Last week, Heeb ran an essay entitled The Bright Side of Being Single, in which author Alison Stevenson illuminated a few of the benefits of avoiding committed relationships. As a woman who’s been hitched for X number of years–long enough to have two in-wedlock children in elementary school–I was gratified to see so many Facebook-likes for the post. Yet I’m concerned that some of Ms. Stevenson’s fans might think she was only joking or that if you fall in love with the “right person” her valuable insights no longer apply. Since nobody was dying in any of the emails I received this week, I’m breaking from this column’s usual format to show you the back view of Stevenson’s sage arguments instead. Our country’s high divorce rate vastly understates the number of married people who wind up wishing they were single. At one point or another we all do.
Knowing the Other Person
Stevenson’s first complaint, after bemoaning her mother’s entreaties to join JDate, is that coupledom requires learning a lot of useless information about each other, which the mind retains long after you break up. Well, imagine not just bursting with picayune realities but being constantly, irritatingly reminded of them. Your husband leaves his dirty underwear on the floor–you need this reiterated twice a week when he showers? As for the reward for your spinning head that Stevenson cites, the privilege of smelling your beloved’s farts, with age and increasing resentment they smell worse.
Sure, breaking up sucks and may lead to drunken sexting and regrettable promiscuity. If you’re lucky. If you’re married with children it precipitates financial ruin, your children’s math scores plummeting (the psychological damage has already been done), and awkward moments with your ex in the principal’s office after your son hacks a school computer to watch porn (true story, thankfully not mine). In a divorce, drunken sexting is replaced by mandatory contact for years to come, and promiscuity is confined to your dreams. And should you choose to stay together, you’re not simply biding your time chugging vodka, as Alison describes. You’re waiting for one of you to die.
Focusing on Important Life Crap
Stevenson kvetches that when love strikes she gets goofy and forgets to pay the rent. An angry landlord is the high point–enjoy it while it lasts, Millennials. Stick with it too long, however, and you’ll forget who you are. I mean were, since your old self will no longer exists. Your identity becomes whose turn it is to take out the trash (more on this in a moment). Admittedly, there is some benefit to not walking around all day stalked by your buried dreams. But snag a moment of peace and they rear up and taunt you. Enjoy your massage.
Taking Out the Trash
Today’s man does his share of housework–if a coffee mug equals a sink full of dishes. Taking out the trash is not the same as serving breakfast and packing lunches five mornings a week while your daughters complain that their socks hurt (true story, affectionately mine) in a dark kitchen because the lone family member tall enough to reach the bulb refuses to change it, because you didn’t leave the window open according to his exact specifications, because you tripped over his shoes in the dining room, because etc. Married people inflict mutual misery and suffer together, at least.
In her thousand-plus-word ode to unattachedness Stevenson mentions sex only once–to contrast modern hookup culture against our grandparents going steady. She isn’t worried about retaining a guy in her life to help with orgasms. Vibrators, shmibrators; singles get laid more than married people. Period. New couples get it on the most, but even people who don’t have fuck-buddies, who rely on one-night stands, who need a pair of beer goggles to score, score more often–on average–than folks with all their eggs in the same old basket.
The best part of a relationship is the beginning…. Breaking up sucks less if the relationship was short…. Variety is the spice of life…. You do the math. I’m not against shacking up–it’s impossible to regret if you make a baby (and are minimally sane). Just please don’t squander your singledom by focusing on the downs.
You’ll be the rare person who listened.
I get that everyone comes from a different background as far as commitment is concerned. But I have always felt that one of the reasons the divorce rate is so high is because people rush into getting married for the “party” don’t budge on any of their own rigid “rules” and look at divorce as the answer every time things get difficult! That is not to say that there are not people who give it the ‘ole “college try” because there are plenty! But in my opinion, it’s all about respect, and searching (albeit sometimes desperately!) for the good parts in your partner during the times when you’d rather just strangle them! If you have children, it’s about realizing that this person helped give you this love you may have otherwise not known. It’s about getting down to the basics and truly seeing them for who they are, and if you don’t love what you see before you’re married….don’t GET married! But if it’s too late, of course you deserve another chance to find that with someone else! I believe that if everyone searches for true respectful relationships rather than chasing a series of “honeymoon phases” then the people who get into relationships and abuse or take advantage of their partners would STAY single the way they should, and all of the good people would continue to be matched up. Instead, people look for what they want RIGHT NOW rather than looking at someone and critically thinking about whether or not they can imagine having children with this person and whether or not they can overlook some of their less desirable qualities (see: dirty underwear on the floor); and people seem to look at divorce as THE option when things get tough. Don’t get me wrong, if you have gotten to the point where you can’t look at your Husband/ Wife and think anything good about them, when you think about the portion of your life that you’ve spent with them and all of the times you spent with this person when you were happier, and STILL can feel no love in your heart for them, please….get a divorce! That is not the marriage for you! But if the love is still there but buried by years of just plain disrespect and advantage-taking, divorcing could mean giving up on a love and life that are still salvageable. I just feel that in our world of instant gratification, interpersonal skills have been thrown to the wayside and most people have become complacent and would rather spend time with their various electronics than have to do the hars work of dealing with another person. Just my thoughts!