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For better or for worse (or not) ~ Guest Post

March 10, 2010

There’s a new series starting on NBC this week. It’s called “The Marriage Ref,” and it one-ups the rest of so-called “reality” TV by giving celebrities a chance to critique couples in real-life marital distress. One of the series promo spots boasts, “We’re gonna give couples the one thing they’ve always wanted: a winner!”


It’s comedy. I get that. But it’s really not funny. In fact, I find it downright appalling. In marital conflict, you either have two winners or two losers. There really isn’t another option. Say one person convinces the other—so now they both believe the same thing. In other words, they both win. If two people agree to disagree, they still both win. If one person caves outwardly, without changing his or her heart—then there’s division. And everybody loses.

America may think it’s funny to ridicule a man who “has a dog for a mistress” or a woman who “married a police officer and now she has a Village People Cop!” But that says something very sad about America. These are people who need real help. Instead they’re being victimized. Trivialized. Made into a laughingstock.

And what kind of people would put themselves out there to receive such ridicule, anyway? Is there any hope for such a couple?

No doubt someone out there right now is thinking, Oh, give me a break. Lighten up! Just laugh and enjoy it! Why do you have to take everything so seriously?

But marriage is serious. Not in a “woe is me, gloom and doom” kind of way, but in the same way that having a child is serious: it is—or is supposed to be—a commitment of love that is made for a lifetime. You don’t just walk away from it one day because you got tired of it, or because it’s too hard. Of course, it takes both members approaching the commitment this way in order for marriage to flourish. But that is what love is. We’ve gotten used to thinking of love as an emotion—but emotion is fleeting, and love remains because it is chosen again and again and again, by both partners.

Recently I heard a story about a couple that had the perfect “destination” wedding: they got married in Cinderella’s castle at Disney World…only to be divorced less than a year later. Not separated, not getting a divorce—divorced. Done.

My first reaction was: How does something like that happen? It takes longer than that to get used to being married—much less to give up on it!

In the moment that two people get married, a new family comes into being. That is a beautiful thing. We have no business getting our chuckles at the expense of others—especially not when the implications are so far-reaching. When we encourage this kind of exploitation, what kind of message do we send to the next generation? When we spend more time, money and energy preparing for “the perfect wedding” than we do preparing for the marriage itself, what other end can we expect?

What kind of example are setting for the young adults among us? Are we really as shallow as this makes us look?
Kathleen Basi is a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer, flute and voice teacher, composer, choir director, natural family planning teacher, scrapbooker, sometime-chef and budding disability rights activist. Visit her at

6 Comments leave one →
  1. fillforsix permalink
    March 10, 2010 6:22 am

    I haven’t watched it Kate, but the commercials were enough to keep me away. You put into words my gut-level reaction. And the idea that people who have also failed at marriages and have been in the public spotlight for making poor choices as a father (Alec Baldwin, anyone?) are offering others advice just proves that it’s entertainment at the mercy of values. I guess nothing super new, but revolting nonetheless.

  2. March 10, 2010 6:25 am

    Unfortunately many folks are this shallow 😦 Folks don’t seem to want to work at marriage – they want a fairytale and real life is not like that.
    Our priest just made a comment this past Sunday about how folks complain they didn’t know marriage was going to be that hard .. and he also said he didn’t know priesthood was going to be this hard….. but he has stuck it out unlike so many marriages 😦

  3. March 10, 2010 1:28 pm

    So sad! Seriously I’ve been divorced but after nine years of giving it all I had. It is sad how little people value the vows made when you get married. And this TV show makes me super glad I don’t have cable, lol

  4. March 11, 2010 6:49 am

    I am in absolute agreement with you on this one. I keep seeing the commercials for it and it is nothing short of appalling. Instead of silly celebrities (many of whom don’t have the best marriage track record themselves) some of these people should be seeking counseling from a serious professional. I can’t imagine what amount of money they are paying these people to subject themselves to this….I know that it isn’t enough money to get me to sign up!

  5. March 11, 2010 9:09 pm

    Hear hear, Kate!! You said what I feel after watching the promo clips. Trivializing marriage and mocking spouses can only lead to further disintegration of the family. Other countries must tune in to our TV and find us petty, shallow, stupid and lacking in lifegiving values.

    Thanks for posting this, for taking a stand. As always, you inspire! 🙂


  1. For better or for worse (or not) « So much to say, so little time

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