"I think marriage is overrated."
I'm on somewhat of a "marriage" kick lately.
Someone commented on my facebook recently, "Sometimes I think marriage is overrated." Something about that sentence just lodged into the soft tissue of my heart. I can't say as I blame 'em for feeling this way. It does seem to offer much less than is hoped for in our culture. I think a good many, men and women, would put a pithy "thumbs-up-symbol/like" to this sort of facebook status. On the surface, it would appear that marriage is grossly over-rated, a thing of Disney animation/fantasy and syrupy chick flicks. But the opposite is true.
Marriage is horrifically under-rated in my opinion. It is not an issue of over-estimation, but of under-estimation that is causing it to be under such unguided ridicule.
I lead young couples through marriage counseling several times a year and I'm amazed how little couples know about the weight and gravity of this ordained "union". I remember one couple in particular that, when asked the basis of their attraction to each other, stated nonchalantly after a near 20 second pause, "He's just there for me." I turned to him and looked for his two cents. "Yeah, same for me." He replied.
Maybe I'm being a stickler, but I'm sorry, being "there" for each other as the bedrock of your relationship ain't gonna cut it for very long. That kind of cornerstone will turn into your capstone. (RIP - here lies a couple who founded their relationship on "being there" for each other.) It's cute, but you might as well be "going out" in 3rd grade exchanging little crush-notes with do-you-like-me-check-yes-or-no boxes to be filled in with a number 2 homeroom pencil. The disintegration of this sacred relationship is not to be blamed on over-stating and over-rating marriage, quite the contrary.
The fact of the matter is that marriage is labor. It is not an institution for slackers. This is why you look for someone who has a work ethic, not just cute dimples. You want someone who won't throw in the towel when they wake up with a headache. You want a spouse who knows how to "run toward the roar" and face conflict with poise and power. You want a partner who knows the difference between their passions and their passion. This internal ethos has to be taken into account before crossing the threshold into the honeymoon chamber. Is the person I'm sleeping next to every night a laborer or a loser? Hmmm?
"Marriage is overrated." Really? REALLY? I didn't see that last night while watching television. I saw two women kissing each other in a trailer for a movie. I saw someone wearing a neckless like a gangster with the words "Open Marriage" dangling from a gold chain in between his collar bones. I saw people making fun of a couple who was waiting to have sex until they dated a couple times. (Not until marriage, just a couple dates...and they were mocked like they rode the short bus to the bar.) I watched a man put down the woman he was dating because she was mad that he was fooling around with other women. He scolded her for her narrow thinking and proceeded to tell her that if their relationship was going to work, she was going to have to be o.k. with his need for polygamous partnerships to compliment the marriage. I saw women being used to sell underarm deodorant to men, who expect to spread a thin layer of antiperspirant under their arms and have women flocking to them with the dilated pupils of a pack of wild wolves. She was ripping off his clothes like a gift wrapped Christmas present just because he used the right hygienic product. Clever marketing, but marriage isn't about marketing now, is it?
I watched marriage being ripped to shreds right before my very eyes. Devalued. Underestimated. Underrated. In many ways, berated. So no, I don't think the issue is the "overrating" of marriage. On the contrary, I believe we think it to be within the same category as the civil unions between dung beetles and/or tapeworms. And we wonder why we think marriage is the problem, the ball and chain, the grim reaper? We wonder why so many people are drowning in a sea of debt and doubt, a season of endless winter fraught with sleet and high winds? We question the institution of marriage, blaming it as the culprit, the object of our contempt? We think marriage is the overrated fanciful idea of folklore and mythology?
We have bowed to the nonexistent idols of Zeus and Aphrodite for too long. We have lost the quintessential substance of this sacred union, this sacrament, this symbol of God's very heartbeat for humanity. We have taken a dump upon the marriage bed and then asked it to smell like a bed of roses when we climb into it. How can this be?
Unless and until marriage is elevated to its rightful place, treated with the divine respect it deserves, and entered into with sober-minded fear, it will continue to disappoint its window-shoppers. It was not meant to be a recreation for hedonists, it was meant to be an institution for purists.
Marriage Purists and Marriage Hedonists...where am I at?