Marriage can still work

Article: “5 Reasons We Can’t Handle Marriage Anymore

Back in 2015, writer Anthony D’Ambrosio penned an article regarding marriage. He gave it a provocative title, which very much over sold the premise therein. The problem today isn’t that marriage doesn’t work, but the landscape has changed so much. Even just through the last 10 years. The trials and tribulations faced by couples today are quite different from in generations past. As an example, previous generations have had access to pornography, just not the instantaneous access that has been available for the last 15 or so years.

But let’s get through his list and find out whether he’s spot on or not.

1. Sex becomes almost non-existent.

Instead, we have sex once every couple weeks, or when it’s time to get pregnant. It becomes this chore. You no longer look at your partner wanting to rip their clothes off, but rather instead, dread the thought. That’s not crazy to you?

From what I could find, the average appears to be several times per month. No two people have sexual desires that line up 100%, and the sexual frequency of one couple may or may not be desirable for another. But what if you feel you’re not getting enough sex? I’ll get to that in a moment.

I also highly doubt that couples today actually “dread the thought” of having sex with their significant other or spouse. Especially taking into account that most couples don’t wait till they are married to have sex. So if they do “dread the thought”, they did so before getting married. Which means they shouldn’t have gotten married.

And any couples that indeed “dread the thought” had better have an open line of communication so they can work out the concern, especially if that concern is because one “let oneself go“.

It’s not just boredom that stops sex from happening. Everywhere you look, there’s pictures of men and women we know half naked — some look better than your husband or wife. So it becomes desirable. It’s in your face every single day and changes your mindset.

There are a number of things that get in the way of intimacy. My wife recently was sick for the better part of a week courtesy of contracting (what we think was) influenza from our niece. There definitely wasn’t any intimacy going with that. Especially since she was staying with said niece and her family at the time, and the influenza extended her stay.

And we’ve had dry spells that seemed to last weeks, and other times we’ve had sex multiple times in a week, sometimes multiple times in a day. In our 30s. It all depends on how things happen.

Obviously there is a problem when sex begins to feel like a chore, where you’re only participating because your partner wants it when you aren’t really into it, regardless of the reason. But it’s a bit of a stretch to call a dry spell “neglecting having sex”. Neglect is not performing when you have a duty and capability. No person has a duty to have sex with their significant other, and no one is entitled to sex merely for being married.

No, seriously, you’re not entitled to it.

Sex is just one part of a relationship, something we are biologically inclined to do, combined with whatever skills we have to make it exciting and pleasurable to each person’s unique… programming.

And ladies, I’ll say this up front as well: never use sex as a reward. No, seriously, don’t do it. Don’t intentionally withhold sex to goad him to do something. Don’t use it as an article of persuasion. And don’t jump to the conclusion that wanting to try something new means he’s unhappy or unsatisfied.

It’s no wonder why insecurities loom so largely these days. You have to be perfect to keep someone attracted to you. Meanwhile, what your lover should really be attracted to is your heart. Maybe if you felt that connection beyond a physical level, would you realize a sexual attraction you’ve never felt before.

And do you know how long it takes to develop that kind of connection? For some, it can happen relatively quick, such as with my wife. For most it can take a while. In some cases it never happens, and those are relationships that should not progress to marriage but too often do.

Insecurities do loom large, but only because people let it happen. And it comes from the false perception of prevalent competition. Modern feminism, hate to say it, plays into this quite a bit. Along with a lot of rhetoric coming out of the social justice crowd — e.g. the “fat acceptance” and “healthy at every size” bullshit. While they won’t flat-out call it competition, the rhetoric plays to that being the thought.

Many times we’ve heard that the prevalence and ready access to online porn is going to destroy sex. Google “porn and sex lives” to find ready hypotheses about how porn will destroy relationships and marriages. While it’s undeniable that it indeed has, to say it’s the cause is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.

Especially since the critique is always levied against men. Never does it seem levied against women who watch porn. And let’s not forget the ready availability of erotica and romance novels that feature guys described like they were chiseled by Aphrodite performing sex acts on women that are physically impossible while reaching her to heights of sexual pleasure beyond the stratosphere. After all, men weren’t the target audience for the Fifty Shades series, and that applies to the movies just as much as the book.

The problem is when a man or woman watches porn as a substitute for being intimate with their partner. Reads romance novels as a substitute for being intimate. Masturbates as a substitute for being intimate. As opposed to also being intimate. Big difference, but one that is often lost or overlooked. Along with, again, the fact that different people have different sexual levels.

Too many people, women primarily, act as if their partner masturbating or watching porn at all means a problem exists, rather than seeing it as the sexual equivalent of snacking between meals. Sure it can become a problem, but it is not one by default. And if one person in the couple is fine with a lesser meal frequency than the other, the other will resort to snacking, especially if the meals aren’t good enough to stave off their… hunger till the next course.

The problem comes when either partner goes elsewhere for the meals because the kitchen at home seems to never be open.

The ready images everywhere reflect we’re no longer a puritanical society that feels the need to hide women (and men, as well) behind garments that leave everything to the imagination. It’s instead all in how we interpret them. And, ironically, they’re being interpreted by a lot of women as “objectification”.

You need not be perfect for your significant other to remain attracted to you. So stop thinking you must. And stop interpreting the ready images around you in that fashion as well. If your husband or boyfriend has a copy of the SI swimsuit edition and you automatically think you must look like the cover girl or he won’t find you attractive anymore, you’re the one with the problem.

And overcoming that requires a healthy dose of regular communication. As well as you getting over yourself.

You need regular communication as well if you feel intimacy is lacking in your relationship. I wrote this in an earlier article in response to a woman who seemed taken aback at her significant other’s idea of role playing with sex:

If you are genuinely unhappy with your sex life, unsatisfied in what you are getting, then dialogue must be opened. After all, your significant other won’t know that you’re unhappy unless you say you are unhappy. And if you are unhappy, there are plenty of suggestions of what can help once the root of the problem is found – which can really only occur with an open dialogue.

2. Finances cripple us

Years ago, it didn’t cost upward of $200,000 for an education. It also didn’t cost $300,000-plus for a home.

It doesn’t cost upwards of $200K for an education even now. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average per-year tuition at a public institution in the United States for the 2014-2015 academic year is about $16 thousand. Not an insignificant sum, and it’s up significantly compared to years past, but certainly not on par with $200 thousand to get a degree. Part of the issue here is the prevalent false belief that you need a college degree to make a decent living in the US.

Homes don’t average $300 thousand either. Here in Kansas City, for under $150 thousand, I can get a decent family size home in a pretty decent part of the city. It all depends on what you’re looking for, and how much you’re willing to spend post-purchase for a fixer. But in most suburban areas, $100 to $125 thousand is about what you should expect for a decent family-size home, with variances based on cost of living and the area where you’re shopping. But $300 thousand isn’t typical in most areas. And if it’s typical in your area, consider moving.

The cost of living was very different than what it is now. You’d be naive to believe this stress doesn’t cause strain on marriages today.

Finances is one of the top-cited reasons for divorce. At the same time, though, it’s typically financial incompatibility that leads to that. But finances getting out of control, typically at the hands of one over the other, can lead to that as well. At the same time the stress that financial difficulties create can develop into the conditions that lead to divorce.

Which is primarily a breakdown of communication. Why do I think that’s going to be a running theme? Perhaps because I’ve brought it up in many of the articles I’ve written on marriage. And once that breakdown occurs, it can be difficult to reverse course, especially if it has already caused damage to the relationship, especially the trust between the couple.

You need to find a job to pay for student loans, a mortgage, utilities, living expenses and a baby. Problem is, it’s extremely difficult to find a job that can provide an income that will help you live comfortably while paying all of these bills — especially not in your mid 20s.

This is so dependent on so many variables as to make it not worth any further consideration.

This strain causes separation between us. It halts us from being able to live life. We’re too busy paying bills to enjoy our youth. Forget going to dinner, you have to pay the mortgage. You’ll have to skip out on an anniversary gift this year because those student loans are due at the end of the month. Vacations? Not happening.

We’re trying to live the way our grandparents and parents did in a world that has put more debt on our plate than ever before. It’s possible, but it puts us in an awful position.

Part of life is being able to live. Not having the finances to do so takes away yet another important aspect of our relationships. It keeps us inside, forced to see the life everyone else is living.

Yes part of life is being able to live. But you need to live within your means and not over-extend yourself. Not doing what I did in my mid to late-20s, fresh out of college, and having more liabilities than annual earnings. Okay, a lot of people live in that situation only because they have a house. I was renting.

And all of that came crashing down when I lost my job.

Be realistic about your situation. Live within your means. It might mean taking a vacation to a small town instead of a big metro. Driving instead of flying. Driving your own vehicle instead of renting. And I’d say to just forget about birthday and anniversary gifts anyway. I’ll just say this: if you think your significant other must buy you something on your birthday, anniversary, or one of the other typical gifting holidays, you need to re-examine your relationship.

3. We’re more connected than ever before, but completely disconnected at the same time.

I have to agree with the premise in part. Let’s see how he plays it out.

We’ve developed relationships with things, not each other. Ninety-five percent of the personal conversations you have on a daily basis occur through some type of technology. We’ve removed human emotion from our relationships, and we’ve replaced it colorful bubbles.

The digital age is great in so many ways. It’s given us a lot of time back in our day. When I was growing up, talking to someone meant having their phone number, hoping they were home, and taking time out of your day to talk to them while, for the most part, not doing anything else. In part because long distance calls weren’t yet free.

Today you can have a conversation with someone that doesn’t even take place in one consistent block of time. Whether that person is family or friend, or even a complete stranger on a different continent. You can start a conversation today and continue it tomorrow without losing context (mostly), though you do lose the critical non-verbal cues.

It means, largely, that we don’t have to take significant time out of our lives to connect with family and friends. Instead that can happen within the fragmented blocks of time that occur during our day.

Somehow, we’ve learned to get offended by text on a screen, accusing others of being “angry” or “sad” when, in fact, we have no idea what they are feeling. We argue about this — at length.

Again, you lose out on the non-verbal cues when talking online or in any forum that is not face-to-face. This is why “emoticons” were invented very, very early on. The first use of an “emoticon” was actually with Morse Code. And the common smiley and frown emoticons date to 1982 with noted computer scientist Scott Fahlman.

We’ve forgotten how to communicate yet expect healthy marriages. How is it possible to grow and mature together if we barely speak?

Actually we have’t forgotten how to communicate. Instead the mode of common communication has changed, and some are just slow to adapt. It’s possible to have healthy conversations without ever speaking a word through mouth. Indeed our predecessors have done so via letter, and would likely be quite surprised at the speed at which even that kind of communication can occur today.

Instead we reserve our closest relationships to those we have more in-person. Meaning that the person you marry is hopefully someone who will speak to you predominantly face to face instead of predominantly via keypresses.

Years ago, my grandmother wouldn’t hear from my grandfather all day; he was working down at the piers in Brooklyn. But today, if someone doesn’t text you back within 30 minutes, they’re suddenly cheating on you.

Few will automatically conclude infidelity if their significant other doesn’t text back within minutes. And if you are someone who genuinely jumps to infidelity when they don’t respond to your text in what you felt was an “appropriate” amount of time, seek help. Please.

You want to know why your grandmother and grandfather just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary? Because they weren’t scrolling through Instagram worrying about what John ate for dinner. They weren’t on Facebook criticizing others. They weren’t on vacation sending Snapchats to their friends.

No.

They were too preoccupied loving and respecting one another. They were talking to each other at dinner, walking with each other holding hands instead of their phones. They weren’t distracted by everything around them. They had dreams and chased them together.

Actually they were preoccupied with living their lives, since that actually took a significant amount of time during the day. Because they didn’t have the modern conveniences that free up so much time to do other things. While we have automatic dishwashers and clothing washers and driers, they were washing dishes and clothing by hand. Advances in food storage and preservation allow us to buy food in bulk and have it last instead of buying one or two days worth because you have to use it quickly. Advances in food preparation and sanitation allow for significant time savings in preparing better meals with a much better degree of safety.

That’s a significant amount of time saved by modern technology and convenience.

Granted with the advances in technology have come a lot of negatives. But the return of significant amounts of time to your day is certainly NOT one of those negatives. It is one of the ways that the first world is very wealthy, and the major indicator that trickle-down economics does work, and capitalism makes everyone better off.

Add into this the fact that our predecessors were also having many more children with the hope that some would make it to adulthood while praying an outbreak didn’t wipe out your entire family. And even with older children helping out, that still takes a significant amount of time out of your day, especially when combined with the household realities of the era and how much time it took to cook meals, clean, and just acquire what you need.

We’re largely not used to that kind of time being available to us. Biologically we aren’t used to being able to sit around and watch television or movies or play games for hours on end. Just as our bodies haven’t adapted to the fact that food is readily available (at least in the first world) with a good nutritional and caloric density, our minds haven’t adapted to this huge availability of time courtesy of modern efficiency and convenience.

Combine modern convenience giving us so much time in our day with ready foods giving a high caloric density, and that pretty much explains the obesity epidemic.

4. Our desire for attention outweighs our desire to be loved.

The premise here is a little faulty. It isn’t that a desire for attention outweighs a desire to be loved. Many, instead, mistake that attention for love.

But [Marilyn Monroe] was a celebrity. And in order to be a successful one, she had to keep all eyes on her. Same holds true for celebrities today. They have to stay in the spotlight or their fame runs out, and they get replaced by the next best thing.

Not always.

The successful celebrities are those who are able to remain famous even after they’ve left the spotlight — e.g. Sean Connery. Or even long after they’ve died — e.g. the aforementioned Marilyn Monroe. The formula varies from one to another, and what works for some won’t work for others. While there are some overlapping elements, each does what they can to maintain their fame. Provided they want it.

Indeed some of the more infamous in recent history arguably didn’t want the fame that came to them. George Zimmerman and Casey Anthony are ready examples, from what I’ve seen. And some of those who’ve been the subjects of various memes also didn’t want that fame.

Social media, however, has given everyone an opportunity to be famous. Attention you couldn’t dream of getting unless you were celebrity is now a selfie away. Post a picture, and thousands of strangers will like it. Wear less clothing, and guess what? More likes.

Apparently lost on the author is the concept of the “fifteen minutes of fame”. While it is far easier today to gain instant fame, whether you want it or not, it is also far more difficult to keep it. Because there is far, far more competition for any spotlight you gain than ever before. This means that you need to go a bit more out of your way to keep any fame you gain, provided you feel it’s worth the effort.

At the same time, that ready competition means the ready desire to judge yourself against others, and others against you, in various means that extend well beyond looks. And that’s largely not healthy.

If you want to love someone, stop seeking attention from everyone because you’ll never be satisfied with the attention from one person.

Same holds true for love.

Love is supposed to be sacred. You can’t love someone when you’re preoccupied with worrying about what others think of you. Whether it be posting pictures on social media, buying homes to compete with others or going on lavish vacations — none of it matters.

And apparently also lost on the author is “keeping up with the Jones’s“. Arguably the only thing that’s different today than 100 years ago when the phrase was coined is who your neighbors are. It’s more than just your literal neighbors, as now your competition has increased to pretty much the entire first world. Only because you’ve let it.

And again, this is certainly not healthy.

5. Social media has invited a few thousand people into bed with you.

What the author has to say with this item is mostly spot on.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing moments of your life. I do it myself. But where do we draw the line? When does it become too much?

Since the introduction of Myspace and later Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, many have used these platforms to share things about their lives. Certainly sharing moments of your life isn’t a problem unto itself. It’s when you go overboard. Security risks aside, much of this sharing is certainly out of a desire for attention, to see how popular one can get online.

Indeed I know people who have enormous connections lists on Facebook. And I doubt highly that those connections are people they have actually met in real life. In my case, I have only two connections on my Facebook profile that I have not actually met in real life. But it is not correct to say I don’t know those two connections. But how many of the connections on your Facebook profile can you say you actually know.

And this is part of the problem: the fact that people are sharing more and more about their lives with people they barely or don’t know. Again, security risks aside, this is really no better than shouting in the public square everything about yourself, basically putting your life out in plain sight. All out of an implicit need to compete.

Would you show complete strangers on the sidewalk pictures of your children? No? Then why are you doing essentially the same thing online? The only thing that’s different is the sidewalk. At least on the public sidewalk you have some control over who immediately sees the pictures. Unless you’re taking advantage of the privacy settings in your social platform of choice, you don’t have nearly as much control. Especially since whatever you post online can be readily downloaded and shared elsewhere without your knowledge or approval — e.g. the individuals who’ve become the subjects behind Internet memes.

We’ve invited strangers into our homes and brought them on dates with us. We’ve shown them our wardrobe, drove with them in our cars, and we even showed them our bathing suits. Might as well pack them a suitcase, too.

The worst part about all this? It’s only going to get worse.

A cursory glance at the publicly-posted media and information on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and the like shows this to be true.

The ever-present feeling of competition with others being only a click away is a challenge not previously faced by previous generations. Only because couples today are making it a challenge.

Perhaps envy is in our genes.

Marriage is sacred. It is the most beautiful sacrament and has tremendous promise for those fortunate enough to experience it.

No, marriage isn’t sacred. And people really need to stop believing it is. Because by believing marriage is sacred, whether a sacrament of God or what have you, you are establishing expectations and restrictions over your relationship and marriage. Marriage isn’t anything magical or sacred. It isn’t a fairy tale.

It’s a piece of paper and vows. Two people who, hopefully, already are committed to each other tying themselves together with legal rope. Nothing more. And we really need to stop acting as if it is anything more.

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