This article is the suspected culprit in a couple of recent breakups among my extended circle of friends. Read it, then come back and we'll discuss.
The friend who alerted me to the article called me in a rage and pledged to spend her three-day weekend composing a rebuttal. She hopes to find herself on the road to marriage soon, and I think she sees this article as a speedbump. I get where she's coming from -- the author is perpetuating a stereotype and sowing seeds of doubt -- but I don't share her outrage.
Tad Low may be commitment phobic, but he's not entirely off the mark. You can't ignore the statistics: More than half of all marriages fail. But where Mr. Low is mistaken, I think, is that it's not the institution of marriage that needs changing, it's our attitude.
Marriage is hard work. Just like your law degree or your medical residency. You have to put in the hours, both in preparation and in practice. People don't get that anymore. We're so used to instant gratification we rush to the altar faster than you can say "Evite." And our culture is so disposable, when the going gets tough we throw marriage in the recycle bin and wait for someone else to come clean it up.
The sad fact is that a lot of people research their cars more carefully than their life partners these days. I'm not saying you need to dig for Cayman bank accounts or corpses in the backyard. I'm saying ask the hard questions: What if your house burns down? What if your parents need care? What if your child gets sick? Or (God forbid) dies? What if you can't have children at all? Yeah, it's a buzz kill to talk worst-case scenario when you're trying to plan a wedding. But it could mean the difference between seven years and forever. I'm willing to bet that if you surveyed 10 couples, nine could list their fiancees' favorite pizza toppings and maybe three could tell you how their partners respond to crisis.
On the subject of children, I happen to agree with Mr. Low: I think kids are better off splitting time than living with parents who love their children but hate each other. Poker face be damned, kids are intuitive. They can read every emotion, spoken or not, and a silently hostile home only perpetuates dysfunction by setting a poor example. I say this not as the product of a broken home -- my parents have been married 34 years -- but as someone who's watched some friends go through it with their parents and others try to work it out with their kids.
Case in point: My friends M (her) and J (him) got married young. J is the youngest of six children, the collective product of their father's five marriages. After a year things got tough for my friends; They were both stressed and arguing all the time. M suggested counseling. J packed his bags and walked out. It wasn't constructive, but it was all he knew.
I've never been anybody's wife. These are just the opinions of one person who has seen, up close and personal, the ugly reality of more than one untended marriage. People cheat. People lie. People bring their mistresses on week-long business trips to San Francisco. That's what happens when you stop communicating with your spouse. If I ever get married, I want to be sure.