For the past few years, I’ve been in that phase where a large percentage of my social circle is getting married and having babies. While some single friends are struggling to adjust, I would venture to say I’m doing just fine. Not weeping in a corner wondering what has become of my so-called life but also not doing “I’m single & lovin’ it” cartwheels down my driveway. I’ve attended enough beautiful weddings to appreciate the promise that exists in an ‘I Do’ and witnessed enough nasty divorces to understand how quickly things can take a terrible turn for the worst.
For most single women open to one day tying the knot, marriage is sacred. It’s the culmination of finding Mr. Right and securing that once elusive thing called everlasting love. However, as I talk to many unmarried friends lately, there seems to be an increased hesitation to exchange rings and recite vows. A negative view of marriage has definitely emerged carrying with it a slew of pessimistic hearts and downturned mouths.
Initially, I was surprised to hear women sound so opposed to the very thing they’ve been dreaming about since childhood. What happened to shift their way of thinking so strongly? I assumed there must be a trending article detailing the pitfalls of marriage or possibly new statistics released by a medical journal saying it’s officially bad for one’s health. Regardless, I needed to understand what was capable of having such a powerful influence on how my friends came to lose such a seemingly intrinsic part of themselves. It didn’t take long for the answer to leap out at me. Well, not literally. It was the result of an IM received on Facebook coupled with two conversations I had with married male friends. All three interactions, while extremely different, profoundly affected my view of marriage and the concept of taking that transformative journey down the aisle.
On Wednesday, I spoke with Mason*, a B-school friend that’s been happily married for eight years. For the better part of ninety-minutes, we discussed relationships, family, life and everything in between. When Mason mentioned his wife or their children, love and sincerity flowed through his words. He cherishes his family and the future he’s building. I’m not saying he and his wife haven’t had their rough patches. However, he’s always been one to quickly remind any listener that marriage requires both hard work and commitment and he has no plans to shy away from either.
Two days later, I had lunch with Derek*, a thirty-two year old currently in couples counseling with his wife of three years. Derek’s marriage problems started long before he stood at the altar. He’s a great friend but a complicated significant other due to infidelity and communication issues. After only one year as a husband, he cheated on his wife later telling me it was because he felt trapped and torn. He loved her but doubted she was The One.
The following Monday, I received this IM on Facebook from an old high school acquaintance:
Heeeyy beautiful. Hru? Guess What… I dont hv any panties on. (Whispering) lmbo. Hv a great day friend.“
No joke. I received that EXACT message in my inbox. I was confused, surprised, and annoyed-in that order. Not only was this guy a mere acquaintance (we probably spoke twice in high school) that suddenly felt comfortable enough to share a juvenile joke, but he’s married with two kids! I wondered what his wife would think if she read his private message. How much would he trip over his words to explain this as a simple joke or misunderstanding. Oh honey, it’s not what it looks like. Yeah, right.
Within one week, I’d come to see marriage quite differently than in the past. It wasn’t from talking to married girlfriends, watching talk shows about married life, or trolling blogs to understand why marriages fail and succeed. The primary difference that week was my interactions with married men. That’s when the lightbulb went off.
Married men have become one of the most significant influences on single women and how they view the time honored tradition of marriage.
Their words cause us to reset expectations and their actions are akin to a bucket of cold water being thrown in our faces. Married men help us gauge the chasm that exists between our childhood dreams and our grown woman reality. They have the power to shift how we view, not only what marriage is supposed to be, but what it tends to be – for better or worse.
So, do our married female friends have any influence? Yes, but not in the way you’d think. Our married girlfriends can complain all day long about their husbands but we casually dismiss their rants with thoughts of ‘well my husband won’t be that way’ or ‘I would never have to deal with xyz.’ Instead of seeing their marriages as learning guides, we often make ourselves and our future relationship the exception.
After thinking about this for a few days, I wondered – if single women are increasingly becoming dissatisfied with the idea of marriage, are married men to blame? What could they be saying or doing to cause this epidemic? I’m certain my married guy friends view our conversations as innocent, friendly interactions. But what about the not so harmless actions taken by married men that taint the image of holy matrimony? What else are men doing to ruin the single woman’s fanciful notions of happily ever after? Read Part 2 of this post – 5 Ways Married Men Ruin Marriage for the Single Woman!
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(originally posted 01.14.14)