To be a 36-year-old unmarried woman who feels no urgency to marry is still a relatively radical, rebellious position to take in 2020. It makes people feel a lot of different ways — confused, uncomfortable, even angry. So why have I chosen to eschew such a long-held and well-respected societal rite?
Marriage offers only the pretense of commitment and its trappings. Nothing magic happens after you both say “I do”. You don’t become closer. Your spouse doesn’t become more faithful or devoted to you. Their flaws don’t disappear. Your relationship problems don’t dissipate. The marriage certificate is simply a formality.
Marriage creates a legally-binding contract. I don’t want to “become one” with another person. I don’t even want to live with another person or have a bank account or vehicle under anyone else’s name. I don’t want the messiness of having to separate assets during divorce proceedings or worry about being paid alimony or paying someone else alimony. People change, sometimes drastically, and both of us should feel the freedom and security to leave the relationship if we feel it is not in our best interest anymore. I want either one of us to be able to walk away any time we want. I want my partner to wake up every morning thinking “I’m so glad I’m with her”, and for that that to be the reason he’s with me — not because he feels trapped; and vice-versa. I can love another person very much while still standing firmly on my own two feet, remaining independent, and holding on to my own identity.
Marriage is more relevant to religious folks. Many religious people believe that marriage is the moral next step to take once you have found someone with whom you want to spend your life and have children. For these people, saying vows before God and witnesses in a formal ceremony is a requirement. Of course, this doesn’t mean non-religious folks can’t get married or that civil ceremonies don’t exist.
Marriage was begun in ancient times as a way to bring two powerful families together to spawn more powerful offspring. Until a few hundred years ago, marriage was a bargaining chip in politics, not a symbol of love between two individuals. Men tried to marry well so that they would inherit their wife’s father’s property, and women got no say in who their fathers married them off to. However, many people today use it in just this manner — to demonstrate to the rest of society their commitment to each other and, very often, their plans to start a new lineage through their children and their children’s children. And this is not problematic as long as the limitations and pitfalls of marriage are acknowledged by both parties.
I do not see many happily-married couples. In fact, even with the freedom we all have today to choose our own spouses, most of the married couples I know are either unhappy or have gotten divorced. In fact, 50% of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. This statistic does not take into account the many couples who are unhappy in their marriages but do not seek a divorce for a variety of reasons, including the extra expense of supporting two households, the children having to go back and forth, disapproval from others, etc. Also, there is a lot of research which shows women are happier unmarried, although unmarried women are often termed unflatteringly — “spinster”, “old maid”, whereas unmarried men get the much more dignified and respected “confirmed bachelor”.
Do you have any thoughts on the topic of marriage? Are you married, divorced, looking forward to marriage, or an eternal bachelor/bachelorette? Let me know!