This week, I’ve been thinking about a two-part series written by Emma Johnson over at Wealthy Single Mommy.
Emma confidently claims that she has proven marriage is dead. She asserts that marriage as we know it is hardly normal anyway.
She advocates for changing marriage to a ten year contract, wherein both parties establish expectations and choose to renew or not renew their marriage every ten years.
As I read, I was alternately offended, incredulous and frightened by her seemingly cold and loveless recipe for the future of marriage…
…And yet…yet this divorced Mom with a vision for decade-long marriages might be taking more action to save marriage than a lot of us married couples.
The claim Emma makes that marriage is dead rests on her use of statistics. She claims a “steady, high divorce rate,” rising numbers of people who never marry, and finally “40%” of people who think marriage is obsolete.
It’s true, fewer people are getting married. But I will take some issue with the narrative of “steady, high divorce rates.” Although this story has been pounded into our heads – that “half” of marriages end in divorce – the fact is that divorce rates have been on the decline since 1985 (here are stats, if you like.) Granted, there are still lots of divorces…but not as many.
I liken this narrative to that of “global warming.” The assumption we’ve been taught is that the Earth is warming, even though global temps have flatlined for 10 years. It’s really hard to change the common assumptions, even when data changes.
The reason I nitpick at this is because that casually cited stat of 50/50 divorce changes our perception of marriage. If people believe that half of marriages end disastrously, then it’s no wonder that 4 in 10 of us think the institution is crap. But if people believed that divorce rates were declining, and the odds were actually in their favor, marriage’s public image just might improve.
Fallacy of Marriage
“My story illustrates how today’s definition of marriage is a joke for those of us who do tie the knot.”
With the above sentence, Emma sums up her argument on the death of marriage.
Her statistics left me incredulous, but this sentence left me offended. Because I feel that she committed a common logical fallacy in “proving” her case.
Her damning evidence was an anecdote, a “personal story.” (Plus, she yanked all of us married folk into her story. Read it again. She’s saying that your marriage is a joke too.)
Look, every rule has an exception. You can prove anyone a fool by bringing up a personal story to contradict their claims. The argument is that if a bunch of people fail at something, and a bunch of other people think something is not worth doing, then that thing is actually not worth doing.
But everyone who gets divorced used to think marriage was worth doing. We all read our vows. We knew what we were getting into. We weren’t tricked.
Lots of people fail to climb Mount Everest, but there are a few who still consider it worth doing. I suck beyond belief at sports, but that doesn’t mean I get to determine that sports are “broken.” An activity’s worth or value is not determined by those who fail at it, or those who never try.
Check Up with the Marriage Counselor
There were a myriad of other issues I took with Emma’s pronouncement of the death of marriage. Yet, the divorced, no-nonsense “ten year” advocate finds me cheering for her.
Read the comments and how she responds. She is actually trying to save marriage. She wants people to get married. She’s trying to keep couples together! She doesn’t want marriage to die.
Emma’s suggestion of a ten year contract offends my sense of what “marriage” is. I gasp at how cold and “unromantic” her vision of marriage is. I grumble and ask why a couple should need a contract to evaluate their expectations and satisfaction with their marriages…
…And then I try to remember the last time I asked my wife if I am meeting her needs. I strain to try to think about the last “checkup” we had, the last really serious sit-down, hash-it-out, come-to-Jesus meeting we had. We haven’t been married ten years. Why can’t I remember it? When I try to get self-righteous about how good my marriage is, why can’t I remember any verifiable proof that my wife is truly happy with me?
If the idea of a ten year contract offends you, then go find your spouse and ask them how your marriage is doing…right now.
What say you? Does our vision of marriage need to change in order to save it?