Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Marriage Still Relevant?

Marriage has been on my mind in recent months. Not sure why since the news has been filled with reports of cheating politicians (and Tiger), voters refusing to extend the right to gays and lesbians, and a personal understanding of the affects of divorce.

And yet, the thoughts persist. Which is shocking news to me, as for most of my adult life I haven’t had much interest in joining the ranks of the blissfully bound.

Marriage is an institution that dates back to medieval times as a way to ensure the connection of well-to-do families. It also comes in handy for raising children – as two, bonded human adults can better care and provide for their offspring. And there was a time – not too long ago – where getting married was the epitome of success for young women in America.

More modern times have seen marriage provide tax benefits, a big party where friends and family buy you gifts you specifically request, and also, according to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and her most recent tome on marriage, Committed, “a giant sack of expectations” of your partner including, “best friend, romantic partner, someone who inspires you everyday, helps your career, co-parents with you, etc.”

So with all of these risks and expectations and outdated models of pair-bonding, why is it that all of a sudden the idea of marriage suddenly appeals to me? Perhaps that now, on the eve of my thirties, I am getting more settled, more interested in long-term planning and commitment. Maybe it represents a life that is more familiar to me as most of my friends are now married and having babies. Or maybe it’s a novelty that I have yet to experience.

As for whether or not marriage is still relevant … the answer to that varies by individual and context. For society? Perhaps. Married people tend to be happier, healthier and more successful in life that us singletons. But for me does it provide a “significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand”? Not really.

I’m quite certain that I can have a committed relationship, good health and myriad of success without matrimony. But some days, depending on the outcome of a date, the tug of my biological clock and/or the frequency with which I hang out with my married friends, it feels to be more significant than others.

So while my mind is now open to the idea of nuptials, my heart knows that it isn’t a necessary course of action to define my relationship, prove my place in life or secure the course of my future. We’ll see what happens... have several steps to go before walking down the aisle: like finding a man who I could possibly tolerate spending “the rest of my life” with. And good luck with that!


VillageGirl said...

Committed does bring up the issue of expectations in an interesting way by stacking the concept and reasons for marriage across centuries. Until very recently marriages were entered for financial, social, or security reasons. Today, we want our marriage to provide us with every happiness - which isnt possible - not in any marriage. Are we setting ourselves up for failure by expecting too much of marriage?

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