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the american dream ain’t what it seems: marriage

March 17, 2011


I have some unmarried friends who are miserable living life as a single.  I can’t blame them sometimes, aren’t they just echoing Adam (Gen. 2) with a call for companionship?  Some of them finally find Mr./Mrs. Right, some rush the process and just get a Mr./Mrs., and others are still looking. Marriage is an important facet of the American Dream.  The ever lasting bedrock of stability that produces children and a dual income for two cars and a pricey house.

Marriage in the US is in a weakened state and its not because “the gays” want to get married.  Maybe it’s because we invest $20k-$30k and months into a wedding while rejecting premarital counseling because it costs too much and we don’t have the time.  Maybe it’s because we are obsessed with the infatuation stage of relationships, the exact stage most romantic comedies start rolling the credits.   Or maybe it’s because we put so much weight onto what a successful marriage should look like that no fathomable human relationship can bear the load.

So much of the American Dream hinges upon marriage yet many of us have grown up with divorce.  The PT article stated, “A child born to unmarried cohabitating parents in Sweden has a better chance of living with both parents at 16 than a kid born to married parents in the United States.”  This has created a generation full of hesitant relationships.  Stanley and Markman of CPREP states,

As a culture, we have become deeply ambivalent about marriage: we desire it yet we fear it.  We approach it, yet we pull away.

They have done extensive research on the rise and nature of cohabitation in the US. While cohabitation makes sense in that we can have a trial run before jumping straight into a lasting commitment, their research shows that cohabitating couples in the US are more likely to get divorced than non-cohabitating couples (13% difference).  This difference might be contributed to running after the wrong thing relationally.  Their research shows commitment has more to do with the quality and longevity of a marriage than compatability.  Many couples decide to cohabitate in pursuit of answers regarding comfortability and fit (happiness, American Dream), not commitment.

At some level the Marriage Dream is a part of the American Dream.  Our hesitancy doesn’t end when we say, “I do” either.   John Gottman (relationship expert) reported that the average married couple waits 6 years before seeking outside help for their relational troubles.  Some of us ignore the erosion within our marriage for a myriad of reasons and it sneaks up on us.   We end up not knowing what to do with so much friction and tenision.   It’s in these times I fear our culture sees marriage as a time limited, throw-a-way commodity.

To truly be happy we can’t hope time will heal or numb us within our relationships, we have to instead ask the difficult questions to one another.  Relational intimacy and blessing is the dream we should be reaching for and its a dream that requires work.  George Carlin famously stated, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”  I believe we have to wake up from our self-induced relational slumber and ask each other difficult questions that have long been over looked.  Are we going through the motions for the sake of appearance?  For the sake of routine?

To protect our American marriage from being crushed by the American Dream, we have to constantly ask one another…

Are we committed to a way of living or are we committed to each other?

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 17, 2011 12:46 pm

    We applaud the Japanese for their preparedness for disaster, even though they got whacked with more than anyone could be totally prepared for. Now we’re assessing our own preparedness for disaster. Perhaps this mentality should, as you suggest, transfer to our preparedness for marriage. That would amount to getting prepared for a blessing! Or on a larger scale, what does it mean to be prepared for the Lord’s second coming? Good job on your blog. Glad I subscribed.

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