Love and Marriage by Jane McCormick
In 1997, forty-nine percent of all marriages within the Middle Atlantic area (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania,) ended in divorce, according to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The same government agency has predicted that in the year 2000, newlyweds will have less than a forty-five percent chance of remaining married. As grim as these statistics are, divorce is often the healthiest choice, both mentally and emotionally, for many of the couples who are simply unable to make their relationship work.
My parents divorced in 1991, after twenty-five years of marriage and this announcement came as a shocking and unpleasant surprise to almost everyone they know, except myself, the eldest of their three children. To an outsider, which included anyone other than my nuclear family, my parents were living the American Dream. My dad was a successful, wealthy businessman. We had fancy homes and sailboats and cars. My mom won awards for her cooking and my dad won awards for his charm. We had everything...and we were miserable. Finally, in 1988, as I entered college for the first time, my mom took me aside and told me of her plans to divorce my father; a year and a half later she told my dad. Shortly after the divorce, my parents lost everything, my father his job, my mother her house and so forth. I grew up watching my parents live in marriage Hell, and later lived through the divorce process as my mom's sole confident for the year and a half it took her to gather the courage to tell my father she was leaving him. Divorce is extremely painful; however, an unhappy marriage is worse and I promised myself to take all precautions from "getting divorced" a second time. This paper will feature myself as a case history, in conjunction with the research I compiled during my quest to grasp the elusive components in a successful marriage.
The word "successful" in regards to marriage does not have an absolute definition; however, it is easily recognized, as a couple in such a union will remain happily married to each other during their shared life span. Since "happiness" is extremely personal in that what makes one person happy may make another person frustrated, the first layer of the foundation of a successful marriage relates to the individual, as opposed to the couple; the second layer is choosing the right partner. The "right" partner, like the word happiness, will vary from one person to the next. This is why the first layer, the individual, is the most crucial. Each individual will greatly increase their odds of choosing the right partner for themself if the individual has a firm and accurate, prioritized assessment of their own true needs and wants, and eventually committing themselves to choosing a partner that is naturally capable of fulfilling the most important ones.
Several self-analytical areas require added attention, such as the individuals main motivation for marriage. For some, the motivation is procreation; for others, the motivation is financial security (marrying for money); some people, like myself, consider love to be the best possible reason to wed. The reason a couple gets married will color their entire relationship. For example, a couple who marry in order to procreate, will base most decisions on keeping the family unit strong; perhaps the parents will choose jobs that do not pay well but that do not require overtime or weekend work so as to dedicate as much time as possible to the upbringing of their children, regardless of the financial hardships they may need to endure. A couple who marry in order to further increase their financial security may love their children just as much as the parents who married to procreate; however the couple who values financial security will often work weekends and evenings and may ultimately spend a considerable amount of time away from their children, yet to this couple, security is love, whereas the procreation motivated couple will often consider togetherness as love.
Although there are many different motivations for marriage, the importance is in understanding one's own personal inner motivation. My mother married with the motivation of family, not just children, but the entire family, husband included. My father married for financial security as it is a well-understood, unspoken rule that men in the corporate world are treated with greater respect and importance if they have a wife and children and those that get divorced are often looked down upon as weak. I am speaking not of the younger generation, but of the last of the "three martini lunch" executives that are currently in their fifties and sixties. Imagine the arguments that would arise with a married couple who do not share the same motivation to marry. In my situation, my mom was often upset because my father was usually working and rarely spent time with his children. My father, on the other hand, believed he was showing his love for us by providing us with money. I understand both sides from living through their experience and perhaps that is why I have not chosen either procreation nor financial security for my motivating reason to wed.
Those who marry for love will need to examine in greater detail, their own personal values, morals and most importantly, their requirements to feel "loved." The reason this group has more to self-analyze, is because it is the most complicated reason to marry. If children or money are one's motivation, the choices are much clearer as by simply looking at the external, the children or the bank account, the choices are more often than not closer to black and white, as opposed to the gray nature that accompanies the love motivation since this choice requires one to look internally and that is generally the hardest to see.
Those who marry for love usually desire a partner who will be their lover and their best friend and both are equally important. On one hand, we have the relationship called lovers and within this category lies sexual attraction and compatibility, romance and the feeling of being "in love." On the other hand, we have the relationship called best friends and within this category lies the importance of shared values and morals, complimentary lifestyles and unconditional love.
Sexual attraction, sometimes referred to as chemistry, is mandatory for most people motivated to marry for love. Sexual attraction requires the couple not only to feel physically attracted to the other, but to share the same views on sex. Romance is a decision that requires consistent action. In the beginning of a relationship, romance is portraying oneself physically, emotionally and mentally in the best possible light. Most people naturally put their best foot forward when getting to know someone new. It is rare to meet anyone who will admit up front that they are a recovering alcoholic or divorced three times and in fact, most people understand and expect the initial getting to know each other process to be null of negativity and often we are turned off by the relative few who admit their faults too quickly. It is romantic to put your newfound lover on a pedestal, but it is important to be aware of the idealistic stage and accept that in time the flaws will come out of hiding. In the beginning of a relationship, we see our partners in the most positive light: they are outgoing, expressive and successful - later, the same person is viewed as loud, too emotional, a workaholic. Romance is trying to see the positive side whenever possible and understanding that every lovable trait has it's hateable opposite. If the opposite is too unbearable, leaving may be the only answer; however, most of the time the opposite is simply an annoyance. There are times that it would be impossible and/or unwise to see the positive side, yet this should be the exception. For example, a financially successful, hard-working spouse will spend a great deal of time on their career, leaving less time for you, and certainly he or she needs to be reminded at times that they should be spending more time on their marriage; but if most of the verbal feedback was spent thanking him or her for providing nice things, security, etc., this partner would have more desire to leave the office early.
Romance should be acted upon throughout the relationship in order to maintain the "in love" feeling that lovers often share. Romance is not the hard, cold reality of day. It is the lighting during the evening in a fine restaurant. It is idealistic in the sense that romance is creating fantasy, but only a fool would wholeheartedly believe it is reality. Just as when meeting a new lover in the initial dating process we put them on a pedestal and bore our friends with descriptions of Mr. Right, deep down we know he is not perfect, we know he will drive us crazy and more likely than not, we know we will eventually be crying on our friend's shoulders, wondering why we wasted so much time with the loser we once called Mr. Right. We need romance, we need the fantasy and we need to feel the exhilarating rush of being "in love;" and we need to recreate and originate consistent romantic feeling in our partner, as well as ourselves because it feels good; however, if one makes the mistake of believing in perfection, then that person is not viewing love in a realistic manner. Romance is not the belief in a perfect partner, but rather a imperfect person, perfectly suited for the individual.
Genuine best friends love each other unconditionally. This means that no matter what happens, the state of love will exist between the two. Best friends generally get along very well together. Often they share the same values and morals and lifestyles. Best friends know the worst and ugliest sides of each other and still like and love them. There is no romance between best friends; in fact, romance is almost the opposite of best friendship. A marriage can be between lovers, but it usually will not last a lifetime unless the couple is also their partner's best friend.
I began my research for this paper by placing "ad's" on four Internet dating services: Matchmaker.com in both New Jersey and New York, Match.com and OneandOnly.com. Online dating services are intended to introduce people who share the same goal, whether it be a long-term relationship, a short lived love affair or one of the many "alternative lifestyle" choices available to pick from on the drop down menus on these services. Ideally, a man or a woman would describe their dream companion and volah...he or she would appear from out of cyberspace. Unfortunately, this is rarely the result.
One of the problems is in the limited background information on the subscribers to the online services. People could easily portray themselves in any way they want, with little or no regard to the truth. So while a service may believe, or at least hope they are making matches from Heaven, it is more the norm for the matches to be from Hell. Not only is this discouraging to all of the hopeful men and women looking for a mate, it also discourages the service providers, for the more successful their business, the more money in their pocket.
If there were a way to perform a full and complete background check on potential subscribers, the success ratio of decent matches would improve considerably. It has been predicted that in the near future most people with computers will have attached a device that is similar to a video camera. Some people own one now, but most have only seen this gadget on The Jetsons, where each cartoon character is able to talk on the phone, while seeing the person on video. If this device were affordable now, online dating services would have a greater success rate as subscribers could be pressured into "proving" themselves via video.
Another problem lies in having too many choices available on one service. Most online dating services welcome heterosexuals, homosexuals, marriage-minded-folks, as well as those looking to begin an affair, the "alternative lifestyle" people and those simply interested in a pen pal. If more services would specialize in one area, the success rate of matches would increase drastically.
Specializing would allow the service to ask the questions that would allow for the greatest understanding of the subscriber. A heterosexual, marriage-minded person would need to look into the future and into the past to honestly describe an ideal mate. Since I fit into this category, I understand that in order for me to narrow down my husband search, I need to be aware of the life I dream of living in the next twenty years. It would be important for me to know if I want kids, how many, do I plan to take care of my parents when they age, etc. If I were a homosexual swinger, these questions would not pertain to me. Instead I would need to describe my here and now desires.
The online dating services are relatively new and have been labeled with great negativity. We cannot overlook the fact that many people have met and married their "soul mate," or found someone to fulfill their fantasies or whatever it is the subscriber yearns for via these services. Granted, a lot of fine-tuning is needed, yet I believe that with a few adjustments in terms of tailor making the services to suit the customer, online dating could be "the" way to meet and mate.
I joined all four Internet dating services within the same week. I told myself it was for the sake of my research paper, yet I am no longer sure that was true. I was extremely careful to make my "ad" as honest as possible. I received just under a thousand responses in two months and met approximately thirty men form those sites. Out of the thousand, I read more than my share of freak mail; however, I was fortunate in only choosing to date the nice and decent men. I made sure the dates were brief, sometimes squeezing in two a day. In the February 15, 1999 issue of Time magazine, in an article entitled "Youíve Got Male", the opening sentence is all one needs to read to get the gist of the article. "Itís easy to find guys who seem attractive online, but that first real date can disappoint." My first meatspace date was with a man named Chuck. Boy did he sound great on paper. Handsome, successful, etc. We emailed each other like crazy for five days, then moved onto instant messaging and finally the phone. He was funny, witty, charming and bright, on paper. Once we moved to the telephone I started having reservations. He seemed different. I couldnít place it but something was different. Finally we met. Wow...the man at The Monkey Bar was not the man I had just spent an intense five days conversing with. I started to feel negatively towards the online dating world until I remembered that from the time we "met" online to the day we met in meatspace was less than a week. I allowed myself to get carried away with the thrill, and it is a thrill to receive over a thousand letters in two months from potential suitors trying to "court" you. But I wasnít looking out for myself. I wasnít asking the right questions, or ending communication as soon as I realized one was not right for me. I allowed myself to get caught up in a world of fantasy, where words are taken as fact.
There are ways however, to use the online dating services as springboards to a real relationship. There are countless testimonies from couples who swear they found their soul mate online, most of whom are now married to each other. In the March 3, 1997 issue of Fortune, an article entitled "Looking for love in all the Web places" tells the story of a woman named Syndie Smith who "met" her man, David Schwartz on Match.com. In January she placed an ad to which he responded right away. Three months later they met in person, after almost daily emails to each other. In August they were married. It can happen, it does happen, but it must be sought out in a responsible way.
There is only one man I am interested in from these services, but I have not met him yet. He calls me at least three times a week, often more; he calls while on business trips, from work and from home. We frequently send emails and instant messages to each other. Out of all of the email I received, his initial letter stood out and I liked him immediately upon reading it. Aside from the fact that we get along extremely well, he gave me all his work and home information: phone numbers, addresses and his companyís website within the first few emails. I did not ask for this information, but I was happy to receive it because he owns an extremely successful business and he trusted me with that information. I think he did that because he is not an online dating groupie. He found me on the OneandOnly service where people can view and answer ads without having to be members themselves. It has been over three months from the time he answered my ad to now. We want to meet, and we will meet, but we want to wait a little while longer. It is definitely possible that our meeting could be the end of our "relationship," but I would be surprised at that outcome. Time will tell the story, but he is the same on email, as on instant messaging, as on the phone and this, I have learned, is an important piece of information to have on an online friend.
If a person represents themselves truthfully, and pays attention with their mind, not their heart, to the responses they receive, and if that person has a clear idea as to their own personal goal, in relation to online dating, then I believe there is a good possibility one can find true love on the Internet. In the YouveGotMail.com website, there are hundreds of testimonies from people who met online. The common thread between them is they spent a great deal of time getting to know one another, ranging from two months to two years, before they met, building a solid foundation of friendship and most said they knew he or she was "The One" before they met in meatspace.
In addition to understanding one's own true nature, as well as choosing the "right" partner, it is imperative that the couple commit to a lifetime of work on their creation, their marriage, and no less will suffice for those desiring a successful marriage. Looking behind a happy, healthy, good-natured child is at least one parent who has put in unfathomable hours of work towards that child's welfare. Many people would agree that it is a parent's job to make this sacrifice and many parents would agree that the end justifies the means, and when they look at their creation, their child, they feel a fulfillment words could not describe. Why is it so difficult for many of the same people to view marriage with the same importance? Unless marriage is considered a top priority, what might have been "happily ever after" between a well-suited couple, can easily end in divorce.
I spent an enormous amount of time researching love, romance and marriage through the Internet, as well as the library. I interviewed several dozen couples and dated close to thirty men who replied to my advertisement on the Internet. I began this paper with a strong belief that I would eventually find the "right" man for myself and somewhere around the middle of the semester I lost almost all hope. My only consolation was in my understanding of life to provide a person with what they have been working towards following the person's resignation in mind of ever achieving their desire. Love and marriage and romance are words used to describe the intangible. as love is similar to God in that we may theorize, but their is no absolute answer. I end this paper with much of my faith in love and my belief in finding the right man for myself back and in many ways stronger; yet I feel my rosy glasses have lost their color. It is possible to maintain a successful marriage that spans the life of the couple, provided both individuals have accurately assessed themselves so as to have the ability to choose the right partner, and as a couple, commit to a lifetime of consistent effort at making their marriage a success; and these "ingredients" are non-negotiable, if one chooses the wrong partner, no amount of work will turn the marriage into a success; if one chooses the right partner but fails to take care of the marriage, chances are high divorce will follow, and if an individual has little or no understanding at what they genuinely require to feel fulfilled and happy, they are incapable of consciously choosing the best-suited partner.
Back to syllabus
Back to Keefer home page