‘This is why you shouldn’t get married’

bad advice

Including from me. (Images/quotesgram.com)

Grumpy old divorced or unhappily married men say it a lot.

They’re the guys complaining about their wives during the backroom poker game at the country club after a round of golf. They’re the guys nestled up to the bar who overhear younger men’s conversations about their girlfriends or fiancées, and then disclose the check amounts they wrote to their ex-wives after getting divorced as cautionary tales. They’re the husbands reluctantly getting up from a sofa or armchair to perform some inconvenient household task during a game or TV show they’re watching.

They look over at you, and then with varying degrees of seriousness—but the sentiment always being the same—say: “And this is why you should never get married.”

Which is sad, because they really believe they’re doing you a favor, imparting this hard-earned wisdom.

Millennials (those ages 18-34 in 2015) have overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest demographic age group in the United States. One in four (25%) say they will never marry. (Here’s one Millennial’s take on why.)

So the grumpy old guys will see many young people heeding their advice. Some of the time, that will accidentally be a good thing. But mostly it won’t be, because it has been demonstrated repeatedly that marriage has an overwhelmingly positive effect on society—improving individual physical and mental health of partners, increasing wealth, improving education, reducing crime, and most importantly, improving the future lives of children raised by their biological parents in a stable and loving environment.

Cynicism’s Silver Lining

There is one positive to be gained from all of these old guys telling all of these young guys not to marry, and for all of the young Millennials who view marriage as some archaic religious and social construct that has outlived its purpose in the 21st century.

And that’s that many young people (regardless of intelligence and relative “maturity”) are ignorant mooks by virtue of being young. Just ask every 70 year old whether they want to trade brains with their younger selves. Hell—ask me. And I only missed the “Millennial” label by a year.

Many young people blindly follow The Life Blueprint® which says they have to find their future spouse in high school, college, or early in their young professional lives “before all the good ones are taken!” and then get jobs, a house and start their families.

And in all of this behavior modeled after what most of us witnessed growing up, we simply never learn what we don’t know about marriage and human relationships. It’s so fun and easy! We love each other, and always will!, said every divorced person years earlier.

We don’t identify our core values, nor do we enforce our boundaries. Maybe we’re too scared to start again. Maybe we simply don’t realize that will be the death of our marriages and the reason that our lives suck. But we ignore the bad and charge headstrong into marriage believing we’ll be the exception to the rule.

Since no one bothered to teach us what relationships REALLY look and feel like and how to effectively deal with conflict—or better yet, preemptively prevent it through best practices in marriage and long-term relationships—we end up learning the hard way.

It’s hard to blame the parents and our education system. No one bothered to tell them either.

But This is Mostly About Men Unwilling to Own Their Shit

It started with this HuffPost Divorce entry: 5 Reasons Women Leave Their Marriages; In Their Own Words.

My original plan was to take each listed reason and explore ways people could avoid divorce and breaking up for those same reasons.

But then I read the top comment (more specifically, the comment generating the most engagement), got a little pissed, and decided to write about it instead.

Five women shared their personal reasons for filing for divorce. Commenter Greg didn’t approve.

“This is why you shouldn’t get married fellas. Her change of heart costs you a lot of money,” Greg wrote.

The comment has 140 Facebook “likes” thus far.

Greg reveals later in the thread that he was awarded custody of his daughter because his ex-wife is a heroin addict who didn’t show up to court for the custody hearing.

One wonders whether Greg and his ex-wife might have done a poor job aligning core values and enforcing personal boundaries in their relationship.

Regardless, Greg may have been a model husband victimized by a spouse who didn’t adhere to her marriage vows. How do you tell a man with that experience that you find his opinion misguided?

But let’s get honest. Because examinations of conscience only work when we tell ourselves the truth, guys:

You were a shitty husband just like me. Maybe you didn’t know what you were doing was wrong. Maybe you didn’t intend to hurt her repeatedly and leave her feeling alone in her marriage, which is pretty much the worst thing you can do to your wife.

You took for granted that she’d be there forever, so you didn’t try harder. You weren’t scared enough. You committed a few crimes accidentally, but then intentionally failed to make amends for them.

She told you what you were doing hurt her, and you told her she was wrong, or that she was making it up in her head. She told you what you could or should be doing to help her manage the household, and you played the You’re Not My Mom & I’m the Man of the House card. And when she wanted to talk about ways in which you could improve your marriage, you denied her your listening ear, accusing her of demanding MORE change from you while seeming unwilling to examine her own behavior.

“You’re acting like an ungrateful, spoiled little bitch. Nothing is ever good enough for you. You’re the best married person of all time. You’re an amazing wife who never does anything wrong! And I’m the worst husband ever who can’t do one damn thing right! It must be awesome being so perfect all the time! If you want to bitch about me some more, why don’t you find someone else who wants to listen to it because it’s not going to be me.”

Remember that?

Followed by you driving off to meet a buddy for a drink? Or retreating to another room to do or watch something you wanted to do more than have a conversation with her?

I mean, I wish I was the only guy who ever acted like such a childish douchebag.

I don’t feel any better knowing that I’m not.

There are a million reasons you shouldn’t get married.

Five short, personal accounts without additional context from divorced women on the internet SHOULD NOT be among them.

Because there are a million reasons you SHOULD get married.

Active and physically fit people sometimes die of heart attacks during workouts. Should people stop exercising?

People are sometimes hurt or killed while driving. Should we avoid getting behind the wheel?

Patients sometimes die in hospitals because of human error or unpredictable reactions to medicine. Should we stop visiting doctors while suffering health problems?

Bad news, guys: the problem was never the institution of marriage. It was us.

But maybe tomorrow we’ll make better choices, because I don’t think it has to be.

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15 thoughts on “‘This is why you shouldn’t get married’

  1. “…the problem was never the institution of marriage. It was us.”

    Ah, I love this. Men or women, that is the beginning of all wisdom. Marriage as an institution is not the problem, nor is it even our spouse. At some point we chose them, at some point we thought they were the cat’s meow. If it turns out we chose really poorly, well, that is our fault too.

    I suspect this truth will look a bit different for men than for women. Wives are far more likely to go, “well it’s all my fault,” and men are far more likely to fall in line and go, “yep, it’s all her fault.” What really needs to happen is for us to reverse that in general, for men to pickup responsibility and for women to set down control.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia says:

    Thanks for another great post, Matt. I’m one year post-divorce and still grappling with the idea of ever marrying again. I used to feel that marriage was a necessity, but I’ve realized that I don’t really need it. You don’t need to be married to love someone for a long, long time, ya know? I used to think marriage=security, but I realized that isn’t true.

    “Active and physically fit people sometimes die of heart attacks during workouts. Should people stop exercising?

    People are sometimes hurt or killed while driving. Should we avoid getting behind the wheel?

    Patients sometimes die in hospitals because of human error or unpredictable reactions to medicine. Should we stop visiting doctors when suffering health problems?”

    We need exercise, cars, doctors – do we need marriage? Is it an essential?”

    I absolutely see the point you’re making, but I would love to hear more about the million reasons why we should get married :)

    Peace,
    Julia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Thank you!

      “We need exercise, cars, doctors – do we need marriage? Is it an essential?”

      I promise to address this when I can… I think it’s a very important conversation. Thanks for asking.

      Like

  3. marilyn says:

    Matt,

    I think we ought to decide if the words PREFERABLE, NECESSARY and ESSENTIAL should be SOME of the adjectives we use to describe marriage. That would give you and the contributors to this page enough “ammunition” to last until the next millennium.

    For instance I believe that marriage is ESSENTIAL if children are planned, yet in places like Holland ( I think it is there or in Sweden) where families are highly stable, extended and possibly several generations live nearby, the marriage rate is very low and the children are seemingly well-balanced and happy.

    There are enough variables in almost every culture — world wide — to make it difficult to determine if the values espoused and LIVED OUT are what determines the success of the marriage or if it is something we cannot see and quantify.

    (On second thought, maybe we should confine the discussion to what goes on in USA).

    Like

  4. Ash says:

    Your insight is always so raw and honest. I love it. I have never been married but I am in a long term relationship and we both see marriage as a thing to not go into lightly. Sometimes I am inclined to think couples would benefit by waiting longer to get married – longer in life and longer into their relationship. What do you think?

    Like

  5. mewhoami says:

    I was one of those “get married right out of high school before it’s too late” people and like many others, it didn’t work out. It was of no fault to anyone else, but us, for not fully understanding what we were getting into. Thankfully, nearly 20 years later we’re still friends – due mainly to the child we had together. Many people, unfortunately, place the blame of a broken marriage on marriage itself or on their spouse, without accepting any of the responsibility themselves. Marriages are tough, but they can also be beautiful. It’s all a matter of how important the marriage (and the spouse) is to the couple. If they want it to last, they’ll understand that it’ll take work and those who *want* it to work, will work on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kari says:

    I don’t have anything to add to the topic… but I do want to note that I [still] appreciate your posts. My 17-yo daughter and I both read your site; your input on empathy, individual experience, etc. has been a nice springboard/reference for personal discussions. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ejfpaff says:

    I love this! My husband and I got married young (25) after being together for 7 years. We knew each other and loved each other but knew NOTHING about what it means to be married. We rushed into it and never really got the chance to be ourselves as adults. We still love each other, we are best friends and are happy to be married but that’s because we have fought to make stay together. Marriage is work and we have turned it into a rote step in the blueprint, as you put it. Our generation (sadly, I didn’t miss the millennial label) is completely ignorant to the dedication, work, and self-awareness that it takes to maintain a marriage. Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JenBetween says:

    There’s a lot to be said about a man who can own his own shit, rather than project their issues onto their ex, spouse, partner, etc. Great read.

    Like

  9. Pamela says:

    “You chose the one you love and now you must love the one you chose”. I like that saying. Being a fellow millennial marriages 3 years and with the same guy for 9 years I definitely see a lot of millennial opting out of marriage. I think we fundamentally expect too much of the wrong thing from our spouse. Can he buy me a house? Does he make a lot of money? We miss out on what is important, which is common values, integrity and loyalty. If you have those you can get through most things. Love is a decision not a feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tina says:

    Matt-

    God Bless you Matt for writing this:

    “You took for granted that she’d be there forever, so you didn’t try harder. You weren’t scared enough. You committed a few crimes accidentally, but then intentionally failed to make amends for them.

    She told you what you were doing hurt her, and you told her she was wrong, or that she was making it up in her head. She told you what you could or should be doing to help her manage the household, and you played the You’re Not My Mom & I’m the Man of the House card. And when she wanted to talk about ways in which you could improve your marriage, you denied her your listening ear, accusing her of demanding MORE change from you while seeming unwilling to examine her own behavior.

    “You’re acting like an ungrateful, spoiled little bitch. Nothing is ever good enough for you. You’re the best married person of all time. You’re an amazing wife who never does anything wrong! And I’m the worst husband ever who can’t do one damn thing right! It must be awesome being so perfect all the time! If you want to bitch about me some more, why don’t you find someone else who wants to listen to it because it’s not going to be me.”

    My husband said the same things to me. And for awhile I believed them. Thank you for calling them out as the bullshit they are.

    Like

  11. death note says:

    There is probably a meme for this; this blog has given me unrealistic expectations of husbands.

    Seriously though. Mine is never going to see his contribution to the fall of our relationship. He firmly believes I am simply negative and cynical, while he is simply a good guy whose wife was ungrateful when things could have been so much easier if she didn’t need/want/expect anything. Just adopt a husband, let him live his life, live your own yet uh, what, live together as roomies? – “what’s the big deal” was a constant refrain in my husband’s limited conversations with me. Moving to a new place and refusing to participate because ‘what’s the big deal, just sort out your stuff and take it to the new place’ – sure, after several trips up and down stairs of our apartment building carrying boxes alone and eventually hiring a moving company, everything that couples do together I did alone.

    How do you women stop wanting closure, to call him, or write a letter to explain to MAKE HIM UNDERSTAND and draw the empathy out of him somehow – how do you let go of the person you used to love who stopped existing some time after the wedding, the best friend that stopped caring and even acting like he liked you yet for no obvious reasons refused to divorce you when you tried ending it. I really want to reach a peaceful place already, and accept that he’ll never try to understand. I want to be ok with that.

    Like

  12. marilyn says:

    To All: “THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULDN’T GET MARRIED'” .or perhaps more to the point “Am I Cut Out For Relationship?

    1. “marriage is an adult commitment — a thoroughly truthful enterprise of ongoing love. It entails an unremitting willingness to keep agreements and handle obstacles by addressing, processing and resolving conflicts….Of course, not everyone is cut out for a fully committed relationship…he/she may have no interest in doing the work a relationship requires.”

    2.” In the conventional view, living together is considered the logical goal of relating and an indicator of success. But the reality is that some people do not do well in mutual living situations, and they are better off in separate quarters even when the relationship becomes more intimate Neighbors might have a better chance of stress-free relating than live-in partners. It is up to both partners to make the uniquely appropriate plan that fits for them.”

    3.” Marriage and family are a special vocation not meant for everyone. It is an individual not a collective (societal) choice. It is for those who will enjoy a commitment to lifelong working through, working on and working within a context of family. It is equally legitimate to choose a celibate life, a gay life, serial relationships without children or marriage or any variation of these. The issue for a healthy adult is not which choice she/he makes but whether it reflects his/her true desires and is carried out WITH INTEGRITY.”

    Quoted from: “How to Be An Adult In Relationships” by David Richo” Part Two– Struggles Along The Way: Choosing A Partner.

    Like

  13. I’m 37 years old. I’ve never been married, and I don’t suspect I will be. I’ve been in some awful relationships, and one thing always stands out in my mind about all of them; my partners did not value me for the things I want to be valued for. I’m an artist, and a writer, and a crafter (I crochet) and I have never been with a man who cared about my talents, or my intellect, or valued me for them. I have, however, been with men hell bent on distracting me from my goals so that I pay more attention to them. I have been with men who try to censor or control my artistic voice. I have been with men who directly competed with me artisticly. I have been with men who only cared about the fact that I am an artist because they wanted to use my talent to promote whatever they were doing at the time. Mostly my partners could care less about the fact that I’m an artist, and that really hurts. Maybe you could shed some light on the subject here, but why are men like that? Because I’m really sick of it, and I see no real hope. I’m also getting older, and let’s be honest, most single men my age are scouting for something younger, maybe you could shed some light on that one too. I feel like every partner I’ve ever had wants to change me to suit them, and it get’s so tiresome. No. Until men shape up, I’ll be alone. I can do bad by myself. I feel that I should also add to this rant here, that I’m not a typical or average woman by any means. I am a wild bohemian Kali worshiping free spirit of the earth and trees, and I’m confused about men. I really don’t know what you want from us. What do men want from women? I would say that mostly what you want is warm place to put your dicks and, in general, a fucking slave. No. I’m not getting married.

    Like

  14. flutter45 says:

    Damn Matt. Again I see my husband in your post and wish I had known about this blog long ago, though I doubt he would have truly understood why I was showing him some “random guy I am reading on the Internet.” I am glad I am not the only woman who feels this way because of my husband’s actions or lack of.

    Like

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