(Not so) Common Sense
Marriage is dead? For our children’s sake, I hope not
By Carole Townsend
I read a blog the other day, written by a young man who asserted the claim that the institution of marriage is dead. I thought to myself as I read the title of his blog, “Well, let’s see what this doomsday clown has to say,” and I began to read.
The blog post was a well-written, well-thought-out essay that outlined five believable reasons that the up-and-coming generation – our children – will witness the death of marriage as a viable institution. It was unsettling, really, that the guy made so much sense.
The writer opined that the rising generation of young people is not capable of the work and the commitment required by marriage. Why? Because they have become self-sufficient beings as far as emotional coexistence is concerned. They have become more interested in what thousands of strangers have to say about their latest tweet or Instagram or Snap Chat than they could ever be about their spouse’s bad day, or even his good day.
They have become, wrote the blogger, incapable of putting down the smartphone and instead, connecting to another person on the gut level that marriage demands. They have become incapable of listening. They have become impatient, addicted to instant gratification. This generation, to which all four of our children belong, is doomed to forever be immature, rude, self-absorbed and disconnected. He wrote that a marriage will not survive those characteristics, and I happen to agree with him on that point.
I also believe very strongly in the intrinsic value of marriage, of the exclusivity that two people grant each other when they marry. I believe that human beings crave that feeling of mattering to someone else enough to join hands with them and vow to walk through life with each other. I know that sounds terribly old fashioned, but we humans have been around for a very long time and let’s face it; our basic nature hasn’t changed much.
I have lamented the same points that the young writer made in his blog, and I’ve often done so in a public arena, for all to read. I do think that people (and not just young people) are becoming rude and indifferent to others, and I believe that is happening because they are so wrapped up in the world they have at their texting fingertips.
Smart phones have whispered sweet nothings into their ears, and they have believed them. They are addicted to them. They tune out the real world and water down their real life experiences by thinking of clever ways to post them, to broadcast them to a world of faceless names who (let’s be honest) don’t care one bit about them. Their lives are passing them by while they stare at a tiny screen, type with two thumbs and watch videos made by other people who are missing their lives, too.
But not so fast. This rising generation is still human, and they still need that sense of belonging to just one “someone else.” Facebook and Twitter are cold comfort when the human touch is what’s needed. Instagram and Snap Chat pale in comparison to eye contact and body language.
Our youngest child, age 23, made it known about six months ago that she would be using social media much less often than she did before. She said that she does not want to miss out on the wonderful ups or even the painful downs of her life by constantly throwing them out into the universe to be consumed by anonymous avatars. I remember the conversation clearly, because I was so happy to hear her say those things. Incidentally, she has stuck to her guns. She still posts a photo or a clever quip on social media every now and then, but today she has actual phone conversations and makes last-minute dinner plans with her friends. She has whole conversations without once glancing down at her phone, checking to see if someone else has something more interesting to say than the person in front of her.
The need for real human contact and interaction, I believe, will ultimately conquer the siren song of the smart phone. And let’s not forget that this generation, populated by twenty- and thirty-somethings, has had a front row seat to what happens when a marriage is neglected. This generation, more than any other, has lived the heart-wrenching disappointment that is the inevitable result of divorce. This generation probably understands the importance of marriage and family more than any previous one, because so many of them had the comfort of both cruelly taken away.
So yes, it’s irritating to try to communicate with someone who rarely grants his or her full attention because of the glowing fount of information they hold in their young hands. I believe, however, that most young people will eventually put the phone down and look up, look around. Why? Because they need to. And they will enjoy dinners with friends, and they will make and take real phone calls, and they will date real people, because we are wired to need to truly interact with other human beings.
And they will eventually find that one person with whom they want to join hands and walk a new path. They will understand that marriage takes work, and more than 140 characters’ worth of it. They will understand that children need undivided attention, and lots of it. They will understand that a shared sunset, or a hand to hold when the doctor breaks the bad news, is about two people, not a list of friends that they may or may not know. They may understand these things and act on them later in life than we did, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I have faith in the institution of marriage and its endurance. As greedy and selfish as we humans can be, I believe in our need for belonging, for the naked, honest truths that can only be shared with one other. I believe in the bond that that truth forges.
So to the young man who asserted the notion that marriage is dead, I say that I hope you’re wrong, for all our sakes. What a sad state of affairs that would be.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.