What are the Myths and Realities of Marriage? — Part 1

Recently Pope Francis said that “The great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say, ‘Yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. . . . They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”  This struck a chord with me because I see a great deal of naiveté, confusion and even hostility surrounding the idea of marriage.  Many people scoffed at and disregarded Pope Francis’s comment.  People want to continue their illusions and hate it when anyone tries to bring some clarity or truth out that might disturb their ongoing fantasies.

I think the Pope is correct though.  People do not really understand what marriage is about.  My blog this week and next week will look at the pros and cons of marriage in terms of the negative and positive constructs that determine what marriage is.  These constructs are much more important in terms of understanding what marriage is than the idea that it is strictly a union between a man and a woman.  This latter point only tells us who has traditionally been allowed to marry but not the reality of “what” marriage will actually involve.  Understanding marriage means understanding much deeper and less evident truths.  It means examining the myths that too many of us have regarding marriage.  These myths create a distorted view of marriage that makes it difficult to find true happiness with a partner.

Let us start with the cons or perhaps the negative realities of marriage.  Next week, I will cover the pros or the positive aspects of marriage.  It is important to recognize that life is always full of both Yin and Yang aspects of existence. The same is true of marriage.  By better understanding both, we can create marriages that are happier, more fulfilling and longer lasting.

Negative Realities of Marriage:

  1. Marriage is an asymmetrical relationship between two people that is most often thought of as a symmetrical relationship. 

Too many people think that marriage is a “union of equals.”  There is little about marriage that is ever equal.  No too people on the face of the earth are equal.  Equality sounds good in theory but falls flat in practice.  Each partner in a marriage brings different strengths and abilities.  Unless each partner is able to appreciate the nuances of these differences in themselves and their spouse, the marriage will be like an orchestra that only plays with a few of its instruments.  It is important that each partner in a marriage be able to honor, respect and cherish the idea of differences in each other and to help their partner manifest these differences.  This leads to growth and development rather than boredom and stagnation of a marriage.

“You know it’s never fifty-fifty in a marriage. It’s always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty. Someone falls in love first. Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride.”   — Jodi Picoult,

  1. Marriage is a union of opposites designed to keep the human race viable.

Despite the Bible story of the Garden of Eden, if humans had not been able to procreate, there would be no human race.  Fundamental biological principles point to the inescapable and inevitable fact of procreation.  Evolution or God (take your choice) created humans able to reproduce themselves.  Normally, this takes an egg and a sperm that are donated by each parent.  The resulting zygote will with proper care and nurturing grow into a facsimile of both parents.  The baby has the genotype of both parents in their DNA and at some point in their future can also reproduce and thereby continue the development of the species.

The above process sounds very clinical but it is also accompanied by a great deal of fun and pleasure which no doubt helps to insure that humans find sex enjoyable and desirable irrespective of the goal of perpetuating the species.  This latter fact has not been overlooked by both governments and religions which have often tried to yoke this sexual desire and passion to their own goals.  Thus, Hitler for instance gave medals to women having babies that would help grow the Third Reich.  The Chinese instituted a one baby per couple policy to control population growth.  The Catholic Church denigrates the idea of sex without the goal of procreation and masturbation is still considered a sin.  The Church’s goal is to channel sexual energy into creating more Catholics and thus ensuring that the religion as well as the race will continue.

You may well ask: “Well, what is the negative here with this issue.  Do not most humans look forward to the idea of sexual reproduction? Are not children one of the great joys for humanity?”  The answer to both questions is yes and will be discussed later.  Nevertheless, the negative issues are twofold.  First, the one I already mentioned in respect to the manipulation by both church and state of the function for their own purposes.  The second issue is more widespread and more problematic.  Many couples and individuals often do not put the well-being of their offspring as their first priority.  Too often, children are born to people who have no desire or ability to give proper care to them.  It has been said that you need to have a license to have a dog but any idiot can have a child without the means, motives or ability to take proper care of them.

Children deepen, complicate, and test the “I do’s” of marriage. — Dr. David Stoop and Dr. Jan Stoop

  1. Marriage appears as a mirage of love, joy and harmony to outsiders.

How often have you known a couple who went through a divorce and your reactions were “I thought they were so happily married.  They seemed like the perfect couple.”  As we get older, you would think that most of us would have learned the truth.  There are no perfect marriages and there are no perfect couples.  The fantasy stage of marriage lasts for about six months and then the reality sets in.

The problem is that most people want to hide the authenticity of their marriage from their friends, relatives and even from each other.  “Everything is perfect.  We never fight.  We have no problems.  We agree on everything.”  Such seems to be the truth to those who are looking in from the outside.  The real truth should be obvious.  Any marriage without discord is doomed to failure.  Those who would protect themselves from disagreements and dissension will sooner or later be in divorce court shouting and screaming obscenities at each other.  The pent up frustrations of years of obsequience and servitude now become a torrent of disgust and animosity.

“All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principles of equal partnership.”  — Ann Landers

  1. Once we are married, we will live happily ever after.

No you will not.  Only in a fairy tale do people live happily ever after.  In a marriage, you will go through, suffering, heartache, jealousy, vindictiveness, lust, shame, anger and more sadness than you have ever thought possible.  You will (if you are married long enough) watch your spouse die and perhaps even some of your children.  My Godmother (my Aunt Mary) turned 102 on July 26th of this year.  She has seen her parents, grandparents, husband, three children and all of her six siblings die.  She is not a sad woman but instead rejoices at the long and mostly happy life that her god has granted her.  Many of us would wonder how she can be so positive for someone who has been through so much sorrow.

She once told me that she simply went on each day with a positive attitude to appreciate all that life would bring.  This meant being a good person, helping others and reaching out to make new friends and experience new things.  At 90+ years she was still volunteering at a senior center to serve meals and help in the kitchen.  If you want to live happily ever after, be prepared to accept the ups and downs of life and never quit.  Marriage is not a sprint but a marathon.

“Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory.”  — Abraham Lincoln

  1. Marriage is a legal contract that binds us until death do us part.

Pope Francis was right on the money here.  The marriage contract only binds most marriages until one or the other is sick and tired of the marriage.  Then, in less time than it takes to get a wedding certificate, you can get a divorce certificate.  You do not even need to specify hardships or malignant conditions in most States.  It is simply a matter of saying “I don’t” instead of “I do.”  The tired and clichéd vow spoken at most wedding ceremonies has become a thing of the past.  Like the dinosaurs, the idea of “until death do us part” is both obsolete and irrelevant.  The “in sickness and in health” part also falls flat.  Few in their early years have any real understanding of what taking care of a senior citizen will entail, particularly doing so when they become a senior citizen themselves.

People have always been able to opt out of a marriage through divorce.  Divorce was known in the time of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans prior to 800 BCE without written contracts.  In 800 BCE, written marriage contracts first appeared.  The reasons for divorce were probably very similar in ancient times to the reasons for most divorces today.  One study showed the following as the most common reasons for divorce in modern times:

The following chart shows divorce trends in the USA from 1860 through 2000.  As you can see, the frequency of divorces increased dramatically from a low of less than 2 divorces per thousand marriages to a high of 22 divorces per one thousand marriages.  My guess would be that the major difference in divorce statistics from ancient to modern times would probably be in the frequency of divorces rather than in the reason for divorces.

divorce rates

Today if you are tired or bored or annoyed with someone, you just go and get a divorce.  The idea of a vow is now considered quaint.  Love and honor have been replaced by narcissism and enlightened self-interest.  “What can I do for you” has been replaced by “what can you do for me.”  Loyalty and faithfulness are replaced by “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” and “It was just a little fling.”  When you can get a divorce in a Cracker Jack box, why work on things.  It is easier to play musical divorce and find a new partner and start over again from scratch.

The cycle is very clear:  “infatuation, passion, ecstasy, marriage, disagreement, disillusionment, hostility and divorce.  This cycle plays itself out over and over again in at least fifty percent of the marriages in the USA.  In these marriages, neither partner has ever learned the meaning of responsibility, commitment and hard work.  Until these concepts are grasped, the partners have no hope of finding a long term relationship.  Instead, these individuals fall into what has been called serial monogamy and hookup relationships.

“The remedy for most marital stress is not in divorce. It is in repentance and forgiveness, in sincere expressions of charity and service. It is not in separation. It is in simple integrity that leads a man and a woman [Or two people who love each other] to square up their shoulders and meet their obligations. It is found in the Golden Rule, a time-honored principle that should first and foremost find expression in marriage.”   — Gordon B. Hinckley

  1. Marriage is a cause of more anger, pain, misery, jealousy and unhappiness than perhaps any other institution on the face of the earth.

Did you know that when a spouse goes missing or is found murdered, the number one suspect is the other partner.  This is not profiling on the part of law enforcement.  It is a simple fact worked out from experience because the evidence shows that at least one third of all female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by male intimate partners — husbands and ex-husbands, boyfriends and estranged lovers. While both men and women experience domestic violence, women are far more likely to be murdered than men.  — http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/09/men-killing-women-domesti_n_5927140.html

DomesticViolenceKILLED7

These murder statistics do not even begin to describe the vast amounts of domestic violence that take place under the umbrella of so-called love and marriage.  Given the amount of abuse that women suffer, it is unbelievable that any of them would trust something as flimsy as a marriage contract or want to even take part in the ritual.  For many women, love, honor and obey means that they will have their brains beaten out if they fail to respect the macho image of their spouse.  I find it amazing that any woman in her right mind would want to enter into a marriage that has a high probability of resulting in her being battered and even murdered.  I suppose the old adage is very true that “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.” — Katharine Hepburn

Time for Questions:

Have you ever been married?  How many times?  What do you think makes a good marriage?  What have been the major problems in your marriage?  What did it take to overcome these problems?  If you have never been married, why not?

Life is just beginning.

“To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting; take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.”  — Criss Jami

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: