Tag Archives: Tradition
Long ago and far away – I believe some other writer used that line – God or whomever you think made people – gave us one lifetime to live. For thousands of years, if you’ve followed history, it looks as though “man” messed a lot of things up. All the religious strife, war, political upheavals, disease, famine and what was a lot of unhappiness, misery, depression and ill will toward each other seemed to prevail. Forget the reasons, it doesn’t really matter. Blame whomever you want if it makes you feel any better.
So, long ago and far away, we all had one life to live. We did the best we could with it. You chose a life partner or were “assigned” one by your parents or elders or whatever they were called back then, moved into something made of rock, stone, mud and wood and try to put a positive swing on the whole affair. The man farmed, used a spear or rifle to hunt for food and the women had the kids and cooked. We’re told that as time moved forward we “progressed” and our lives became easier. Well, not really.
I want you to consider this. Where we once had a lifetime, we now have TWO – maybe even three. And if you believe that as I, of course, do, then, you know by looking around that people live longer than they ever have and that in the future, more of us could live even longer – maybe into the 100’s. So let’s go back to some period like the Renaissance – the Middle Ages – Michelangelo. The average life expectancy then was 35. 35-50% never reached the age of 16. Think about that. You have until 35, if you’re lucky, to “have” a life. Hard to grasp that, right? Yes it is. That was a lifetime to them, but certainly not to us.
2012, social media, an ever “open” society, transparency, change – a technological revolution. We want and demand more. We all have more options than ever. And, we have two lifetimes to do it in. Are we all overjoyed with this paradigm shift of choice and options? No. The life partner with whom you agreed to “forever” with – that relationship – that contract you entered into is, for lack of a better term, old – tedious. Some think of it as toxic. The both of you are being barraged by “other” choices 24/7/365 via the internet, television – other people and friends. Women, in particular, have been “supercharged” – empowered – to more than ever before in history go out into the world and make a difference with themselves and others. Concurrently, men’s role have dramatically changed and the definition of what it is to be a man has yet to be solidified.
So, you get married at 25. Have children. Cultivate your careers. It’s been fun, but do “we” really need each other any more? It’s not like it “was”. I’m bored. I’ve grown as a person. Perhaps you’ve never lived alone before. You’re wondering what it would be like. Maybe you want to relocate into the city and your partner doesn’t. Do you earn twice as much as your husband now and you don’t want to make decisions together anymore? Tired of him being a curmudgeon? Had enough of sports or her crafts occupying the entire garage? The list of reasons for splitting up are endless.
The difference is now you can do something about it. There is no more “stigma” of divorce. For many, religion has taken a back seat in our lives or isn’t even a factor in our life decisions. You’re 40, 50 or 60 and now you’ve got another lifetime in front of you. Do you really want to move on with the same person? Has your first life with this partner been that satisfying? The kids are older, maybe there are drugs, alcohol or other debilitating diseases involved. Sadly there might be abuse or was there infidelity? You want to make you #1 now. You want a new life without the confines marriage. You want “better” and “more” sex.
I got the “S” word in there finally, didn’t I? I like asking my readers questions, so, why has it been the “accepted” practice seemingly forever to be forced into having sex with just one person from the time you say “I do” until you die? Many find that entire premise absurd. No, I do not think someone while in a marriage should have sex “outside” of the partnership. I’m traditional that way. But, we’re human, and we have desires, urges that don’t end when you get married or when you’re 35, 45 or 60 or 70. You’ve found someone else or you want to search for someone else to have sex with, because, no surprise, having sex with same person year after year after year is, well, honestly, not really “natural”.
I said the reasons for divorce are endless. The reasons for staying together have been and continue to lose their validity and value. People want to be happy and that no longer means staying married. The institution itself reminds me of gas stations – I was going to say Blockbuster first. They’re still around, we surely make of use them, but rapidly in the near future, most of them will disappear and new entities will appear. Marriage remains a tradition, but divorce rates soar and will stay that way, as “we” seek other alternatives, including shorter legal marriage contracts to mirror our now more than one lifetime.
One of Americans greatest failures is their ability to change. Tradition is good, but not when it interferes with the growth of an individual’s freedom or happiness. The falling back on what once was easy, safe and comfortable does not mean – and the facts prove my point – that it will continue to be a viable process. This is not an argument over religion, the Bible, same-sex marriage or civil unions. It is the harsh reality that marriage no longer should be a lifetime contract.
You meet someone, fall in love, you get married, maybe have children, they have grandchildren, you retire, live happily ever after, travel, then die. As one comedian used to say, “Isn’t that special”. But we all know that is the exception rather than the rule. When folks first started getting married, they lived until they were 35, maybe 40. If you were really lucky you could possibly have made it to 50. You probably got together much earlier than we do now – in the Jewish religion you could become a man at 13. Let’s say you delayed the enviable and got married at age 16, avoided all the social upheavals , religious wars and numerous plagues, famines and diseases and passed away at 42. You were married, hopefully happily, 26 years.
In comes the 1950’s. That’s when many traditions began to fall apart. Men and women began to realize that their parents and their grandparents were living in a much different world. Females were assuming a role in society that had been put down by men for thousands of years. Men finally were forced to come clean and admit that their mental and physical superiority to women was utterly false. Sex was becoming more “open” and all Americans were coming out of the shell that kept them in a kind of bondage preventing them from being “more” whole as human beings.
Divorce equaled the marriage rate. The traditional “family” was turned upside down. Women delayed having children making their mark in business. Men were not working in steel mills, mines or in manufacturing anymore and struggle to determine where they were needed most. Advances in health care and medicine have extended our lives until 70 years and more. Economically, the majority of Americans have been put into an ever tightening vise trying to achieve the American dream of success.
People are not more miserable than ever, but do have the options more so now than at any other time in history to do something about it. Only a small minority of Americans have any restrictions on them to live as they please. Religious barriers to divorce are meaningless in the face of a nuns protesting their freedoms, priests being charged and convicted of sex crimes, and followers disagreeing with many of the basic tenants of the Church. Obtaining a “simple” uncontested divorce is as easy in just about every State as it used to be to fly to Reno or Mexico to end a relationship.
The notion of getting and remaining within the legal contract of marriage for life should end. It should be a “renewable contract” let’s say every 10 years. The amount of pressure that would take off people would be enormous. The resulting happiness would renew the entire marriage process. The divorce rate would decrease, taking an unnecessary burden off our legal system. Can you just imagine the positive psychological impact of being able to be married for just 10 years? The lessening of all the arguing, depression, financial angst and involvement of lawyers, judges and mediators.
That would put marriage more in line with the rest of our lives. In the past, someone would be employed at one or two jobs over the course of their career then retire. People are now very typically changing jobs every 2-5 years. It is conceivable that a person, who might retire at age 70, would have not just multiple jobs but multiple careers. Like the of women in the 50’s, the entire notion of careers, retirement and marriage has been turned upside down. Marriage has not kept pace with the times. Men now remain at home without shame and take care of their children. Many men and women work from home. We have entered into and are in the process of a new lifestyle revolution, nothing of which includes a “lifetime” of anything.
I said at the outset of this piece that Americans are resistance to change. That is especially true for marriage. There is nothing to fear. It’s OK for us to admit that the institution has ended and it’s time to move on to a new and better “renewable” system. Families and children will, as they have for decades, learn to adjust and adapt. Religion does not require marriage to exist. And, surprise, surprise – without everyone’s consent the shift away from “traditional” lifetime marriage has already started. “We” just haven’t given it our stamp of approval yet. But just as we now stand on line for $4 coffee, drink “vitamin” water out of designer plastic bottles, seek guidance and advise from our cell phones and buy automobiles that operate on batteries, so to will Americans both seek more and bless changes in the marriage contract. Better late than never.