I’ve read several articles recently about the rising number of people choosing to remain single. First let me say that I respect anyone’s choice to be single and I’m glad we live in a time when a single woman is no longer seen as a spinster. But something about these articles bothered me. Rather than being only pro-single, many were actively anti-marriage. According to these articles, single people are adventurous free spirits who are open to every exciting possibility. Married people, on the other hand, are hiding in their houses trying to avoid doing anything fun. Apparently, it’s not only valid to remain single but it’s much, much better than choosing to marry.
These pieces leave me wondering how marriage got such a bad rap? It started me thinking that many things written about marriage contribute to popular misconceptions and stereotypes. I wanted to take a look at a few of these marriage myths and see if I could debunk them:
Myth #1: And they lived happily after
We see this myth in fairy tales from childhood and, in spite of our better judgment, fool ourselves into believing that we’ll leave our struggles at the altar and lead a completely contented life once we’re married. I believe this is one of the biggest sources of disappointment in marriage; when you realize that there isn’t a “happily ever after” in any life but instead a series of ups and downs, highs and lows, good and bad times that mark all of our journeys. This remains true whatever our relationship status but I think people hold the institution of marriage responsible for failing to make them eternally, everlastingly happy.
Myth # 2: You should settle down
Those two wordsâ€¦. ugh! Settle and down. Words that make you think about lowering standards. But these words are very much associated with marriage, and are often paired with another word that I intensely dislike: should. As in “I’ve been having far too much fun, but I really should settle down and get married”. People go into marriage carrying the weight of “shoulds”. My husband and I had lots of ideas about what a married couple “should” do. But every time we did something that felt like “should” or “settling down” we became more unhappy. Then we realized we could define our marriage in a way that worked for us. You can do the same. That can include buying a home together or starting a family. Sure it can. But it can also incorporate traveling the world, starting a business or discovering new passions. My life has become more exciting since I got married. Whatever the opposite of settling down isâ€¦. rising up?
Myth # 3: Marriage takes work, the single life is easy
Having a happy, successful, dynamic marriage does take work. You need to put in effort and care. No question about it. We’re so used to hearing the statement “marriage takes work”, that we associate it with this terrible, daily grind. What married people mean when they say they’re “working on their marriage” is often that they’re investing time, making improvements, rediscovering what’s important. Is married life really the only life that takes effort and care? If you want to have a successful, rewarding single life, doesn’t that take work, too? I’ve never heard of someone who had a really great, adventurous, enviable existence and achieved it by sitting on their couch, watching American Idol. Whether you’re married or single, you have to put in some work to build a rewarding life.
What do you think? Do you agree that these common ideas about marriage are myths, or do you think there’s an element of truth? Are single people really having all the fun? Can you be married and also live a life of adventure? I’d love to hear what other married, and single, people have to say on the topic!