I will never forget the late Mr. Desire, my math teacher. Sadly, the recent earthquake that ravaged Haiti dawned on his life. He once argued that one should never get married for the sake of love, rather because it is an obligation. What we call love was attitudinal, he explained fervently, and as we know, attitude is anything but constant. Being a firm believer in romance and chivalry, that statement did not sit well with my inexperienced naïveté. Romance, in my view, was the flaming passion that ignited love and made it exciting. Hence, I vehemently disagreed with his logic referencing the Romeos and Juliets of history. Lately, however, I have been pondering the validity of his statement. Could it be true that people eventually grow out of love? Could priorities such as children, employment, and debts have buried the passions of love so deep that divorce would become the inevitable result? One thing is evident: the stats on successful marriages over the past half-century are grim, which beg the question if romantic marriages actually work. Even more sobering, the success rate of marriages among church members has declined to 45 percent. How can the church claim moral supremacy if it cannot even keep its devout members committed beyond an average of two years?
Naturally, some attribute this failure to eroding values in the American society; however, I wonder if people aren’t simply getting to the altar for the wrong reasons. We could blame Hollywood and their ideology, which seems to idolize wealth, its moral compass for conjugal life. Fame and popularity are not bound by the same ethical standards, as do ordinary people, yet they are the role models and main source of entertainment for mainstream America. Furthermore, It could be the case that parents have become too selfish to sacrifice a lifetime for the sake of children and dysfunctional marriages. It certainly seems easier to get a fresh start with someone new. Surely, anything else must feel better than their current status; however, the rate of success for second marriages is even more hopeless. Moreover, we could blame the advent of technology for the lack of patience and tolerance we demonstrate when dealing with significant others. According to some experts, we learn to become helpless through the use of technology. This point of view infers that people tend to equate life to a game in which they can start over at the mere sight of failures and difficulties. We could even go as far as blaming Capitalism for our failures. After all, money is the driving factor in that system. Nevertheless, the problem persists, as the declining rate of success of the sacred union shows no promising signs.
Perhaps my teacher was right in inferring that the passions of love wane over time. As a result, we end up with transitory commitments, which leave generations of children to be raised by the fist of anger and vindication. If we cannot convincingly argue that romance is essential to successful marriages, we need a new paradigm. Love should indisputably be the foundation of any marriage for it would be pointless tolerating someone in the absence of love. However, instead of putting so much emphasis on the “shining prince on a white unicorn” as the main reason to be swept away, we should try to find a soul mate that we can tolerate through the toughest of times. After all, the Romeo and Juliet formula have, thus far, failed on many cylinders.
My greatest fear is that people will eventually develop an increased tolerance for the current trend, which would lead to negative attitudes towards the institution of marriage. This logic would certainly be understandable in a postmodern society that relies so much on statistical data to make informed decisions. It would then be a matter of time before people no longer found value in something that fails on so many levels.
Finally, beyond looks, financial stability, romantic flares, and shortsighted pleasures; it may be useful to perceive marriage as an obligation that requires careful consideration, and patience. At the risk of sounding simplistic, should people take more time to find out how tolerable their potential partners could be and how they would deal with pressure, the eroding family could perhaps be saved. What would the family be without lasting marriages? More importantly, what would become of a society deprived of the fundamental structures of the family?