I'm not married, but I spend a lot of time thinking about whether I ever want to be. Some would say that since I'm not dating, I shouldn't even think about it. But I feel like marriages fail when you don't prepare for them. So if I ever want to be married, I need to know what tactics will keep that marriage from failing.
I come from a divorced home. This not surprising considering that my father and mother were each other's second marriage (60% of second marriages become divorces, DivorceRate.org). My cousin is about to get divorced, which is still not surprising (41% of first marriages become divorces) despite all of our family's efforts to choose good spouses.
Six of the women in my family sat down the other night to talk about what's happening with my cousin, and at the end of it, I found myself wondering: why do we even bother?
Why get married? For love? Tina Turner said, and I tend to agree, that love is nothing "but a second-hand emotion." There are lots of times when you love someone you don't marry or marry someone you don't love. Plenty of our ancestors married people they didn't love and stayed together for 50 or 60 years. So I don't think it's all about love.
My aunt said humans are supposed to create families; in other words we marry to create a family unit for the kids we want to have. I think that perspective is fine if one wants to have children. But, in my opinion, having children is something that needs to be re-evaluated as well. My cousin has a baby, and although she loves her daughter very much, and her daughter is happy, there will come a time when she will suffer because her father is not around. Is it responsible of parents to bring children into a family unit that isn't "complete"? And some people just don't make good parents. They are too involved in their job or their personal pursuits to give a child the kind of attention it would need. So I don't think having kids is a valid reason to marry, not with the issues we have in America today.
So why get married?
The only thing I've heard that makes sense to me is this: marry someone who makes you happy and will help you do your life better than you could do it without them. My friend is graduating this May with degrees in English education and journalism. She is engaged to a man who will graduate at the same time with a degree in social studies education. They fit. They will help each other throughout life.
I think if we were all brutally honest with ourselves, we would not completely throw love to the way side, but we would acknowledge that a marriage is only partially about love; it's mostly about commitment. If we treated our marriages like our businesses (made time investments in them, thought about the future while planning the present, thought about the whole team/family) then maybe we'd have better retention rates.
Or maybe I'm just a huge cynic.