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The Failure of Marriage -- Writer's Poke #324

If you knew before you began that your statistical chance of failure was 40%, would you still dive in? Considering the fact that the divorce rate in the United States has been around 40% for years now, isn’t it surprising that the institution of marriage hasn’t gone extinct? And at least in the United States, couples continue to subscribe to the fantasy that marriage is about commitment and love. Ideally, maybe, but when the going gets tough, the weak get divorces. Maybe it would be more appropriate for commitment and love to come with expiration dates, because quite frankly, who can say with any sense of certainty that the person you commit to loving this week is the same person you can remain committed to and love for the next 65 years?

Marriage is the ultimate leap of faith in a society than no longer believes. So why do the majority of couples continue to tie the knot? Simple: knots can always be cut later. Well, except in Vatican City and the Philippines, two places in the world that still do not allow divorce.

The secret to a lasting marriage? Apparently it’s not love at all – it’s intelligence, marriage age, and political affiliation that matters. Folks with a college education, who marry at the age of 26 or older, and who live in liberal-leaning states all have lower rates of divorce than people who don’t finish college, marry young, or live in conservative-leaning states.

The number one cause of divorce? Infidelity, and men are guilty of it three times more than women are. So why aren’t men able to stay committed to one woman? And why do women believe that their guy is apparently the exception to the rule? It seems obvious that most couples aren’t thinking clearly when the marriage train leaves the station. And this is a train with a high chance of derailment, with the effects of divorce generally involving collative damage to innocent victims (e.g. offspring).

Would it be too simple to suggest that people haven’t failed the institution of marriage, but that the institution of marriage has failed people? Over the past decade or so, gays and lesbians have been winning the right to marry, but this is still a fairly heated and controversial topic in the United States. Personally, I support the rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choosing, but I think this isn’t the most important issue facing marriage in the modern age. Instead of debating whether or not gays and lesbians should have the right to marry, we should be debating whether or not marriage is the best way for couples to maintain a committed and loving relationship, because in the end, that’s what marriages “promises,” and for all too many people, it has failed to deliver on its promises.

What is the best way to develop and maintain a committed and loving relationship? Is there any way to “fix” the institution of marriage?

“A wife lasts for the length of the marriage, but an ex-wife is for the rest of your life.” – Woody Allen


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