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?