Sunday, January 27, 2008

Marriage advice.

Yet another friend/student/acquaintance (does it matter? if you're reading this and think I'm talking about you, I'm probably not - that's how often I hear this news) has decided to tie the knot. After far too short a time dating, in my opinion. And frequently, at far too young an age.

What is it that explains this mad rush for the altar? What makes people decide, "hey, this one is different, I love him/her, we're getting married - NOW"? It isn't so much that they all go for the ring as it is that they seem to have an urgency about it.

And so I say, "hey, that's great, I'm glad you're happy, congratulations." And I mean it, sort of. I *am* glad that they're happy, and that they've found someone they see as a soulmate. I'm glad that they feel part of someone else and that they are loved and loving.

But what I don't say, and what I also mean - and if you are planning on getting hitched at some point soon, you might want to skip this part or risk having your bubble burst or getting pissed off - is that it's damn stupid to marry someone you've only been dating for a few months or a couple of years.

I didn't used to feel this way, but I've seen a few too many divorces on the heels of marriages after short courtships (and this goes for both different- and same-sex couples). RIGHT on the heels. In fact, so soon after that part of me wonders whether or not the "happy couple" should return their wedding gifts.

I think getting married puts tremendous pressure on a relationship, and that this pressure is exponentially greater 1) the shorter the length of time the couple has been together, 2) the younger the couple is, and 3) the less the amount of shit the couple has been through together. (If you're already living together, that helps some with 3, because living together can count as going through shit.)

And I also notice that, very often, this rush to the altar occurs simultaneously with other big changes - say, graduation from college, or the recent break-up of a previous relationship (yes, they happen that quickly). It's as if these folks are thinking, "My life is uncertain now. I need to do something to make it feel more stable and less out of control."

I just don't think that marriage is the answer, at least not if what you're looking for in marriage is stability and permanency.

Or, to put it another way, I've come to feel that marriage isn't something we should look at as the preferable way for young people to "begin" their lives together. I think we should look at it as a way for people to formalize, if necessary, a connection between lives that have already been lived together for some time.

16 comments:

Monica O'Brien from Twenty Set said...

You make some good points - but I'm young, married, and have also seen the other side of things. So it depends on the situation for the two people getting married, and I don't think you can apply some general thoughts to marriage - it's a tricky subject. Interesting though.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Well, FWIW, I was once young and married, too - so I've seen other sides, as well.

I don't think that individual couples getting married at a young age is simply a matter of preference. There are trends, and sociological reasons for them. They're not necessarily situation-specific, since even the situations - say, economic necessity - don't occur in a vacuum.

Danielle said...

What is the appropriate age to get married? What is the proper length of time to be together before being married?

Plain(s)feminist said...

Danielle,
I don't know.

Dianne said...

I think the economy has a lot to do with this latest trend of getting married younger - what's even worse is that so many are having children so soon after marrying! And that's where I get confused - 2 incomes are better than one but now you're going to add a huge responsibility to the mix!?

So that's when I start to think it's about the uncertainty of our world. So many young people feel they need "an official partner".

I'm not much a fan of marriage - especially the traditional idea of marriage since I think it puts all the constraints on the woman.

also - as an older feminist - the ones everyone hated back then- the ones who were the first in all the doors - I wore pants to school when I was 13 and was suspended - I'm so disappointed that so many young women are seeking the wife/mother position before they grow some wings, take some risks, and have some adventures.

Really good post - thanks

oblion said...

Plains Feminist makes great points about marriage that C Wright Mills discussed in the sociological imagination. Marriage is beyond the two individuals involved. Furthermore, the family lit shows those who are married younger, tend to have higher divorce rates.

Plain(s)feminist said...

I definitely think the economy is an important piece of this, but I also wonder - after talking to a few college students lately who are anxious because they don't know what they're doing when they graduate in a couple of months and have been made to feel like they should not only have a plan but have a career lined up - how much of it is simply fear of being alone? Which is not to say that fear is the only motivator or that everyone's afraid, either. And also, how much of it is a desire to be done with the (rather pathetic - at least it was for me) world of dating?

Oblion makes me want to read Mills, but I can't at the moment...

Plain(s)feminist said...

And also, because I feel like I didn't come across quite right in my response to Monica - it's true that there are individual differences in people's reasons for getting married. But I do think that there are also larger patterns.

In SD, I was shocked - still am - at how many people seemed to get married right after graduation. I got married at 25, and now I'm shocked that I got married so young.

girldetective said...

Hi - I came across your blog recently and really enjoy it.

This is partly a response to Dianne's comment - couldn't one argue that, because on a broader scale, getting married *later* in life is a newer trend, people who get married younger are conspicuous not because their numbers have recently increased, but because they're not following that trend? You're older than me, though, so you've seen these trends firsthand.

I do agree that a fear of being alone is a huge factor in rushing to get married - as I learned when a friend of mine accepted a proposal after telling us flat out that she didn't really want to marry the guy.

Dianne said...

You have a point girldetective. A lot of my observations are based on the children of my circle of friends and the friends of my son and his wife. It appears to me that they were rushing in to marriage and many of them are now rushing to have multiple children.

I wonder what the actual statistics are - I'll have to do some research.

thanks girldetective for bringing up an interesting question. My greater concern for younger women is, as I said in the original comment, that they're not learning to live with themselves, to be on their own, to count on themselves. Your friend seems to have that issue and that's a shame.

and thanks for being so respectful of my experience based on living longer - I appreciate that.

girldetective said...

"I wonder what the actual statistics are - I'll have to do some research."

I did a couple of quick searches the other day, but couldn't come up with anything reliable.

As for your age and experience - well, it's relevant, so I wasn't going to ignore it. :)

Plain(s)feminist said...

girldetective - exactly. I see my students really worried that they may never get married if they don't grab on to someone immediately. When someone marries someone she doesn't like, that tells me that either she is more afraid of being alone than of being unhappy in a relationship, or that she's buying into the Cinderella fairy tale of marriage (the happy ever after ending).

Thanks for your kind comments, btw!

Eira said...

Have just discovered this brilliant blog tonight - what a wonderful post that resonates with me, as my (married, same age as me) best friend is preparing to give birth to her first baby the day I (very single, definitely no kids) graduate from college.

I've always been fascinated as to why certain young people grasp onto the aspects of "adult" life as soon as they can, and others like me practically flail against it. Hmm.

Plain(s)feminist said...

my (married, same age as me) best friend is preparing to give birth to her first baby the day I (very single, definitely no kids) graduate from college.

Wow. That's certainly symbolic of contrast!

Glad you like the blog - welcome!

Anonymous said...

Okay....my only comment based on my experience....I was married at age 27, lived with the guy two years prior to the marriage and we dated for two years before living together....we divorced at age 39.

I don't know that age, time spent together prior to marriage, dealing with trials and tribulations together, or any of that really matters. People some times change, they grow, sometimes in different directions. Some times divorce can be the kindest thing to do, as it was in my case.

I've been telling my kids, don't marry til age thirty, spread your wings, live your life, enjoy.

Plenty of time to settle down once you've enjoyed being single and experienced life a little.

Now? My son is 19 and getting married tomorrow. He's been with this same girl since the 8th grade.

How do I feel about it? Worried (!), but supportive. I've given all the advice I can. Now, whatever consequences happen (good or bad) are his to deal with.

But, of course I'll be there to offer my love and support no matter what.

Very interesting post, and good comments from the readers. Just wanted to add my two cents worth, as an old job oriented( and very happy) divorcee.

And yeah, I have a wonderful boyfriend, and absolutely NO intentions of ever marrying again.

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