Grumpy old divorced or unhappily married men say it a lot.
They’re the guys complaining about their wives during the backroom poker game at the country club after a round of golf. They’re the guys nestled up to the bar who overhear younger men’s conversations about their girlfriends or fiancées, and then disclose the check amounts they wrote to their ex-wives after getting divorced as cautionary tales. They’re the husbands reluctantly getting up from a sofa or armchair to perform some inconvenient household task during a game or TV show they’re watching.
They look over at you, and then with varying degrees of seriousness—but the sentiment always being the same—say: “And this is why you should never get married.”
Which is sad, because they really believe they’re doing you a favor, imparting this hard-earned wisdom.
Millennials (those ages 18-34 in 2015) have overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest demographic age group in the United States. One in four (25%) say they will never marry. (Here’s one Millennial’s take on why.)
So the grumpy old guys will see many young people heeding their advice. Some of the time, that will accidentally be a good thing. But mostly it won’t be, because it has been demonstrated repeatedly that marriage has an overwhelmingly positive effect on society—improving individual physical and mental health of partners, increasing wealth, improving education, reducing crime, and most importantly, improving the future lives of children raised by their biological parents in a stable and loving environment.
Cynicism’s Silver Lining
There is one positive to be gained from all of these old guys telling all of these young guys not to marry, and for all of the young Millennials who view marriage as some archaic religious and social construct that has outlived its purpose in the 21st century.
And that’s that many young people (regardless of intelligence and relative “maturity”) are ignorant mooks by virtue of being young. Just ask every 70 year old whether they want to trade brains with their younger selves. Hell—ask me. And I only missed the “Millennial” label by a year.
Many young people blindly follow The Life Blueprint® which says they have to find their future spouse in high school, college, or early in their young professional lives “before all the good ones are taken!” and then get jobs, a house and start their families.
And in all of this behavior modeled after what most of us witnessed growing up, we simply never learn what we don’t know about marriage and human relationships. It’s so fun and easy! We love each other, and always will!, said every divorced person years earlier.
We don’t identify our core values, nor do we enforce our boundaries. Maybe we’re too scared to start again. Maybe we simply don’t realize that will be the death of our marriages and the reason that our lives suck. But we ignore the bad and charge headstrong into marriage believing we’ll be the exception to the rule.
Since no one bothered to teach us what relationships REALLY look and feel like and how to effectively deal with conflict—or better yet, preemptively prevent it through best practices in marriage and long-term relationships—we end up learning the hard way.
It’s hard to blame the parents and our education system. No one bothered to tell them either.
But This is Mostly About Men Unwilling to Own Their Shit
It started with this HuffPost Divorce entry: 5 Reasons Women Leave Their Marriages; In Their Own Words.
My original plan was to take each listed reason and explore ways people could avoid divorce and breaking up for those same reasons.
But then I read the top comment (more specifically, the comment generating the most engagement), got a little pissed, and decided to write about it instead.
Five women shared their personal reasons for filing for divorce. Commenter Greg didn’t approve.
“This is why you shouldn’t get married fellas. Her change of heart costs you a lot of money,” Greg wrote.
The comment has 140 Facebook “likes” thus far.
Greg reveals later in the thread that he was awarded custody of his daughter because his ex-wife is a heroin addict who didn’t show up to court for the custody hearing.
One wonders whether Greg and his ex-wife might have done a poor job aligning core values and enforcing personal boundaries in their relationship.
Regardless, Greg may have been a model husband victimized by a spouse who didn’t adhere to her marriage vows. How do you tell a man with that experience that you find his opinion misguided?
But let’s get honest. Because examinations of conscience only work when we tell ourselves the truth, guys:
You were a shitty husband just like me. Maybe you didn’t know what you were doing was wrong. Maybe you didn’t intend to hurt her repeatedly and leave her feeling alone in her marriage, which is pretty much the worst thing you can do to your wife.
You took for granted that she’d be there forever, so you didn’t try harder. You weren’t scared enough. You committed a few crimes accidentally, but then intentionally failed to make amends for them.
She told you what you were doing hurt her, and you told her she was wrong, or that she was making it up in her head. She told you what you could or should be doing to help her manage the household, and you played the You’re Not My Mom & I’m the Man of the House card. And when she wanted to talk about ways in which you could improve your marriage, you denied her your listening ear, accusing her of demanding MORE change from you while seeming unwilling to examine her own behavior.
“You’re acting like an ungrateful, spoiled little bitch. Nothing is ever good enough for you. You’re the best married person of all time. You’re an amazing wife who never does anything wrong! And I’m the worst husband ever who can’t do one damn thing right! It must be awesome being so perfect all the time! If you want to bitch about me some more, why don’t you find someone else who wants to listen to it because it’s not going to be me.”
Followed by you driving off to meet a buddy for a drink? Or retreating to another room to do or watch something you wanted to do more than have a conversation with her?
I mean, I wish I was the only guy who ever acted like such a childish douchebag.
I don’t feel any better knowing that I’m not.
There are a million reasons you shouldn’t get married.
Five short, personal accounts without additional context from divorced women on the internet SHOULD NOT be among them.
Because there are a million reasons you SHOULD get married.
Active and physically fit people sometimes die of heart attacks during workouts. Should people stop exercising?
People are sometimes hurt or killed while driving. Should we avoid getting behind the wheel?
Patients sometimes die in hospitals because of human error or unpredictable reactions to medicine. Should we stop visiting doctors while suffering health problems?
Bad news, guys: the problem was never the institution of marriage. It was us.
But maybe tomorrow we’ll make better choices, because I don’t think it has to be.