I’ve been on a recent love binge and just consuming everything and anything about love – to understand this elusive emotion a little better and also to see how we can all learn from the experts on what they think this four-letter word is all about.
Enter James Sexton. I chanced upon his interview with Soft White Underbelly (an awesome YouTube channel by the way, please do check them out) and I’d have to say, alot of what he said resonated with my own observations on love and marriage, particularly marriage.
As a society, we are so conditioned to want to get married, especially women. There is still alot of stuff going on around in pockets of society that unmarried women past a certain age are “left on the shelf”, “something is wrong with them”. To be fair, even the men get it, but with men there’s always this underlying sense that they can just shack up with someone much younger even if they are well past their middle age but I digress.
There’s alot of stereotypes that exist. And you what Mr Peyton is saying? That actually marriage isn’t really as amazing and as cracked up as it is made out to be.
Here’s the amazing interview and I’m summarising some of my takeaways below.
#1 Marriage is a lottery, and 9 out of 10 of us don’t win it
Sexton likens marriage to gambling – taking a risk, going out and buying some lottery tickets because why not? You could be the $20 mil jackpot winner. Marriages are kinda the same – you take a risk on someone although the odds are stacked against you (divorce rates in the US are hovering between 53% to 56%) and hope that you are that jackpot winner.
Sadly, most of us won’t be that jackpot winner. Also – “it’s easy to get married, super hard to stay married”.
#2 Social media offers a constant supply of reasons to cheat and is a bane to marriages
This I find to be so incredibly true – the ex you dated in high school, the hot woman/man at work, that acquaintance your best friend brought along to the event, the plethora of random men and women on your feed.. all you gotta do is slip into their DMs, and before you know it, you are chatting and catching feelings.
There is so much going against marriages and committed relationships these days, a constant steady supply of ways to cheat/people to cheat with all available on your phones. It’s the images we are fed with as well, that lead us to aspire for certain types of partners with usually very superficial qualities (i.e. model looks, tall, rich).
The couples in the 1950s to 1960s didn’t have to contend with any of this. Also he had this amazing quote that I only managed to find in this article, which sums up why love can be so hard:
Humans have Paleolithic emotions, Medieval Institutions and Godlike technology.
Can you spot the red flags when you are dating? Find out in the quiz below!
#3 People want self-actualization in their marriages these days but never find it
Thoes from our grandparents generation and beyond got married because.. well, because they had to and because they wanted someone to depend on/take care of them.
Marriage is different these days – people are looking for meaning and to fulfil a higher sense of purpose with someone. But, honestly most people never find this.
My own thoughts on this is that – people these days want purpose and go around chasing it but never really find it because they don’t really know themselves well (and don’t take the time to). Plus there is also an increasing emphasis on superficial values (i.e. wanting to emulate celebs or influencers because of the rich/glamourous lifestyles they seem to lead) instead of searching for something more down-to-earth but wholesome. There’s been a rise in materialist, consumerist, hookup/casual mindsets that to me, doesn’t co-exist with love.
#4 People compare too much and are never happy period
He made a great point about how people tend to compare their relationships with what they see on social media – a curated, filtered, fake version of their lives – and as a result they are never happy with what they have as it always seemed to pale in comparison.
He highlighted how some of the clients that were in his office going through a divorce but on their social media feeds you’d never guess. They’d be praising each other, saying “best wife” and all. All that you see on social media is performative, fake, an illusion. And it will do us all some good to stop comparing what we have in our day to day to a curated feed.
#5 It’s the little things that matter
In our day to day, doing little things to let your partner know they are in your thoughts. Like leaving them notes, making them feel loved. It doesn’t have to be big OTT stuff. It’s these small gestures done often enough that keeps the love going.
#6 Loving one another does not mean you have to get married
Love is very different from marriage which is very different from parenthood too. But Mr Sexton seemed to insinuate that marriage can actually spoil the love between two people, because of the very extreme expectations that many of us place on the institution of marriage.
We expect the same person to be our best friend, soulmate etc and have a huge list of things they need to fulfill and that’s just not possible.
Also, marriage is a legal construct, a government created one that worked in the olden days because people died young and many were left without any sort of societal protection and have to find for themselves.
#7 The majority of marriages aren’t happy ones
In all his time observing marriages and other couples, he’s only seen ONE couple that have been married for 25 years and counting. Their secret? Even he doesn’t know, probably that “they really like each other”. He recounted doing a double date with the couple and his ex-wife with all of their kids at Disneyland, and after ensuring that their kids will be taken care of, the other couple just said they’d just walk around and hold hands. He also mentioned how the guy talks about his spouse as if they just met.
In my own personal experience, I rarely, actually never have seen a single happy marriage in my immediate environment. I’m thankful that I’ve encountered 2 couples in my life who in my opinion who are great role models for what a healthy, loving partnership/marriage looks like.
The ingredients they have? Lots of humour/playfulness/fun, alot of communication/talking about anything and everything, working together as a team not against each other.
#8 You gotta take joy in your partner’s joy
This is really the key and the measure of love in a marriage. And he uses it as a measure of whether that person is a good fit for you or not as well. You’d want to keep giving a person love in the first place (i.e. replacing their fav granola when it runs out) and you’d want to be in a relationship where that kind of love is also given back to you in equal measure.
If you find yourself constantly giving and not receiving, or if you are being transactional – if I’m not happy my partner doesn’t get to be either… that wouldn’t lead to a good partnership or marriage. A good marriage is when you feel joy at seeing your partner’s joy and wanting to do the little things that make them happy.
#9 Don’t want to communicate about the hard stuff? Then you have no business being married
He talked about how couples who were willing to talk through the nitty-gritties of a pre-nup tend to last super long compared to the ones that dragged their feet and refused to even communicate about it. Also he thinks pre-nups are a necessity for all marriages. Simply because, it’s better to think about asset division etc when you have good feelings for each other and not when you are at loggerheads, hate each other and still have to figure out the ins and outs of your divorce, from a legal pov.
Also a great partnership/marriage is when you are able to talk about the tougher stuff in life together, the things that make people uncomfortable. Couldn’t agree more though, but how many people are able to talk about the tough stuff?
#10 When you are doubting your love, go back to thoughts of how you first met
Mr Sexton mentioned how many people simply no longer remember how things were when they first fell in love. But if they did, along the way, many difficulties could have been diffused and they probably wouldn’t end up sitting in a divorce lawyer’s office. It’s also difficult to conjure up feelings of love when you are fighting against each other.