Debunking a few marriage myths–Is marriage really that bad??

By Melissa Dowler of longhaulfilms.com and The Long Haul Project

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.

PHOTO credit: http://www.harbus.org

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 words…. 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 is…. 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!

-You can check out more of Melissa’s ideas about marriage at longhaulfilms.com and The Long Haul Project

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Melissa

    I just discovered your blog, and love your posts. :) I’m pretty much in the same boat as you – married to man much older than I am (I’m 28, he’s 46) and we’ve been happily together for 10 years now.

    Totally agree with what you say about marriage here. Mine has enriched my life, and I know that were I to still be single today, I would’ve been pursuing things that in the big scheme of things, would’ve brought only ephemeral satisfaction and not really the deep, genuine and heartwarming kind I have found with this man.

    No, marriage is not a happily ever after, and yes, it takes work. But the reason why? It’s because you’re trying not to take the other person for granted. Just because they’re there with you at home all the time aside from the workplace, there’s a real potential to just get on with your own life and let the other fend for him/herself. That’s not what marriage is to me – it’s supposed to be a partnership, 2 people joining to work better as 1. And it’s not settling ‘down’ – no way! I still have high (if not higher!) standards than when I was single regarding what and how my man should be (like, not let himself go, etc). I didn’t just take a Mr. Maybe and settled down with him – I took the Mr. Right and making sure he stays Mr. Right for better or worse.

    I’ve been married since I was 19. Do I wish sometimes I were still single? Yes, I do! (for example, if I were single and inspiration struck, I could simply write away in my PJs, eat cereal 3 times a day, and no need to run a brush through my hair – I’m an author, btw – and this is totally no-can-do when you’re married. You’re supposed to be eating dinner together, at least, not to mention maybe make said dinner). But then I also think of the companionship I have with my husband, that first reflex I have to turn to him the minute I have some news to share, or something, no matter how trivial or amazing, happens and I just need to share it with someone else. Having a person in your life – be it a spouse or partner – gives a different level of complicity that you don’t have even with your tightest BFF.

    Okay, sorry I rambled *grin* but I loved your post and wanted to leave a comment. Looking forward to dropping by here regularly now

  2. says

    Didn’t marry my sugar daddy, but we did marry after 30 and there’s no sign of settling yet. Since getting married (7 years ago) we have moved 6 times (the last one was halfway across the country), each of us completed master’s degrees, flipped 3 houses, renovated a fourth house, had 2 children and started a business. I’d actually welcome a little settling about now, I could use the break!

  3. says

    i really like the second aspect – settling down as sth negative. i never thought about it that way but it’s true, it gives marriage a negative ring. but it really is up to every couple to define their own relationship — no shoulds and woulds and whatnot.