“Oh, honey. Nobody wants to marry a woman like that.” I will never forget these words, tossed my way like a short-fused firecracker from the hands of abjection and snide patronization. She meant the comment as an affront. She meant for me to feel insulted, but I couldn't give her the satisfaction, even if I'd wanted to.
“Well, that's fine,” I fired back, “I have more important things to do.” But, all the words achieved were furrows in the brow of a sincerely puzzled expression on the face of my interrogator. Ah, yes. I'll call her Polly.* It was Polly the political science major, or so we all thought. She had called herself a student of government, but the truth was clear: She had come to university for her MRS degree.
The true significance of the sparky exchange Polly and I shared is not to be found in the laugh it brings. Rather, the exchange prompted me to write about the widespread beliefs in the minds of Millennials regarding marriage.
Let me preface this by first acknowledging the fact that not all Millennials hold the position I'm about to criticize. But many, many do. Many people of preceding generations are caught up in the same sophomoric delusion.
Simply put, many are under the delusion that marriage is the end game. They think that's it, and that's the point of life. It's the measure of how rich one's existence has been. They think one's happiness depends on getting married (or at least falling in love).
Look, I'm not trying to sh*t on love, but it shouldn't be absurd to think that there are, in fact, other things worth pursuing, devoting our time and resources to and deriving a sense of purpose and quality of life from. What's more, the opinion that love is the foundation of marriage at all is only a rather recent phenomena. It's one that has escalated divorce rates and exhausted therapists.
Of course, a greater correlation exists between divorce rates and the age at which one marries than the simple belief that love is the foundation of marriage, and Millennials are not so inclined to seek counsel on either matter. It used to be normal to seek advice on a proposed union before entering wedlock, but so many young couples now simply believe their love will withstand anything that comes their way.
Isn't it interesting how we are always the exception to the rule? Yes, ignorance is bliss. Yet, the statistics don't lie. And facing the fact that a sizable percentage of couples who enter wedlock between the ages of 24 and 26 wind up divorced within the first five years is not indicative of a lack of love or trust between partners.
On the contrary, it's just good sense. So, I must ask, my fellow Millennials, why all the fuss and rush to get married? Why the concrete reluctance to seek any advice (professional or otherwise) regarding that decision?
Don't give me that “love” bullsh*t because the world's most irresponsible and unintelligent decisions have most ordinarily been made in the name of two things: love and (Dare I say it?) religion.
Well, if the statistics aren't enough to change your mind, allow me to tell you some harsh truths that may have you reconsidering getting married young:
1. Love is not enough.
I'm not being a cynic when I say this. I'm being a devoted statistician. Plain, simple and true, love is not enough to make a marriage work. You cannot promise to love someone forever.
You can indeed promise to treat someone lovingly forever, but marriage isn't a prerequisite to that venture. Part of treating a person with love and respect can include addressing the fact that your love for that person may run dry, or vice versa.
2. A wedding lasts a day, while a marriage lasts a lifetime.
Obviously, given the previously cited statistical data, a lot of marriages don't last a lifetime. Nevertheless, many couples' intent when they marry is to make that marriage last forever (or at least the remainder of their lifetimes). But how crazy is it to presume anything will last forever?
As far as I'm concerned, it's a little naive, and it's far too easy for many young couples to be distracted from this thought with the dazzling promise of a party at which they are the centerpiece. Frankly, that pretty much constitutes a wedding, does it not?
3. Getting married is easy, but staying married is hard.
A lot of people think getting married says something profound about their relationship or themselves. However, getting married is not only really damn easy, but a lot of people also do it. Plenty of naive people get married every single day, and a fair portion of them turn right around and get divorced. In the US, there are approximately 6,200 weddings per day, and there are also 2,400 divorces a day.
So, sorry for not offering you all of the traditional congratulatory praise you expect for agreeing to sign a piece of paper. Really, getting married isn't the only thing that will prove your love for another person.
Finding people with whom we can share our lives with is undoubtedly among the most miraculous and beautiful things to be experienced in our short human existence. But, it is not necessarily the most paramount of all good experiences we may have in our lifespans.
There is a lot more to life than finding the one you love, and there is a lot more to offer the world as a couple than your sacramental union. Call me a “radical” for saying it, but no matter how much I may love my partner, I know that getting married is not a given.
That doesn't mean I don't love him, and that doesn't mean I won't marry him. But, I'll be damned if someone tries to tell me that by not marrying him, I have missed out on some incomparable joy in life, I have not lived fully or there must be something wrong with me.
Here's an idea: Stop asking yourself what's wrong with the unmarried and those uninterested in marriage, and start asking yourself how marriage improves yourself and the world.
If you're having trouble answering that, it may be because our happiness is independent of marriage, and so are the things we can do in this world. The bottom line is, your marital status says nothing about your moral standing. So, stop viewing your marriage as an essential accomplishment.
*Name has been changed.