Tom Purcell: Too many options are making our marriages miserable
Ah, July, the wedding season. What a great time of the year to NOT marry.
So suggest Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison in the June 11 edition of Newsweek magazine.
The two young, urban women write that marriage no longer makes sense – they cite an anthropologist who says humans are wired for a series of relationships over time.
Bennett and Ellison believe we have been liberated by our enlightened, progressive era – our era of unlimited choice and freedom. I think the opposite is mostly true. With all our wealth, you see – the recession notwithstanding – we are strangled by choice.
When we wake in the morning, we choose among hundreds of breakfast cereals, drinks, coffees, toothpastes, shampoos, towels, clothes … . Picking out a lousy pair of blue jeans – stone-washed, acid-washed, relaxed fit – can take an entire Saturday if you’re nutty enough to allow it.
And now we’re applying the same approach to dating, relationships and marriage in our fruitless search for our “soulmates”?
Sorry, but there is no soulmate, this lazy sense that someone will enter your life and keep you in a perpetual state of bliss. Isn’t human love as much the result of work, commitment, kindness and sacrifice as it is chemistry or dumb luck?
Unlimited choice – holding out for our soulmates – isn’t making us happy. It is making us miserable.
Rather, the act of making, and sticking by, a decision to love and care for someone – before your family, your community and your God – is the only way meaningful happiness can be found.
G.K. Chesterton said marriage brings a man and woman happiness because it limits their choice. Could you imagine being an artist, he said, who is trying to paint a canvas as large as the moon? Where do you start painting? By being boxed into a small rectangular area, the artist gains a point of reference and perspective. It is the frame that sets the artist free.
That is what marriage ultimately is: a decision. We’ve become a nation of adolescents, with unrealistic expectations, who aren’t much in the mood to make adult decisions.
The authors of the Newsweek article are trying to paint the moon. It’s just a matter of time, as I have learned, before they run out of paint.
• Tom Purcell is a freelance writer is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.