Where is marriage headed? And why do we all want it so badly?

As I’ve been exploring the modern world of dating post-divorce, one of the questions I’ve been asking myself is what I’m looking for in a relationship.

The traditional answer would be, of course, marriage–and at the end of the day, I think that is probably what I am looking for; however, having been in a marriage that failed… well, let’s just say I have my reservations.

The interesting thing is that I don’t think most people ask themselves why they want to get married, because it’s an institution we take for granted. Also, as Tim Urban points out on his blog, Wait But Why, our society is uncomfortable with the notion that a couple who’s been together for a certain length of time wouldn’t get married. We’re even more uncomfortable with the notion of an open marriage, polyamory, or the latest and greatest invention in relationships, being “ethically non-monogamous.”

(One of the conflicts in the manuscript–a fancy word writers and publishers use for the first/unfinished draft of a novel–I’m working on right now involves a character who’s ethically non-monogamous and how that plays out in her relationship with a guy who’s not. I actually dated someone for awhile who described herself that way–not gonna lie: it was pretty weird–I was Tuesday/Wednesday guy. But for her, presumably, it worked.)

However, when I get back to the question of why I might want to get married again, I find that I can’t necessarily give a good answer. Would a stable relationship be awesome? Yes. Would it be amazing to have someone who was my rock and supporter, my lover, and my financial/business partner all wrapped up in one? Of course.

But therein lies the difficulty. Because what we ask for and/or need in a modern relationship is hard for any one person to fulfill on their own–and let’s just be honest: the prospect of having sex with only one person for the rest of your life is intimidating. As Tim Urban puts it in his post: “Your sex drive is not a complicated character. If it has a grilled cheese sandwich every day for lunch and then one day, you ask it if it would like to try the buffet, it’s going to say yes. Unless, of course, the grilled cheese is super fucking incredible.”

Anyway, I replied to one of my matches on a dating site yesterday, when we were talking about swipe/online dating generally: “I honestly don’t even know what the hell I’m looking for–I mean I guess everyone wants to get married right? And I’m open to that but having been divorced I know that just cause you’re both wearing rings doesn’t make everything unicorns and rainbows.”

I didn’t hear back from her.

But I guess that’s what I’m getting at: everyone in the online/swipe dating world is “looking for something real,” or “serious” or “long-term” or whatever–conversely and almost universally “no hookups”, “no Netflix and chill.” My question remains: why?

The answer, I think, is that we live in a transactional society. Everything is about possession–I see this regularly with my students: it’s all about the grade. “What did I get?” when the actual question should be: “what did I learn?”

Seems to me it’s the same for relationships. We want possession, security, belonging–but we ignore the fact that another human being is not a possession. The other thing I’ve noticed, and I wrote about this with Courtney Lawson, on the of the characters in Cherry City Pulp, is that many of today’s women in particular, are highly aspirational, and for them marriage is a status symbol–the final thing they need after earning their degree and getting that high-powered job (this applies to some men too, but we should remember that the way men and women react to the social pressure to conform and fit in are very different–women are much more likely to want to please others and receive praise; men more likely to rebel and act like assholes–maybe this has to do with how we’re raised to some degree, but there’s some biology there too*).

Again, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with marriage–it’s a wonderful institution when done right. The foundation for a meaningful life, a family, etc. But remember, nearly half of them fail. Think about that: the vast majority of people in our society are hell-bent on being in a relationship that’s a coin-flip, and the stakes could not possibly be higher (children, property, self-worth, etc.).

Doesn’t that seem a bit odd?

*(Oh, and if you’re one of these people who believe men and women are the same and we just teach them to be different, come on now–use common sense and your basic powers of observation. Do not confuse the fact that all humans should be treated fairly and equally with the notion we’re all the same–that’s just dumb.)


This is one for us single folks, specific to online/swipe dating. Well, sort of.

Include at least one photo of yourself where people can see what you actually look like: not just half your face or some selfie at a weird angle. In other words, don’t catfish people out of the desire to get more matches. And, if you’re not getting the kind of matches you would like, either: A) lower your standards, or B) lose weight (if you’re serious about it, follow the link and tune in tomorrow for what the ketogenic diet looks like day-to-day).

I know that sounds harsh, but that’s the reality here: the world of online/swipe dating is extremely shallow–even more so than real life. And that’s the better advice: do things that allow you to meet people in real life. Go out on the weekends–or hell, the weeknights. Get involved with your church or an charitable organization or a softball league or something along those lines. Chances are, even if you don’t meet someone in that community, you’ll meet someone through that community–someone’s mom will set you up, or a friend of a friend, or something like that.

I guess what I’d say is that swipe/online dating can work, but it’s a lot of work and you have to have good photos. Really good photos.

I prefer trying to meet people in real life–although that doesn’t always work either. I got a number from a beautiful woman the other night after a great conversation, and then after a few friendly get to know you sort of texts, I asked her out and it was ghost time.

Oh well. Love is a fickle, fickle thing.

As always, thanks for reading! Cheers!


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