Marriage Sucks

It really is a wonder anybody gets hitched at all when this is the recruiting poster:

Usually, especially in these Hollywood comedies, it’s also based on
the idea that the difference is that men are fun and interesting, and
women are tedious, status-obsessed bores. In the movies, men have
friendships, a sense of adventure, and an ability to opine at length
about rock music, and women have a strong desire to wear wedding
dresses and look aggrieved at these baffling men, with their baffling
lives that they want to live for reasons beyond simple-minded women.
In real life, however, you see that it’s completely possible for people
to fall and stay in love because they find each other genuinely

My sense it that these movies are being made because there’s a demand
for them. The resolution where two people agree to set aside mutual
animosity and live together because that’s what you do seems like a
really obvious rationalization, and the only question is whether the
movie-makers are rationalizing their own miserable marriages, or if
they’re responding to a strong public desire to see bad choices
rationalized. The obvious answer is, “A little of both.” A
screenwriter who rationalizes his boring ass relationship will write a
more authentic script that will speak to people in the audience making
the same rationalizations, though of course it’s always possible that
cynical screenwriters in passionate relationships are just very good at
imagining what the audience wants to hear, and cranking that out.

In my extensive experience of busybodies, the same people who will endlessly make comments about how their wives don’t have sex with them or their husbands are morons will also endlessly life you about when you’re getting married, buying a house, settling down, and eating at Applebee’s yourself.

An overdose of work lately has led to my insomnia roaring back with a vengeance, so the other night I wound up watchingMarley & Me on HBO on like a continuous loop and getting more and more annoyed every time at the usual yuppie angst, like “Man, I used to be awesome, but then I had this wife and these kids and it sucks, but it’s worth it … because it is. I guess. Kind of.” I am just so over watching middle-aged dipshits mourn their lost youth on TV. Nobody forced you to get hitched or have unprotected sex, genius. I get people make choices they end up regretting, but you could at least admit they were choices. You didn’t trip over something and fall into marriage. At some point you asked, or said yes, so there’s a limit to my sympathy.

And also? You weren’t all that when you were 20, dude. Nobody ever was.

To Amanda’s point, I don’t know so much that the screenwriters are miserable or think their audiences are miserable as the people who greenlight this crap see the success of other crap like it because it’s relatively inoffensive. Except to, you know, thinking people, who won’t go see this shit anyway, and probably live in decadent enclaves on the coasts. I joke that people who write relationship trend stories don’t know anybody in a relationship but have just learned about them from the TV beamed out into space, but I do think at some point this all becomes self-reinforcing. Someone makesAccording to Jim and then it’s all downhill from there until we end up atForgetting Sarah Marshall. A lack of originality will suffice as an explanation.

It does bother me, though, that with all the pressure that exists to get married and stay married and be married, there are so few mass-marketed depictions of good relationships from which to draw inspiration. I know conflict is dramatically satisfying, and that everybody has problems, but we seem to have substituted saying “it really sucks but stay together anyway” for dealing with those problems honestly, as if it’s some kind of stunning revelation that people can go through periods of disliking each other but still be in love. As if somebody deserves a medal for saying “my wife can really be a pill at times” or “my husband is being such an asshole.” As if that says anything at all.


11 thoughts on “Marriage Sucks

  1. I draw my inspiration from the Duggars. And sometimes Brangelina. But never those Jon and Kate people; I just found out they don’t like each other.
    My husband’s been annoying me lately, can you just mail me my medal or do I have to pick it up?

  2. “I am just so over watching middle-aged dipshits mourn their lost youth on TV… I joke that people who write relationship trend stories don’t know anybody in a relationship but have just learned about them from the TV beamed out into space, but I do think at some point this all becomes self-reinforcing.”
    I don’t just blame dumb screenwriters – I also blame elite midcentury male American fiction writers. I tried to readRevolutionary Road, which is beautifully written, but it’s a lot like said stupid comedies, only not funny.
    I guess upper-middle-class white males need something to complain about? I wonder if on some level marriage = loss of autonomy = loss of privilege. If you look at it that way, it’s the most likely way a yuppie male loses privilege.
    “Endlessly life you” is a great phrase.

  3. Are you kidding?
    I’m single, and I have a blast.
    To get back to the topic, though, after learning and teaching about families and relationships, and being in more than a few, I can say that one of the problems that we encounter in this society is that we have made monogamous coupledom/marriage the end-all, be-all of existence. You hear this shit at weddings: “I’m marrying my best friend, the love of my life, my soul mate, blah blah blah.”
    Unfortunately, the reality is that no one person can be everything to another one. It’s kind of sick even to think that’s possible. Of course you will have other friends, some who you’re closer to about some things than you are to your spouse. Duh. But we have a dumbass, impractical image of what marriage (or couplehood)should be, and, when it’s not, we act like that’s a personal failing on the part of the people involved in the relationship, instead of a completely fucked view of what relationships are all about.
    Not that there’s no value in dyadic romantic relationships. Oh, no. They can be extremely rewarding. However, these relationships aren’t magical; as the lovely and wise Ms. Athenae points out on a regular basis, that shit is work. Work, work, and more work. More motherfucking work than you ever thought was possible. But we don’t act like that’s the reality. We act like it should be all rose petals and romantic getaways. Then, when we see the reality of the maintenance that these relationships require–communication, understanding, a good dose of selflessness, and a deep and abiding interest in the other person for who they are, among other things–well, that’s not so glamorous. (Also, those are the same things thatevery relationship needs to survive–not just the romantic ones.) And, not surprisingly, that kind of work doesn’t usually make for popular entertainment; complicated issues rarely do.
    That said, I feel less animosity towards giant pieces of shit likeAccording to Jim than I do toward regular people you see on TV (think couples on game shows) or in real life who say shit like “Oh, you should be able to hear me in the back, because my husband always says I have a big mouth,” or “Yeah, my wife is constantly telling me that I need to make more money,” or the like. Why the fuck would you make that public? Do you really want your life to be a daily rerun ofEverybody Loves Raymond? Don’t air your dirty laundry in a self-deprecating way. That’s just pathetic. You’re unhappy in your relationship? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Again, this is a refrain that Ms. Athenae regularly broadcasts. I nominate her for Secretary of Get a Fucking Clue, America.
    Do what makes you happy and doesn’t hurt other people. The shit isn’t rocket science. Be realistic about what life’s going to bring your way.
    Yeah, I’m rambling. I’ve been sick for a week, and I’m doped to the gills on cold medicine. I’m sure I won’t know what I meant when I go back and re-read this.

  4. You know why good relationships aren’t on TV?
    People who love each other don’t make jokes at each other’s expense.

  5. I think it’s just schadenfreude. Who wants to watch people be happy together, after all? Any relationship involves ups and downs, good and bad times, and the enduring ones are valued because of their integrity. Knowing others go through similar rough patches and come out ok can be a valuable lesson.
    Modeling good relationships is difficult because good relationships ARE difficult. And yes, those who have good relationships aren’t those who would exploit them to be on television. And yeah, those of us in one can be a little boring when we’re not running around generating conflicts just for the sake of someone else’s entertainment…

  6. And on a very superficial level, why do so many of the sitcoms and movies about relationships feature chunky, slobby men with attractive, thin women–and then the joke is all about the wife trying to get the man NOT be chunky and slobby? Why is that formula necessary to get a laugh?

  7. You don’t typically see good relationships in stories about relationships, you see them in stories about other things. Which makes sense, because relationships are part of our lives, but not what we spend most of our time doing. (And the people who spend most of their time thinking about their spouse or their kids or their boss outside the context of getting stuff done and having a life then to be the ones who fsck things up.)

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