Is marriage really worth the trouble? A new book by essayist and cultural critic Kate Bolick suggests that maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Either way, she argues, it isn't for everyone.
In "Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own," Bolick argues that the single life gets a bad rap, especially in these days of fast living and personal fulfillment.
"The world that most women avoid — the unmarried, childless state — is one that many women thrive within," Bolick said in an interview with SheKnows. "As time has passed and women's opportunities have changed, we've now evolved to a place where we don't need marriage the same way we used to."
Bolick's comments on marriage are anything but one-dimensional. She's gone to great lengths in interviews and press briefings to explain that she has nothing against marriage but simply wants to broaden the conversation, concluding "there's no one way to be."
Bolick's arguments seem to center around accepting that the ideal doesn't always happen, and there should be larger room for women who never have the opportunity to settle down to feel included in American social life.
But there is another part of marriage that can't help but creep into the conversation. Something that is universally accepted and, arguably, misunderstood: Marriage is really hard.
It might be easy for one to fall into the trap of dismissing Bolick's claims as simply avoiding the more complicated tenets of adulthood. But her comments on the complicated nature of relationships likely resonate deeply with anyone who has tried to make long-term romantic relationships work, only to feel the sting of disappointment.
"It's important to remember that romantic love is not a panacea," she said to SheKnows. "It comes with its own set of problems."
For those who are married, the reality that relationships are hard can be tough to navigate as well. Just as not everyone chooses to get married, there are those who choose to commit to a life-long relationship, despite the difficulties that will inevitably come.
Making marriage satisfying, especially when one is committed to making it work, can often be a frustrating struggle. But it doesn't always have to be that way, or at least not as daunting as some make it out to be. Just as Bolick seeks to ease the burden of women in the single life, there are those who think making marriage work can be easier than many believe.
The American Conservative's Eve Tushnet, for example, believes marriage should be a joint effort not only between spouses, but among friends.
"No marriage is an island," she wrote last week. "Two people can’t always lift a marriage on their own shoulders," which is why friends and family can be such an important part of any couple's journey.
Constantly re-evaluating one's perspective is another important part of making a marriage work. In an article for Psychology Today, Kate Fridkis cited the common problem of simply having unrealistic expectations as a real threat to happy marriages.
"The problem is that we have this mold in the shape of a fairytale, and we’re all trying to cram our sloppy, oozy lives into it, but there’s always some spilling out the sides, getting everything sticky," she wrote. "We have this image of happily ever stuck in our heads," and too often it just gets in the way.
If people want their marriages to weather the natural storms that come with any committed relationship, overcoming those obstacles are an important starting point. It may not always be easy, but according to Fridkis the outcome is rewarding.
"Few of us work as hard at the vocation of marriage as we should," David Brooks wrote in 2003 New York Times opinion piece. "But marriage makes us better than we deserve to be."
JJ Feinauer is a writer and web producer for Deseret News National. Email: [email protected], Twitter: jjfeinauer.