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Marriage limits choices, sets us free

Ah, July, the wedding season. What a great time of the year to NOT marry.

So suggest Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison in the June 11 edition of Newsweek magazine.

The two young, urban women write that marriage no longer makes sense — they cite an anthropologist who says humans are wired for a series of relationships over time.

They say that, thanks to the feminist movement, women no longer need husbands for financial security.

They say that divorce rates are high — that with our life expectancy into the high 70s it is unrealistic to commit to one other person for life.

They cite all kinds of statistics and anecdotes to document why they believe marriage no longer works.

Of course they’re looking at the institution of marriage from the vantage point of youth. When you get older, you realize most people are better off married.

Men who are single too long are a scourge on society. We take chances, eat badly, smoke too much and are far likelier than married men to wake in a pile of newspapers still clutching the bottle of tequila we began sipping from just before the party broke up.

We forget important dates — we arrive at our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary a week AFTER the celebration occurred.

Single women do better, but not a lot better. The longer they go without marrying — the more relationships they pass through in their pursuit of the perfect man — the more cynical and disappointed they will become.

The average male can barely drink a beer and rub his belly at the same time. How the heck can he ever fulfill the job requirements of “soulmate?”

The women who penned the Newsweek article believe we have been liberated by our enlightened, progressive era — our era of unlimited choice and freedom.

I think the opposite is mostly true. With all our wealth, you see — the recession notwithstanding — we are strangled by choice.

When we wake in the morning, we choose among hundreds of breakfast cereals, drinks, coffees, toothpastes, shampoos, towels, clothes.

Picking out a lousy pair of blue jeans — stone-washed, acid-washed, relaxed fit — can take an entire Saturday if you’re nutty enough to allow it.

And now we’re applying the same approach to dating, relationships and marriage in our fruitless search for our “soulmates?”

Sorry, but there is no soulmate, this lazy sense that someone will enter your life and keep you in a perpetual state of bliss.

Isn’t human love as much the result of work, commitment, kindness and sacrifice as it is chemistry or dumb luck?

Unlimited choice — holding out for our soulmates — isn’t making us happy. It is making us miserable.

Rather, the act of making, and sticking by, a decision to love and care for someone — before your family, your community and your God — is the only way meaningful happiness can be found.

G.K. Chesterton said marriage brings a man and woman happiness because it limits their choice.

Could you imagine being an artist, he said, who is trying to paint a canvas as large as the moon? Where do you start painting?

By being boxed into a small rectangular area, the artist gains a point of reference and perspective. It is the frame that sets the artist free.

That is what marriage ultimately is: a decision. We’ve become a nation of adolescents, with unrealistic expectations, who aren’t much in the mood to make adult decisions.

The authors of the Newsweek article are trying to paint the moon. It’s just a matter of time, as I have learned, before they run out of paint.

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.


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