Some Ponderings on Marriage

I’ve taken a break from the endless task of reorganizing my entire apartment to do some reading on Arts & Letters Daily and found an interesting academic look at a major problem of our times: Breeding. Or the lack thereof. The article, through the Claremont Institute, is here. It’s very hoity-toity academic writing so be prepared to give your head a shake. Some espresso and toothpicks for the eyes might help.

Here’s my take on the important part of what’s a growing problem. A lot of people are like me, opting out of the parenting scheme of things. And in a society where vacations and activities are advertised in rates for twos or fours, we’re really aiming at either people living in coupledoms or with a family of four. Or simply staying single for simplicity’s sake, like myself.

I read an article in Maclean’s last year about how the Islamic world is outbreeding the Christian world, and how the time is coming nigh when Christianity will be a distant second, population-wise, to Islamic faith… partly due as well to the casual religious views being held by most modern Western world folk versus the more orthodox or fundamentalist notions that might be out there, whereas more fundamentalist views are gaining strength in the Islamic world, with the resurgence of the Taliban, stuff like that.

It’s complicated, looking at the futures that loom for both Islam and Christianity. But with more and more Western people doing what I’m doing — opting out of the religion I was raised under, and choosing single independent life — we’re imposing limits on just how far our way of life can continue. If we’re not breeding, and that’s gaining popularity this decade, then just who IS doing the breeding?

But am I prepared to deviate from the me-driven life I envision for myself just so I can help prop up the basically atheist, hedonistic segment of society? Nah. Even if it means it’ll help dwarf the ratio of atheists versus fundamentalists out there? Nah.

So I accept that I’m definitely a part of the problem. People like me choosing hedonism over the noble act of continuing lineage and personal philosophies, well… that’s just not team playing, is it?

The thing is, marriage has taken a lot of hits in recent past. In other cultures, where marriage numbers are possibly higher, the rates of unreported violence and angst are much higher, too. We’ve done a lot of exposing how bad marriages can go, how wrong domestic violence is, and how much each of us as a person deserves in life versus what religion dictates we must endure. Also, when marriages do go bad, the blowback is legion, isn’t it? Us kids raised under the clouds of divorce and broken homes, we know there are no do-overs, and the scarring never really goes away.

And that, I think, is the biggest difference between Eastern and Western views right now, in 2008. Society has pulled away from the church-induced perspective on how enduring ills while keeping the faith equates living a virtuous life. Religion tells us, by and large, that we need to live lives of servitude. Marriage is sacred, a vow to live up to in the face of grave challenges, right?

But nowadays we live in a Virginia Slims society. We’ve “come a long ways, baby”, and now believe in entitlement. You know: Is that all? We’ve earned more. We deserve better. There’s got to be more than this.

Your spouse overspends? Driving you into debt? You’ve not been laid in six months and you sleep six inches apart? There’s no communication anymore? You deserve better! There’s more to life than that! You’ve earned it!

You’ve come a long ways, baby!

I believe in divorce. I believe in saying enough is enough when it comes to being unhappy day after day. But I also believe that divorce is a last resort… At the same time, I think marriage is rushed into, ergo compromised from the start. Most people, I feel, fail to really explore the rightness of marrying their partner — beyond the “wow, I love” him/her obvious, I mean. Money, sex, entertainment, ideas of how to spend a Sunday… these are very important issues that you need to have in common or even be on the same page about. You can’t say “Well, he’s more of a fetishist in sex, but he doesn’t mind not getting kinky with me…” Forever? He won’t mind it forever? Are you really sure that 20 years down the road without something he really digs it’s not going to be a problem?

People are incredibly naive about marriage. You can’t “work it out” down the road. You got to have your shit together before you go there, or else you need to assume it’ll never come together. Then, once you have it together, the marriage is all about keeping it together, working to keep things reasonably so for the longterm.

Marriage is broke, man. It really is. We need to do some fixing. We need to have more faith in life, more reason to invest in the future and do some breeding. Right now, not getting married, not facing the hellish divorces most of us my age or younger have endured, is a pretty damned attractive option.

“I can live on my own, have sleepovers when I feel like it, never have to drive a kid to soccer, can keep my finances in check, and can be grumpy alone when I want? Score. Sign me up, man.”

And, until it starts looking like we’re really missing something… until it starts looking like marrying and having kids and living the big American Picket Fence Dream is too full a life to choose the empty living-solo life… well, that’s going to continue to be the case.

When I consider the chaos and seeming routine of family life, I don’t feel I’m missing out. My life, as “empty” as it is, is a canvas to be filled whenever the urge strikes. And I don’t have to clear it with anyone. Gotta say… it’s certainly very freeing, this life of mine. And it’s not surprising more and more are agreeing with me.

What are your thoughts? How do we “fix” marriage? Is it fixable? Whaddya think of those like me, living single with no regrets?