Ever since I can remember, people have always talked to me about their relationships. Even as early as Jr. High school, girls would come and talk to me about their boyfriends-- mostly when they were unhappy and wanted things from their relationships that they were not getting. Consequently, I have thought more about relationships in my life than one would assume, looking at the fact that until 3 years ago, I was never really in one. As I have pondered the high divorce rate in modern times, the way people move in and out of marriages, I have always questioned WHY. Is the era in which we are living truly so different from the good ol' days when the majority of people stayed married until the day they died? Were those people who stayed married actually happier in their marriages than people are now? Or is it perhaps that people just stayed married to keep the status quo intact even if they were miserable?
In most cultures throughout civilization, marriage was a contract; an exchange of property so to speak. It could be a way to unite 2 families so that both could be more wealthy and influential. It could also be a way for a family to grow in political power, for instance if a family is able to marry off one of their daughters to a high ranking official or even a king. In more common instances, a bride was given in exchange for property, on in other cultures, given ALONG with a dowry so that there would be more incentive to marry. From the infamous 8 cow wife of Johnny Lingo to the heroines of Austen's novels, women have often been the currency of life: the trading and bartering of daughters and wives provided for the continuation of society at its most refined. And when it came to arranging a match, FEELINGS, EMOTIONS, or FALLING IN LOVE with someone were of absolutely no importance to the outcome.
The reason I wrote those words all in caps is because those are the big catch phrases that are tossed around like butter in hot pan on every single season of the bachelor. Constantine and I watch the bachelor as our guilty pleasure. You're judging me. I know. We just love how involved these people seem to get with this "chance to find their soulmate" over the six week filming period. Lives go up in smoke!!! We sometimes joke about how those words are always being used regardless of who is talking. The other day Constantine posted this on my wall-- it was him writing down all the generic words one of the bachelor girls was saying in a confessional:
Feelings. Emotions. Falling for. Connection. Genuine. Hometown date. Rose. Relationship. Ty. Torn between. Sweet. Proposal. Getting serious. Confused. Final. Hot tub. Group dates. Romantic connection. Seattle. First impression. One-on-one. I think I am falling in love with. Another level. Care about. Affectionate. Let down guard. Walls. Scared. Nervous. Pick. Reality. This situation. Want to be with you. I REALLY think I'm falling in love with you. Open up.
I laughed really hard when I read this. Thats the bachelor in a nutshell. It's every relationship cliche squeezed into an hour of primetime TV. But on closer observation, this is probably almost every relationship in a nutshell. Now that we don't have arranged marriages (for the most part), people expect to be happy in marriage, especially since they were the ones to choose their partner! As a form of social control, marriage was probably a lot more "successful" when people didn't expect to be happy in marriage, because if they ended up happy it was a bonus, and if they were miserable, well what else can they expect when they were forced to marry someone they didn't know or love. If you didn't get to choose your husband, then what right do you have to divorce him just because you don't like being married to him? But today with all of us choosing our partners ourselves, why are we so often unable to choose someone who will continue to make us happy throughout our lives? Why are we often feeling trapped and detached from our lives within a couple of years? Whats going on?
I started thinking about this even more earnestly than usual because tonight I watched the 2 hour Bachelor Finale, and then the 1 hour "after the final rose" special. In the finale, Jason, the bachelor, chooses between the 2 girls, and sends the one he didn't choose straight to that limo in tears. Then in the subsequent special, he reveals that he isn't in love with the girl he chose, instead he wants to be with the other one. Yet in the finale that I watched just moments before, he seemed so sure that he was picking the right girl. To quote Wyatt-- "You guys. Whats up with life?!?"
Sometimes doesn't it seem like were all just grasping at straws or bobbing for apples when we choose a partner? We think we want and need one thing, only to find out that we REALLY needed something else in order to be happy.
Frankly I'm glad the divorce rate is high. You know why? It tells me that people are not staying in marriages that make them unhappy. I don't know what it is like inside the heart of each one of the marriages that ended. But I can assume that by ending them people are trying to pursue their bliss, and that they are trying to progress and move forward. Sure, maybe Jason looks like he has NO idea what he needs in a woman by choosing one and then months later changing his mind. But so what. We don't always know what we need at the moment in which we have to choose. We just do our best with the information we have and if it's wrong then we break up, we divorce, and we move forward. Additionally, as a society, we are new to choosing our own spouse. We should cut ourselves some slack.
This is what I personally believe about marriage. I think it has taken on a VERY different role in today's world and in our country. People in America usually aren't married anymore to unite families, or to secure powerful positions, and thankfully, women are no longer considered property by most. People are getting married because they think it will add to their personal happiness. Marriage means I love you and I want to be with you. Marriage means I want to share my life with you and for most people, it also means I want to build a family with you. To stay in a marriage or a relationship that is not making us happy does nothing for anyone. If the institution of marriage were a person, maybe it would get its feelings hurt to know that sometimes people don't choose to stay married. But its not a person. So why as a culture are so many people concerned with the high divorce rate? I think its better to stay focused on having the necessary self knowledge and experience to choose wonderfully fulfilling relationships. In order to gain that knowledge and experience, we have to sometimes try and see what does and does not work. If you can't really live with someone without getting married because of your religion or your family script, then there's a good chance that in your road to understanding what you need in a partner, there may be a few breakups. If you got married, then those breakups are called divorce.
Instead of worrying, lets all be like Jason, who is already a divorcee as well as a father. Lets keep shamelessly making those mistakes until we choose the person that not only makes our life happier than it was without them, but who also inspires us to be the most loving and caring person we can possibly be.
And you thought there was no substance in reality TV. Now I'm judging you.