We took our children to see two films last weekend. Each had an exchange about marriage that have led to many thoughts about our culture and what it says about love and family.
Movie #1: Captain Underpants
George: They "like" like each other.
Harold: Adults don't "like" like each other.
George: Well, you've probably never seen it because your parents are married.
Movie #2: Wonder Woman
Diana: And do they? Marry and love each other forever?
Steve (not Captain America): No. Not really.
While the second could be a bad paraphrase (I'll admit that I'm a little old for double-features), the sentiment is the same. Movies and TV and popular culture insist that love and romance end when marriage begins. You'll wind up alone and miserable and sexless.
But research says the opposite. Marriage makes us happier, healthier and more successful. Very few marriages are unhappy. Despite the oft-lauded statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce, the reality is that over 2/3 of marriages are happy and successful. That messy 50% involves a whole lot of people with multiple failed marriages. The oft-divorced group cancels out a whole lot of happy people.
So why do we advance the idea that marriage is misery? I think there are 2 reasons.
Reason #1: Marriage is work (and bad for capitalism)
Married people spend less money on consumable goods, which is why ads focus on the single. Married people tend to stay home, buy reliable cars and affordable homes. We invest. We stabilize. We're not in bars on Friday and Saturday and buying the latest-greatest anything.
On the personal side, romance is selfish while marriage is selfless. To have a successful marriage, you can't kick out a partner if they snore one night or they bug you during a baseball game....or because that woman in the bar is cuter than the one you currently have in your bad. You have to be a friend first and a lover second for marriage to work. As soon as that dynamic flips on you, the marriage fails.
Reason #2: Marriage is risky
A good marriage today can be a failed marriage tomorrow. As beautiful as marriage is, divorce is equally ugly. A balance that can tip at any moment. We live in a risk-averse society and nothing is as risky as investing your life in another person with no guarantee of any success. Ideal marriages fail. Messy marriages fail. And many of both succeed. No one knows where they'll end up the day they dance in a pretty white dress or twirl on a beach with that smile that lights the universe. You only have hope on your side.
I can't tell you whether marriage is a good choice for you. Some of that depends on how good you are at crossing you fingers and walking in dark tunnels. I know marriage can be amazing and beneficial. But it' s up to you if it's a choice you dare make with your life. All I can say is that the movies and TV shows and popular artists are wrong. Marriage works and marriage is good....when it's goo