August 29, 2007

Is marriage the new dating?

“I think marriage is the new dating and having kids is the new marriage.”

This is the proclamation made by one free-as-a-bird 21st Century woman in the new issue of Marie Claire magazine.

The article, appropriately called “The Starter Husband,” examines an issue gaining attention in the media, literary and entertainment world -- a nonchalant attitude toward an increasing number of drive-through marriages.

It’s turned up in books, such as “The Starter Marriage” by Kate Harrison and “Not Your Mother’s Divorce: A Practical, Girlfriend-to-Girlfriend Guide to Surviving the End of a Young Marriage” by Kay Moffit.

It even garnered a mini series this summer –- “The Starter Wife" -– starring Debra Messing.

But this article talks to real women behind the phenomenon -– those who have jumped in and out of matrimony, changing husbands like they change their sheets.

Marriage the new dating? It’s a bold statement. A scary one, even. But when you look at today's culture, it makes sense.

We live in a throw-away society, always trading in what we have for an upgraded version. Our televisions and cell phones are perfectly fine, but we want high-def and an iPhone.

We want things until we don’t want them anymore. Why should our spouses be any different?

Many of us have watched our parents split up, too. This can make some who were products of divorces more cautious about choosing a partner in the future, but it also plants a subconscious seed that the option (divorce) is always there. That there’s always a way out.

A few of the women interviewed in the article said they got caught up in planning the wedding instead of planning the marriage. Some, nearing the big 3-0, caved to pressure from family. One said the man she married looked great on paper -– she’d have been crazy NOT to marry the guy.

Most realized they had made a mistake within months of saying “I Do.”

But is that how we should view a commitment to have and to hold ‘til death do us part? As a “mistake” that can be corrected with a phone call to a lawyer?

If this is what’s happening to the 25-30 crowd, I wonder what will happen to Gen Y as we reach the age to start pairing off.

We were pampered and coddled by our parents. They told us we were smart and that we could do anything, go anywhere and be anything. We are accustomed to kicking ass and taking names and getting what we want, when we want it. How will this mentality affect our perspective in a union?

Additionally, I wonder if our "have it now" generation can even fathom the concept of staying commited to someone –- or anything –- for a lifetime.

Our grandparents and even some of our parents held the same jobs or worked for the same companies for decades, maybe even their entire lives. But the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show workers today average eight jobs before they turn 32.

Do we have any loyalties? Or will we, too, change our spouses, jobs and identities as we grow up?

I hope this isn’t the case. I hope that marriage can still mean something in society today –- that the high divorce rate and the bleak statistics on separating couples don’t disillusion us into the belief that matrimony is no big deal.

When the day arrives for you to say "I Do," I hope you won't be thinking that you can have a do-over.

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