Here's something you may or may not have known about me: I don't want to get married. I almost said "I don't believe in marriage" but that isn't accurate. I guess my feelings about marriage are somewhat analogous to my feelings about eating meat: I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with it, but the way we currently engage in it, at a national and probably a global level, is ... what's the word? Not the dreaded "problematic." But not good. Not good enough, not by my standards.
I don't begrudge or judge other people's marriages as a rule, so please don't feel implicated or defensive if you happen to be married. But these are my feelings about marriage in general, in no particular order:
- This has nothing to do with gay marriage. Some people deny themselves marriage as an act of protest, and I commend that. I support gay rights across the board. But the issue is irrelevant to my stance on marriage.
- Most people believe they want to get married, but, as John said earlier today, "People don't know what they want." The societal pressure to get married, the overwhelming messaging from above and all sides that getting married is what you're supposed to do, clouds and warps your actual wants/needs/goals. When people express doubts about marriage, they are stamped out with "cold feet" rhetoric or the "You just haven't met the right person" line. Being permanently unmarried is still considered a flaw or at best eccentric.
- I'm not religious, so I feel zero pressure or guilt to get married on those grounds. I think this probably influences a lot of people's decision to get married.
- I believe women, especially, are disinclined to question any doubts they might have about marriage. Society/media/etc. make a couple of things about women very clear, and those are that you're supposed to be attractive and you're supposed to get married. Well, I guess you're also supposed to have kids. Everything else is kind of optional. For many years I too assumed that I wanted to get married.
- I believe that many women (not all) very much want a wedding (again, it's what you're supposed to want). You have to get married if you want a wedding. I believe many parents want a wedding, too. I don't have any particular fondness for weddings (seeing as they fall under the rubric of ritual/tradition) and don't want one myself. It's amazing, really, how much this clarifies things. I wonder how many marriages would never have materialized if they weren't inextricably tied to a wedding.
- Historically, I think most people have gotten married not for love but to better their situation in one way or another. In many countries this is still the norm.
- I believe in long-term monogamous relationships (if both parties are willing). I think the benefits outweigh the costs, and if two people want to be together exclusively, they should try to make it work for as long as it can work. I don't believe that long-term monogamous relationships are only possible under the bond of marriage.
- I am currently involved in a happy monogamous relationship of 5+ years. We have lived together for 4+ years. We have been through a lot, there have been some rough patches and close calls, but we've never broken up and we're still in love. We can't imagine life without the other. For all intents and purposes, we live like a married couple.
- Life is unpredictable. When you marry someone, you're not just saying you trust them to want to be with you forever, you're saying you trust yourself to want to be with them forever. When my first long-term relationship ended, after almost six years, I realized how much people can change over five years, to say nothing of ten, twenty, thirty, and so on. I know what I want now, but I don't know what I'll want for the rest of my life. I can't say that about anyone else either. Relationship security is important to me, but not so important that I want someone to sign a contract. (Remember, for me it would just be a contract, because I have no interest in marriage as a religious ceremony.)
- The fewer legal complications in my life, the fewer contractual obligations, the cleaner I feel.
- Kids are a complication of their own. If/when I have kids, the benefits of marriage may in fact outweigh the costs.
Here's the thing. I may end up getting married anyway. In the interest of privacy, I won't get into why here, but I will say that John feels much as I do about marriage in principle. But, society being its overbearing self, we may have to get married anyway.
Sucks, doesn't it?