Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why is Marriage So Difficult?

I love watching the Olympic Games. The best of the best compete for a gold medal. What is obvious is that winning a gold medal is extremely difficult. If everyone could win a gold medal, the Olympics would not be special. The same is true of marriage. If success were easy, the majority of marriages would be wonderful. First time marriages would not have a 50% divorce rate, and the majority of people who stay married for life would report marriage as ideal. However, the reverse is true.

Truth is most people fail at marriage. Success in marriage is like success in any arena of life, rather difficult and demanding. Being a full time marriage and family therapist in private practice, has lead me to conclude that no more than 10% of marriages are really successful. Success in marriage is where both parties report that their marriage is challenging but very rewarding. Good marriages balance the needs of the individuals without sacrificing the harmony of the couple. Truth is that may be as complicated as balancing on parallel bars, or running a successful marathon.

Human’s gravitate to groups and seek companionship. These needs are well served by marriage. However, creating harmony with another is complicated unless one member of the couple is totally dominant, and the other completely submissive. True marital harmony is a goal most profess to want; yet few attain. The compromises required for two strong people to be both individuals and a couple is an art form that only the few master. Just like the Olympics, the true masters make the sport look easy, when in truth they have practiced and practiced for years to gain success in just one small arena of life.

Why is marriage so difficult? Because opposites must be in balance. Because two becoming one is extremely demanding. Remember the three-legged race, when two people tie your inner legs together and try to run in harmony. Challenging and difficult. You must surrender personal ego and work as a team. But once accomplished, the task is meaningless, except as a metaphor.

The real problem for marriage today is that no one spells out the challenge. Society is more interested in saving the word “marriage” for heterosexuals than in accepting that marriage between two people whatever the sexual preferences is extremely challenging and very difficult. As long as we debate the form of marriage and not the substance of marriage we shall remain in the dark ages. Society spends mega bucks promoting the official party surrounding the wedding and does nothing to prepare for the hard work of marriage. This is like preparing for the Olympics by selecting the candidates based on outer garments and party preparations. Forget running preliminary races or having trials. Base everything on outer appearance. And then the rich would succeed at sports while the poor would not be invited. If this were how we prepared for the Olympics, not many gold medals would be forth coming. The gold belongs to those who have natural talent and who practice and train for many long years before going to the Olympics. Success in marriage doesn’t belong to those who throw the best wedding party, but rather to those who practice at the art of marriage.

Why do we believe that anyone who is heterosexual can succeed at marriage as long as they have the right send off, and get a legitimate license? Just look at all the politicians who want your vote. They all have perfect little families and happy marriages and they show them off at their national conventions. Marriage is simple according to the political parties that want your vote. All politicians have perfect families and perfect marriages, until the press gets wind of the outer illusion.

By now I hope I have made my case. Marriage is difficult. As difficult as winning at anything that is challenging. Marriage like life was never intended to be easy. It is not easy for heterosexuals or homosexuals. Marriage is not easy for Republicans or Democrats. Better marriages are not found in Christian or Muslim marriages. Marriage is hard work, and the truth is most people are too lazy to win a gold medal in sports, or have a successful marriage in life. Worst of all, society perpetuates the illusion that a marriage license is all you need to succeed in one of the most challenging aspects of life.

When our society places marriage and family issues for students to learn in school then I will know we are more committed to having successful marriages in our country. When we have more psychological services offered to families who struggle with violence, then I shall know we as a nation are more committed to what is possible in marriage. As long as we are worried about who can marry and who cannot marry, we remain in denial about the struggles and challenges within all marriages and we stay stuck with the empty form of marriage rather than striving to reach the gold medals available to the hard working few who search for perfection within the married state.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. Thank you for this.

Michelle said...

The little things that make me crazy
So after 22 years of marriage it comes down to this;

I am aggravated by the fact that my husband thinks it is some "lowly" persons job to pick up his popcorn container after he leaves the theater.

I am annoyed when ever he eats because I can't escape the vision of a ravenous old labrador.

I am really irritated when on the rare occasion that I choose to stand in front of my bathroom mirror and apply makeup, it is all of a sudden time for him to enter, sit down on the toilet and proceed to pollute the air with the smell of rotting animal carcus.

What really bugs me is that he seems to find his way around town just fine when I am not in the car. However if I am a passenger he is completely unable to foresee the upcoming freeway exit and continues to drive 80 in the fast lane forcing me to remind him to slow down. Otherwise I am stuck with him for several more miles of nail biting tension while he drives on in his total state of oblivion.

So I'm curious. What little things make you ponder; "What am I doing with this person after all these years?"