Since at least the time of Socrates, there are records showing that older generations detest, criticize, and lament the actions and norms and beliefs of the next. It’s a given. It’s going to happen, and I guess it’s a coming of age sign that spans centuries of history.
There are a million memes online about younger generations that are no different than centuries’ worth of old curmudgeons’ quotes about the matter. Socrates himself said:
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
Which looks remarkably like:
So, it’s really no surprise to me that this same type of judgment is passed on the whole marriage/divorce thing with memes like this:
It’s a cute quote, I suppose, but it doesn’t take into account the historical context of marriage. It was a business arrangement or at least was more a matter of money, power, and survival than about love. It evolved, eventually, to have a more intimate sentiment, and now, we find ourselves in another time yet again. And, like every generation before it, old people can’t understand that shit changes.
Marriage really didn’t become about anything remotely resembling love until the 20th century. And, it wasn’t until the 1950s that marriage became something that symbolized normalcy and was equated with the ultimate expression of commitment. It still wasn’t necessarily always about love, though. For women, it was almost impossible to survive without marriage and considered neurotic not to marry. It was still, even in the most iconic decades of the century, little more than a means to financially and socially make it in this world. Today, through media depictions of marriage and love, that image has changed into something that symbolizes the greatest act of love imaginable, but it is no longer a type of social contract that literally means forever through better and worse the way it began…it’s not a financial arrangement. It’s not about survival. It’s not business.
The 70s and radical feminism began to give women more freedoms and power, and while it is still an uphill battle to equality, marriage is not the necessary arrangement that it first was. Love reigns supreme and most people still get married at least once. But with those freedoms came the power to marry solely for love. There is no longer a need to be married. It’s a choice that two people make as an expression of the way they feel for one another and, often, a label for the benefit of others. It was these same freedoms and resulting empowerment that also enabled people to get out of marriages easily for the first time causing divorce rates to skyrocket and to remain high over decades of time. Forever vows no longer mean forever. Forever just sounds better than “for as long as I can stand the sight of you.” Marriage by choice instead of marriage to profit and survive is the new norm and with that norm comes the ability to change one’s mind. As it should be.
That’s where memes like the one above with its quotes about fixing something that’s broken really bother me. I don’t mean that I truly believe love can never be eternal. I don’t mean that marriage can *never* work in the long term. But, marriage isn’t a contract anymore. It can be unfixable, and there should be no stigma associated with that. There’s nothing inherently weak about two people changing in ways that are no longer complimentary and saying things no longer work.
My grandparents stayed married for more than 60 years. My grandmother is now a widow. Divorce, to them, was never an option. They slept in separate beds my entire life. They bickered and fought like any other married couple, but there was never any affection between the two of them. They were hardly even friends much less still in love. The two of them stopped being compatible long before I was born and stayed that way, living under the same roof resenting each other and honoring their vows, until the day my grandfather died. Is that really what love is about? Honoring your commitment? I’m sure they thought they were fixing what was broken, too, but there’s only so many times you can glue a leg back onto a table before you have to decide that maybe you’ve wasted all your time fixing something that repeatedly breaks for a reason…
Life is evolution. It’s change, growth, trial and error. In our lifetimes, we wear so many faces trying to figure out the one that really fits with who we are and who we want to be. Sometimes, when the dust settles and we’ve found out what we’re really made of, that person we promised ourselves to for the rest of our lives has evolved into something we no longer recognize or perhaps that person is still exactly the same as the day we met them. The latter is what happened to me. I grew and changed and evolved and realized that the person I was married to was absolutely stagnant. Maybe he’s happy being that person…maybe at 20 years old he had found himself because he’s still that same person 9 years later (though the chances of that is highly unlikely isn’t it? and I can tell you from experience in this case it’s a big resounding unlikely).
I changed. He stayed the same. And, the person I became wasn’t the one he wanted forever from nor did I want to give him forever. We didn’t fix something that was broken because what we had was unfixable. It’s like dropping your favorite coffee mug onto the kitchen floor and watching it shatter into hundreds of pieces... It’s clear from the start that the mess you’re looking at will never again resemble what it started as and will never work the way it was supposed to. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t intentional. Sometimes life works that way, and you have to roll with the changes. You might get a new favorite mug. You might like a little more variety in your life than the same old mug day in and day out and that’s more than fine. Beating yourself up over not trying to pick up the shards of your broken marriage and super glue them back together is not an option, though, especially because some old assholes try to pass around an Internet meme that is pretentious enough to assume there’s only one right way to do things…
The only right way to do anything is to let people live the fuck out of their own lives and to realize that societies evolve and people change and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it but enjoy the ride. And, if you can’t do that then do the rest of us a favor and shut the fuck up.
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