Despite Tiger Woods and the Gore divorce, we're still optimistic about marriage.
It's the day after Christmas and my family has somehow wrangled itself together to meet for brunch. Like the German invasion of Poland, we marched into an unsuspecting restaurant, taking it wholly and completely by surprise. And despite our terrifying presence, much like the Polish in 1939, they've put up little resistance to our maurading hegemony. We are all there—all eight siblings, both my parents, one grandkid and two spouses. We've converged on this place from Kansas, Minnestota, Iowa and Florida. And even though it's only 10 in the morning, we've spilled water, complained about the lack of cheese pizza in the brunch buffet and shot straw wrappers in each others faces. My mom has passed out a Christmas word puzzle and even though we are all adults, we are still bickering over the answers. The waiter asks my mom for a copy of the puzzle and she gladly complies. "What?" he says, looking at the sheet. "I don't get the answers?"
Appropos of nothing, my brother, married for two years, shouts from the far end of the table, "Hey, buddy, if you don't like puzzles, don't get married." We all laugh.
Over 50 years of marriage are represented at our table. My parents have been married for 30 years. My sister and her husband have been married for 15. My husband and I celebrated five years this past July and my brother and his wife have been married for two years. And as we laugh, joke, get under each other's skin and fluster the waiter, what we aren't talking about is my parents' tenuous relationship, the required absence of my sister's husband, or the tiff my husband and I had in the parking lot, before we even walked into the restaurant. But somehow, we've all made it and we're all bound and determined to get through the rest of the day as a family. Yes, even if it kills us or temporarily maims an unsuspecting waiter or two. Don't Believe The Naysayers: Why Marriage Will Always Be Relevant
The myth of marriage is that there is such a thing as a "happily ever after"... that at some point you can just put your relationship on autopilot. But if 2010 proved anything, it's that America's romance with marriage is over. Once a sacred cultural institution, marriage has fallen from grace harder and faster than Tiger Woods' fall from golf, and the comeback is going to be even more rocky. Tiger Woods Admits He "Let Family Down"
Speaking of Tiger, we began 2010 with Tiger Woods apologizing for his "selfish" and "irresponsible" actions. In the half-hearted apology heard 'round the world, Tiger came clean to his myriad of affairs and secret dalliances that led to the breakup of his marriage and, as it seems, the downfall of his game. And despite the fact that somewhere between 50 to 70 percent of married men admit to cheating on their wives, America was outraged. We acted like Tiger had cheated on us, personally. The Tiger Woods scandal, caused many people to question whether monogamy, like "happily ever after," was just a fairy tale.
In July, the public recieved the news that Tipper and Al Gore were divorcing, even though they loved each other very much and no, no one blames you. And like dumbstruck children, we all began to realize that, wait, quite a few of our parents were divorcing, seperating or seeing new people. The trend of boomer divorce hit us where it hurt: in the home. So many marriages that we thought were solid were falling apart. Al And Tipper Gore Are Separating
Finally, last month, the Pew Center released research stating that four in 10 Americans believe that marriage is becoming obsolete, and no wonder, given the disenchanting year. Like petulant pre-pubescents, we've decided to deal with the problems in marriage by stomping up to our rooms and slamming the door. As a society, we seem to be telling marriage that we want nothing more to do with it. And yet, like angry teenagers, we might be exaggerating, just a little. Shocking New Stats About Marriage And Families
2010 also brought great advances in equal rights for same-sex couples. Somehow, despite the high-profile divorces, splits and infidelity, same-sex couples are still fighting for their shot at "'til death do us part." So, what does this schizo-split attitude toward marriage mean?
The truth is, marriages are only as good as the people in them, which is to say, they aren't that great at all. But do our inherent imperfections make marriage and monogamy a dying societal institution? No. Reports of marriage's demise have been greatly exaggerated. No ring, no dress and no promise can make a person or relationship perfect. And sometimes it takes the rose-colored glasses being smashed to smithereens before we can accept and love what we have in an open and honest way. And while 2010 has been part of that destruction, in a small way it's also contributed to our acceptance of love as it is, not as we want it to be.
One year into my marriage, I woke up and looked at my husband, blissfully drooling away on his pillow, and I had a moment of panic. This was it. This was what I was in bed with for the rest of my life and I had the sudden urge to throw myself from the bed and run from our apartment as far and as fast as I could. But my husband rolled over and tucked me under his arm. An involentary guesture that even that early in our marriage is something he performed instinctually. That small guesture comforted me. And while I'm sure the future of my marriage promises to bring more moments of panic, there will also be small comforts and joy.
For marriage, 2010 was a year of panic. But I take comfort in the fact that love and commitment are still fighting the good fight. Marriage is one of life's most complex puzzles, and while there maybe no answer sheet, the joy is in figuring life out together.
What did 2010 teach you about your relationship?