By J.J. Smith
A recent study says that nearly 40 percentage of Americans feel marriage is obsolete and that only 54 percentage are married, compared to 72 percentage in 1960. This doesn’t surprise me at all as I believe the current state of marriage needs to be seriously examined!
Let me first say that I believe that true love and passion are real and authentic, but many times, marriage is not. I feel that too many married couples are pretending to be happy. I personally know many couples who are not truly happy in their committed, monogamous marriages. The fact is that the old model of marriage is clearly not working as evidenced by the divorce statistics, which indicate that over half of marriages end in divorce. Some researchers say that at least 75 percent of marriages are ailing or unhappy. For African Americans, divorce is the end result for two out of three Black marriages. When I found out this information, it was startling to me, and over the last few years, I have been studying about marriage and divorce to understand why these challenges exist today. It’s not that I don’t believe in marriage. In fact, I do believe in the institution of marriage. My parents shared a great marriage for over 20 years by the time my dad passed away. I grew up in a household where the marriage relationship was happy and healthy.
Most marriages, on the surface, seem like a typical traditional marriage, but many of them are truly unhappy. This leads me to believe that marriage may be in a process of transitioning from our “parent’s generation” marriage to a type of more contemporary or modern marriage that will allow people to be more successful in their marriages today. However, many of us, including me, do not know how to create a marriage relationship that is successful, for both the short- and long-term. I’ve written about my challenges in my own marriage in my bestseller, Why I Love Men: The Joys of Dating, because I’m one that respects the institution of marriage, but needed real solutions to the problems we experienced that ultimately led to divorce.
Many will agree that marriage can provide convenience and stability; however, with too much routine and definition, marriage can be the death of a romantic love relationship. Too many people have squeezed the love affair out of their marriage and have allowed bills, money, and/or petty arguments to block the romantic aspects of their relationship. Unmarried women feel sorry for married women because they tend to be stuck in a rut or routine. Married women feel sorry for unmarried woman because they are alone. However, we ALL want both excitement and stability in our relationships whether we’re married or unmarried.
Why Do People Get Married?
People often marry because it’s the tradition. Men and women have been getting married since before recorded history. Until recently, America was the most “married” nation in the world. But now many ask, “Do I have to be married to live happily ever after?” In today’s society, people have a strong desire to simply be happy, whether that means being married or unmarried. Today fewer get married and more get divorced, and the unmarried and divorced population is growing. The cost of divorce can be both financially and emotionally devastating, and many are avoiding marriage just to ensure that they never have to go through divorce. With many marriages ailing or failing, some couples are considering various relationship options in order to make informed intelligent decisions about their own lives.
Romantic love has been the primary motive for getting married, and it remains so even today. However, there are other factors that cause individuals to marry. Years ago there were more traditional reasons for getting married. Women wanted to get out of their parents’ homes, lose their virginity, or gain financial stability. In turn, men wanted a wife to care for them or help them fulfill their role as a husband and provider. Both men and women wanted to have children and raise a family and although we know marriage was created to raise children; today, a third of all children are being raised in single parent homes. Back in the day, couples stayed together because they had to remain married.
The wife was a homemaker and didn’t have a lot of options. Husbands were the family’s only provider so he would be perceived horribly if he left. However, today many of these motives for getting married no longer apply. Most men don’t really expect a woman to devote her entire life to him and his upkeep, and likewise, many women no longer rely on men to pay their way. Additionally, we rarely find women who want to marry just to have sex. Even pregnancy doesn’t lead a couple to marry as it had in the past. Marriage in America has truly changed due to social and cultural influences. For better or for worse, this is the current state of marriage.
Thinking about the current state of marriage, I know that people want to really make sense of their own lives, and to understand how societal and cultural forces have shaped marriage today. I, myself, wanted to better understand the new contemporary marriage models and the marrying trends of our current generation and have even studied open marriage models.
The rules of traditional relationships require that you be emotionally and sexually exclusive to one person forever. Therefore, many people in committed relationships are monogamous by default, not by choice. We learn through society that monogamy is what everyone is doing, and thus it is what’s expected in relationships. We are socialized to believe that true happiness can be achieved only in monogamous relationships. Even though this goes against many people’s natural inclinations, they accept and buy into it. However, many folks are realizing that it is unrealistic to expect one person to fulfill all of their needs – emotional, sexual, spiritual, psychological, intellectual, financial, romantic, etc.
Some people have spent the majority of their life dealing with the fact that they have struggled to be monogamous and keep their desires under lock and key. They have often found themselves in situations of betrayal, cheating or unfaithfulness. Well, the strongest argument for non-monogamy is that one person cannot fulfill all of our needs for an entire lifetime. In fact, for some people who have great physical or emotional needs, it is unrealistic for one person to fulfill all of those needs and desires. This often sets us up for disappointment when a partner can’t meet all of our expectations.
Each of us have to figure out what we truly need and want from a relationship; Is it monogamy or commitment or both? Do we want to marry or just live together? Nowadays, we even have couples who marry and do NOT live together. There are so many alternative relationship models that need to be explored. I’m asking… who’s willing to have real dialogue about the current state of marriage? I’d be more than willing to participate in this discussion!
J.J. Smith is a Dating and Relationship Author, Radio Host, and Corporate Executive. J.J. Smith is the author of “Why I Love Men: The Joys of Dating”. More information on J.J.’s dating advice can be found on her website at www.jjsmithonline.com. She is also the host of “Real Talk with JJ and The Fellas” which offers an intelligent, provocative discussion on dating, love, sex and relationships. J.J. may be contacted by email at [email protected] and on Facebook/Twitter: jjsmithonline and the Facebook Fan page: RealTalkJJ