Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom there were two people who met and through a series of fortuitous coincidences, were able to live happily ever after. These are the tales that we’re taught and the narrative that runs through romantic relationships like a flood of muddy sludge. As a result, we’re often not prepared or at the very least, not fully prepared for how unlike a fairy tale our marriages are going to be like. Never mind the fact that the original fairytales were grotesque, gruesome and strangely eroticized in some ways, the fairytale that we’re sold today ends right around the time that people get married.
For those of you who read romance novels, they tend to end around the same time. Romantic movies, particularly romantic comedies, tend to end right when the relationship is either getting serious or the two people in question get married. This is what we see and the idea that is presented to us is that marriage is the reward. Marriage is a reward that you get for dating someone a long time and going through a series of hurdles with them. While this isn’t necessarily untrue, it’s not true either. The idea of being rewarded often gives the impression that your work is done when that is far from the truth.
Whether you are a person who espouses extramarital affairs or not, you have to understand that the happily ever afters don’t often exist. They tend to rely on multiple levels of security, comfort, and understanding which we don’t always have access too. For example, it was found that those who were under financial stress tended to have more issues within their marriages than those who were financially stable. The same goes for those who work stressful jobs, for those who have cultural differences (without the understanding that would be required), etc.
While the divorce rate has gone down in recent years, so has the rate of marriage. It’s almost as if an entire generation is coming to their senses and realizing that the happily ever after just doesn’t happen the way it’s supposed to. People like to look to more sensationalized aspects of marriages breaking down in order to point out a culprit. Extramarital affairs are a favourite target without people realizing that it is the little things that can kill a marriage as easily as the bigger ones. Affairs are usually a symptom of a marriage that’s breaking down or even an attempt to save it rather than the one thing which snaps it in half.
While it would be nice to be able to point to a single thing within marriages and blame that on the breakdown of marriages along with the alarming divorce rate, life is never so simple. The happily ever afters that we grew up with faded when we realized that our parents were going to get a divorce. The idea of monogamous marriage as the end goal of a relationship is also slowly changing. Some people remain in common-law marriages, while other people dabble in open relationships and the like. The truth of the matter is that the sooner that we can let go of the fairy tale endings that we’re all hoping for, the easier that it will become to be married.
Not that the responsibilities will be any less or that there will be more time for fun, but at the very least the unrealistic expectations and pressure that are heaped upon those who are married will be mitigated.