Five Ways Marriage Can Still Work

A response to Anthony D’Ambrosio’s “5 Reasons Why Marriage Doesn’t Work Anymore”

It’s a snowy evening in Colorado, and I am sipping my tea while recovering from the flu. A flu that happened because I sometimes work with kids for fun as a ski instructor, something I do together with my dear wife. We’ve been married for three years. And it is one of our many, many jobs. (She has three, I have three too…)

And lo and behold, I happen upon D’Ambrosio’s relatively scathing review on marriage. I giggle to myself, sipping my tea, and notice that I too am of a similar age (And this is where our similarities end). He’s divorced. I am not.

He argues that our generation is at a disadvantage when it comes to marriage, and I have to wholeheartedly disagree.

I would argue that marriage for most of my generation fails due to our choices.

Same generation, totally different perspective.

While I won’t disagree that the necessity of marriage has shifted, the fact that marriages sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t…simply hasn’t changed. At all.

His five arguments as to why marriage for my generation is doomed are as follows: 1) We stop having sex; 2) Finances Cripple Us; 3) We’re more connected than ever before, and less connected; 4) Our desire for attention outweighs our desire to be loved; and 5) Social media just invited a few thousand people into bed with you.

Here’s the thing, while most of his points are valid, they aren’t intrinsic to modern marriage. They are utterly extrinsic and something we, as a generation, CHOOSE to actively participate in and effect us.

Here are each of his points, in turn, reframed with choices. Alternatives that we can choose, on a daily basis.

1. We stop having sex…because we choose to, and we can also CHOOSE to have sex.

Media is always in our face with sexual images. Fact.

There are so many ways to cheat thanks to online dating. Fact.

Sex becomes a chore.

Yes and…

We can choose to create time for intimacy. We can choose to expand our abilities to love our partners physically and emotionally. And we can choose to not look elsewhere with straying eyes. We can choose to not consume overtly sexualized media on a regular basis. And we can choose to find sex anything other than a chore.

And we can choose to have sex, and enjoy sex. And love our partner’s for all their flaws, even if you think Angelina Jolie is far sexier than your own wife. You can choose to realize that ain’t freaking happening, and then enjoy going to town with the person you married.

We don’t have to expect perfection. We choose to expect it. And we can choose something different. But, it does take two to tango.

2. Finances cripple us…Because we let them, and we can CHOOSE to make smarter decisions

Does our generation have a higher debt-load? You betcha.

We spend more on education than previous generations. Housing IS more expensive to purchase.

But, there are options.

You don’t have to buy a house.

In fact, it’s proven that owning real estate may or may not be a great investment these days. It is quite the gamble. Turns out renting your home is often a more financially sound decision for the first decade of marriage anyway (sometimes even longer, totally depends on your financial picture). When you rent? The roof leak is paid for. So is the new washer/dryer. There’s lots of benefits to renting.

You can live in smaller spaces.

All my homes after college, including that one that I currently own, have been tiny. 320 to 1,500 square feet (Smallest: NYC. Largest: A house we owned in San Antonio two years ago). My rent and/or mortgage has never been more than $1200 a month. And often, far less thanks to sharing spaces with roommates. YES, even after our marriage we’ve had roommates. It isn’t always easy, but it makes owning a house far easier.

Heard of the tiny house movement? It’s real, and it is a cheap way to live. We can choose to live differently. Or we can choose to believe the American dream of a big, nice house and 2.1 children is the way to live.

Move to a place with a lower cost of living

Our grandparents moved to the boondocks to afford living more cheaply. Telecommunting and online business makes this even more possible than before. Most of us choose not to live in the boonies. Hence…Higher cost of living.

You don’t HAVE to go to college

Yes yes. I get it. You can go to college. And yes going to college increases your earning potential. But thanks to the internet? Not necessary. You can learn skills, become an entrepreneur, and make money. Don’t believe me? Just ask millionaire Kimra Luna, or unschooling advocate and storyteller Isabelle Rizo (Not to mention the famous others like Zuckerberg and Gates, etc).

Sure, college is great. I went to college. I loved college. But it isn’t the only way to increase your potential to make money.

And if you can’t pay for it? Taking out the debt load is unlikely worth it.

And less debt in the form of mortgages and college tuition? More freedom to enjoy life.

There are literally millions of ways to make money these days. But they do require ingenuity and grit. Us working three jobs? It’s a lot of work. But we picked things we enjoyed and things that pay the bills. And yes, we’re busy. But we aren’t languishing. And we sometimes get to go on vacation too…Just not very often. (Sidenote: Nor do we need it, thanks to picking careers we love.) Nor have we made the CHOICE to have a child…YET.

But again, choices…

3. We’re more connected and simultaneously disconnected…. because we CHOOSE to detach from our technology.

Technology makes life easy, and it makes building ‘connections’ a snap.

Want to send your wife flowers? There’s an app for that.

Dinner reservations? There’s an app for that.

Argument? There’s a text rant for that.

But what if we noticed our addictions to technology and decided, CONSCIOUSLY to shift our relationship with it? Is that even possible? The easy answer…Yes.

Sure, we’re addicted to technology, like cocaine addicted. And if cocaine was getting in the way of our relationships, you probably want to stop taking cocaine. Just a thought. So if technology is getting in the way of our relationships?

STOP. Use it responsibly. Make a different choice. Don’t text argue. Swing by the grocery store to buy flowers. Go on a walk to find a new restaurant. Build dreams on paper. Create goals to reach together. Build impossible castles in the sky and chase them. And turn off your freaking phone.

If it worked for our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents before us it sure can work for us too.

4. Our desire for attention outweighs our desire to be loved…

Social media makes everyone almost or nearly ‘famous’.

Sure! Or at least it drives certain people to be famous or desire to be. And yes, we post fancy photos of us at clubs. And we get gratification from the likes. But this plays back into the technology piece…what if we decided that we didn’t need to be liked, famous, or adored?

By your late 20's don’t you think the dream of being the next American Idol and having millions of fans can dissipate? It’s a choice. (You get the gist here yet?)

If love is about acceptance, as D’Ambrosio so vehemently argues, then the sooner we accept the person we married, and the sooner we can release our dreams of being famous….The sooner we can be happily married.

5. Social media just invited a thousand people into bed with you…Because YOU INVITED them in. CHOOSE to have boundaries for crissakes.

We go on vacations and post fancy photos.

We go to concerts and film the concert rather than enjoy it.

We go to EASTER CHURCH SERVICES AT SUNRISE and video tape the sunrise rather than enjoy the music (this has happened to me before, it’s terrifying).

It’s all a choice. You get that yet? We can CHOOSE not to invite people into our lives. We can CHOOSE to go on mostly tech free vacations. We choose not to.

Often, when I go on vacation with my wife, we make a conscious effort to turn off our phones for a few hours or overnight. Sometimes we phone stack with our friends at dinner, and don’t let anyone look at their phones. And we certainly don’t air our dirty relationship laundry on the book of faces, or instagram.

The Ultimate Choice.

Marriage is a choice in the first place. No one (or at least unlikely these days in the United States) held you at gunpoint and forced you to say ‘I do’.

Staying married is a choice. Struggling through a marriage is a choice. Divorce is a choice.

And staying happily married? Also a choice.

Rife with intention, compromise, and two willing parties. Two willing parties who are willing to make choices that are unpopular, sometimes difficult, and not always mainstream.

But that is also a…choice.

The Harsh Reality….

Most of these items are related to technology and mass media. Notice that? In fact…ALL OF IT is.

And my generation loves to blame technology, romantic comedies, unrealistic expectations and so much more for their misgivings–marriage or otherwise.

But, really? At the end of the day, it is all choices. Radical intention on what you want and how you want to live your life.

And truth be told? Maybe it is time my generation owns the fact that the reason why things are hard for us…Is us. And our choices.

Take back your control. What different choices can you make?

(Please excuse my typos, I have the flu. I’ll be back to edit soon. )