Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sometimes, It Just Works

I just read a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report about marriage. Now, I’m not sure why the CDCP is concerning itself with marriage instead of, you know, disease prevention, but regardless – there’s a report, and I read it because the findings were interesting. It shows that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to break-up than those who don't.

I was very surprised to hear this, as the practical part of me wholeheartedly disagreed with the conclusion of the report. Gone are the days of couples living apart until they’re married; in fact, off the top of my head, I can’t even think of any one couple, in my circle of friends or otherwise, who does not live together.

And, in my opinion, right or wrong, living together before marriage just plain makes sense from a logistical standpoint. (Please don’t send me hate mail about how living in sin is un-Catholic. I’ve read the Bible, I know the rules, and it’s not for me to advise couples on their course of action. It’s only a point of view, folks. )

I have been married for almost four years, but I have lived with my husband for far longer than that, and I can’t imagine it having been any other way. There are habitual things, behaviors and methods, which are good to find out about before you have pledged to spend the rest of your days putting up with them, don’t you think?

If you’re a clean freak, you will find it difficult to live with someone who has cleaned up for your visits for the past three years but secretly lives in filth when you’re not there. Once the two lives meld, conflict is sure to arise if a compromise isn’t reached before moving day.

Maybe tidiness isn’t a make-or-break caliber conflict, but when a marriage begins, I would be inclined to think the fewer problems a couple is faced with, the better.

Not to mention, it can go deeper than tidy vs. not. There are a thousand “little” issues that might turn out to be big issues once two lives are riding on it, especially in the midst of a completely unfamiliar and often very trying chapter in someone’s life.

Some might say that as long as a couple loves each other and is on the same page as far as their morals and values are concerned, the rest is inconsequential and can be worked out with some time and patience. In an ideal world, sure, all you need is love. In reality, learning to successfully live together is a massive, humongous, gigantic part of married life. After all, the ultimate goal is not just to make a marriage work; lots of people can do that whether or not they’re meant to. The real mission, as far as I’m concerned, is to spend the rest of my life in a happy marriage. And - like it or not, experts – that required me knowing about his morning routine and thrice-daily showers and aversion to heat BEFORE I had vowed to embrace and put up with all of it.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m too liberal-minded and the whole “living in sin” thing wasn’t as relevant to me as it should have been. I didn’t consciously decide that I was going to defy what is proper in society’s eyes; all I knew was that I wanted to spend every moment with my partner and truly get to know him and his life before I made a lifetime commitment, and I can tell you with certainty that I was in a much more confident position to make that commitment because we lived together. But, I suppose that may not be the case, or the best idea, for everyone. I’m no one’s moral compass, that’s for sure, so to each his own.

The more I read, the more the rest of me disagreed with the report, too. While it was at times thought-provoking, I tend to think that if two people are compatible and truly love each other, with some hard work and mutual respect, you can have a happy and long-lasting marriage. There may be some truth to the numbers involved in all these studies and statistics, but they’re broad statements to be sure. I like to think I fly in the face of the theories the CDCP have presented, and those of you who have managed to make it work should feel good about doing the same.

This probably explains why I always preferred sociology to math.