Why Every Marriage Is A Failure
December 30, 2017
I’d like to make it clear that I am not trying to merely argue that some marriages are bad, or that the current state of marriage is bad, but that marriage itself is a bad institution that would serve humanity better to be entirely done away with. Although we see many ills surrounding marriage, such as high divorce rates and the massive prevalence of marital dissatisfaction, these are not the illness itself, but rather symptoms that only naturally flow from something so negative. The practice of marriage is contrary to proper virtue, good social functioning, and divine will.
Why I’m More Optimistic At Funerals Than I Am At Weddings
The death of any person is always a tragic event, especially when you know the person well. I have had the unfortunate opportunity to attend several funerals throughout my life. But although funerals are very sad, I would not call them particularly pessimistic.
When a person gets very old, it is only natural for them to die. The funeral is a celebration of their life, and the way that they affected people to make the world a better place during their time here. It is a time of veneration, reflection, and solidarity for those left behind. We find solace in knowing that their life was valued, and are inspired to live our lives in such a way as to gain similar appreciation when we too pass on.
When a person dies young, it is very difficult for loved ones. However, the fact that we are sad that someone was not able to live out the fullness of life is actually very life affirming. It suggests that life is not only worth living, but must be lived. It suggests that life is so incredibly great, that for someone not to experience it as long as possible is a tragedy.
Funerals are sad, but there is at least some optimism. Weddings, on the other hand, offer no such quality.
Weddings feature many of the worst aspects of humanity on display, while manic idiots applaud in tragically misplaced admiration. They are fraught with absurd displays of wealth (the average wedding costs $35,000 (Lui, 2017)). The bride develops a “princess complex” which begins with wanting to create the perfect day, and ultimately culminates in “bridezilla” when princess does not get her way. This vanity and pride is not restricted to the bride, of course, as the family and wedding party also take part in their share.
Most abhorrent of all, perhaps, is that Christian weddings feel as though it is not enough to denigrate the esteemed values of humility and good will, but also choose to parade God around as if He were also taking part in this narcissistic display. How ironic is it that a couple parading around in fancy clothes would present a cross behind them? Expressing the epitome of pride right in front of the place where Jesus expressed the epitome of humility is as blatant a blasphemy as can be made.
If weddings were at least for a good ultimate purpose, we might have reason to excuse such behavior. However, this is only the precursor to the main detraction. This young couple can look forward to gradually declining marital satisfaction over time (Hirschberger et al, 2009), a 50% chance of being cheated on (Choi et al, 1994), and a 45% chance of divorce (DePaulo, 2017). If a couple is so unfortunate as to be restricted by dogmatic religious views, they may wish for the sweet release of divorce, but instead find themselves stuck in a loveless marriage.
While funerals are sad, yet authentically affirming of humanity, weddings are a vain display of hollow joy, and offer no more than a disturbing inauthenticity fraught with unhindered delusion.
Social Dysfunction of Marriage
If one is fortunate enough to lack the necessary moral disposition to have disdain for the pride and lustful innuendo that weddings contain, they may enjoy receiving the momentary social rewards that society foolishly lavishes upon them. Their Facebook and Instagram will explode with likes and positive comments. And if they are able to forgo thinking about starving children in the world for the sake of their vanity, they can pay a photographer $6,000 to showcase their romantic conquest to the world. This social affirmation may be enough to suppress the guilt and haunting notions of their upcoming disappointment.
However, it won’t last long. Romantic partners will soon find that the coalescence of their life and desires into their object of affection does not fulfill them in the way they expected it to. They will find that fairy tale delusions were indulged during their wedding and honeymoon, and that real life hits hard. Rather than the fulfillment of their dreams that they hoped for, they will soon find many of their dreams slipping from their grasp. You’d love to take a new, higher paying job in a different state? Nope, she has family here. You’d love to spend 2 months in California serving homeless people and learning to surf? Nope, he says it’s impractical. You meet someone of the opposite sex who you get along well with and would love to hang out with? Nope, that makes her feel uneasy. The impending destruction of one’s ambitions and surrounding relationships are an integral aspect of marriage.
Those are ambitions, but the tyranny of marriage does not leave it at that. Even trying to live your life in peace is nearly impossible. Tired from work and wanting to watch a movie and go to bed early? “Honey, we need to go to Donna’s party tonight” or “honey, you need to redo the bathroom tiles tonight”. Tired of your crappy old car? “Honey, your car is fine, and we can’t afford a new one right now”. Tired of pretending to enjoy “Downton Abbey”? “Honey, the new season came out! WE HAVE TO WATCH IT!”.
The anaphora of “tired” is no accident. How greatly married couples wish for rest and peace, but continue to be burdened without restraint. Also, calling a romantic partner “honey” is indicative of the inauthenticity of the relationship. “Honey” would suggest that they are pleasing and desired, but since that is rarely the case, calling them “lemon” would be more suitable to the sour nature that would best represent the most prevalent aspects within romantic relationships.
The worst of this inauthenticity is the continued desire to pretend that they are in love and fulfilled. It’s what society expects, but it’s what they need. The realization that your marriage sucks and you were better off single is too much for many couples to bear, so they will live in denial of that fact for as long as they can.
Contrary to God’s Will
Solomon had a lot of issues in his life, to say the least. To say the most, you can read Ecclesiastes, where he pours his heart out in despair for the misery that this world has brought him. He was given the gift of great wisdom, yet it did not bring him true fulfillment, since he tried to find it in women, drink, and wealth. I would agree with his sentiment in Proverbs 21:9,
“It is better to live in a corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.”
But that’s where my agreement ends.
For some reason, Christians have suggested that Song of Solomon is a guide for how to operate one’s marriage, and is a promotion of the idea that God wants us to be married. However, there are serious flaws with this idea.
If you went to see a marriage counselor, and saw a picture of him with 300 women, and you asked, “Who are they?” and he responded, “those are my wives. Oh, and do you want to see a picture of me and my 700 concubines?” you would probably say, “Well, look at the time, guess I better be going now.”
Solomon is self admittedly a failure in the romantic department. If we think marriage is good because of Song of Solomon, should we not also think depression is good because of Ecclesiastes? Although he is wise in many ways, he is not someone to take advice from on such matters.
Jesus Christ was asked about marriage by the Pharisees in Mark 10, as to whether it is acceptable to divorce. In his answer, he re-iterates a concept from the Torah, that
“a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
Some people argue that this suggests we should all get married. While I agree it is a prescription on how we are to define marriage, there is no way it is commanding us to get married. Jesus, the epitome of morality, DID NOT GET MARRIED! Many of the disciples were married previously, but they abandoned their families to follow Jesus. If Jesus was commanding this, he would be breaking his own command, which would be contradictory.
Paul is very clear that singleness is superior to marriage, but allows for marriage as a lesser, secondary option if necessary. In 1 Corinthians 7:8, he states,
“now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
It sets up singleness as the goal to aspire to, and marriage as a potentially necessary evil. It’s basically like telling a student they should read Hamlet, but if they cannot understand it and enjoy it, they can play Angry Birds on their phone instead, so at least they won’t disrupt the class. Ideally, one would be single and content in their relationship with God, but some people are incapable of self-control of their sexuality, so they can get married if necessary.
Although settling for marriage out of necessity may not be contrary to God’s will, aspiring towards it is. Weddings should not be a time of celebration, but rather a time to mourn the inability of these people to control their sexual desire and the insufficiency in their relationship with God.
Rationality or Repression Aggression?
It’s interesting to see how, as humans, we are so subject to our experience. Now, mindless people are literally a product of their experience, since they have no thought beyond that, but even the most thoughtful, rational people in the world still do not arrive at conclusions through reason alone. This desire for “organic” reason may only be found in the mind of a robot specifically designed to operate on reason and nothing more. It’s as though we are meant to experience the world in order to appreciate and understand it. This appreciation can easily become depreciation, however, when we are forced to suffer the vices of it.
Whenever reading someone’s work, especially of an opinionated nature, I have always found it necessary to read their biography, and understand the historical context around them. My favorite writers, Bertrand Russell and Thomas Paine, make statements that seem controversial and even horrible at times. Bertrand Russell could be mistaken as a racist, and Thomas Paine could be mistaken as an anarchist. It is by understanding their lives, and the historical context around them, that we can understand why Bertrand said racially insensitive things, or why Thomas so adamantly disavowed the British monarchy.
So too must I consider for myself that I am not 100% reasonable. I am also relational and emotional, which are largely a result of my experiences rather than reason itself. My personal view of marriage has been tainted severely to the point where the thought of it is disgusting to me. I have been on many dates, and have had a few girls like me from time to time, but never has a girl really cared about me. I, on the other hand, cared a great deal about a young lady I knew a year ago at this time, and she broke my heart so severely that I fear it has permanently affected the way that I view romance. My view is that however happy someone makes you is equal to the amount of pain that you will have when they leave you. In my case, the pain was much greater.
Suffering this difficulty was bad enough without the constant expectations of friends, family, and community pressuring me to get married all the time. It’s like telling someone in a wheelchair that they have to play soccer. As if being in a wheelchair was not bad enough, and required the ignorant mockery of misguided advisors. What I want to suggest is that soccer is not the epitome of existence. For people incapable of playing soccer, such as those in a wheelchair, I want them to know that there is something else that they can do and still live a meaningful life. And for those who can play soccer, that maybe sitting and doing something else could be beneficial as well.
I think this is the case for me at the current time. I am a free spirit, forming an identity, travelling the world, full of aspiration towards making the world a better place through my studies. While I was in Colorado, I remember my one married friend saying, “It’s so cool that you can do things like this. Now that I’m married, I’m kind of stuck here.” That was a revelation to me at the time: that maybe I had not been shorted by my lack of romantic success, but actually gifted with it. A gift that allows me to pursue my ambitions honestly and without restraint. I think that’s what Paul is getting at when he says, “I wish you were all as I am” in that people could shed their restraints and pursue God with everything that they are.
And we should be honest with ourselves: there are problems with marriage, and it won’t fulfill you as a person. I don’t want to ruin it for people, but I do want them to snap out of their fairy tale world and recognize reality for what it is. Marriage is difficult.
The Platonic Marriage
Although I act as though I don’t need a woman to be happy and all that, the truth is, I am terribly lonely at times. I think we all have a desire for intimate relationship. I used to want a wife for the purpose of sex, but over the last eight months, I have realized that I do not really have all that great of desire for sex. I think what I really want is to care about someone more than myself, and to know that they care about me the same way. I think it is for this reason that I have come to appreciate some of my friendships more. And instead of becoming friends with a girl and then trying to date her when I desire more intimacy, I have been able to appreciate friendship without ever trying to get more out of it. I think it serves both men and women well to be able to have non-sexual yet meaningful relationships with one another.
What I want to advocate here is the case for a “platonic marriage”. Now, I don’t necessarily mean a sexless marriage, although one could do that if they wanted. What I am talking about is the original definition of “Platonic love” written by Plato himself in Symposium. The sentiments are generally attributed to Socrates and written by Plato. Anyway, Plato wrote about two types of Eros love: Vulgar Eros and Divine Eros. Vulgar Eros is nothing but physical attraction for the purpose of pleasure. Divine Eros is a journey of transcendence from this mere physical attraction towards love of Supreme beauty. Plato wrote that this kind of love, towards that of the divine, was the most correct form of love for humans to have (Reeser, 2015).
Within a Christian framework of understanding, I tend to agree with Socrates and Plato on a great many things, especially this idea of “Platonic love”. Jesus is very clear that the greatest commandment is to love God with everything in your being (Matthew 22:37). What I wonder is: would it be possible to get married with the express purpose of loving God?
In order to make that argument, you would have to suggest that you are currently not serving God to the best of your ability, and that having a marriage partner would help you do that. I would hazard to guess that most young Christians get married so they can have sex without feeling guilty, and to fill a void in their life through a person. As for the first one, Jesus is clear that you cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), which I would say should apply to lust as well. You cannot serve both God and lust through marriage. As for the second one, I would urge that person to read 2 Corinthians 12:9, that says
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
If you have a void in your life, a person will not fill that for you. A person will never complete you. Instead, you should be complete in who you are and in your relationship with God and others. If someone does happen to come along that would make a good romantic partner, it should be done with pure motives, and ultimately to pursue Divine Eros, or “Platonic love”, so that you may better serve God and never to serve yourself.
We can’t glamorize marriage as a silver bullet solution to all of life’s problems. People are inherently flawed, and the combination of two flawed people does not result in wholeness like some people mistakenly think. We need to get rid of the absurdity of modern weddings, and consider the entire concept of marriage in a new way.
If we had more “Platonic marriages” with the express purpose of loving God and others, I believe the divorce rate would be much lower, and much of the social dysfunction in marriages would be reduced. When a man and woman’s love for each other becomes so great that it transcends toward the Supreme beauty of the divine, they are not going to bother with trivial, mundane matters like fighting over finances or having an affair. Their relationship with God would be sufficient for them, and anything else would be relatively inconsequential in comparison.
And just like how the tragic death of someone taken too young actually affirms our understanding of the value that life has, maybe it would be better to die to ourselves for a greater purpose: die to lust, to selfishness, to greed, to envy, to malice, etc. And when we live, we could wake up every day actively choosing to live out the value that life has. And who knows, maybe marriage could someday become a part of that for any one of us, although it certainly doesn’t have to.
P.S. Another very important social function of marriage is the production and raising of children. However, I tried to restrict this one just to the merits of marriage itself rather than additional variables.
Choi, K. H.; Catania, J. A.; Dolcini, M. M. (1994). “Extramarital sex and HIV risk behavior among US adults: Results from the national AIDS behavioral survey”. American Journal of Public Health. 84 (12): 2003–2007. doi:10.2105/ajph.84.12.2003.
DePaulo, B. (2017). What is the divorce rate, really? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201702/what-is-the-divorce-rate-really
Hirschberger, G., Srivastava, S., Marsh, P., Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2009). Attachment, Marital Satisfaction, and Divorce During the First Fifteen Years of Parenthood. Personal Relationships, 16(3), 401–420. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2009.01230.x
Lui, K. (2017). This is how much it now costs to get married in the US on average. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2017/02/03/wedding-cost-spending-usa-average/
Reeser, T. (2015). Setting Plato Straight: Translating Platonic Sexuality in the Renaissance. Chicago. Retrieved from http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/S/bo22228645.html