of married couples in Canada will divorce by their 30th wedding anniversary (divorce beyond that point is rare.) The percentages range from 22% in Newfoundland and Labrador to 48% in Quebec. In the U.S., the figure is 44%. Now, I will admit to actually believing that these numbers we're a lot higher.
However, I don't THINK that too many people would argue that if you decided to tally the people that are currently in UNHAPPY marriages, the number would come in around 20%. This number, unfortuantely, is impossible to back up with any statistics, only unofficial surveys and the like. This number is taken as an average from a lot of those sources. (Note: I'm not throwing that 20% on top of the 38-48% of people that get divorced - I'm saying that out of all currently married people, 20% are unhappy in their marriages but will never divorce.)
However, I believe that if, in modern North America, divorce rates range from 38 - 48%, and that what I consider to be the very conservative estimate that 20% of marriages are unahppy ones, that you can make the arguement that the current system for marriage is obsolete.
Maybe it'd be easier to make my point in a sarcastic manner, like suggesting that it might be easier to ask men and women who HAVEN'T had an affair (with Tiger Woods) to raise their hands. Fortunately for you people, that's not my style. So, the first thing we have to do, is look to the past. What we're divorces rates like in the 1950's? Just below 10%. They didn't even hit 20% until just before the 1980's. So in 30 years, it doubled. Now it's almost 30 years after THAT, and it's doubled again.
See, a while back, polygamy used to be big. Like, REALLY big. In some places, it still is. But on the large scale, we stopped it because society evolved to a point where it wasn't working for us anymore.
Which begs the question, and the point of this little peice of brain damage; and maybe, just maybe I've just been having a lot of extra-marital sex with Tiger Woods purely for the free Nike swag and SEXUAL THRILLS, but is it really SO crazy to consider that the idea of marriage doesn't work in modern times (much like polygamy ceased being the marriage of choice at one point), or to think that the entire concept needs to be re-evaluated again?
I'm not sure you can make the argument with a near 50% failure rate that the system isn't broken. That's the equivelant of stating that the political system in the States runs perfectly the way it is because this is the way constitutional amendments we're written. Funny thing about those amendments - they we're AMENDING things. They we're ALTERING rules that we're in place BEFORE. And likely the people who wrote them never expected that these amendments would stick FOREVER, they more than likely thought that over time, and as society and people and the world's environment around them CHANGED, that they could "amend" these "rules" again.
Fun fact: the people who wrote these "amendments"? They all had slaves. Yep, every one of them. And half of them had syphilis. (Hell, remember Beethoven, Napoleon, Von Gogh, and Mozart? Motherfuckers ALL died of Syphilis. But that's another article...)
Now, by my math, I've known exactly 20 couples who have gotten married since high school. 14 of those couples have since gotten divorced, 1 is currently in the process of getting divorced, and yet another 1 has been described to be by a member of said marriage as a "raging hell". There are a number of things you can draw from this conclusion. Let's make sure you guys know that I'm well aware of the potential flaws in this data: certainly the people I've known may not be representative of the population as a whole, and that this population sample size only covers people around 18-30.
However, does that mean that the younger generations (myself included) has a higher divorce rate? It's certainly possible that this is just my generation driving the idea of marriage off a cliff with monogomy's body screaming in the trunk. Certainly the statistic that the divorce rate has doubled twice in the last 60 years would lend itself to the idea that the concept becomes less relevant as society goes forward, doesn't it? Or, does this mean that these people, and / or people in general, are just getting married too young? Or does it mean something else entirely?
To help answer that question, I will now state 3 of the "arangements" that are occuring in a couple of what I consider are the more succesful marriages that I am aware of. No names.
The first example is the marriage of a friend of mine that I have known just shy of a decade. Great guy, and everything I have seen from his wife leads me to believe she is a great girl. Their marriage is, as described by my friend, just about as happy as it gets. They have been married 4 years and just had a beautiful baby girl (which I recently, for the first time, held, and having never had any real experience holding babies, was told I was not allowed to hold the baby like a cactus.). Everything is traditional about this marriage, at least as far as I know. Everything about them leads me to believe that they are simply two people who, by all accounts, beat the divorce odds. In saying that, I'm not implying that they simply got lucky. Luck certainly plays a part in finding the right person, but obviously skill is a key part in keeping it together so well. When asked why that is, they both responded that they don't have a secret and just find it easy. This remark was followed by me angrily, loudly, and insecurely proclaiming that I know what they meant, becuase having a fulfilling relationship, which they have, was not that much different than having a rash, which I had. I'm aware of less than 2 marriages with this level of success that are structured in the traditional way. And that's to this couple's credit.
However, that brings me to a couple of the very few other happy unions that I know about that are less than traditional:
The first example is from a slightly older couple that I know, and is in the 35-40 age group. (They are not included in the 20 marriages that I've been aware of since high school). This marriage is much like the first in a few respects. They have been married just under 3 and a half years. They have one daughter, with another child on the way. It is his second marriage. And even just due to the sheer intensity and shock value of some of the remarks be they hateful, sexual, racial, or anything and everything in between, that comes out of the husbands mouth, while it is not to be taken seriously, especially not when said TOWARDS his wife, could still only be TOLERATED by a just and loving wife. To put it simply, I believe that they understand each other. They have what is called the "7 year itch rule". Essentially, both are well aware of their own sexual appetities and created the rule (BEFORE they got married, no less) that after 7 years of marriage, both would be free to pursue a single sexual encounter with anyone else they please as long as they we're safe about it, without fear of hurting the other's feelings, and will remain emotionally attached to one another. In the most technical term available, he is free to "get bitches", and she is free to schtuff Tiger Woods as long as they are able to afford whatever volumous amounts of meds would be required for her to do so and not get what the kids refer to as "the clap". So, question: if this works for them, is that not better than getting divorced? (Especially if there's Nike swag involved. Actually, ANY kind of swag. But especially Nike.)
My last example, is of a girl that I have known since high school. This is the most ample example of an "alt marriage" that I have ever been aware of. So much so, that likely a lot of people I went to said high school with who may read this will likely ask which couple this is, and any of you whom that may pertain to can expect that I will tell you to fuck yourselves if you ask. Anyway - they got married right after high school. They then immediately began what most would describe as an "open marriage". They both sleep with other people, but it doesn't end there. They live separately about 50% of the time. With their parents, with their friends, whatever. One might question (including me) how this could possibly work, but they've been married just under 10 years now. And they state that they don't continue to break up and get back together, have NEVER broken up, and very rarely fight. They simply change their surroundings and partners to keep their marriage on track and keep themselves reminded of how lucky they are to have each other. If it sounds miserable, they say it's not. And I can say for sure that they both seem like very happy people. They have 3 great kids together. And they love each other. So, question: if this works for them, is that not better than getting divorced?
It also seems extremely valid to me at this point to mention that I know of numerous couples (ranging from the 25-45 age ranges) that have been together anywhere from 5-20 years that have not, and are not planning to, marry each other. It is not because they don't love each other or aren't planning on spending the rest of their lives together. It is because they don't believe in the concept. These are happy unions as well.
This is where I should mention that neither of the "alt marriages" would work for ME. (Although admittedly the "just don't get married ever" concept has hit my brain a few times.) I am NOT NOT NOT stating that we should structure all marriages like these ones. I am NOT NOT NOT stating that we should go back to polygamy. I am however, saying that maybe we shouldn't all just continue to get married and divorced at a rapdily alarming rate like idiots and pretending that we should be surprised at an even more alarming divorce rate.
What I am saying - is that maybe, JUST MAYBE, we should acnowledge the possibility that the concept of marriage needs to be refreshed, and more loosely defined, less towards a union that is set in stone by people OTHER than the two getting married to each other, and more towards the union that is hopefully, actually going to spend the rest of their lives together themselves.
I am saying that I have respect for the couples that don't just subscribe to some arbitrary vision of marriage when they know that won't work for them.
In other words, maybe it's time we, as a society, give ourselves a little more credit for diversity and realize that one type of marriage or union may not neccesarily work for every human being on Earth.
If you hate the concept of any kind of marriage other than traditional, then no worries, have a traditional marriage. Great. You want to have an "alt marriage"? Great. Don't even tell anyone about the details of your marriage if you don't want to. Whose business is it but yours and your spouse's anyway?
Where this idea usually gets the most pushback whenever its proposed by anyone, is from people who believe in traditional marriage. So, maybe you want a traditional marriage, and you hate this idea. But in that case, why wouldn't you just stick to your traditional marriage and let other people get married any way they want to? What makes you think that someone being married the way they want affects you being married the way you want?
Now, if you have some sort of faith or religion-based objection to these ideas, then I'd say the same thing to you. I encourage you to stick to what you believe and whatever works for you. However, I'd also say that I consider myself to have an extrordinary amount of faith, which is why I also said that none of the above arrangements would really work for ME.
However, I also do not expect anyone ELSE on the planet to conform to what I believe in terms of faith, so of course I don't expect anyone to do that for what I believe in terms of marraige. And neither should you. And much, much more importantly, I know that my faith and my belief in marriage has never been, and will never be, affected by what OTHER people choose to do with their beliefs and their marraiges. And neither should yours.
To put a bottom line on this, I hate to see so many friends and human beings unhappy because they are married, divorced, or wishing they we're divorced. We can't just keep getting married and divorced at an alarmingly rapid rate and replacing spouses like Brad Pitt replaced Jennifer Anniston, or Vince Vaughn replaced Jennifer Anniston, or John Mayer replaced Jennifer Anniston, or that dude from Counting Crows replaced Jennifer Annis - look, the point is, I firmly believe something needs to give.
By the way - when was the last time you heard about a celebrities marriage actually lasting, like from the time they get married until one of them dies? That Bachelor or Bachelorette show? While I don't watch it, I do know that the marriages have not lasted, and that none of them are still together. Which begs the question - WHAT THE FUCK. IS THE POINT. OF THE SHOW.
But I'd be very interested to hear what other people think about that. By all means, if you have something to say, please say it. I certainly don't think I'm the smartest guy here, nor do I think that the ultimate insight on the issue is going to come from a guy who's never been married. Remember, these are just IDEAS, and should be treated as such, not like someone telling you how to live your lives.
All I know is, I was able make fun of Tiger Woods, Jennifer Anniston, O.J. Simpson, Martha Stewart (and to a lesser extent, Counting Crows), all in one column, and, most likely, offend a whole buncha other people too.
Oooh, before I end this - quick sidenote. I'd really like to thank Tiger Woods for returning to the public eye recently. You see, before I brought this site back, this was actually the first article I wrote for the site. Unfortuantely that was some time ago, when the Tiger situation was fresh and current. I've written some more things that demanded current attention SINCE then which has pushed this article back and made the Tiger jokes less current and less relevant. So it would have appeared that I was making some EXTREMELY dated references.
But since he recently decided to "own up" to his serial infedility and make the bravest scripted apology press confrence ever, to the untrained eye it looks like I'm TOTALLY being current. And I'm glad he's asking people to believe in him again. Come on Elin, Rachel Uchitel, Jaimee Grubbs, Kalika Moquin, Jamie Jungers, Mindy Lawton, Cori Rist, Holly Sampson, Joslyn James and Loredana Jolie - believe in him again.
Song For Today:
- Mike Foyle
Album For Today: