I’ve been surrounded by the topic of the big D lately. At the ripe old age of 26, I’ve already witnessed the matrimonial demise of a few former classmates. It’s been discussed and analyzed endlessly on blogs, point/counterpoint podcasts and magazine articles. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it and what it means for the state of (or rather the futility of) marriage. The ever-misrepresented divorce rates have served as the cornerstone argument for those who view marriage as an antiquated institution. But I don’t think anyone can make a single blanket statement that is true for everyone.

I think divorce becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy at times. Individuals looking for a way out of their vows can easily point to divorce rates and argue that only half of all marriages last (again this is not an accurate statement, but that doesn’t stop it from being cited) so how can they possibly expect their own to be on the other half of that equation?

I’ve never made it down the aisle so it’s difficult for me to opine about the mentality of married individuals and the lightness with which they take their vows. I think many people of my narcissistic generation don’t take the appropriate amount of time to reflect on what it means to yoke oneself to another individual for a lifetime. They refuse to recognize the sacrifices that must be made in a successful marriage.

It’s cliché and overstated, but so many couples go into marriage without the faintest idea of what it means to fully and completely love someone flaws and all. Hundreds of days and thousands of dollars are spent in preparation for the day, but how much time and money are people actually willing to spend on preparing for and maintaining the marriage? Some individuals get married not because it is the right step, but because it is the next step. Faulty motives range from unplanned pregnancies to fear of being alone. And yet we’re shocked that one frosted day doesn’t have the fairy tale effect of magically turning our relationships into happily-ever-afters.

We have these unrealistic expectations going into marriage because we never legitimately take the time to consider the true reality of it. We are going to be disappointed. He is going to fail to come through at times when we need him most. She is going to resort to nagging from time to time. It happens. As one famous serial groom said, “that’s life!”

Those couples who have true staying power understand this before exchanging rings and know how to keep their expectations in check before throwing it all away at the drop of a hat.

I’m not saying all marriages would last forever and ever if people would just grow up and swallow their pride once in awhile. And I certainly don’t presume to say which of these matrimonial bonds could have lasted with the right mentality, because the only people who completely understand the dynamic of a relationship are the two individuals within it. And there are some marriages that are so toxic the only way for one or both partners to get out alive is to sign those papers. I honestly think if I had followed through with my engagement I would have ended up in a mahogany-laden divorce court. Although, given my beliefs about divorce and the foreverness of marriage, my signature likely wouldn’t be on those papers until considerable damage had been done. And that stoic, stubborn mentality is possibly more detrimental than the flippancy of the easy divorcee. But that’s another topic for another time.

On a lighter (depending how you look it) note enjoy this comic from Cyanide and Happiness.