Tuesday, January 29, 2013

One (Better!) Reason to Grow Up and Get Married

I love reading socially conservative opinion articles. It's not the frequent contact of my palm with my forehead while reading nor the urge to run screaming across northern border upon realizing that a fair amount of people with these opinions have power in this country that entertains me about such articles. What fascinates me is the fact that whenever I scan the blogs over at Fox News, I feel as if I am learning the culture of an exotic people, a people with customs that never fail to make me pause and ask "where do these crazy ideas come from?"

It was this thought that crossed my mind when I came to the editorial "A Man's Top Five Reasons to Grow Up and Get Married" written by Steven Crowder at Fox News. The rant begins with a boast that Crowder is the same guy who brought us the ever-famous "Waiting Till the Wedding Night-- Getting Married the Right Way". I actually had read that particular article and I remembered it because it was very abrasive, referring to women who criticized his decision to wait for sex "floozies" and characterizing women who live with their partners before marriage as "harlots". I could have easily guessed what the eagerly awaited sequel would entail. Unlike the pro-abstinence editorial however, this one actually contained bad ideas that should be challenged, lest young people actually believe them.

Much like Crowder, I am pro-marriage. This term probably means something different for me than it does for him. When I say that I am "pro-marriage", I mean that I believe that consensual, committed relationships between individuals are often beneficial to those individuals. I do not see getting married as a bad thing at all. Also like Crowder, I am from a family of "lifers". My parents, grandparents and all of my fathers five siblings got married, have stayed married and have healthy, happy relationships with their spouses. It would be hard for anyone to honestly characterize me as a radical leftist, feminazi, lesbian, manhating, babykilling hippy heathen. That being said, Crowder's naive view of marriage disillusions me.

One of Crowder's premises is that marriage gets an bad rap in our popular media and that, most importantly, this reputation is patently undeserved. I actually tend to agree with Crowder on quite a bit of what he says in the fourth paragraph:

"Men on TV constantly joke about how wives are incredibly expensive, demanding and overall vacuums of all things fun. By that same token, the women complain about their fat, lazy, insensitive husbands as they swoon over their trimmed, manicured and chest-waxed Hollywood counterparts."

Unfortunately, there are many, many instances of negative portrayasl of marriage in popular media. To be fair though, marriage is not the only relationship that is frequently twisted into something vile by Hollywood. A December post on Brute Reason blog gave many concrete examples of unhealthy relationship tropes that appear over and over again in our pop culture. As a whole, looking to Hollywood for realistic portrayals or advice on anything is a bad idea. This point is where Crowder and I diverge.

Crowders thesis is very simple. As he says in his memorable closing sentence, "Get married, like, now." In his editorial, Crowder argues that people should get married, marriage is a goal, an ideal for this blogger. His five reasons are almost irrelevant when we take into account that his underlying attitude is unhealthy.

Marriage is a huge commitment. When we choose to tie our lives to the lives of others in every sense, we are making sacrifices, changing our habits and entering into a phase of life that comes with both benefits and challenges. Such a commitment must always be an informed choice rather than a goal. Crowder lists (and often exaggerates) all of the supposedly good things about marital relations. In doing so, reinforces that fairy tale-esque notion that somewhere out there there is that one person predestined for us. Out across the great, wide, wilderness, there is that person who will be everything we ever dreamed of and complete us emotionally, sexually, financially and spiritually. People dig themselves into holes, often when they reach a certain age, fretting over the fact that they haven't found "the one". Some people force themselves into marriages that they really aren't ready for by thinking romantically instead of realistically.

Crowder's naivete in portraying marriage as a haven of love and emotional perfection is actually doing more to hurt marriage than it is to help it. Society is very different than it was, say, in the fifties. Young people start their careers at an older age, higher education is more necessary than it used to be and, in many fields, so is graduate school. This means that people simply are not ready to get married as young as they used to be. Sure, there's high incidence of cohabitation and pre-marital sex in our society, but it doesn't have to be a bad thing. If a person is truly "pro-marriage", he or she will advocate waiting until one is stable, self sufficient and secure before committing to another person. If  people will have more sexual and emotional experience than their parents did before marriage, it seems not to matter much if waiting to get married might actually result in a more stable marriage.

The reasons that Crowder lists carry the extra baggage of being selfish. Selfishness is the last thing we should want to base any of our relationships on simply because relationships, by their very nature, involve another person. Our partners do not belong to us. Their purpose is not to cater to our desires. In a good relationship, partners do work to satisfy each other's needs, but the care must be mutual. Yet we often focus so much on what our relationships can do for us, then wonder why we get dumped. If we have a list of things we expect our relationships to be without taking the other person into account, we might as well stick to masturbation. The "you'll be richer" and "you'll have lots of sex" aspects of marriage might be nice bonuses, if they're real, but they are not good reasons to get married.

In my view, there is only one good reason to get married: because you want to. Thinking about it "I want to" is so much more special, even more romantic than "I should". Anyone can follow rules set down by our pastors and parents. Not everyone will choose to make a commitment to another person despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing compelling them to do so. "I want to marry you", as opposed to "marriage is an inherently good thing, therefore I should marry you", means that even though you could do anything or be with anyone, you have made the conscious  choice to be with a particular person. Isn't that the kind of devotion that makes love "powerful" in the first place?

Crowder says:
"Picture coming home every night to your best friend, your greatest fan, and your number one supporter. She (or he) makes each good day better, and each bad day good again. Every day, you get to live what is essentially a 24/7 sleepover party with the greatest friend you’ve ever had."

His musings sound very attractive. I know that the image constructed above is what I want to have someday. Even so, that doesn't mean that I should strive to project that image onto my own life until I'm well prepared.

If you are old enough and mature enough to make major life decisions, if you are emotionally and financially stable, if you are in a relationship with a person or persons with whom you share values and interests and with whom you have a healthy relationship with, if you are willing to make a public commitment to that person and the desire is mutual, congratulations, you should get married. Don't settle for anything less.

3 comments:

  1. I've got to say that your views on marriage are much more realistic than Crowder's. His article builds such a candy coated view of marriage, that it literally hurt my teeth. The only thing missing is Katy Perry launching whipped cream from her candied brassiere.

    I've been married to my wife for 13 years, and we were living together for about 3 years before that, then dating for about a year before *that*. I wear my 16+ years of exclusive/monogamous relationship proudly, and I have to say that point-for-point, Crowder is naively wrong.

    Any long term relationship isn't going to be all sex & sandwiches (a phrase which I found to be more than a little sexist). Whether you're living with your wife, husband, lover, roommate or sibling, there's going to be plenty of bad to go with the good. There's going to be arguments and fights and resentment and miscommunication and silent treatments. At some point they're going to take the last beer, or track in mud on the carpet. At some point you're going to have to wash and fold their dirty underwear. My own "lusty rose-tinted world" wore off when I started to not be grossed out while folding her period-stained-grundies. When you get settled in with somebody, you're going to get comfortable and probably let yourself go. And when you take on the part of the vow that says "until death do you part", you should be prepared for the fact that the better the marriage, the more painful the parting will be.

    MOAR SEXINS!! Woo! What a joke! This is obviously the view of a guy who waited until marriage and is still on his honeymoon high. He hasn't gotten to the inevitable part of every sexual relationship where things start to get monotonous and boring. He hasn't gotten to the part where one party of the monogamous relationship loses interest, and monogamy starts turning into celibacy. Anybody who comes into a lifelong commitment with the expectations of a Sex Smorgasboard is only setting themselves up for a fall.

    Not only is Crowder's view naively wrong, but it's also dangerous. He makes marriage sound like this magic pill you can take to make everything BETTER. If you just "cohabitate", you'll be a fat, ugly, unhealthy survivor of domestic violence, but if you just sign a little piece of paper, statistics show everything will magically get better! It WON'T! If you're living with an abusive douchebag, marriage won't change a thing! Deepening a commitment to a flawed relationship won't fix it.

    ...

    Sorry for being such a Debbie Downer, but anybody reading Crowder's article, stroking their chin and humming to themselves "Yeah, he has a point there" needs to have a bucket of reality dumped over their heads. Not saying that you were at all like that. Like I said in the beginning, you have a much more mature view of marriage than ol' Bubblegum Crowder over there.

    In the end, I wouldn't change a thing in my life. The benefits outweigh the flaws. There is one person in my life who makes ME their priority. That I can always come to, and will always be there when I need them. When life gets me down, and I need to put on a brave face to the world, I can still always come home and cry to my wife without fear. I have somebody that I can expose my weaknesses and flaws to without worry that she'll use them against me. I am accepted completely, stained undies and all.

    Marriage isn't sex & sandwiches, it's not a 24/7 sleepover with your bestie. That's just the rose-tint that eventually burns itself off in the long haul. If you expect marriage to be those things all the time, then you will never be satisfied with ANY relationship. Marriage is a construct that you have to BUILD. It takes work. Blood, sweat & tears. It's not easy, but the end result is a stable core of love & being that you can build the rest of your lives on together as one. That's something you can't put a price tag on.

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    Replies
    1. I tend to think of relationships the same way I think of nonbelief: the world isn't as magical as a lot of people want without the supernatural, but it's amazing in its own way. Just because something isn't a perfect fantasy doesn't diminish its value.

      Parties and sleepovers and sex and sandwiches get old after a while. Why would we want to the think of marriage as merely a shallow source of vapid entertainment.

      Obviously, every relationship is different. I definitely know couples that have sex with each other all through their lives. But whether or not they do is irrelevant because sex isn't what keeps people together. It's the mutual support, friendship, etc. that keeps people together. That's way cooler to me than a never-ending sex party.

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  2. Vivian van der MerweSeptember 18, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    The luxury of this kind of rhetoric is both entertaining and yet somewhat scary - especially when seen from an African perspective....

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