For decades, the United States has been a consumer-oriented society. Our shopping and buying dollars have fueled the global economy. We continue to consume large amounts of food, entertainment, products and services. We want the latest iPhone, most recent electronics and newest cars, throwing away the old models for new ones almost as soon as they are available. We are, unfortunately, a throw away society.
What if we are treating our relationships the same way?
We have become bigger consumers in every decade since the 1950s and our divorce rates have followed suit. Fifty percent of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce. We move more, travel more, and as a result, are less committed to a job, a community or a spouse.
During this economic downturn, as individuals reflect on what is meaningful in their lives and examine their consumer behaviors, many look at their current situations and are choosing divorce as one way to change their lives. Statistically, divorce rates decline during economic downturns, but mainly due to financial constraints. During economic recovery, divorce returns to former levels.
What is it about our culture that causes us to believe that fresh starts are better than building on a foundation we already have? Relationships take work but unfortunately, we have become an instant gratification society. Anything really difficult that requires more than a modicum of energy is considered possibly "not worth the effort." We now expect things to take less effort and come together in a shorter amount of time.
Advertising and marketing sells love the same way it sells everything else -- with unsustainable and unrealistic expectations. Do we give up too easily?
Sustainability is not just environmental, economic, social or cultural; it's emotional. As we need to revamp our manufacturing processes and our energy use to be more environmentally sustainable, we need to change our perceptions, expectations and processes of how to grow love in our lives. We need to build shared memories that create the powerfully stable forces that hold our communities and lives together.
Divorce has an environmental impact; one household becomes two, energy use goes up and waste increases. It has a financial cost: incomes divided leave both individuals less financially stable. And most importantly, it causes social upheaval: it is devastating to children and disrupts relationships with friends and family.
Things in our culture change over time but should our values? They are important to who we are, to our families and to our communities. Sustainable emotional relationships create productive communities and economic stability. They become a part of us fundamentally. And if we are going to have a truly sustainable society, we must keep and grow the love in our lives.