The Forever Marriage?

Dear earth creatures, you no longer are really a nation of married people …

Editor’s Note: Who is the wisest of them all? Who is more dedicated to your pleasure than anyone on earth? Who can help you when you’re going online for the first time to find love; or when your lover’s children hate you; or when you want to strangle your husband? Why, the Love Goddess, of course. She promises nothing less than celestial wisdom, heavenly sex, divine dating. Read on …

In her book review of Andrew J. Cherlin’s interesting book, The Marriage-Go-Round, the first question The New York Times book reviewer, Dinitia Smith, asks in her review is: “Do Americans get married too much?” 

She asks this because Americans have one of the highest rates of marriage of any Western country — and also a divorce rate that’s been rising since the 1960s and now rests at about 50 percent. How can this be? she wonders. How can we idealize marriage so much — and run from it so quickly?

The question has a rather easy answer, despite the complications of marriages and divorces. Idealizing marriage and also being unable to stay in it don’t seem to me in conflict with one another. 

It’s a psychological truth that we put on a pedestal everything that we imagine to be wonderful but that we have lost or are in danger of losing — like, say, “The Cowboy”; “Pastoral Life”; “Childhood Innocence”; “The Good Mother.” That’s what idealization IS — making someone or something bigger than life, usually because he or she or it is unattainable. (I’m a goddess. I KNOW about being put on a pedestal!) The more we experience that good thing or person as having been lost to us, somehow — obsolete for whatever reasons, no longer ours for the keeping — the more we idealize it. (Hence, our reverence for the dead — even the dead we never liked one bit.)

The Perfect Domestic Wife (Donna Reed; June Cleaver) now lives on a pedestal we almost can’t even see, it’s so high up there. Ditto the Loving, Provider Husband (“Father Knows Best”; “The Bill Cosby Show”). We increasingly idealize the notion of Family (not our real ones, of course, but the NOTION of it) since, as a nation, we’re less and less inclined to live in one.

And so forth. 

You idealize Marriage most of all, though. Why? Because, you dear earth creatures, you no longer are really a nation of married people! Oh yes, yes, you get married. That won’t stop just because you also get divorced. But the idealization is of the concept; the ongoing, lifelong state of safe, secure, loving union … and that permanence, my friends, is lost to you. However often you get married, in other words, the brutal truth is: For the first time in American history, the majority of households in America are unmarried households.

Which means one thing and one thing only, and it’s not that Marriage is in jeopardy. It’s an institution, and institutions don’t change. The people in marriage have changed, is all, and the loss of Marriage as we imagine it, that Forever Marriage, makes us yearn more than ever for what no longer exists. So, despite the number of times we run away from it, recreate it, hope for it and hate it, Marriage as an ideal will live on in our subconscious minds as the place to be — and will become increasingly desirable as it is increasingly hard to attain.

So of course most of you will marry — again and again and again. Because the ideal lives on. And you will keep trying, not just because you fall in love, but because, as its permanence becomes a fading possibility, as happily ever after becomes harder and harder to attain … it is absolutely certain to become that much more hungered for!  

Like all savvy goddesses, the Love Goddess has her own blog, which you can visit by clicking here.

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