The economics of love vs freedom

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 7 August 2016

Single people, aged 25 to 29 in eight rich countries – the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Spain, Italy, France and Germany – have become poorer over the last 20 years compared with the average population.

People aged 25 to 29 who live by themselves have less post-tax income in real terms now than 20 to 30 years ago.

In a nutshell, unattached young adults find it harder than ever to set up on their own.

Not only do they find living costs more difficult than their parents did, but they earn less as well.

Despite this, the number of people living alone is increasing, albeit slower than in the 1950s or 1980s.

In the US, over 27% live in a single-person household.

Across Europe, single people account for over 32% of all households.

An increase in the age of first marriage means that more people are likely to live alone longer.

They are single, career-focused, building networks of friends rather than having children as their parents or grandparents did.

Living alone is so important that there are people willing to pay a heavy economic price for this freedom, an ongoing struggle between a great quality of unhampered life versus financial comfort and security.

(The Guardian, 9 March 2016)

I am the Old Man of Starbucks St. Gallen, married for 11 years, in a committed relationship for two decades.

Prior to my relationship with She Who Must Be Obeyed, mine was a carefree, albeit economically precarious, existence, filled with travel and adventure – a nomadic lifestyle only punctuated by periods of work to again finance further travels and adventures.

My wife often fails to realise that within her husband remains a wild man.

Nature, the open road, wild spaces, is where my home is, listening and marching to the rhythms of earth, ocean and sky.

The more I share my life with a woman, the more I realise that my wife too is only human…usually right, but occasionally completely wrong.

I realise that She is a normal, fallible human being just like me, just as bloody-minded as myself.

She is different from me and because of these differences not only do I have difficulty understanding her but she has difficulty understanding me.

Couples must fight and debate to remain true to themselves, but in doing so there must be restraint and respect.


And there I feel many couples confront problems.

Put-down language is used, digressions occur again and again, arguments from the past are used to defend the attitudes of the present, listening to reply rather than to honour and understand the voice and opinions of the other.

For many, it is simpler to agree for the sake of peace, and as men are less skilled in verbal debate than women, it is often the man who capitulates, who fears to reveal his impulsive nature, or to do what he really wants to do, at the risk of being censored, or having to ask for permission to do things on his own.

We begin to distrust our own judgment and taste, for She knows best.

In the relationship, rather than part of the relationship, discontented, frustrated, feeling an anger and a resentment that dare not be shown, a desire for autonomy that dare not be expressed, married men often lead lives of quiet desperation.

And I think many women allow this to happen for there is a part of a woman that enjoys having the upper hand and having the ability to manipulate and control a man into doing precisely what she wants, but in doing so she begins to feel disrespect for the man she once admired for his strength of character, for his ability to speak up for himself, to let her know how he feels…

That man has left the building.

So the therapy needed in a good marriage, an ongoing daily process, doesn’t happen, and many a marriage ends up in the scrapheap of regret and confusion.

For many, there is a knowledge of how to be married rather than an understanding of why be married.

Or some marriages remain unresolved relationships where economics is more of a binding force than romance.

It is cheaper to stay together than live apart and the financial cost of divorce seems more daunting than two souls living together in mutual isolation and dissatisfaction.

The wonder is not that so many marriages fall apart, but rather that some marriages stay together.

I cannot claim to be an expert on marriage, for, like anyone, I too must work at trying to understand my own marriage and discover for myself what it is I want, to struggle to not leave my wife as the only adult in the relationship, to fight for what I want rather than pretend a harmony, a sweetness I don`t always feel.

So, perhaps this ongoing trend for young adults to prefer living solitarily for longer periods of time before marriage, despite the economic difficulty, is not such a bad thing after all.

For until we learn that a relationship is not only what we take out of it but as well what we put into it, and what we bring to the marriage is ourselves, it is important that we learn what it is we want and what makes us happy as individuals first.

Be prepared for the fight.




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