Friday, October 18, 2013

What's Marriage For, Anyway?

I was wondering, yesterday, what, for the most part, makes a couple decide to divorce. I mean, ruling out beatings, infidelities, late-discovered homosexuality and things like huffing addictions...

For your average couple that has been married for a long time, what is the trigger?

I know this sounds like a simplistic question, but nothing is simple.

If a couple have never been in love, I get that they might eventually "call it quits" -- when their life together gives them no comfort; no sense of union; no romance or sensual fire... A time comes, I suppose, when they have seen what some couples have between them, emotionally, and they don't and they decide to go looking for fulfillment.

One wonders, of course, why they got married in the first place if this feeling didn't exist, but I'm in no position to speculate about specifics. Could have been a lack of experience; not knowing when things were lame because of a lack of comparison. Could have been the result of falling into a routine with someone and then going the next step, to marriage, because it was expected. (My dad did always warn me about falling into a comfort zone and becoming blind to what was wrong in a relationship.)

Some "hang in there" until the kids are in college and then they drop the hatchet.

I think a lot of these people put everything into the kids for so long that they eventually look at each other and think: Who is this stranger I now find myself alone with in this house? I suppose, at that point, the couple have two choices: 1) go find someone else or 2) get reacquainted and build things up again. They're both tough to do, especially later in life. Maybe their final choice rests on what they are more afraid of.

We can't rule out simply "not getting along." Arguing a lot. But that seems fixable, to me -- except in cases where one person is either crazy or unreasonable (and, I suppose the difficult thing is that, often, one makes that claim of the other, even if it is not technically true). We teach our kids to "get along" -- why can't we do it ourselves? I guess the answer to that one is complicatedly simple: the arguments are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The arguments are the symptoms of the disease that has coursed through the veins of the marriage for years.

But what really makes me wonder is at what moment does one decide to call it quits? Again, barring complete misery in a relationship -- as in the so-called "amicable divorce" -- when does the decision get made? How do people know when the relationship is broken beyond fixing?

I once heard someone say that ignorant people tend to stay married because they don't think enough about their circumstances and that they just accept things for what they are. This is a bit unfair, I think. But there must be a certain amount of resignation -- even surrender -- on the wedding day, right? We make a promise that day and if it is ignorance to want to stick with that promise, what's the point of the wedding?

So, when nothing egregious is going on (like the aforementioned beatings and cruelties and sexuality revelations) is the decision to divorce just a question of feeling a lack of self-fulfillment? Is is okay, under those circumstances, to break that wedding day promise?

Maybe it all forces us to ask the question: "What is marriage for, anyway?"  Do we get married in order to bolster our own happiness? Do we just get married in order to make a family? Is it all a business proposition to ensure life-success? If these are true, there might be an end in sight from day one.

So...what is it for, anyway? Maybe it is for the other person.

That perspective would change things quite a bit.


  1. It's not a simplistic question and doesn't have a simplistic answer, but somebody who recognizes and separates from the status quo would have one response.

    My idea would be that marriage is, culturally and historically, a statement of commitment. With that answer, it's conceivable what I think of divorces. It's also conceivable, given that divorce is an option after marriage, what I think of marriage as a practice.

    If I met "the one", I would feel hesitant if he/she proposed.

    1. At the very least, the choice to marry or not needs, as you seem to be doing, Alexis, to be taken seriously.