I find it difficult to discuss marriage without considering divorce. With the wedding approaching last week, I felt it was inappropriate to discuss that aspect; but now that the wedding is past, I'll say what I've been thinking for the past few weeks: Marriage requires defiance.
Cynics insist that monogamy is an unnatural state, that man tends toward promiscuity and that his tendency is reinforced by our society's emphasis and attitude toward sex. I agree. Notwithstanding Biblical pronouncement, marriage is an unnatural state. But so is a skyscraper. Marriage is an achievement.
It's no wonder that divorce is so prevalent in our society. Divorce is a function of entropy. Despite what we tell ourselves in wedding vows and Hallmark cards, we aren't really expected to stay married forever. Last month, New York Magazine reported that the number of young couples planning to sign prenuptial agreements has more than tripled in the past three years. These days, your average marriage ceremony comes with an asterisk — "till death do us part" is pure sentiment.
I've written elsewhere that a successful marriage requires personal motivation. It has to be more than, "I love her." This might sound cold, but there has to be an element of yourself that genuinely wants to be married — irrespective of your spouse. And to that, I'll add another element: You have to possess a measure of personal defiance. You need to acknowledge the myriad forces, biological and cultural, pulling your marriage toward the rocks; and you need to be one of those people who feels impelled by that dare.
Dr. Phil is famous for asking his guests, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?" Any marathon runner will tell you that pain is impossible to avoid, that you have to run through it. With respect to Dr. Phil, I think a successful marriage sometimes requires two people who would rather win than be happy.