By Doni Joszef
Remember the good old days? When families were functional. When children were respectful. When marriages were blissful.
Sorry to burst this bubble, but the “good old days” were probably not as rosy as we like to imagine. Hindsight has a funny tendency to glorify the past and demonize the present.
But be that as it may, modern living bears certain unique challenges. Today’s marriages are struggling with different issues than yesterday’s marriages were forced to face. Here I’d like to explore some of these contemporary casualties which hit the home front at its core.
Progress has emancipated modern woman from her traditional cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing role, transferring her station from the kitchen to the business office. As a result, modern man is on baby duty, dinner duty, and laundry duty a lot more often than he’d be proud to admit. While this arrangement is only fair, it can create some degree of frustration and resentment when husbands are unprepared or unwilling to pitch in where they were once absolved. Time and patience will help men adapt to their new roles, but the novelty of this transition adds unexpected stress and tension to the mix of modern matrimony.
Hooked On Hollywood
Our generation was raised under the influence of Hollywood’s “happily ever after” mantra. As a result, we expect marriage to be a never-ending dance of romance and fluff. Intellectually, we may know this to be bogus, but emotionally we still cling to the images impressed upon our consciousness from childhood. Marriage is not a final destination, but the beginning of a journey. When millennials expect marriage to solve their problems instead of challenge them with new ones, the result is always a devastating disappointment. Marriage is not a painkiller or a pacifier; signing up for marriage is like signing up for the gym—the sauna and massage come after the workout, not in place of it.
The stigma of divorce is gradually fading, which makes it that much easier to exit the arrangement. Don’t get me wrong—divorce can be a blessing for those who feel cursed. But the systematic de-stigmatization of the “D” word has made a last resort into a quicker escape route. Some marriages are meant to expire, but some are meant to perspire. What was once a commitment to lifelong growth has become more of a tentative test-drive than a long-term investment.
Mr. & Mrs. Entitled
As I’ve written numerous times in the past, my generation is a particularly self-centered, self-absorbed, self-serving bunch. We were born and raised under the false impression that the world revolves around us. But marriage requires an entirely opposite attitude. When Mr. Spoiled marries Ms. Brat, the Spoiled Brats often struggle to adapt to a life of compromise and self-sacrifice. It’s certainly a rude awakening for the pampered.
We can’t talk about modern maladies without discussing social media and digital technology. When marriages go mobile, the course of constant contact wields a double-edged sword. Spouses are always keeping track of each other, but never engaging with one another. This turns the relationship into a robotic tab-keeping exchange instead of an intimate bond built on emotional validation and face-to-face communication. As a result, the modern marriage feels more estranged and less engaged. Eye-to-eye has been replaced with iPhone-to-iPhone. Face-to-face has been replaced with Facebook-to-Facebook.
These are some of the forces that create tension and turbulence for the modern marriage. I’d elaborate more on the matter, but I have a sink full of dishes to wash. v
Doni Joszef, winner of the 2014 Cedarhurst “Best in Mental Health” award, works in private practice with individuals, couples, and families. Trained as a cognitive-behavioral therapist, he is completing his Ph.D. in media psychology. Doni presents innovative workshops at schools and organizations on a variety of psychosocial topics. For more information, visit DoniJoszef.com or e‑mail DJoszef@Gmail.com.