A wedding shouldn’t be a funeral

by GK on October 13, 2010 · 4 comments

I’m hearing wedding bells — not for me, of course.

In a few hours I’ll be flying to Michigan to attend the wedding of one Rob Overman, while reuniting with a few other ex-Charisma Arts Superfriends. I’m not sure what kind of high jinks will ensue, and which girl will be my dance partner, but I can’t wait to find out.

As my faithful readers know, I’m much more versed in discussing dating and bachelorhood than marriage. But I’ve found myself discussing the latter a lot more in recent weeks. I had one awesome group conversation with a couple of people who had been married, and in another case, I had to stop dating a girl once we found out she wanted to get married a lot sooner than I did. 

To this day, the subject vexes me. Marriage seems on one hand so unnatural and archaic, yet its romance endures, and I can’t help but feel I will choose it someday — or possibly have it chosen for me by a woman I don’t want to leave.  Why do we run — like lemmings, some might say — toward an institution with a 50 percent failure rate in the U.S.? Higher, in fact, if you include unhappy marriages?

Are we the problem, or is marriage the problem?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do have personal reasons for being leery of marriage. My own parents divorced when I was 4, and I’ve seen the harmful effects it can have on people — from the financial and emotional pain of divorce, to the quiet desperation of staying in a joyless union, to children lacking a strong male role model (as I did).

But did marriage itself bring about these kinds of hardships? Or were the couples doomed either way? I guess it depends, but my main criticism of marriage involves the very phrase that makes so many people yearn for it: “Till death do us part.”

You see, death takes a lot longer these days. The average life expectancy in the U.S. is over 78 years, almost 10 years older than in 1960. In 1900, the life expectancy was 49 years. Not to be crude, but it’s easier to ignore a spouse’s nagging for the sake of raising children if you know you’re kicking the bucket before you turn 50. That presumption might be what kept Al Bundy with Peg, by the way.

But to stay with, and stay faithful to, that person for 50 years or longer? It seems you’d have a better chance of taking down a casino in Vegas.

Of course, happy married couples do last that long, so I’m not suggesting you blow all your savings on blackjack just yet. But I think we’ve doomed marriage for many people by treating it as some sort of trophy or finish line — something you can relax after accomplishing.

Disney was full of shit. You don’t just live happily ever after. Married or not, a serious relationship takes work, compromise and adaptation. Problem is, when you’ve taken a vow for life, where’s the motivation for that? So many folks — especially women, but men as well — seek the security of wedded bliss, but I think security is overrated. It breeds complacency. And complacency is relationship cancer.

I see it in the NBA all the time, when a guy gets a huge guaranteed contract and stops playing hard. Or in the case of Gilbert Arenas, he gets a $111 million deal and starts doing crazy things like bringing a gun to the locker room and now, faking an injury.

Some married couples recognize this, and I think it’s a big reason why they stay together. I know one that keeps a “Basket of Spontaneity” that contains a bunch of fun things to try in the Bay Area, and every week they pick from it. 

Many others do get lazy, however. I find that ironic, because they forget to do the very thing that got them a partner, and the very thing I taught so many guys: how to seduce.

If I ever do get married, I already know what song I’d want for my first dance at the wedding. Not some syrupy ballad, but “One More Time,” by Daft Punk. Because I can’t stomach the thought of “One Last Time.” That kind of commitment shouldn’t mark the end of something, but the celebration of its persistence.

I know Rob understands that, and it’s why I congratulate him. Strike up the band, buddy. GK is about to take over your dance floor.



1 andy October 14, 2010 at 12:48 pm

i hope you will all have good time at the marriage

2 Richard October 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Both those statistics are a bit misleading. The 50% thing (and that number’s been thrown around so much that I have trouble believing it has a valid source) is over a lifetime, and I think that if it’s true that’s a phenomenal testimony to the strength of many marriages.

The other quibble is with life expectancy. The average lifespan is much longer now because of the low infant mortality rate. Except in case of war, most people who make it out of their teens live (and, for the most part, have always lived) pretty long lives.

3 pvw October 17, 2010 at 3:16 am

my dad offered me $1000 to do the princess bride speech as my cousins best man…should I do it?

4 GK October 18, 2010 at 9:41 pm

PVW: I would do the Princess Bride speech for free, so take that as a yes!

Richard: You’re right that a lower infant mortality rate is the main reason for the dramatic rise in life expectancy since 1900, but nevertheless, adults are living longer too. This report explains it pretty well: http://aging.senate.gov/crs/aging1.pdf

We can look at divorce stats in different ways, but I think it’s hard to call them encouraging. If we look at first marriages, the divorce rate is closer to 40 percent (still not rosy), but it’s way higher for remarried couples. The average length of a first marriage that ended in divorce is eight years, and barely more than half of marriages last 15 years. So “Till death do us part” isn’t even close to happening. And these numbers are from sources like the U.S. Census Bureau, which do their jobs well.

Mainly, though, my opinions are formed from firsthand observations at the GK Institute. :)

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