I am often around the young just coming out of their condition of complete dependency. From that position their vision is so unclear of what the decades of relative independence will be like, what the cost and benefits structures are like relative to choice, how much hard work or play is involved, how easy or difficult it will be to achieve something like a minimally good life.
My heart goes out to the young– often full of passion, ignorance and confidence. This is such a frighteningly treacherous combination. Add to this the recent introduction of heavy doses of messaging through pocket screens by marketers who are a mixed bag of real interest in development and real interest in manipulation and the picture grows even less rosy.
The young that I encounter (I am a “teacher” (read Plato’s MENO and Aristotle on the teachability of practical wisdom in the NICOMACHEAN ETHICS for hesitancy regarding the possibility of teaching the most important things) of college-age students by trade) often envision the following choice. I will state it generally and stereotypically and so it will not, by design apply to ALL college students, but it will I think capture too-large a segment.
Say the young: I have a choice between the single-life of freedom and independence with the loose but necessary maintenance of friendship versus the difficulty and trouble of the restrictions of being tied down in marriage.
The young have not read the statistics on how much sex the average married adult has compared to that of the average single adult. The difference is not small.
The young have not calculated the economic value of sharing life-work compared to not sharing life work and the return on sharing over a three to four decade period. The married excel their unmarried counterparts in wealth.
The young have not forecasted the increase in demands on them that will strain the casual friendships and increase the value of the few that are rooted in shared shelter and life. The married who invest in their best friend (partner) see much more on average social life.
Finally, the young have not forecasted that their choice is not between ease and trouble. Their choice is at best between trouble and trouble from the following consideration alone. The choice is between a life with yourself or a life distracted from yourself by another. The young are new to themselves. They are coming out of dependency and shelter. There is adventurousness, excitement, newness, energy. They have no clue what it might be like to be “free” with themselves for a decade…or two…or three.
Dear reader, have you seen the studies on the impact of loneliness on the elderly? The health effects over time are being compared to smoking a pack a day. The young are not reading.
May I make my recommendation to the young? Begin to make yourself virtuous. Begin to make yourself worth being around for four decades. You will need it whether alone or married. But bet on marriage. Bet on the long-standing assessment that the human animal is a social animal, that there is good in society between humans, that marriage is no more than making at least one friend who promises to endure all with you. And mean it.
The literature on marriage and divorce, its effects on those who endure or split, and the effects on future generations is easily accessible. Too many don’t understand the gravity of that which they are choosing and the possibilities contained in that promise of life-long friendship.
Your lowly author is coming on twenty years with a single best friend. Both his and his best friend’s (otherwise known as wife) parents’ divorced. The change is potentially evidence of generational repentance (turning). We see no end in sight, but we are too prudent to treat our friendship as if it were a matter of luck. It is choice. I would write on the depth of friendship attainable but it would come across as bragging. But, dear reader, dear young person, bet on marriage. Bet on a shared life. Bet on finding at least one friend who will know you and you will know over a life. Begin to make yourself worth sharing life with. And get ready for the most challenging and richest friendship attainable on this earth. Otherwise known as marriage.