Most of my friends in their 30's--women and men--fear that if they don't marry, they'll end up lonely. Or, worse: that they'll have failed in a highly public and widely accepted American personality test.

 

This fear about the pain of living single is not quite hysteria, because it's rooted in data. Married people generally live longer and happier than others do. For instance, in 2007, the Office for National Statistics reported that single men between 30 and 60 die at a rate 2½ times the rate of married men. Single people are also more likely to suffer with alcoholism, depression, and various physical health problems than married people are.

 

One possible reason for why married people are happier than unmarried ones is that our culture hasn't developed many institutions--other than marriage--for ongoing emotional attention. That is, we've spent energy and money on business, politics, and a good but impersonalized medical system. But there aren't many public institutions for fostering personalized, thoughtful interaction. If you don't have a good spouse (or luck out with other caring family members, or a good shrink), you're largely living in a world in which interactions are legitimized by profit.

 

Marriage might be the one governmentally supported institution for sustaining deep emotional support. You get tax breaks for sustained heterosexual monogamy. (Schools are also a governmentally supported institution for ongoing care, but that system is almost as broken as marriage, which fails at a rate of roughly 50%.)

 

In this light, I'm anxious to read Laurie Abraham's new book, The Husbands and Wives Club   which looks at American marriage with a careful eye. Her book follows five couples through group marriage counseling. While her book is not a critique on the role of marriage in our culture, Abraham thought a lot about American culture as she wrote.

 

In a recent interview at Salon.com, interviewer Thomas Rogers asked her why Americans are so invested in this idea that heterosexual contractual monogamy is the natural and necessary form for sustaining love, or commitment. She agreed with his suggestion that our country has a strained investment in marriage, and went on:

 

"...There are aspects of our culture that make it seem like marriage is the only way to find emotional sustenance in life. Our culture affirms marriage and monogamy. We haven't found better ways to have a sustained emotional connection. You can find it through friends and family, but maybe because our culture pushes it so hard, people often end up feeling there's a hole in their life if they don't have some close partner as they get older. Of course, if you have kids, that feeling is magnified even further."

 

She speaks clearly there, I think. Perhaps, as our culture increasingly invests in business--as the number of institutions devoted to our hearts shrinks--those residual institutions like marriage, which work to save us from loneliness, bear more and more weight. They might increasingly crack with that weight.

Comments
by on ‎03-19-2010 10:25 AM

A marriage

is a marriage

is a marriage.

 

Been there, done that.....

 

Define lonely?

 

The jury is out on this one, with people my age..Older adults.

 

Some can't live without that someone else in their life, to feel complete.

Some would rather just live together, then commit, or for monetary reasons...Social Security.

Some would rather not deal with another pain in the ass the rest of their life...which gets shorter each year..

 

Define love?

 

And the rate of divorce increases each year?  Why?  What are people looking for?

 

I can't imagine living with someone, again.  We all have those spaces that need to be filled, and how you fill them is up to you....And yes, men live longer when married....because they have a woman to take care of them! 

Is that being too selfish on my part? 

No.

 

I want to live as long as I can, and that's my way of doing it.

For what it's worth.

by Moderator Melissa_W on ‎03-19-2010 02:37 PM

I dunno.  As someone recently dragged into her 30s (the fingernail marks are still in the floor) and who lives alone I can say that some days I like my space and my privacy but some days I get really tired of having only the furballs to talk to (and since they only meow to beg for food and tummy rubs the conversation is limited).

 

 

by on ‎03-19-2010 03:42 PM

Melissa, you're still young...there is still hope for you, if marriage is what you want!  I'm not sure about the furballs....and me! I get enough love and attention from family and friends to satisfy my craving, for the rest of my life....and a pillow (or cat) to snuggle up to...which btw doesn't snore! [the pillow, that is]  I lived in a pretty loveless marriage, so it's turned me cynical... Don't listen to me.  What do I know about any of this!  Maybe I'm crotchety because I didn't have the perfect marriage every young girl wants to believe in, and in reality nothing is perfect....ah, well...life is still good, even if reality sucks.  Read the books!  Can't hurt!

by Moderator Melissa_W on ‎03-19-2010 03:53 PM

Thanks Kathy :smileyhappy:  I think it's the companionship that I want; I've got great friends, so I'm not "lonely" in that sense of the word but I think it would be nice to come home and share dinner with someone or have a good chat or snuggle on the couch to watch a movie.  I used to live with my ex-fiance and while we ultimately broke up because we were sooo not suited to a long-term live-in relationship it was nice while it lasted.  I actually miss having someone twit me over buying too many books.

 

I don't necessarily need the marriage bit although it seems society wants its (hetero) couples to be married because of benefits, healthcare, taxes, etc., and my grandmother would probably haunt me if I permanently lived in sin....

by on ‎03-19-2010 05:00 PM

I know what you're saying, Melissa, and there are definitely perks to living with someone (relationship, or even marriage).  I do remember, even though it was a hundred years ago.  Kidding aside, I do miss some of that...but I don't dwell on it...I guess I just don't feel the need, now at my age, to have someone waiting for me when I get home.  Or be home to greet someone....I'm too darn independent now!...I come and go as I please...I do what I enjoy doing...and I don't answer to anyone.

 

My life is the way I like it...full enough....It really is an individual feeling that we all are coming from.....Do I want someone in my life to have to remind to put the seat down (yes, I fell into a toilet, once)....etc...  I still weigh all the goods and not so goods of a relationship, that doesn't stop, no matter how old you are.. You'll always have a relationship of one sort or another in you life, whether they live in the same house with you, or not.  Now, if you could give me someone who thought the sun rose and sat on me...then I might consider them!  Ha!

by on ‎03-21-2010 06:59 PM

Sit down, this is a long one.

 

I don't know if further discussion on this topic will be of any value, at this point, but it is a nagging topic, to say the least.  Maybe I'm one of the few that feels it has nagging thoughts.  Who really knows about marriage, until you've experienced that "institution"?

 

The word 'commitment' struck me this morning.  How do we view our commitments, to anything?  With marriage, it's a legal commitment.  Laws do change on these, from time to time, and from state to state.  Get married in Reno, and divorce the same day...how quick is that! 

 

How committed to this institution does the state of Nevada want to be?  What does it say about holding onto something that is supposed to be a sacred, trusting agreement?  Whether taking place in a church, or before a Justice Of The Peace?  Some churches, you pay a penalty if you divorce.....how many of these people are caught in an adultery situation because of these church laws, or how many of these people stay together, because it's the right thing (in their eyes, or church's) to do?

 

Marriage.  Does it have to come with a binding contract, before people are willing to commit to it?  Or does this contract scare people away from long term commitments?

 

I feel, in this point in history, changes are occurring along all of these lines, within the system, and within our emotional selves.  Most take the alternative to just live together, whether married or not.  No repercussions of sin, or acts of law forbidding it.  The freer society that is now accepting of all, and everything...for the most part....except for gay marriages in most states.  It's such a contradiction, it's ludicrous. 

 

What do we believe in anymore?  What do we want in this society?  Are we really looking for that wand that is waved over you that says, now that you are married, everything is perfect.  Everything will resolve itself, because of this piece of paper that says you are committed to one another?

 

I think, everyone who even considers being married, should take an psychological  test....forget about love, that doesn't enter into this...take a test to see if you are compatible....I don't mean that you both like to bowl, or go to the movies together, etc....I mean emotionally compatible....how to communicate, there should be classes in that, too. 

 

Just talking to family members, or a shrink, doesn't really give you those quote, un quote, feelings of love....that love which seems to be imperative before marriage happens....unless it's an arranged marriage, of course.  But how many times do we NOT get to know someone, before that blast of love hits us square in the eyes...bam, there goes the heart strings, being plucked so fast, you can't even think straight...emotions are channeled only in one direction!

 

I know there are online services for dating, and a lot has been in the news about these....even if people are seemingly compatible, there just isn't always that spark....but these aren't the real tests that should be given....there should be emotional testing...and nothing but time will tell in most of these cases. 

 

Yes, living apart, and living together, can show some people in a different light, under these two different settings.  Physiological changes seem to happen between two people.  Expectations start to change.  The differences between signing a paper, or not signing that paper....feelings that start to want to contradict each other. 

 

I haven't bought this book, and I know I probably won't read it...so, Ilana, if you would like to give your points of view on it, after you've read it, that would be good.  Does she really tell us something we don't already know?

 

 

by on ‎03-24-2010 10:56 PM

(sigh) I given this a lot of thought before answering, trying to take other peoples feelings into concern.

 

Marriage, the man woman type is a bit culturally last century so to speak. Use committed extended long term relationship instead.

 

It's a tad offensive to leave out same sex unions, and gradually government is agreeing. If a couple in a non common law state have spent the last 30 years together it's just the same as marriage and calling it any less is an insult. I know a lovely multi marriage 2 guys and 2 women (all gay) with 7 kids between them. If two or more people live in a committed relationship for 5 years or more, I call that a marriage.

 

Perhaps it's the definition of marriage that needs changing.

 

As to why 50% of them don't last. First realize this isn't an all time high, it was 65% failure by divorce rate in the 1920s. Those statistics only improved due to war death tolls.                  There are 3 main reason why marriages don't work out. One people get married for the wrong reasons; physical attraction, pregnancy, money, societal pressure,....   Two people don't put the work in; frequent compromise, frequently staying in sync, saying I love you every single day no matter what, and always looking out for each other. It's no longer you and, it's we.   Three people get married before they have a basic understanding of who they are and love themselves.

 

Oh in case you were wondering, we've been married for 13 years and we've been together for 16 by Labor day weekend.

 

But as to what outside of "marriage" is missing from other human relationships; physical nonsexual chemical pheromone bonding. Known in primate terms as grooming. Close nonsexual physical affectionate contact produces a pheromone release and reaction in the human brain. They give you comfort, keep you healthyer, alive longer, and more mentally stable. The human animal evolved needing them and society evolved to create relationships that produce them.

 

They'll probably sell this in a bottle one day, but I think that would spoil the fun.

 

 

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