Mental health notes: Should we marry?

“If you are afraid of loneliness, don’t marry,: said Anton Chekhov. And he was right.

We expect total love, commitment, interest, loyalty, fidelity, and sexual attractiveness. And what do we get? A 50-percent divorce rate (90-percent in teenage marriages).

Not too surprising when you realize that many of us look at 50-plus years when we say “I do.” That’s four times the life of a car, three times that of a refrigerator. And 36,000 meals!

On the other side of this 50-year sentence is that we all need someone to care, someone to worry when we’re late coming home at night.

Looking for a marriage partner is often a tough job, not that there isn’t plenty of advice: Mom, Grandma, our married friends, Ann Landers, maybe even the Sunday sermon. 

But no matter what they tell us, we tend to look for the one sentiment — love. Love that makes us happy, giggly, crazy, and totally unreasonable.

Is it the long eyelashes, the muscular torso, the adorable lisp? What we should look for is someone who is reasonable, reliable, kind, and whose parents are still married and whom we admire.

Why? Because what you see is pretty much what you get more often that not. We tend to grow into our parents even if we try not to, and few of us change radically.

So, shall we marry? Did Romeo marry Juliet? Did Tristan marry Osolde? How about Dante and Beatrice (he did not even know her!). 

What about shacking up instead (or what President Jimmy Carter called “living in sin?”) An interesting fact: When people who live together in long-term relationships with no thought of separating decide to marry, statistics tell us the divorce rate soars!

Why? What makes us want to break out? The thought of “forever?” The closed door for further conquests? The monotony, the lack of surprises, the receding hairline, the lies of TV ads?

We’ve forgotten that the divorce rate for second marriage is higher still! So — what about remaining single?

Single life used to be a male prerogative. But today many woman chose to be single mothers or delay marriage until their careers are established.

Still — marriage beckons. If you have become a confident, self-sufficient, strong person accepting yourself, marriage might make you life complete, but if you tend to be needy, fearful of being lonely, needing constant admiration — maybe better get a puppy. 

Editor’s note: Hedi McKinley lives in Altamont and is a clinical social worker with an office in Albany.

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