Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Is Marriage and Family for Everyone?

Marriage and family is not for everyone. Those who marry should consider that you give up some cherished personal freedoms for the many benefits of being a couple. Humans need socialization, and being married can be the best way to fulfill that need. But like all human accomplishment, a good marriage is at times hard work.

For a moment, let us suspend the romance of marriage and look at the complex issues that need to be dealt with. If people did this before they got married, we would have far less divorce. Most divorces are the result of not understanding all the complexities of a marriage before entering into such a complex commitment.

We silently and consistently condemn everyone who fails at traditional marriage. We staunchly demand that marriage be workable for all, and yet we allow very little difference in the make up and structure of marriage. We demand romance, we reject arranged marriage, we dismiss homosexual marriage, and we have Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura give us simplistic answers to the complex demands of marriage and family life because we want it to be simple.

Marriage is perhaps the most complex of all human relationships. By it’s very nature, marriage is a struggle between two competing for power and domination, surrender and control. The woman’s movement began by rejecting marriage, only to find that the feminist movement lost its direction in the declaration that “a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle”. The woman’s movement is currently lost in its transition from being against something to being for something else, when it comes to marriage. In this current confusion, society has rushes back to old tradition values that may be outdated, unworkable, and unrealistic.

So lets go back to the basics. Marriage is not simple. It is very complex. The romantic image of marriage bears little resemblance to reality. Reality is that marriage requires constant compromise, frequent communication and lots of attention. The minority master marriage, and when they do they make it look easy. But that is an illusion. Successful marriages are created by hard work just like all successful human endeavors. Success is 90% hard work, and 10% luck. But we all want to believe in luck, because then we are not responsible for the 90% hard work.

A good marriage is essential for a successful family. In my estimation, this means both parents in the couple need to commit to being some form of a team until the youngest child is ready to leave home, usually at 18 years of age. If you consciously decide to be a parent, I submit you should decide to establish the necessary teamwork with the children’s other parent until the task is complete even if you get divorced. Wanting to have a child is not a good enough reason to have a child. Children are not dolls to be played with. They are little beings that need constant guidance and support for at least 18 years. Of course for this to be true, it would be helpful if humans had to qualify before having children. But nature has not set those parameters. Unfortunately children can be born to people who are unqualified to have them, while qualified couples sometimes are infertile. Evolution is not evolved in this regard.

If you decide not to have children, how you structure your marriage is your business. But when you have children, the partnership should succeed well enough for the two of you to co-parent the children even if you cannot live together in marriage. This responsibility of co-parenting with someone you are divorced from is what is missing today, and society is paying a large price for this condition.

Marriage as an institution is not for everyone. Society will be better served once we understand the hard work and commitment involved in marriage and family, and relinquish our romantic notions about how easy marriage is.