Disposable Lives

Once upon a time, things were meant to last.  When you bought furniture, it was understood that it would most likely be the last piece of this you would ever need.  Oh, sure, you might buy another, but it was because the style had changed, not that the piece had fallen apart.

Photo by banjo d
Photo by banjo d

A lot of things were like that.  Hell, pretty much everything was like that.  It was just how things were.

Then one day, some executive figured out that they could sell a lot of something if it was disposable.  Take paper plates, for example.  This exec realized that paper plates were awfully convenient since you used and, rather than washing them, you threw them out.  This is attractive to consumers, and the paper plate companies like it because you’ll keep on buying paper plates rather than simply using the regular plates you already have.

Now, that’s not a big deal.  Might not be the smartest financial decision one could make, but it’s a balance between expense and the time it takes to wash dishes, a chore no one really enjoys.

Where the problem comes in is that somewhere along the way, everything became disposable.  In this day and age, even marriage is disposable.

It was probably a decade ago when I first recognized this.  I was more than familiar with divorce itself, but I naively believed that divorce was typically viewed as the last option for couples who just couldn’t get past their issues.

At that time, I was talking to a friend of mine, a woman who I’d known for several years.  She’d joined the Navy and after her hitch was about to get out.  She was on her second marriage at the time.

I asked what happened to the first marriage, and she confessed, “Oh, I knew we weren’t going to stay married forever.”

It was like a smack upside the head to me.  Seriously, how could someone enter into marriage with the expectation of getting divorced someday?

As I later learned, if this isn’t the typical thinking of many people, it probably should be.

Far too long ago, divorce wasn’t forbidden, but it carried a stigma.  People who got divorced were seen as damaged.  Men got something of a pass on that, but mostly because it was easier for them to hide.  No name changes to deal with, for example.

Today, it’s just a parachute and marriage is little more than a skydiving excursion for a lot of people.

Now, I’m not implying there are never any grounds for divorce.  Sure there are.  Infidelity and abuse are two big ones, but there may be many legitimate reasons for a divorce.

Thanks to “no-fault” divorces, however, marriage–and, by extensions, entire lives–are as disposable as paper plates.

People now enter into marriages unsure of how they feel about their new spouse, knowing that if it doesn’t work out, they can just get a divorce.  No muss, no fuss.

I had no idea how old-fashioned I was until I started seeing this attitude well after I was married.

When my wife and I exchanged “I do’s” almost 17 years ago, I won’t say there wasn’t some trepidation.  Also present was a strong desire to stick it out for life.

Since then, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve held together because we figured that we made a promise to one another before God and we were going to do our best to honor it.

Someone once asked me what the secret has been to our marriage, and I answered “stubbornness.”  My wife and I are both too stubborn to throw away a marriage over what tend to be fairly temporary disagreements.

Now, I’m not about to bash people who get out of abusive relationships or who leave cheating spouses or anything like that.  Some relationships are truly toxic and you shouldn’t subject yourself to that kind of thing.

However, people are getting into marriages without any intent in staying married, and it makes no sense to me.  There’s even a term for it: starter marriage.

Don’t get me wrong, divorce has its place, and I’m not going to advocate changing divorce laws in any way at this point in time.  What I would like to see is a shift in society where “just divorce him/her” isn’t the standard answer to marital problems.

When you say “I do,” you create a family, and family is supposed to matter.  Even if you don’t have kids, you’re still a family.  Family matters, and you owe it to one another to do everything you can to preserve that family if at all possible.

If you can’t, then so be it, but never treat family like it’s disposable.


Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.