Marriage Metrics: What Are We Really Going For?

June 23, 2024

Marriage Metrics: What Are We Really Going For?

May 29, 2023

Chip’s Note: Boy, do I love Susan! If I were straight, I’d definitely ask her out for a date. It’s not just her external beauty, but it’s her internal, moral beauty that glows. I think you’ll enjoy this guest post.

Recently, Chip had a post posing the question, “Are women better off happy and single or unhappy and married?”

I wish this wasn’t a question. And, I know why it is. To let go of something known and step into a sea of uncertainty requires strength and trust. When you take that hard step, you know you won’t come out the other side for a while, even in the best of circumstances. 

I know, because I did it 5 years ago.

To categorize my 24 years of marriage as unhappy would be extreme. I hold lovely memories of building a family with my "wasband", and as our boys have ventured into their own adulthoods there have been more great moments. Our family system functions differently now, but, after a bumpy transition, I still feel love and commitment - which I believe are the primary ingredients. And still, it wasn’t easy to let go of the comfort and security of the old structure. 

Despite high divorce rates and the commonness of infidelity, to say nothing of honoring our intuition, society continues to try and convince us marriage is the superior way to venture through life. The quiet pressure to maintain this status seems heightened if you are cis-gendered, white, and heterosexual. The system rewards relational permanence, and for women especially, there can be daunting financial implications to choosing otherwise. And yet it seems unimaginable that we’d allow anyone to willingly board a plane that has a 50 percent chance of crashing with no talk of emergency preparedness.

Signing up for one 'til-death-do-you-part spouse is not our only option, or maybe even the wisest. Our vitality — namely how we feel inside our own selves, and how to trust our ability to listen to what we need — is a more valuable metric than the lifespan of any structure. Like our children, I believe many of us would benefit from leaving the comfort of the nest once child-rearing is complete.

I’m excited to see younger generations rejecting the one-size-fits-all approach. This tracks with recent data Chip shared on growth in the number of people who identify as LGBTQ+ from 1% of those born in the 30’s and 40’s to now over 22% of the population. Similar change is underway in the relational space — from Ezra Klein of the New York Times addressing the failed nuclear family experiment and its connection to loneliness, to polyamory showing up on popular magazine and book covers seemingly overnight, to one of my recent favorites — Rhaina Cohen’s new book, The Other Significant Others: Reimagining Life with Friendship at the Center.

I wonder how we might relate to one another if society prioritized self-partnership first. I also wonder how much more connected our relationships might be - and possibly stay - if transitions were both allowed and expected.The capitalist quantity-focused lens of “more” would likely morph into valuing quality time with those we feel genuinely attuned to. 

As women, I see something magical happen when we reclaim the energy we’ve spent focusing on men and allow it to infuse ALL parts of our lives. Many women I talk with — married or single — are no longer interested in serving as mothers or therapists or housekeepers for men. They celebrate being alone or in enjoyment of the company of friends. Any lover, which we’d love, needs to be deeply self-aware, capable, and passionate! Come on guys - many of us want you to rise to the occasion (wink)! 

I love being the primary character in my own life instead of the supporting role in everyone else’s. I’m modeling the future for my boys, and see my personal life choices as a form of social justice. 

Allowing evolution and stepping into the truth of who we are and what we need takes courage, deliberateness, and the strength to push back against systems built to keep us in line and small. Of course it will get messy. The mess is the best place to learn, and I intend to remain here. I’ll take that over feeling codependent and sheltered any day.

-Susan

Susan Cole, 55, is an MEA alum, writer, wonder-lover, and life artist who has a day job helping executives at tech companies be better leaders. She also has a personal coaching practice to help people create lives that work for them. She owns a meditation studio, loves yoga, and spends as much time outside as possible. When she isn’t traveling she can be found in Boise, Idaho with her old dog Javier, squirrel-terrorizing cat Franklin and - depending on the time of year - a couple of pretty awesome 20-something sons. 

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