As pointed out in Wikipedia, critiques of marriage go back as long as marriage itself. A famous critique of marriage (among other things) appears in Plato's Republic. But what is it about the human animal that makes monogamous marriage so difficult?
Yes, difficult. The word choice is purposeful. Is it the longevity of our lifespan? Is it that we are sentient creatures with larger cranial capacity than other mammals? After all, there are many creatures in God's universe that form monogamous bonds that last their entire lives — bonds where one partner displays periods of mourning if the other partner dies. The instinct, one may argue, for monogamous bonds of marriage exist in our DNA.
So my wife and I are watching the last minutes of the latest FOX television debacle, Moment of Truth, while waiting for American Idol. Forget the cultural critique regarding what we were watching, but the question the audience was left with, while going to credits, hoping the viewers won't be able to wait for the answer, was "have you ever regretted marrying your husband?" Oooooh.
My wife, disgusted that she had to wallow throught programming like this to get to American Idol spoke to the TV, saying "what kind of people go on these shows? Of course there are moments of regret." Her comment was not shocking to me; I think I was more shocked by how quickly her comment came from her mouth.
We haven't had a perfect marriage. We don't know anyone who has had a perfect marriage, but that doesn't mean we don't try, which is the one thing on which we pride ourselves. We rarely yell or scream at each other, but we do have disagreements. There have been, however, extended periods of time when we have not communicated well with each other at all; these moments were the most dangerous times in our marriage — times that, in retrospect, we now realize that we could have easily fallen apart.
And now what? Well, maybe it's moments like last night that force a person to take stock in the honesty of the marriage. As she said, as she saw the surprise on my face, "tell me you never felt that way in the middle of some of our arguments?" My first reaction was to say "no, I never did feel that way," but that would be lying. Until as recently as two years ago, there were many times when I looked at our relationship, at our circumstances, at who I was, and the life I was living, and I would think, "I just want to get the hell out of here."
I never did do anything rash, and I'm glad that I never did, but funny things pass through a person's head when life is not unfolding as one had expected. Potential attractions to other women become heightened. Attraction to at-risk behavior increases. Apathy grows.
Apathy, possibly the most dangerous symptom, is the one hardest to fight since it's so insidious. But like the symptom af apathy, all of the relationship-destroying behaviors are results not of the problems with the relationship, but with the people involved in the relationship.
When I finally looked in the mirror and asked myself "what is this relationship not giving you" the answer came not from my surroundings but from within. I was unhappy with myself, with the person I had allowed myself to be. Only when I again took control of my own life did our relationship (at least from my perspective) become better. Now that doesn't mean the work of making the marriage better is over, it just means it's begun, and that we have to keep working at it the rest of our lives through mutual respect, and keeping true to ourselves, our own needs.
And that, when you really look at the results, is a lot of fun.