Is Marriage Getting a Bad Reputation?

The end of 2010 brought about an enormous debate over the future of marriage.  The Pew Research Center released the results of their latest marriage study which had many people declaring that marriage was officially obsolete.  There was such a buzz, that I was asked to discuss the future of marriage on Oprah Radio with host Derrick Ashong.

Despite what many of those writing about the Pew study would have us believe, the study’s results were not nearly as bleak as we’ve been led to think.  So why does marriage seem to be getting such a bad reputation?  Here are some of trends that I’ve noticed that contribute to marriage getting much worse press than it truly deserves.

For Marriage and All Topics, Bad News is Big News

No matter what the topic, when it comes to big news stories, bad news always trumps good news.  It’s no different when the topic is marriage.  It makes for a much better story to report about the scandalous breakup of celebrity marriage rather than to report on famous couples that have been married for decades and are still going strong.  This is especially true when reporting about a study like the Pew report.  It makes for a great headline to say that nearly 4 in 10 people believe that marriage is obsolete, yet it’s not much of a headline to say that 61% of people do not think that marriage is obsolete.

Marriage Attitudes Reflect Our Situation

One statistic that was very under-reported when it came to those writing about the Pew marriage study was that the group that was most likely to declare marriage as obsolete was parents who live together.  Like so many other aspects of life, we tend to gravitate toward attitudes that reflect the way we live our lives.  We certainly can’t ignore this group’s input in the survey, yet it is certainly worth noting that 62% of cohabiting parents reported that they felt marriage was obsolete.

To not report on the living arrangements of those responding to the marriage study is like reporting on optimism about the economy without divulging how many respondents were employed versus those who were unemployed.  For the record, I am pro-marriage, and just celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary.  So yes, I am predisposed to my attitudes reflecting my situation as well.

Divorce Rate Skews Our Perspective on Marriage

No discussion of marriage is complete without touching on the divorce rate.  Despite the 39% of Pew respondents who felt marriage was obsolete, 67% were optimistic about the future of marriage.  In some ways these numbers may seem to contradict each other, but in our LuvemOrLeavem surveys we have also found that even people who are optimistic about marriage can’t help but have some doubts given the high number of divorces that they see all around them.

The Gay Marriage Component

One of the groups that I have found to be the most critical of how relevant marriage is to modern society is proponents of gay marriage.  I find this interesting, because the percentage of gay couples clamoring to get married seems to be much higher than that of straight couples.  I think that the argument that marriage is obsolete because it focuses on the tradition of being between a man and a woman is a totally separate issue from whether or not marriage itself is obsolete.

Some of the main arguments that have people doubting the viability of marriage have to do with broad issues like longer life expectancy, people marrying beyond a broader geographic region than they did in the past, and of course the question about whether monogamy is really compatible with human nature.  Whether or not someone supports gay marriage or believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, these broader issues surrounding how marriage fits into modern life still exist whether a couple is gay or straight.  For this reason, I think that the future of marriage and the issue of gay marriage are best dealt with as two separate issues.

So there are some of the main reasons why I think that marriage is getting a bad reputation that it really doesn’t deserve.  Let’s not forget that marriage has been around for thousands of years, so to declare it obsolete based on some mixed data gathered from people over the past few generations ignores just how many obstacles marriage has overcome to survive for so long.  If you’d like to listen to my radio discussion about marriage, head over to  The Derrick Ashong Experience.

What do you think? Can marriage survive in modern society, or is it indeed becoming obsolete?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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What if Choosing a Man Were Like Shopping For a Car?

During this holiday season we are in a fun and festive mood here at LuvemOrLeavem.  So just for fun, we’re going to take a look at what finding love would be like if we approached choosing a man the same way that we approach shopping for a car.  What items would make him appealing enough to drive off with, and which items would make you want to leave him back at the showroom?

Standard Features for Your Man

Just like a car has standard featured that are the bare minimum for what a car must have in order to run, there are also bare essentials that your man has to have in order to have any type of a meaningful relationship with him.  All cars need things like a transmission, an engine, brakes, and tires to meet the minimum requirements of a car that can get you from one place to another.  In searching for a man, he needs to have standard features like trustworthiness, loyalty and the ability to show love.  If these are not standard features in the man that you are evaluating, then just like car shopping, forget that model and see what is in the next row.

Appearance of Your Man

Are you looking for something sporty, rugged or perhaps something that is so shiny and sleek that it will turn heads?  Just like cars, many of us have a preferred look that we gravitate towards when choosing a man.  Of course over time, people and autos will not stay flawless and will accumulate a few dings.  If you place too much emphasis on appearance, you are likely to be disappointed in a few years and will be looking to “trade in” your current model for a new one.

Reliability Factors for Your Man

How important is reliability to you?  Can you be happy with 60 or 70 percent reliability, or do you need at least a 95 percent reliability rating to be happy?  Of course how we react to a car or a man when it is unreliable depends on two important factors:

  1. Your Personality- Are you the type of person who will find another way to get where you want to go if your car stops working?  Are you the type of person who will still head out to that party even if your man suddenly has to work late and can’t go with you?
  2. Understanding Your Priorities- There is a big difference between a car that breaks down in your driveway and one that leaves you stranded on the  side of the highway.  When it comes to men, there is a big difference between one that cancels on going to movie with you and one that cancels on taking you to your be friend’s wedding because his buddy got last minute tickets to a football game.

Annoyance Factors in Your Man

At first, a car that makes a clunking sound might not bother you.  This is similar to annoyance factors in a person, like  the tendency to be a slob.  These factors are often easy to overlook in the early days, but the real question is how you will feel about them over time.  Will that sound eventually blend into the background so that you don’t even notice it, or will it start to grate on your nerves to where you can’t even overlook it after you’ve turned up the volume on the radio?

Options to Consider When Choosing a Man

Options are the fun features in a car or a man, that make it special for you.  The importance of these little extras varies tremendously from woman to woman.  When shopping for a car,  it may be that a great sound system is more important to you than having a car with a sunroof.  When choosing a man, it may be that a great sense of humor is more important to you than a man who has a romantic nature.  Just like when choosing a car, if there are too many options on your “must have” list for a man, then you will find that your choices are very limited.

So, when choosing a man there are many similarities to the approach that we would take when selecting a car. Make sure you distinguish between items that are standard features and which ones are merely options, and choose them wisely.  If you can’t find the right one at the moment, then just keep looking.  Eventually the right deal will come your way.

What do you think? What standard featured and options are important when choosing a partner?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Thanks for reading, and I wish you all the best for the new year!

Does Older and Wiser Apply to Love?

For most aspects of life we like to believe that we gain wisdom as we get older.  We learn by observing, doing and of course making mistakes, so it makes sense that the more years we spend living and learning the wiser we become.  Of course in many aspects of our lives we can logically apply what we have learned so that we can make better decisions; but when it comes to relationships, our hearts are involved and they are not guided by logic.  Here are some of my main discoveries as I set out to find if “older and wiser” applies to our relationships.

Marriage Age and Divorce Statistics

We all know that decades ago couples often got married straight out of high school and they stayed married.  Divorce was not socially acceptable back then, so it is not really fair to go that far back because there were probably some very unhappy couples that stayed married despite their misery.  If we move forward to 1980 back when the divorce rate was roughly at the 50% rate that it is at now, the average age for a woman marrying was 22 years old.  By 2006 the average age for a woman marrying was up to 27, and some 2010 numbers indicate that it is probably closer to 28 or 29 years old now.

Despite the marriage age increasing, since the divorce rate did not decrease, we could argue that older and wiser doesn’t apply to our love lives.  One statistic that does indicate that age may make us a little wiser though is that women who marry older do have marriages that last years longer than their younger counterparts.  This brings us to the question of whether divorce is really a fair measure of a relationships success or failure.

How Do We Define a Successful Relationship?

If we only look at divorce as the measure of success or failure in a relationship, then we would declare a 2 year marriage and a 42 year marriage to both be failures if they end in divorce.  If you have a 42 marriage that is miserable for 40 years, then I would say this is true, but what if you had 35 wonderful years during which time you had children and maybe grandchildren that mean the world to you.  Would we really call that relationship a failure just because it ultimately ended in divorce?

Blinded by Love or Blinded by Logic

When we think of people getting married young, we often picture a couple who is blinded by love and not wise enough to understand all that marriage entails.  Yes, it does seem foolish to let love make you overlook the fact that you are not compatible or maybe even have totally different goals in life.  Of course I have some friends who married when they were older whose decisions were terrible because they were instead blinded by logic.

I had a good friend who was dating a guy who was on a very similar career track to hers, and they both loved traveling and playing tennis.  When they got married she admitted that there were no sparks, and no real chemistry, but they were very compatible and they were getting to be that age where they felt that they should be married.  Is thinking that you can build a lifetime together based on similar careers and a love a tennis any less foolish than thinking that you can overcome all obstacles based on being madly in love?  I think that they are both terrible reasons, but for some reason many people would view the decision of the woman blinded by logic to be “wiser” than the woman who is blinded by love.

So no, I don’t really think that the phrase older and wiser applies to matters of the heart in the same way it does for other aspects of our lives.  We can definitely learn from our previous relationships, but love will always leave us vulnerable to not acting wisely.  Of course when we look at how empty life would be if we tried to base our love lives strictly on logic, it is probably better that we don’t try to become too wise for our own good.

What do you think? Does older and wiser apply to our love lives?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Are You in a Dead End Relationship?

Click to learn about our Dead End Relationship Quiz app on iTunesMany of the issues that are posted most on LuvemOrLeavem have to do with whether or not the woman is in a dead end relationship or if her relationship is merely in a rut.  Even when a relationship is mostly in shambles, many women are still not convinced that it is time to call it quits.  They worry that they will be filled with regret if they don’t wait it out until they feel 100% certain that there is not the slightest glimmer of hope for saving their relationship.

Unfortunately, if we want to find a glimmer of hope in any situation we usually can.  At some point we need to decide that a relationship is a dead end, or beyond saving, based on the fact that it is extremely unlikely that it can be turned around rather than waiting until we are 100% certain.  To help with your decision, here are some indicators that a relationship is at a dead end despite those occasional bright spots that give you hope that your relationship is merely in a rut.

It’s All About the Past

Does your main reason for wanting to stay in this relationship sound like any of the following phrases?

  • I’ve put so much time into this relationship
  • He knows me better than anyone in the world
  • We’ve been through so much together

These are all statements that explain why we feel so torn about leaving this relationship and why we have stayed for so long, but they are not reasons to justify continuing to stay.  When most of the statements about why you are staying in your relationship have to do with your history as a couple rather than the current state of your relationship, then your relationship has moved being merely being in a rut.

Difference of Opinion vs. a Problem

When a relationship is in a rut, the couple recognizes the problems even if they are unsure if they can overcome their issues.  If your relationship is at a point where you view an issue as a major relationship problem and he views it as a difference of opinion, then you are at a dead end or an impasse.

One of the most common situations that we see where relationships have come to an impasse is when the woman wants to get married and the man doesn’t.  For the man, he often doesn’t view this as a major problem.  He’ll often state that he is of the opinion that marriage isn’t that important, while his girlfriend’s opinion is that marriage is very important.  Of course this goes way beyond a difference of opinion, because in a true difference of opinions both opinions can coexist.  In this situation, both view can’t coexist and the view that marriage is not very important automatically becomes the dominant view if the man continues to avoid marriage.

Can You Both Be Cordial to Each Other?

The main difference between in a relationship rut and a dead end relationship is that a dead end relationship is beyond repair.  Pulling a relationship out of a rut is still an enormous amount of work, but at least the potential is there.  If you both cannot find a way to be polite to each other in your daily routine, and especially when you are working out your differences, then you are at a dead end.  This doesn’t mean that being polite will automatically be easy for you both, but you should still find that you can both achieve a level of politeness in your discussions.  For example, once an argument has calmed down to the point where one person is ready to apologize, the other person usually calms down enough to discuss the topic rather than fighting about it.  If both of you, or even one of you can’t or won’t let yourself act in a civil manner to resolve the issue, then your relationship is at a dead end.

So if all the signs point to you being in a dead end relationship and you know it in your heart as well, then there is no point in trying to reach that point of 100% certainty before you declare your relationship dead.  Once you recognize that a relationship is a dead end, the best thing that you can do is to end that relationship and move forward.  The prospect of leaving a relationship is always difficult, but a relationship that is at a dead end is in a downward spiral, and there’s no point in staying until it hits rock bottom.

What do you think? How do you distinguish between a dead end relationship and a relationship rut?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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