Sure, Marriage Sucks; But Does it Have To?

Comments 34
Do I still believe in marriage?
Do I still believe in marriage?

My neighbor Ryan proposed to his girlfriend this week.

She said yes.

I live directly across the street. So I’m going to have a front-row seat to their marital journey. From her moving into his house permanently. To the honeymoon period. To having children. To the seven-year itch. To whatever comes next.

I found out about the engagement on Facebook.

I “Liked” it. Then I typed: “Holy shit. Congratulations!”

I’m trying out this new life strategy where I try to be more honest—searching for freedom in truth.

So I asked myself: Am I really happy for them?

Do I really believe in the institution of marriage?

In Defense of Marriage

Conservative, Catholic upbringing aside, marriage does make some sense to me.

Here’s why:

1. A life partner

I don’t really like being alone. I think most people feel that way. I think we inherently crave human connection. There are many ways to achieve it. Marriage is one of those ways. I know what you’re thinking Person Who Hates Marriage. I don’t want some ball and chain tying me down! My friends, my family and my dog keep me company! Yeah, I get it. But, guess what? Someday you’re going to be old. OLD. And I don’t want you dying alone at the local Bingo game reeking of Ben Gay while suffering from gout and fibromyalgia.

2. A sexual partner

Having sex is important. It’s good for you. It keeps you sane. And it chemically and spiritually enhances your relationship with your partner. Sure, you can have sex with a bunch of randoms, if that’s your thing. But if you do that too much, you’ll just end up with bastard children and gonorrhea. And then you’ll die alone. With herpes on your mouth. It’s better to do it with just one person. More boring? Probably. But that’s why you practice often. So you get really good at it. So good that all other people in the world could never do it as well as you guys can. Then, even in your most hedonistic moments, the really selfish part of your brain will kick in and remind you that the hot person at work just isn’t worth it. You don’t need the guilt. And you don’t have time for bad lays.

3. An emotional partner

Everyone has a different childhood experience. But for the most part, we’re raised by parents in some form or fashion. They are the people who love us, and teach us, and provide for us, and care for us, and fill a million different roles as we mature through our youth. And then one day, maybe when you least expect it, they’ll be gone. It’s a hard time. And having a strong, loving, emotional connection with someone—someone you can count on to carry you when you’re too weak to walk, to hold you when you need to cry, to sit patiently when you need to scream—is a valuable thing. We all leave the nest. Well, not you Guy In Mom’s Basement. But most of us do. And there is wisdom in building a new nest. Otherwise, you might just end up flying from one tree to the next, shitting on freshly washed cars and singing for a mate who never comes.

4. A spiritual partner

I understand not everyone makes faith or spirituality part of their lives. I don’t intend to ever use this space as a means to preach to anyone. But I absolutely believe in a Higher Power. And I aspire to Christian principles, which I’d break down into a super-basic philosophy: Love people. Give more than you take. Don’t be a dick. I’m almost decent at two out of three. No matter what faith or philosophy you practice, some days are harder than others. Life gets in the way. We question things. We have doubts. We search for meaning. Having someone around to help you walk your walk is a helpful life tool. More importantly, if there are children, having mom and dad on the same page really helps establish whatever foundation you want your kids to have.

5. A parenting partner

Science supports the notion that having both a mother and father at home is a wonderful thing. Children are better off when they receive the daily benefits of both. And it’s invaluable for them to have their male and female role models show them what unconditional love in a family is supposed to look and feel like. Ever notice how kids who grow up with mothers or fathers who do something great, seem to make following in their footsteps look so easy? Happens in sports all the time. Great football player has kid that goes on to be a great football player. Successful attorney has kid that goes on to be a successful attorney. Famous politician has kid that goes on to succeed in politics. The list goes on and on. Genetics have a little to do with it. But mostly, it’s the example. The football player’s son knows nothing but how to succeed in athletics. The attorney’s daughter never dreams of doing anything but going to law school. The politician’s child never considers any career but public service. They have the blueprint. They follow it. Because they don’t know how to fail at those things. The same can be true of marriage. The same SHOULD be true of marriage.

That said…

Why Marriage Sucks

1. You can’t control the other person

Lisa at Lessons From the End of a Marriage says it better than I can here. It doesn’t matter how much you want it. It doesn’t matter how against divorce you are. It doesn’t matter how committed you are to making it work. If your partner changes his or her mind? You’re finished. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to your new home. It’s quiet. You won’t get laid. You’ll miss your kids. And it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than just rolling doubles to move on.

2. It fails half the time

I still can hardly believe this is true. I NEVER thought I’d be a party to divorce. But life is slowly but surely teaching me to expect the unexpected. Some of the very best people I know in this world—people I admire, respect and aspire to be—are having a lot of marital problems. One of the side effects of getting divorced is that everyone you know starts to tell you their most intimate secrets. I know of about 10 marriages that have either flamed out or are on the rocks as I type. Will Ryan and his fiancée be among the half who fails? I don’t want to believe it. But I know better than to rule it out with conviction.

3. You trade in YOU for WE

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But often, it is. People lose their identity. They stop pursuing personal passions in the interest of compromise. Before long, when the relationship goes through a dip or sours completely, the resentment builds. Because the pursuit of dreams was sacrificed for the other person. The other person who now treats you with cold indifference. We are inherently selfish beings. The best of us find ways to put our partners first. To serve others. To think about and care about more than just ourselves. To love. But when all the lights are off and it’s totally silent and it’s just you and your thoughts: What do you want? What do YOU want? If the answer to that question is not morally reprehensible, there’s a strong argument for pursuing it. With vigor. And in many instances, marriage is a roadblock.

4. Bad sex, or its first cousin who lives at my house, no sex

This is an inescapable part of the human condition. No matter what anyone says. I’m right about the following: You WILL take for granted things and people in your life. Things and people that you shouldn’t take for granted. You’ve already experienced it. With your partners, and your health, and your cars, and your TVs, and your jobs and a million other things. An unfortunate downside of marriage is that the sex often gets stale. Now, I don’t believe it has to. And we’ll probably get into this some day in a future post when I’m feeling much more feisty and brave. But with A LOT of honesty, an adventurous streak, and a burning desire to get REALLY good at one of the best things we humans get to do, I believe two monogamous people can have an amazing sexual relationship. I know you want to, ladies. All I have to do is check out the Fifty Shades of Grey book sales figures. And your partner? They want that too. They just might not know how to get there. But there’s a way. Like salsa dancing! Except they probably don’t want to go salsa dancing. But they do want to have an amazing time in bed. Put a little thought into it, why don’t you? Because bad sex and/or no sex is one of the sure-fire ways to make your marriage a statistic of the bad variety.

The Final Analysis

Listen, I don’t know if I’m ever getting married again. On paper, I’d like to.

But I intend to spend the coming months and years doing a lot of soul searching about what really matters in this life and to what extent marriage should be part of the equation for me.

We live in a cynical world full of cynical people. People that will tell you why marriage is awful, and predict doom and gloom, and how there’s no God and that we’re all going to get cancer and die if climate change doesn’t kill us first.

And I won’t live like that.

I won’t echo that chorus.

I kind of hate marriage right now. Nothing has ever felt like this. Nothing has ever robbed me of the spirit and passion for life that I always remember feeling prior to a couple years ago. Nothing has ever felt this horrible.

But I also won’t sit here and tell you that it’s impossible.

Nothing is impossible. Except me getting laid, apparently.

But, seriously. It can be done. It is all the time. Just look around at those beautiful couples married 30, 40, 50 years. They’re out there.

It wasn’t magic that got them there. It wasn’t luck.

It was love.

The real kind. Not the bullshit kind from those lying, evil and soulless romantic comedies.

The good love. The gritty love. The no-nonsense love.

The love that says: “I CHOOSE you. I DECIDE every day when I wake up to love you. And I will make that same choice every day, come Hell or high water, forever.”

Two people doing that? They’re going to make it. Give me that, and you’re damn right I believe in marriage.

Toss in some blindfolds and ice cubes in the bedroom, and these two souls might even enjoy the ride.

34 thoughts on “Sure, Marriage Sucks; But Does it Have To?”

  1. Another marriage scares the living shit out of me, I’m still carrying around the 3rd degree burns from my last one, and it was 4 years ago… thankfully the scars are less visible and I don’t think every man is giant, raging, misogynistic, egotistical, violent, douchebag, asshole, fuckweasel (fuckweasel is my current favorite word, btw). I truly believe that there are good men out there… and I want one, but marriage?? Not sure I could ever do it again…
    And no, I’m not bitter 🙂

    1. You’re brilliant. So, I trust you to know the difference between a viable partner and a non-viable one.

      But at the end of the day, it’s just an educated guess. And that’s the part that will always gnaw at me.

      I fear prolonged loneliness. And I fear the eventual departure of my next partner because she thinks I’m afraid to commit.

      Rock, Me, Hard Place

      1. The loneliness is the worst… I do not want to be alone forever with just my growing collection of cats and hands…
        I want to BE with someone, live in sin…
        My fear of commitment becomes obvious when someone asks if I watch The Walking Dead or did I read the Hunger Games.
        I do not watch series tv or read books in series.
        Then I get the one-eyebrow judgement…
        I may be terrified, but fuck it… I’m a good girl and I could be good to someone, I may be damaged but I’m not irreparably broken!!
        I’m rambling now, I’ll stop.

        1. I have unwavering faith that “happiness” in some form or fashion will be experienced by those who deserve it by making good choices each day.

          Which is a problem, since I make bad decisions.

          But in your case? It will find you. He will find you. And then you’re going to have to find a bunch of new shit to write about. 😉

          1. Darlin, I am the queen of bad decisions 😉
            And I’m not sure what I deserve anymore…
            But I’ll keep waving my flag hoping someone will notice!
            And thanks for the vote of confidence.
            I will keep my surprise at your inability to get laid to myself…..

  2. I think what is sad to me is the passion and hope I once had for marriage is gone. I truly believed hard work, sacrifice and love was all it took. And then I got divorced. And now, three years later, the very thought of marriage suffocates me in the worst way. And I think I mourn that more than anything.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. Exactly.

      When that feeling goes away? Because of that perfect someone?

      That’s when we’ll know.

      I won’t live without hope. No one should.

      1. There is no perfect someone. There are no guarantees. When you’ve been hurt so badly, it is so hard to be willing to put yourself in the position where you can feel the pain again. But what’s the alternative? No love? No thank you.

        As a side note, legal marriage is really just a side note to all of this. It is just as painful (although perhaps cheaper and with less court time:)) to end any significant relationship. Part of any substantial relationship is being willing to tear down those walls and be vulnerable. And, yeah, that’s scary as hell.

        1. “But what’s the alternative? No love? No thank you.”

          Exactly. You continue to justify my hero worship of you.

          Thank you very much for reading.

          1. Lol. That’s too funny. Maybe I should add that to my bio- math teacher, wellness coach, writer, hero. 🙂 wonder what it pays?

            In all seriousness, I knew immediately that I wanted to be married – or something like it- again. I had no idea how or when. Loving and trusting again felt like impossible goals but I always kept them in mind. Sometimes, anger towards my ex was my motivator- I’ll be damned if I’m going to give him the power to limit my happiness going forward. Other times, I was motivated by the desire to have that connection again. I used what I needed to to keep moving forward. The hardest thing, like you said, is that acceptance of lack of control over what may happen. I see it like that quote (Churchill?) about if you try, you may fail but if you don’t try, you will certainly fail. I’d rather go through the pain of the end of a relationship again than to live knowing that I was too scared to try.

  3. Matt,
    Just to be brutally frank, marriage doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t feel alone. Which is worse? feeling alone because you really are? or feeling alone even if someone is there physically and legally. Another thing, not everyone’s marriage equate with having someone to make love with, every time you want to, marriage is not congruent to a happy sex life. I know you are getting my drift. The saddest thing really is when passion is no longer there, you treat him either as one of your kids or your older brother = platonic. You just go about everyday. I used to always say to myself . . . not in this lifetime. A Dutch friend once told me, if you are not happy, then get out of it. It isn’t easy to get out when you have children. Their interests must be my number 1 priority, not mine. He even offered to pay for my divorce – but there is no divorce in our country, just annulment of marriage. An ex of 8 years gone to waste told me the same thing, get out of it if you’re not happy, life is too short to live with unhappiness, well, it is easier said than done =(
    I wish I have that mad, passionate love thingy, if ever it exists, then love-making wouldn’t be that hard and would really be emotionally and physically satisfying.

    Oh and the fibromyalgia thingy is not offensive, the bengay is (just kidding) =)

    1. I promise I understand what you’re saying. And you’re not being cynical. You’re simply telling the truth through the prism of your life experience.

      I only know one thing: I refuse to believe that marriage cannot be done happily, passionately, romantically, and with spirited, adventurous bedroom activity.

      It can be done. I’m not saying it will be done. Just that it can.

      And it seems like a worthy thing to strive for. Get two people willing to strive for it? Willing to crawl through shit and fire and quicksand to get there?

      That’s a marriage I’m willing to bet on.

      1. Thanks for acknowledging that I am nit cynical. I can’t be cynical, I witness how good a marriage can be, everyday, through my parents. Yes, I too believe It CAN be done, marriage CAN be happy. And consummating that live could be the best thing ever.
        I can say I’m a God-fearing person and despite the hurtful truths, I didn’t use them to justify infidelity on my part,I have never strayed, though I could’ve easily done it.

  4. When I’m sitting in the pew at my daughters’ weddings my heart will be sinking into the floor. There are so many possibilities for it to go terribly, terribly wrong. But I would still rather have them married, than never married. Better someone than no one– most of the time.

    I’ve been married almost 17 years and the only thing that’s held us together is friendship. Not love or sex (though either is nice), but friendship. Seeing eye to eye on money helps a lot too, because it’s likely saved us thousands of arguments. We both tend to be savers.

    1. Far be it from me to speak for your wonderful marital run that I know absolutely nothing about… but I don’t believe for a minute that LOVE hasn’t kept you together. I don’t believe love always feels good. I don’t believe it’s always butterflies and rainbows and sunshine and pitter-pattering hearts.

      I think it’s the resolve to serve something greater than yourself.

      And I have every confidence that’s exactly what you’ve done. Even on the days where it felt inconvenient to do so.

      And that, in my book, is love. The kind that matters the most.

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    1. I’m not entirely sure I’m going to agree with that. I think love matters. And I don’t mean the “feeling.” I mean the action.

      That said, time and time again, something traumatic and disruptive ends up being the trigger that kills relationships.

      So I think there’s a lot of wisdom in what you’re saying. But I think love over comes.

      The good kind. The kind that actually matters when shit hits the fan.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Really appreciate you doing so.

      1. soon or later, it all turns to stability. I mean, look at our parents and the couples from their generation…:) LOVE do matters, but as I am sure you know love transforms in different shapes- maybe stability is one of them as a mark of unity?:)

  8. Why would anyone want to get married? It doesn’t make any sense at all. Who you are, how you feel, the state of your current relationship, etc, are all highly dynamic, so why would anyone make a lifelong commitment with one person? Statistics don’t lie and the numbers are hard proof that marriage is a bad investment, both of your emotions and finances. The other 50% that decides to stay married isn’t exactly a paradigm of success, since most of them stay together because of the kids, finances, guilt, social stigma, while making the rest of one and others lives miserable by fighting like Palestinians vs. Israelis.

    I am a single male in my forties with money in the bank, and I’ve had the same girlfriend now for many years and we have a an insane, awesome sex life. My married peers? They’re either broke, obese, bald, hypertensive, clamoring for some good sex, bitching about their spouse, cheating, and everything else under the sun; they remind me of zombies trapped in this realm of broken dreams, all of them beholden to a sham of a marriage. No one is going to make you happy….happiness come from within. If you’re happy and secure you will attract so much game that there’s no need to get married and be subjugated to a life of misery.

    1. If I hadn’t just got ass reamed by my “loving” wife, I’d tell you I thought you were being cynical.

      Children are important, sir. They represent future generations. This world will keep spinning. And it will need people. Good people. And I believe STRONGLY that married mothers and fathers are best-equipped to raise all those good people we need to lead down the road.

      I see it as our jobs to raise good children. To give unselfishly. To love unconditionally (in the context of marriage).

      Marriage can work. It can.

      I totally understand where you’re coming from. And I may never remarry. But I’ll never discourage others. I’ll never stop trying to impart what little wisdom I possess on young people about to be married, or in the early stages of marriage.

      I think everything you said–across the board–has merit.

      But I think it’s highly impractical (and sad!) to simply discourage marriage.

      I’d much rather encourage people to do it right.

      1. I totally agree with you that there’s no better way to raise kids than in a loving, two-parent household; I was raised in one and my parents were married for 50+ years. The point I’m trying to make is that we’re living in different times where the “me” factor plays an important role as it applies to the whole self actualization concept. It’s not about sacrifice anymore. Is it good or bad? I don’t know, but it’s a reality for sure.

        Marrying for love is a relatively new concept in the human experience that came about during the age of the enlightenment. Prior to that, people married for practical reasons and falling in love wasn’t the the driving force. If you marry for love because you’ve fallen in love you should be aware that you can also fall out of love. Moreover, something that is meant to be shouldn’t spawn a whole market segment of marriage counselors, therapists, divorce attorneys, mediators, family courts. That part is rather telling. I don’t mean to sound cynical but I’ve seen so much acrimony and misery among married/divorced people, and I’m not talking about one-off scenarios.

        1. I really appreciate you assembling and sharing these thoughts.

          It’s a pretty radical departure from what I tend to think about, and I think people need to think about them.

          Thank you for being part of the conversation.

  9. Marriage is fine if both parties really want to do it. I just get squeamish when I hear about men who acquiesce because their girlfriends demand that after x number of years it’s time to take it to the next level because “they don’t want to waste their time”. Really? What kind of nonsense is that? Sounds rather manipulative. I don’t love someone less because I have no desire to get married right now. A lot of people get married because it’s an indication of success ranking in the social ladder; or it’s time to settle down; piggy back off your partner’s paycheck; don’t want to lose him or her; all my friends are married; don’t want to grow old alone; tired of the dating scene, etc. It’s seems that in a lot cases men “give in”, but in their hearts they’d rather not do it.

    It’s also important to stop conditioning people to be needy from an early age, as in you need someone in your life to make you complete and what not. There’s nothing wrong with the child who plays alone, or dictates his or her terms when it’s okay to have some company. Moreover, being fiercely independent while being attentive, affable, and funny at the same is the key to expanding the pool of female prospects, for marriage or to have fun! Marriage is the best thing when it works…..and so is being single ; )


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  12. Marriage is bullshit

    The relationship is about HER
    The engagement is about HER
    The wedding is about HER
    The marriage is about HER
    The divorce will be about HER

    There is no room for a man to sit down and dine at this table. NONE SHOULD BOTHER TRYING. #MGTOW

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