In recent topics regarding marriage and “courting” or “dating”, many posters have stated that it is extremely important to get to know a spouse well before marriage, and for spouses to be a good “match” when it comes to attitudes toward sex, finances, child-rearing, etc. The assumption appears to be that the spouse should be the most important person in one’s life.
However, one could argue that we are expecting TOO MUCH out of marriage as a way to fulfill ourselves, and that it is unrealistic to expect a “perfect match” or to be perfectly happy with our spouses. Indeed, one could argue that traditionally, marriage was NOT seen as much more than a business arrangement, and people sought fulfillment either in their own careers, their children, their birth families, or in the Church.
**I don’t think one needs a “perfect match,” but that ideally there should be agreement about sex, finances, child-rearing, etc., or at least a smoothly running decision-making mechanism to make sure that agreement emerges.
I think there are two different questions here:
- Do people expect too much of a prospective spouse in terms of their being a “soul mate” and that every moment spent with them will be ideal and flawless and full of ecstasy?
Yeah, I think that’s too much to expect.**
**2. Do people expect too much of a prospective spouse in terms of their compatibility and their ability to be a good teammate and partner with regard to sex, finances, housework, child-rearing, religion, relating to friends and family, general problem-solving, etc.?
I would argue that actually, people are not nearly picky enough with regard to that nitty gritty stuff on the front end. (Perhaps with the exception of sex–a lot of people seem to do endless test-drives in that particular area, while being very careless about the other areas.) I think that those are exactly the pragmatic type issues that would have been a very big deal in traditional cultures. It’s true that current middle and upper middle class life features a much higher level of cooperation between spouses than might have been true in previous times when the male and female spheres were more widely separated, but I think it’s quite arguable that traditional societies did have very exacting standards for marriage, even if they are not our standards. For instance, if you didn’t have a dowry or a bride price handy (depending on your particular culture), you might find your marital prospects greatly diminished.
In many cultures, such as the royalty/aristocracy of most countries, it was even considered completely acceptable to marry for convenience and seek out lovers for romance. The Catholic Church has always taught that the celibate state is higher than the married one.
There are still many people who find their children to the most important people in their lives, not their spouses. Indeed, in cases where the spouse is actually abusive, the standard advice is to leave the marriage in order to protect the children. It’s very rare that anyone advises an abused spouse to stay and try to “save” the abuser. Yet, if a spouse is expected to be most important then wouldn’t their welfare trump the child’s?
Well, is the spouse being saved by the abused spouse staying? If the abusive spouse continues to abuse, probably not.
So I wonder…would we actually be happier if we gave up on finding the perfect match? Is it better to either not marry at all, or to at least stop expecting romantic perfection in marriage?
**One isn’t going to find perfection, but one can find compatibility and a good match (assuming one isn’t totally dysfunctional oneself).
I don’t think a good match is too much to ask for, and I think that it provides more protection against infidelity than just grabbing the nearest warm body.**
Should more of us settle, marry for convenience, and dismiss romantic love as an illusion? After all, people used to do that, and there was far less divorce, broken families, etc., back then, right? (I don’t QUITE believe this but I have seen similar arguments in other part of CAF that seem to attract more traditionally-minded Catholics than Family Life does.)