There’s this article that’s been floating around Facebook recently titled: 5 Reasons Marriage Doesn’t Work Anymore. I kinda hate to link to the article because, well, I didn’t like it. It read like a melodramatic high school essay on “Why My Town Sucks,” written by a kid whose girlfriend and best friend were just discovered hooking up behind the 7-11.
I know, yikes. Harsh. Especially coming from the girl who just went to the mattresses with her own Internet troll. But here’s the thing: we’ve ALL written a piece like that: the kind of thing that makes readers itch and divert their eyes from what is clearly a gaping wound. If we’re lucky, we didn’t publish it, if we’re not so lucky, we did, but, hopefully, it will soon be forgotten. The trouble with the Internet is that page views (clicks) are king, but there is no distinguishing between the clicks that mean people are engaged and the clicks that result from virtual rubbernecking. So the writer may be inspired to continue along this path, considering it’s “popularity”, when really, he’d be better off chalking this one up to an exercise in getting it off his chest. In short, I feel sorry for the guy.
Anyway, his basic list of why marriage doesn’t work anymore was this:
- Sex becomes almost nonexistent
- Finances cripple us
- We’re more connected than ever before, but completely disconnected at the same time
- Our desire for attention outweighs our desire to be loved
- Social media just invited a few thousand people into bed with you
Essentially, what he seemed to be saying was that married people don’t have sex, or real intimacy anymore, because we are all up in Facebook trying to generate a bunch of “likes” and “shares” without liking or sharing anything in the real world.
Now, this is not my experience of marriage. Even his take on finances (an education costs 200k+, a home: over 300k) didn’t ring true, and I’m the first to admit that being broke is stressful. However, there was one thing that was very relatable and familiar: this idea that life is harder for “us” now than it was for “them” then.
I’ve been hearing some version of this since I was a teenager. “Gen Xers are the first generation who can expect a lower standard of living than their parents,” “Millennials face unprecedented peer-pressure” etc. etc. etc. And I’m not doubting the data behind these statements. I’m just doubting the purpose. Is it truly harder, as the author of the “5 reasons” essay suggests, for married couples to remain connected given the distractions of the digital age? Is it harder than, say, the couples who were married in the 30s and had to endure the Great Depression and then years of separation due to WWII? Really? Why are we even comparing? Is there some prize given out for being part of the generation that had it the hardest? Or, is it possible that we are all just so freaking shocked by how hard this thing called living is that we assume it must have been easier for everyone else?
Why? Where on earth did we get the idea that it should be easy? If you’ve ever seen a baby born, let alone birthed a baby, you know that is not easy. It’s brutal and painful and horrifying and beautiful and glorious. If you’ve ever watched someone die, watched them struggle for last, labored breaths, you know that doesn’t look easy either. So why, in God’s name, do we expect the part in between to be less difficult?
The most profoundly helpful realization I’ve ever had is this: I’m not doing it wrong, it’s just life is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be joyful and exciting and beautiful and challenging. Because challenge is what makes you grow. Challenge is what gets the baby off her tummy and onto her knees; it’s what gets her off her knees and onto her feet. The name of the game is joy in the midst of, not instead of difficulty.
So, who cares if life (and marriage) is harder for us now, in the age of constant digital interaction than it was for our grandparents in the age of constant manual labor? As my father is fond of saying, “It is what it is.” But whether it is or it isn’t, I suspect life and marriage can still “work” if we are willing to accept that that is exactly what it takes.