So I’ve been thinking a lot about love, the ridiculous paradox that is love (more on that later), the ridiculous complexity of romantic relationships.
Remember when we were in high school what we though was “love,” “relationships,” and “commitment” were? I laugh looking at the level of emotional investment and outrage I displayed at that time, some of those things still annoy me, but as ridiculous as my concept of affection may seem in retrospect, I owe a lot of my understanding to those early experiments in coupledom. At that time though you think you’re being an adult-ish, you sometimes think that this is forever and thus is serious.
Then you grew up. You left the land of combo locks and beautiful 8-2:30 days, and realized that maybe you didn’t have it right and there was a difference between love and LOVEandwanttospendmyentirelifewith.
But as you grow up you start to realize that other things might matter and maybe finding the love of your life is no longer your primary objective (though for some maybe it still is), or perhaps sex matters more than anything and all of these options are fine. We all live different lives and make different choices – we find what’s right for us and we do that. Sometimes we figure out we made the wrong choice and we make another one.
But what gets me is that a lot of middle aged and older adults – I’m talking REAL adults with jobs and kids and mortgage payments who may or may not have difficulties with certain modern technologies but are much more adept at rotary dial telephones than I will ever be – complain that my generation is too quick to throw love (among other things) away.
That we don’t know how to work at relationships.
The instant our ship springs a slight leak we jump out without trying to bail it out or patch the hole.
And it really annoys me. Because let’s not forget whose generation raised the divorce rate so high. My generation is still working on an excessive amount of overpriced education and facing slim job pickings. For me the idea of a house and a husband and all that adulty responsibility is daunting. I’m freaked out about the fact that I may need to get a new car in the next year. Committing to a house and hubby is scary. But we’re looking at marriage and kids and minivans and saying “Hey, maybe I should focus on me, maybe I should get a job first” or “Hey, I have no money, I need to secure a job to pay off the student debt I incurred getting an education I was told was necessary for the job I still cannot get.”
We’ve got other things on our minds than rushing to find a partner. Maybe it’s selfish and maybe it might seem like we’re throwing things away, but I think there’s nothing wrong with getting your life in order first and saying that you as an individual matter more than you as a partner and parent, at least for now. Before we’ve settled into these roles, and heck even after. There’s nothing selfish about saying that you matter.
When we do find love, I think a large number of us are aware of the divorce rate – we don’t want to end up a statistic, or at least we want to be the non-divorced side of the statistic. We’ve got time, so we figure why rush – I am going to get this right. Which isn’t always possible, but being aware of potential issues and how we will react long-term, is not throwing something away – it’s saying I want US to be happy and WE won’t be long term, so let’s save everyone some money and be honest now.
Some problems can be fixed. Some can’t really. Some are just too tough, some fights will just keep happening. And I think there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that. Especially since the relationships that most often get this are the ones that have lasted long enough to know.
To be fair my grandparents have been married for close to 50 years, and I don’t believe divorce ever crossed their minds. Maybe it did. But to be fair until 1968 here in Canada it was pretty tricky to get a divorce (proven adultery was the only allowable reason, and before 1867 you had to also prove additional harm such as rape, incest, or abuse; but in some provinces before the national divorce laws took over you had to go to parliament, which you can imagine is an expensive endeavor). When divorce isn’t an option except when your partner cheats or physically abuses you, of course you’re going to stick it out. Might not be happy but you’ll stick it out. Probably where the expression “argues like an old married couple” came from.
And therein lies the issue. Sometimes there just isn’t a way to resolve conflicts.
And it’s easy to criticize the other options when you never really had them. But cultures are constantly evolving. The dating culture has changed hugely over the last 60 years. We didn’t even used to “date” 100 years ago – it was more of an arranged marriage type set up (not saying anything bad about the cultures that still use this paradigm – it is exactly that – a different culture than my own) where you hoped for the best because those who loved you made choices for you based on your best interests. And it sort of worked. Sometimes it REALLY worked, sometimes it REALLY DIDN’T work.
But everything changes. Technology, how we make money, how we spend money, what we spend it on. How we learn, how we love, how we deal with problems. And it is great. It can sometimes look ridiculous at the beginning, but in the end it becomes accepted practice.
While slightly hyperbolic, the argument that we give up too easily is like arguing that by choosing to shop at grocery stores we gave up too easily on farming. No, we chose to make our lives easier.
Maybe giving up is giving up regardless of the reasons.
Maybe we quit jobs, love, goals, and broken things too easily.
But maybe there’s nothing wrong with recognizing something as broken.
Maybe there’s nothing wrong with choosing what will make you and everyone else happier.
Doesn’t mean we don’t believe in marriage and happily ever after. And maybe breaking up before the wedding, rather than a sign of giving up, is a sign of taking marriage seriously.