With June such a popular month for weddings and my oldest son getting married this summer (in a barefoot wedding in Woodstock, N.Y., with a "Game of Thrones" themed reception) and other friends and relatives tying the knot, I thought it a perfect moment to comment on the state of marriage.
Marriage is actually stronger today and on more solid ground than it has been in our history. Yes, I just wrote that. It defies conventional wisdom and what many believe and promulgate every day in our discourse. And it also probably sounds ironic coming from someone who has been married and divorced twice.
Let me explain my rather unconventional statement. I look at marriage as a direct connection with the idea of a trusting commitment based on freedom and love. And when looked at it with that understanding, committed relationships with love as a foundation are more healthy and stronger today than ever before.
For hundreds of years (including in the Old Testament), "traditional" marriage was defined in the following ways: (a) it wasn't monogamous for most of our history; (b) women in the marriage were seen as property and a possession with very limited rights; (c) the freedom to choose whom to marry didn't exist for most people; (d) even when abuse was rampant, women didn't have much choice about leaving; and (e) there was no notion of marriage based on romance, love or mutual trust and respect.
Today, the overwhelming majority of people see marriage in a vastly different way. While there are still many men (and some women) who cling to the traditional idea of marriage, most people would look aghast at the way traditional marriage existed over the centuries. There are still some stereotypes, which allow some men to see their wives as possessions and treat them as such. It is interesting that many women don't discover this until they dare decide to exercise some freedom and lead better lives. In that instant, some men become very angry because how dare their possessions leave and make changes.
Women over the years had bought into this because the relationship gave them something they lacked - whether it was economic security, physical security or the ability to not have to be alone. Today, women (and men) see the most desired attribute of a fulfilling and meaningful relationship as mutual trust.
Despite the conversation and platitudes espoused regularly, and even with the divorce rate at today's levels, on average marriages today last longer than they did for most of our civilized existence. People died younger, tragic circumstances happened regularly, and today people marry much later in life.
So when one looks at the length and strength of a bond based on love, mutual trust, commitment and freedom as the defining elements, marriage and relationships have never been stronger or healthier or more widespread.
I would point to five developments that highlight and are instructive in this change:
I am not advocating for divorce, and I am still a big believer in marriage and the idea of a powerful soulful commitment based on mutual respect and trust. I just think that all of us need to look at marriage in the way it has positively evolved today. And let go of the stereotypes that we each became anchored to about what it means to be a man or woman in a relationship.
Once we can "divorce" ourselves from these old stereotypes, we can begin to see love and mutual commitment more clearly and understand that the evolution of marriage has been and will continue to be a very positive development for each of us and society as a whole. I do.