George Clooney and the pressure to be married

If you follow celebrity news, you know the biggest thing to happen this week was the announcement that People magazine’s two-time Sexiest Man Alive George Clooney is engaged. It shouldn’t be such a big deal — just another celeb tying the knot, right? Except that Clooney has resisted the societal pressure to get hitched — again — after two decades of bachelorhood.   george-clooney-engagement-ring-photo-amal-alamuddin-engaged__oPt

Not to say that he hasn’t suffered for it; Clooney has had to keep defending his unmarried  state (as if it were a crime) and battling the anti-marriage bachelor image that has been thrust upon him. All of which makes us wonder what is it with this incredible societal pressure that makes an unmarried person have to defend his or her decision to be unmarried?

Do we have an unhealthy obsession with marriage?

Perhaps. Bella DePaulo, author of numerous books on the single life, calls it matrimania.

Clooney keeps reminding people that he isn’t a commitaphobe — he was married for to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993 after all  (not really long, but still) — and although he has had numerous girlfriends since then, he has been committed to each and every one of them (as are most of us serial monogamists):

People forget that I was married. I love that, ‘Will he get married?’ I don’t talk about it because I don’t think about it. I don’t ever question other peoples’ versions of how they live their lives or what they do.

Nevertheless, that will not stop the media from putting his photo on the cover with the headline, “At last!” — just like poor Jennifer Aniston has had to endure ever since she and former hubby Brad Pitt split.

It’s the “At last!” that’s problematic:

At last! s/he’s found love!

At last! s/he’s engaged!

At last! s/he’s married!

At last! she’s pregnant!

At last? Isn’t it funny — or perhaps odd or sad — that in 2014, when people can live together, have children without being married (or even without having a partner), or be part of any romantic arrangement they want, many still feel uneasy with those who remain unmarried for any length of time? It’s as if we are all blindly following some sort of script for romantic love and any deviation from it causes angst.

It also perpetuates gendered stereotypes. Just look at how the media is portraying Clooney and his fiancee, Amal Alamuddin — she “tamed,” “hooked” and “tied Clooney down,” because she had a secret — she “played hard to get.”

Excuse me, what year are we in?

OK, we get that the spotlight is on celebrities — we are a celeb-driven culture, for better or worse. But there’s a trickle-down effect, and the pressure to marry hits us whether we’re prepared for it or not. So, it’s a good idea to be thinking about it … and hopefully challenge it.

  • What kind of pressures have you felt to couple up or tie the knot?
  • Have you been as successful as Clooney has been in ignoring it until the right person came along and made you feel differently about marrying?
  • What gendered stereotypes have you internalized?
  • Do you have “At last!” moments?


Three reasons why you shouldn’t marry for love

Susan published this article in her Contemplating Divorce column for Psychology Today. It created quite the stir. Not marry for love? That’s unheard of! And yet, as she explains, love made a mess of marriage. Read on: Marry_for_love

Those who don’t marry for love in our culture are considered unlucky, suspect, manipulative, exploitative, and bad. We feel they are either doing something wrong or there is something wrong with them. It makes us feel everything from sympathy to contempt for these folks because most of us were taught that love is the only “right” reason to tie the knot.

But if you really think about it, love is a luxury. When you marry for love, it generally means you have all — or at least most — of your other needs met (like food, shelter, warmth, etc). That may explain why those with fewer financial resources also have lower marriage rates: If you’re worried about your survival or safety, you’re not going to be focusing on finding the man or woman of your dreams — unless of course this dream person is your ticket out of your terrible home life, dreary financial picture or scary “singledom.”

Procreation has always been a factor in why people married, but up until about two hundred years ago or so, people in the West married more for political or financial gain than for love.

The Victorian Era and the Industrial Revolution (1800s) created two important changes in how people lived: Romance became all the rage and technological advances made life much easier. Prior to these developments, divorce was incredibly rare but when love entered the picture as the reason to marry, dissolutions became more commonplace.

Read the rest of the article here.