Marriage, Part N

I have been thinking a lot about the general topic of “marriage” recently for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with here and now. I suppose this is a “topic” in which I have always had some interest both because of my interest in late 19th century / early 20th century American literature (for those non-English majors out there, a major “theme” or topic of discussion for the time period leading up to, including, and immediately after the “Great War” was the questioning of social institutions and a major social institution is “marriage”) and because of my own personal questioning and experiences of and with “love.” I have always thought it was strange that an institution regarded as “sacred” had something like a 50% failure rate; that kind of “success rate” wouldn’t really fly with most institutions or anything sociopolitical (education, for instance; politics – if 50% of the population is seriously dissatisfied with the political system, for example, there would very likely be political instability within that system, at best), &c., and so it interests me greatly how and why we continue to follow the same “course,” so-to-speak, when that “course” has such a high rate of failure. When we attach meanings such as “love” and “sex” and “friendship” to that “course,” we end up with a quagmire of necessarily unattainable combinations of expectations – tortuous paths which necessarily all lead to the same end result of failure.

Without delving into more theoretical detail here, I wanted to point out something I thought of today – the combination of any social institution with innate and very primitive human fears such as “death” and “loneliness” can only lead to shaky outcomes – I think this is something we are seeing in today’s “political climate” which is based very much on irrational and poorly examined fears. If we look at something like “marriage” in this light, it seems as if people would almost thoughtlessly (or at least hastily) commit to another person just to temporarily relinquish those fears. This is something I see happen time and again (as I may or may not have mentioned here before in earlier posts) – people, especially men, hit that age range of about 29-31, and whoever they are with at the time becomes the target of “commitment” in a marital sense. It is very much the “adult” continuation of what we did when we were younger – we simply keep on seeing the person we have been seeing really regardless of those “higher” ideals of love and friendship because we FEAR ultimately being alone and dying alone (the fear in dying alone is not so much in the death part but in the fear of the suffering that leads to death). I think this is particularly true with men because basic biology would dictate that men don’t commit to one woman (or whatever “genders” you would like to put there) because of reproduction; however, this is not what we see around us and it is certainly not what our “society” has taught us to believe is “right.” The only “right” we have been taught (with slight variations) over the centuries and millennia is “one man, one woman.” Men (and women) look around them and see all of their friends pairing off and see the “field of possibilities” shrinking more and more and therefore commit to whatever partners they happen to be with at the time because they have been 1. socially conditioned to do so and 2. have the innate fear of being alone and dying alone. At the very least, thinking about the social institution of “marriage” in this way shines a light on the dark 50% failure rate that continues to perpetuate itself despite much larger external social, political, economic, &c., changes.

And that is what I have been thinking about this morning, at least in part! It just interests me greatly that we see spikes in the rates of marriages at certain periods of time / certain ages (there are “earlier” spikes as well, but they all seem to occur around periods of time in which people see the people around them “settling down” and with the shrinking pool of possibilities, decide rationally or irrationally to do so themselves) and despite all of the generational changes, the rate of divorce (or in “earlier” times the rate of “cheating” or going outside the determined relationship for myriad unmet needs) remains just about constant. With all of that in mind I often wonder if it is the wiser course just to “go with the flow” and settle down with whomever you happen to be dating at the time you see others pairing off. I suppose this is also a topic of interest to me because, as I mentioned in my last post, “What’s the Point?” I have missed the period of time in which most people get married in our “culture” and so I necessarily have an “outside” perspective on the whole thing. Before I became so ill I was almost always in some kind of long-term relationship (“long-term” meaning longer than 2-3 years here), but being so ill and unable to go out limited my ability to meet new people and also saw the loss of many friends, and so here I am! It will certainly be interesting to see what happens when I am “well” and out in the world; it will also be interesting to see what the “failure” rate is of the people who have “coupled off” in the generations surrounding and including mine.

At any rate, thank you very much for taking the time to read this! I hope you are having a wonderful day and a happy and healthy day wherever you are in the world! Have a great rest of your weekend and start of your week!

❤ Always, Beth

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