There has been a lot of talk recently about marriage. To be honest I haven't paid an awful lot of attention to all the media coverage, or the blog world coverage! However I read an article in yesterdays Times that totally incensed me. Alain de Botton has written a book called 'How to Think More about Sex' and yesterdays article featured an extract from it. I haven't read the book but the things I read yesterday saddened me. Marriage is hard enough without people encouraging you to step outside of it when it gets tough.
These days, and I risk sounding very old and judgemental here, but still... these days marriage is not taken seriously by many. It is too easy to step into and too easy to get out of. And I am not dennoucning those who are divorced, I recognise that for some this is a necessary journey, but where divorce was once something forwned upon, now it is almost normal. What de Botton discusses also is the 'normality' of having affairs during marriage and whether we should think it realisitic to stay with the same person and not stray.
21st Century Society tells us that we can have what we want when we want it. It tells us that the grass is greener, it tells us that if we are not happy we can get out of our situation, it teaches us to strive for betterment, and never to be satisfied. All good maybe, except that for most of us this is not reality, so when we can't have what we want or we feel unhappy in life, we feel like we have failed.
Marriage is just one of those things, there is an increasing group of people discussing the merits of having affairs or 'open marriages'. And yet it seems so damaging. A few years ago my husband and I were having trouble in our relationship, and it is only by the grace of God that our relationship is healed now. But at that stage I think we felt like we had failed in our relationship, we looked around us and saw the unattainable 'ideal' that others seemed to have and thought we had failed. Yet the reality was that we were in the phase of young children, nappies, sleepless nights, both working, little time to spend together - quite a normal scenario for many. We needed people to come alongside us and support us, people who would tell us that its ok, its normal, marriage is hard, hang in there, you get through this stuff. But we didn't have that and many don't.
A few years back someone I know was going through some troubles with her husband, instead of helping her and supporting her, friends actively encouraged her to leave him, pointing out the benefits of life without him (and deliberately leaving out how it would affect her children and her husband). Thing is, marriage is hard work sometimes, yes it's founded on love and I love my husband more now than ever before, but at the same time there are trials of life, daily challenges that put pressure on any relationship. It only takes one of us to be ill for a few days and our finely tuned busy lives start to creak!
At one point in the article, and he is being positive here about marriage and those who do remain faithful, de Botton says this:
A loyal marriage ought to to retain within it an awareness of of the immense forbearance and generosity that the two parties are mutually showing in managing not to sleep around (and for that matter in refraining from killing each other)...
What a ridiculous thing to say, 'managing not to sleep around' - he makes it sound like a great achievement, like in doing so one has overceme the greatest temptation ever in the world.We need to encourage people to build support networks around themselves and their relationships, not tell them its ok to look elsewhwre. Perhaps pre-marriage all couples should be made to spend time with older, wiser couples who can tell it like it is and then be encouraged to seek them out in times of difficulty...
Anna Moore goes on in the article to discuss a girl who is in an open relationship, who talks of 'negotiated infidelity' what a ridiculous concept! Talk about starting ones relationship on rocky ground, how does that breed trust and respect?...It seems like a knife in their relationship before its truly begun...
Marriage is about trust and respect and building a life together and all that entails. It will not always be roses and chocolates. Times can be tough, sometimes greatly so.It is a commitment that is made for life and in our case a commitment made before God. We cannot see the future or know what hand grenades will be thrown into our relationships but we still make a commitment and one that I think we need to take more seriously. As a society we should be encouraging people, and supporting them in marriage. Not only is it a place of trust for the couple but for the children they bring up, for those around them, for the wider family. Marriage and the opposite: marriage breakdown, have an affect on all around those involved. Personally I think if people were more comitted to their partners and families that it would have a huge beneficial impact on society as a whole.