Some people want their marriage to be ideal, and if there is any ordeal, they want a new deal.
And the problem is the ideal, the insistence on the perfect. It doesn’t exist. There are no ideal marriages, only real marriages; marriages between two imperfect sinners with “issues.”
Marriage statistics today are very alarming. In 1974 there were just over 400,000 marriages in Catholic Parishes. In 2004 there were 197,000 marriages. Currently of women under 35, only 40% have ever been married . Seventy percent of African American women and fifty-one percent of Hispanic women are currently unmarried. Forty-five percent of white women (non-Hispanic) and forty percent of Asian women are unmarried 
These alarming statistics don’t mean they aren’t having babies and nationally more than 40 percent of all children are raised by single mothers. The numbers are higher in most minority categories.
Explanations vary, from the higher economic independence of women, to (seemingly endless) college study programs, to poverty etc. Few of the studies I tracked reference promiscuity,which I think is a big factor. Why get married when when of the important reasons to do so (respectable recourse to a great physical pleasure) has been “put on sale” for cheap and is considered “respectable” under almost any circumstances by a promiscuous culture?
Another factor, as I have discovered in some 24 years of priesthood is that, despite our over all cynicism about most things, most people, especially women, remain highly idealistic about marriage and think it should be a kind of perfect society. Yes, wine and roses, candlelight dinners, high romance, the storybook, “happily ever” after version. Crying babies, dirty laundry, weight gain, frayed nerves…please, we’ll have none of THAT in this fantasy.
But the problem with unrealistic expectations is that they breed resentment, when the reality does not measure up. There is an old saying, “Unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.”
And this high idealism, I have noted extends now to the dating arena where couples endlessly look for the perfect one (who is not there). And since most (though not all) are getting all the sex they want, why push the matter? Why not wait for a more perfect body, a more perfect personality? Why not wait for the man/woman of your dreams (who, did I say, does not not exist)? And thus, most who do eventually marry wait until their early to mid thirties, and an increasingly large number never marry.
There’s an old set of jokes that go like this:
A brand new store has just opened in New York City that sells Husbands.
When women go to choose a husband, they have to follow the instructions at the entrance: “You may visit this store ONLY ONCE!” There are 6 floors and the value of the products increase as you ascend the flights. You may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you CANNOT go back down except to exit the building! So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband.
On the 1st floor the sign on the door reads:
Floor 1 – These men have jobs.
Hmm…she says so do I, lets go higher….
The 2nd floor sign reads:
Floor 2 – These men have jobs and love kids.
Hmm…she says, I can do that too, lets go higher….
The 3rd floor sign reads:
Floor 3 – These men have jobs, love kids and are extremely good looking.
“Wow,” she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.
She goes to the 4th floor and the sign reads:
Floor 4 – These men have jobs, love kids, are drop-dead good looking and help with housework.
“Oh, mercy me!” she exclaims, “I can hardly stand it!” “But still, there has to be more. Where’s the romance and the attentiveness?”
Lets go higher….
The 5th floor and sign reads:
Floor 5 – These men have jobs, love kids, are drop-dead gorgeous, help with housework and have a strong romantic streak.
AH….She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the 6th floor, thinking, I need a man who can listen and is more highly sensitive. No, onward and upward!
Floor 6! and the sign reads: – You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store. Please exit directly to the ground floor.
The Male version has these details:
The 1st floor has wives that love sex.
The 2nd floor has wives that love sex and have money.
The 3rd through 6th floors have never been visited.
Yes, there is a lot of this perfectionism today. Sometimes, as a priest, just observing the external, I marvel at breakups, thinking, “Wow, I wouldn’t have broken up with her….”(or) “Do they really think they’re going to find a better combination?”I also marvel at how many gorgeous women are seldom ask out on dates and never get married. I think, “Come on men! Get with the program.” But it isn’t just them men, a LOT of women just aren’t interested in marriage or are waiting (and waiting) for the right guy to come along.
Somehow, the perfect becomes the enemy of the good or adequate. Perhaps romanticism and physical attraction (which, of their nature, peak early and decline) are the problem. For all the “cruelty” of the arranged marriages of the past, they seem to have done better than those of our age where romantic feeling is main basis for marriage. (Regrading arranged marriages, the old song “I’ve grown accustomed to her face” comes to mind).
But somewhere, in this age of (strange) idealism and perfectionism, we need to come out of the clouds and realize that, in this world, the perfect and the ideal do not exist. Sinners marry sinners. The perfect spouse/best friend/ideal lover isn’t out there. Perhaps the merely good will have to do. Perhaps the “mixed bag” (that we all are) will have to be tolerated. And perhaps we do well to remember our own imperfection before we look for the perfect spouse. Perhaps we do well to say, “My marriage will not be perfect because I will be in it.”
Come on now, young people, lets get those marriage numbers up. Whatever the reasons, it’s time to leave mother and father, and just mixing it up with friends, and find a spouse and cling to one another. And when you get married, have lots of babies and raise them Catholic!
Don’t let the perfect cause the good to slip by.