In yesterday’s New York Times, a Sunday Styles front-page article proposed that perhaps the institution of marriage needs retooling, since it so often fails.
As I read the suggestions for shorter marriage contracts, an acceptance of quick-in, quick-out arrangements, and inspiration from of all places Hollywood, I grew increasingly offended. Change the institution of marriage? As a once-divorced, twice-married mom of four, I shook my head vigorously.
It’s not the institution that is faulty. It’s us.
Even academics are studying whether the institution needs changing. Is our society really so blind as to think it is the contract between two individuals that needs redrafting?
That’s not it at all. It’s the ways we find and choose our spouses that needs an overhaul. We meet in bars and online, with brief whirlwind courtships modeled after 1980s chick flicks. We ignore the red flags and warning signs (so he hasn’t worked in two months and he didn’t tell me – he’s so hot!) and see only what we want to see (she’s great in bed, he says he wants to serve society by being a teacher, doesn’t matter that he’s working in a bike shop and has no teaching certificate).
Therein lies the problem. I can and do own my first-marriage failure. It’s not the institution that screwed up. It was me.
What the academics, priests and rabbis – and parents – need to do, instead of drafting a shorter-term marital commitment, is teach and supervise our youth in the ways of choosing a life partner. Although I don’t defer to my religious peers that often, I will here – we need to be involved in the process of choosing a mate and look at it as more of a deliberate, and less romantic, decision. Call it business-like.
Any contract you enter into requires scrutiny and an outside eye to look over the legal language and make sure it’s a good match. Why do we think the most important relationship of a lifetime should be any different? Especially if we want it to last.
I’m frankly appalled that smart, societal leaders would suggest it’s the parameters of marriage that need changing. How head-in-the-sand.
Let’s stop pretending that short, physical courtships are OK and focusing on the superficial (how we look together, he makes me laugh, she’s good in bed) are important. It’s the big questions that need answering and, if the answers aren’t what we were hoping for, it’s OK to say goodbye as you continue the search for Mr. Exactly Right.
Come on, people. Stop blaming everything outside of yourselves. It’s time to take a good long look and own up.