- January 13, 2016
- by: Kim L
Recently I have been seeing a rash of articles and blog posts “explaining” why younger folks today can’t seem to stay married. The reasons, when read with awareness, boil down to “things are different today; therefore, we can’t be expected to stay married like our parents or grandparents did.”
Honestly, most of the “explanations” are really just excuses for a bigger problem which I’ll address at the end of this post. First, I’d like to debunk a three of the most commonly used “reasons” for failed marriages in the younger set.
- The Economy – Well, this seems to be everyone’s scapegoat, so why not use it to explain away the failure of marriage? What I have been seeing are explanations like “We had to work so hard to pay the bills that we didn’t have the money to have fun” and “We couldn’t go on vacations, or buy anniversary presents, or go out to eat.” When I read these things my blood boils! I can count on one hand the number of times my family ever went away on vacation while I was growing up. In fact, *gasp*, my parents never went to Europe. And going out to eat? If we went out to eat as a family once a month, that was a lot. However, my parents were married almost 50 years at the time my father passed away. When my husband and I got married, we didn’t expect to immediately buy a house, go on vacations, go out to romantic (read that as expensive) restaurants weekly. And the fact that we didn’t do these things, and had to pay our bills, didn’t keep us from enjoying each other and free (or inexpensive) activities.
- Social Media – Yes, this can be a problem for relationships, but the explanations given for destroying marriages really are about choices. I’ll bet my grandparents thought the telephone was going to totally alter the healthy of their children’s relationships. However, the phone (and social media) are just tools. Explanations of why social media causes divorce range from “we can see prettier people so we are less satisfied” to “we get affirmation from others so we don’t seek it from our spouse.” Well, before the internet there were magazines, television, pornographic photos, and other ways to “see” people other than our spouse. Love is actually a choice – if looks are all you are about, maybe your shouldn’t have gotten married. And as for getting attention, affirmation and emotional gratification outside of the marriage, that’s actually called…. wait for it… infidelity, which has been around for years. Any problems with social media are about mindset and how you are using the tools, not the fact that the tools exist.
- Sex – Yes, the big complaint is “We aren’t having enough sex in our marriages; the frequency slows down after we get married.” I admit this complaint can stem from changing times, but not in the way you might be thinking. Sex in more recent years has become a common transaction. Many younger people meet on social media, “talk” a few times there, and then meet to “try out” sex in order to decide if they are going to date. Yes, you read that right, they are having sex before they are in a serious relationship. So, if by the time you get married you have had sex with multiple partners (by the way, the more partners before marriage the higher the divorce rate) and you have “tried everything”, what makes sex special or important with your spouse? It becomes just another action together, not something to explore and grow together with like previous generations did.
So, what is the bigger problem with marriages for younger people these days?
Here’s what I get from the posts and article I’ve been reading. Because their parents in general were pretty well off, and because those parents were able to do many things for them, the young people getting married recently expect a level of ease immediately in their marriage. They think that vacations, eating out, and buying a house are a given part of early marriage. They have an expectation marriage should be not a lot of work. They grew up playing on a phone at dinner rather than talking to their family. So, they expect if they pay more attention to their phone than their spouse everything will still be alright. They think sex should be fun and fireworks every time and every night. They look at digitally altered pictures and think those people are real and expect themselves and their spouses to look that way, all the time. They expect to still feel attracted to their spouse while they are attaching to others in the way we used to connect to a spouse. There is an expectation they can act like they did when they were single and it will work in a marriage. Lastly, they expect that they shouldn’t have to learn anything to be married.
Bottom line, expectations are screwed up. Yes, marriage takes work – even at the beginning (especially at the beginning.) Without work, marriage fail. Yes, you need to pay attention to your spouse, not other people. Without attention, marriage fail. Yes, your partnership comes first and you need to be a healthy part in it. Marriages fail if they aren’t put first. Yes, sex will wax and wane; it is the joy of working out how to keep it alive and fun that makes it worthwhile. Yes, you need to learn healthy relationship skills. Without skills, marriages fail. Yes, you have to be realistic – money goes to bills, then to extras (not the other way); social media isn’t the most important thing in your life – yourself and your relationship are; sex is about intimacy, and if you aren’t being intimate outside the bedroom, then things won’t happen when you get horizontal.
None of these things are any different than when your parents or grandparents were working on their marriage. The only difference is they knew they had to work at their marriage and avoid all the distractions of the world. They had healthier expectations.
Your courageous work is to take a look at the expectations you have about your marriage/relationship and ask yourself if they are realistic. Take a look at how you view the three common excuses: money, social media, and sex. Talk with your partner about these things and see if you are on the same page. Don’t get caught up in the excuses and take responsibility for your relationships.
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