• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

10 January 2009

we could be married, and then we'd be happy

We received a Christmas card "save the date" recently. The happy couple is in their mid-to-late twenties and have been dating for a couple of years at least. They're planning a late summer wedding. We also watched It's A Wonderful Life recently on a whim; in that story (Set in the late 1920s-early '40s), George Bailey marries Mary after what appears to be a flirty evening at a high school dance, four years of astrangement, and then a couple of passionate kisses. Additionally, his brother comes home from college with a 'surprise' new wife. These events and others have had me thinking a little about cultural and generational norms when it comes to marriage. So consider this:

A hundred years ago, it was customary* to date for a matter of weeks or months, get married, and live happily [or not] ever after. Forever.

Now, in the 21st century, it's customary to date for a matter of years, possibly live together for a few of those, be engaged for 12-36 months, get married, and if it doesn't work out, it's pretty much OK (by society's standards) to get divorced.

In the past, I suppose a marriage proposal was more of a request/judgement: A man found a woman he liked a lot, and requested that she care for him, his home, his children. She then judged whether she thought he was suitable for these pursuits, and if so, they married.

People today who are married after having dated for a seemingly inappropriate amount of time to make these judgments (say, less than 12 months) are whispered about: concerned friends and family wonder how long it will last, how they could tie the knot so quickly, whether the woman is pregnant, etc...

Now, it seems to be more of a serious business partnership in which love is not nearly enough. We believe that rather than learn about each other while evolving as a new family, we must learn everything we can about this person before deciding whether or not he/she is suitable as a 'forever' equal partner. We judge everything from serious values to annoying habits. Slowly deciding whether the simulated married life we've already created is something we can stick with in the future.

It's easy to see why these roles/processes have changed with the evolution of gender roles: more independence and equality leads to more complicated lifestyles.

I suppose the main "thing-that-makes-me-go-'hmmmm'" is that as marriage in our society has been depicted more and more as a serious, life-altering, one-chance decision that you best not make without years of background experience... Divorce has become more accessible, more common, and much less taboo than ever before.

What's up with that?

*I didn't live in the early 1900s, but I've come to this assumption through various stories and accounts of older folks.