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Relationships

Does marriage still have a place?

Does marriage still have a place?

I have always wanted to get married. Growing up in the south, there was only one path to adulthood: meet someone in high school if you can, surely by college, graduate, and get married.

But I didn’t meet anyone in high school. I didn’t meet anyone in college. I worked so hard at meeting people after college, it was basically a part time job. I joined dating websites and emailed, chatted with, and met hundreds of men.

Nothing stuck. Nothing felt right. I mean, what is right anyway? How many role models of marriage—of true, lasting, loving, caring marriage—are there in the world? I haven’t had many examples. Heck, my parents recently got divorced after being married more than 30 years. What seemed like a thing that was just going to magically happen to me, began to seem impossible, daunting, and then kind of terrifying.

See, I wasn’t going to settle. I swore to myself after staying in a college relationship about 2 years too long, that I wasn’t going do that to myself again. The problem was, no one told me how to be alone.

You get all that worn-out advice about ‘just finding your own happiness’ (I mean sure, you can do that, for a couple of days, or maybe weeks) and ‘stop looking’ (how do I stop looking for the one thing I think is the measure of a successful life?!). Do these things and then, BAM!, it’s gonna happen to you! Isn’t it so strange that we talk about love as if we have no active role in its creation? It ‘happens to us.’

Well, I think that’s crap. Modern love doesn’t live in chance encounters for most of us anymore. We are seekers. We are explorers. We join dating websites and download apps and go on what feels like zillions of first dates because we want something different.

I think the thing I am learning from my parent’s divorce, and my friends’ divorces, is that I am looking for the one I am going to make a stand with. I am looking for a true partner, not just the most compatible human in my town. People are moving across the country to be with people they met online. Maybe it seems fluid and flippant and frivolous, but I believe the code hidden in the 1s and 0s of digital dating is the ability to find a more meaningful, deeper, more honest and communicative relationship than our parents had access to.

In embracing the alternative pathways to love available to us, we also embrace that we have an alternative idea of the ideal. About 3 out of 4 millennials support same-sex marriage, which means hopefully soon we can just refer to all marriage as just that, without needing to differentiate. Our youth is embracing its non-binary and transgender people, and doesn’t bat an eye at interracial or interfaith relationships.

It may sound as if we are moving farther away from marriage, and indeed, I think this is why so many people claim to be afraid for the sanctity of marriage, but I also think those  people are wrong.

Marriage is still a valid idea to me because now I can choose it. I am not forced to marry out of familial obligation. Women aren’t thought of as delicate flowers that need to be sheltered and looked after. I don’t have to make the choice to be married and that’s what makes it special. You can choose, more freely than ever before in history, who, when, how, and if you want to tie your life to someone else’s.

I know it takes work. I know that it takes time and from all those first dates, that it takes effort and perseverance. Once I find someone that wants to be in it with me through all of that, wants to spend the time communicating and laughing and choosing every day to be in and to show love…that’s the commitment I want to preserve.

Do I still believe in marriage? Do I want to get married? I do. Do you?

This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on marriage from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.

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Profile photo of Jess Kenyon

I am a theater professional living and working in Chicago. I enjoy painting, Nintendo, my boyfriend and our cat Tallulah.

16 Comments

  1. Loved reading this. Totally agree that the modern ideal of marriage is different than that of our parents’ generation -thanks for putting it so succinctly. Part of the difference seems connected to how fluid our lives are nowadays–getting married no longer means choosing one location or one job. For many of us, the pattern of “get a job – get married – buy a house – have a kid and STAY for 18-30 years” no longer applies. There are many more variables at play.

    • Profile photo of Jess Kenyon

      You’re totally right, Emily! I really hadn’t thought about how much more mobile and move-able we are as a society.

  2. Profile photo of elham galyon

    I’ve been married for about 12 years. Looking back now, getting married at that age was a bigger risk than I fully understood, because I really didn’t know myself as a person as well as I thought I did. While it has happened to go well for me, more so now that I understand what it takes, not everyone was so lucky. A lot of people do it for the wrong reasons. Originally I think the institution of marriage was based on social norms that don’t really exist anymore (essentially a business arrangement for offspring creation, to take the romance out of it). Now I see it much as you do – a partnership with my best friend to tackle life together, whatever that may include. Some people may be too independent to be tied down, and that’s beautiful too. What is sacred is different to different people, but I’d like to think that on some level we can all agree that love is sacred and something to be celebrated, regardless of who it comes from.

    • Profile photo of Jess Kenyon

      Elham, I totally agree with you that ‘what is sacred is different for different people’ and I, too think that is a beautiful part of our culture. It’s great to encourage people to find their own path and I’m so happy you and your partner are finding the teamwork in your marriage!

  3. Profile photo of Heidi Kettenring

    This is so wonderfully put, Jess. I think marriage is beautiful and wonderful. And I think far too many people do it for the wrong reasons. And as you say–we DO NOT have to do that anymore. It’s the same with having kids. It’s no longer “what you are supposed to do” so if it’s not in the cards for us that’s ok. Choosing a partner is exciting–and scary. And a responsibility to ourselves not to take lightly. I know you. You don’t take it lightly. And that’s awesome. Thank you for putting this down in words.

    • Profile photo of Jess Kenyon

      Thanks, Heidi! I agree with you that kids and marriage are both options in our society and I am glad people are making the choices that are right for them.

  4. This makes a ton of sense!

  5. I think it’s a wonderful idea to examine whether or not to continue a tradition so rooted in sexism. I love that you have found the reasons why you feel it could work for you and respect the idea that it should change and look different over time. I think that for me the hardest part is everyone else’s expectations of what your life should be. And that rolls into what your marriage should looks like. Knowing (learning) what works for me and not letting others expectations invade the bond I have with my husband has been a gift. We try to celebrate the good days, figure out if we could have done things differently the bad days and choose each other over and over each day.

    • Profile photo of Jess Kenyon

      Beautifully put, Karen!! I agree that we all need to find our own path and I’m glad you choose over and over to be with your husband!

  6. Profile photo of Kevin Stripling

    This is an interesting perspective on the value of traditional marriage, same sex marriage and gender identity. These modern ideas seem to be very concerning to modern adults while they were taken more for granted by previous generations to be well defined in scripture (Mark 10:9, Eph 5:31, Gal 5:19-21). How does the author see the authority of biblical scripture as relevant to today’s social issues?

    • Profile photo of Jess Kenyon

      I’m gonna have to say that Christian scripture has little to do with my thoughts on marriage, and little to do with my thoughts as a whole. I will not be joined in marriage by god, but by myself and my own decisions. Whether we stay together or separate, we should be called brave for choosing the path that best befits us and not ridiculed. That last verse doesn’t seem to have anything to do with marriage.

      • Profile photo of Kevin Stripling

        I see. Is your view that the scriptures help guide us to find our own path through life?

        • Profile photo of Jess Kenyon

          I am not a christian, so the scripture has no relevance to my life or my choices but I fully respect your right to be guided by them. My hope for people who are Christians is that the scriptures would be guidelines and not strict rules.

  7. Profile photo of Kevin Stripling

    Ah now I see! Although this may be hard to believe, as Christians we see that the scriptures contain strict rules and guidelines. As a rule they simply show us how much were are not like God, which is pretty much impossible to be like, unless you were Jesus himself. The problem you will find difficult with us Christians is that we believe God tells us the consequences of not following his rules is death. For us, it is kinda hard to argue with the man who we believe created the entire universe. However, just like you, we Christians too have hope that people will become more compassionate and loving of each other. Our hope however doesn’t come from within, or our personal choices, it comes from Jesus who died by our own hands to show us what true love really is like. The scriptures do not only contain God’s rules but also his promise to forgive you breaking them.

    • Profile photo of Jess Kenyon

      So what do you think marriage is or should be?

      • Profile photo of Kevin Stripling

        Jesus taught us to serve not be served. (John 13:12-17) I believe I honor God by honoring my wife and my children. My mission is to serve my wife spiritually (Eph 5:22-33), and our mission together is to serve our children. The complexities of life are not any simpler, yet there is a foundation based on serving God and not my own desires. Serving my family, is serving God and I take joy in that.

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