Marriage, in the “traditional” sense, is dead. It died long before Kim Kardashian’s 72 days of “holy” matrimony to Kris Humphries and in spite of the Obamas connubial bliss shining as a beacon of marital hope from the White House.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 44% of Milennials, 43% of Gen Xers, and 35% of the Baby Boomers surveyed believe that traditional marriage is rapidly becoming obsolete. And U.S. Census statistics are backing up these beliefs with increasing divorce and decreasing marriage rates that show matrimony is no longer the de facto destination for loving and committed couples.
This shift in values is also evident in what’s popular on television today. During the 80s, The Cosby Show was king…in the 90s it was the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Sure, these shows weren’t anything like the reality of the average Black person’s lifestyle, but they at least took a loving approach in how marriage was depicted. The current Real Bad Girls Basketball Wives of Atlanta who Love Hip Hop genre makes it seem like infidelity, violence, and materialism should be tolerated as the norm in our relationships. They also promote the warped belief that getting a ring from your man should be the main objective of a woman’s life, and that ANY partner is better than none. As much as the networks try to pass off these caricatures of relationships as “reality”, these shows are nothing more than an out and out assault on Black love.
It’s true that less and less of us are seeing Clair and Cliff Huxtable’s marriage as a desired or even possible way of life. Couples are shacking up. Engaging in open marriages. Registering as domestic partners. Choosing not to have children or having them outside of wedlock. Married, but living in different cities. This openness allows us to take a more individualistic approach to love, affording greater forms of personal expression within our relationships. As varied as our lifestyles are today, it is unreasonable to expect everyone to fit into the traditional marriage construct.
Let me be clear: I am not against marriage. Although I’m currently single, I’m open to marrying again to the right person and relationship. I am, however, against the emotional escapism and lack of personal awareness and accountability that’s currently the flavor of love du jour on popular TV, and driving far too many of us down the aisle.
There are a lot of people without any real direction that view marriage as an answer to their general lack of a greater life meaning. Take one Cup o’ Spouse, combine it with one serving of Desperate, and voila! Instant happiness! Marriage is not the great panacea. It is not a destination or “prize.” And it is certainly not the answer for anyone lacking a real sense of identity or life’s purpose.
If we are to combat the rise in divorces, there has to be a shift in what it means to be married. The reality is this: unless a marriage is based upon a spiritual connection it’s just a legally enforced domestic partnership in which you share space, bills and bodily fluids. If marriage is to endure, it has to be based upon more than emotional and physical connections cemented in financial and legal documents. It needs to be based on a foundation of compatibility, spiritual connection, and true commitment.
It’s true that our needs shift and change over the years, but one thing is eternal, which is spirit. Instead of using sexual chemistry, materialism and co-dependency as the impetus to wed, let’s instead use real love based upon a true commitment to mutual spiritual growth. Perhaps if we stopped making our long-term decisions on a partner based upon our immediate needs, our marriages would have a better chance of not only surviving, but actually thriving.