Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Single guys would rather stay single than make a mistake and have a bad marriage, according to a survey by a guy who is single and curious about his "condition" and that of his fellows. Successful but single, it's not surprising that the one thing they fear making a mistake on is one that will affect them for life. Anyone can recover from financial setback, anyone can claw their way back to the top from a humiliating plummet, but nothing reeks of "loser" more than the emotional trauma of committing to the wrong woman, and paying for it once the alimony judgement weighs in.

We've recently put a lot of pressure on ourselves when it comes to love and pairing up. We look at movie romances and mistake that for love. We can afford better things for ourselves now, so our expectations are much more attainable than ever before. It's no longer an impossible dream to buy our dates candlelight dinners and ocean cruises; to say nothing of champaign, roses and chocolate. Romance is ours to buy, even if on a budget.

But that's just the materiel -- keeping the mood of a romantic atmosphere is a lot of work. Romantic spontaniety is a myth. It takes planning, foresight, being always thoughtful and selfless... and impossible to sustain for long. Especially when married, because spouses are in each other's proximity all the time. Once married, it's like exposing all the behind-the-scenes preparations to the audience who's been marvelling at the show until they get invited backstage and handle the props for themselves. Then they're no longer impressed.

So our modern men do have a legitimate fear. A marriage based on this sort of high-pressure performance cannot last, so for them it's better to be single than suffer the inevitable heart-wrenching, socially-stigmatizing, emotionally overblown divorce proceedings from which there is no profit, only rack and ruin thereafter.

How did our previous generations survive life-long marriages the way they did? How did they put up with each other as they aged and grew less glamorous year after year? As they lost their hearing and yelled at each other (like my grandparents did with frightening frequency)? It's probably because they knew that romance is only love in its infancy. These days, few of us will allow love to mature further than that.

Love isn't roses, or laughter or sunshine all the time. Love is taking crap for each other and from each other and still staying together no matter what. It's probably best summed up by the character of Golde in the Fiddler on the Roof who replies to her husband's query if she loves him:

Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?

Can't help those guys who aren't married, and prefer it that way. To those of us who are, none of us married the "wrong" woman. Remember that when we married, we made a life-long committment "for better or worse". Expect the worst, 'cos that's where love shines truest.

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