Healthy Relationships Matter More Than We Think
The age people are at their first weddings has been steadily creeping up over the last decade. There have been just as many articles about why as there are about how people—or at least Americans—are happier staying single than married people are, especially women. It's even become something of a feminist rallying cry to stay single. As a single woman in her mid-30s, who has also experienced being married to the wrong person, I have read articles singing the praises of singleness, especially for women. I have to say I deeply disagree with the underlying assumption that nearly all of these articles seem to be making.
But first, a few disclaimers:
I am NOT saying single people cannot be happy. I'm NOT saying that the only kind of "relationship" is marriage. I am NOT saying that everyone has to get married. I am NOT claiming my own experience as the gold standard. But I want to push back on the growing trend of eschewing marriage/long-term relationships altogether, even as someone who has gone through a divorce. Mainly because the primary assumption that seems to be underpinning the articles praising singleness is that doing what you want to do whenever you want to do it, however, you want to do it, actually makes for sustainable happiness. Having experienced the need to consult with a partner on spending, moving, life changes, etc. The ability to pursue whatever I want, make major life changes as I see fit, and spend my money however I want to, the latter may be "freer" in some people's definitions, but I experienced the opposite. Not being able to give in to every whim I had freed me from some long-standing vices I struggled to get out of on my own. Additionally, not having someone to bounce difficult decisions off of regularly has somehow made me more stuck in life than when I was married. The trend toward viewing relationships as bondage and isolation as freedom sounds more Orwellian than true.
The Importance of Healthy Relationships
Of course, the dysfunction in my marriage was unsustainable, but that highlights just how important healthy relationships are. It seems as though some parts of our culture have forgotten that we don't just have to choose between unhealthy relationships and to be single. Healthy relationships are also viable if you're willing to commit to growth individually and as a couple, work to learn conflict resolution, and see the value in putting another before yourself. This does not mean single people can't grow or are immature, but we shouldn't give up on the possibility of healthy relationships as a culture.
Making and keeping a relationship healthy is continual work, is challenging, and requires not getting everything you want all the time. It will also grow you in ways that being single just cannot do. And it's actually growth and progress. Not getting our way all the time or the so-called "freedom" of being able to give in to your every desire that confers happiness contributes to your physical and mental well-being and is something we are all striving in one way or another for.