I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of forever. My parents are divorced, so the idea of sticking with one person for life has always somewhat baffled me. I really don’t get it.
Sure, like any girl, I’ve spent many a lonely Saturday night with a bottle of wine pinning dream dresses to a wedding Pinterest board. The idea of it sounds nice, doesn’t it? Finding the one person you’re never going to be without and that you’ll live happily ever after? That’s what the Disney movies taught us, right?
Logically, it makes no sense. What’s with this idea that we have to stand in front of God and everyone and proclaim that I am his and he is mine and that we’ll be together forever?
Forever is a really long time, and I don’t understand why everyone is in such a rush to get there.
I’m sure by now you’ve seen the viral “Marriage Isn’t For You” blog post by a man named Seth Smith. In the post, Smith recalls a conversation he had with his father shortly before his wedding. “Marriage isn’t for you,” his dad tells him, calling him selfish. “You marry to make someone else happy. You’re marrying for a family.” Smith argues that there’s no such thing as a “Walmart” marriage—if something doesn’t work out, you can’t take it back and get a new one.
He’s right. Marriage is a commitment. You can’t just trade in your partner for a newer model. That’s not how marriage works. But relationships do work that way.
The thing is, by nature, we’re selfish. We were made that way. It’s impossible for us not to be selfish, and we’re lying to ourselves by saying that we are not innately selfish people. We go through this life wondering what job we need to make a lot of money, buy a nice car, buy a nice house, make ourselves happy.
First of all, your relationship is never anyone else’s business. If you’re going to commit yourself to someone, do it for you. Not for your partner. Not for your future kids. Do it because it makes you happy and because you and your partner are happy, together.
Secondly, Smith says, there’s no such thing as a Walmart marriage. What I ask is—why marry at all, then? I’m 22 years old. The average female life expectancy in the U.S. is 81. If we knock that down a few years (because, let’s face it, my diet of wings and beer is going to kill me way sooner than that), I’ve got a good 50–55 years left with the dude I’m supposed to be with.
Let’s put this in perspective: I’ve been living in my apartment for a year and a half, and I’m already tired of it. I’m desperate to rearrange my living room. I want wooden floors. I want more storage space. I need new furniture. I’ve lived in Austin for three-and-a-half years, and I’m already craving adventure. I’m already counting the days until I can see the world. I don’t want to stay in one place longer than five years.
I’m also dramatically aware of the fact that I have no idea what I want. This is the apartment I wanted, when I moved into it. I got bored and I want change. I liked this couch when I bought it—now, not so much.
You can call this typical millennial lack of attention span, if you want. But we as people weren’t created to be with one person forever. We were created to crave change and adventure and to suck the marrow out of life. I don’t think settling down for the next 50 or so years is what society wants. It sure as hell isn’t what I want.
It’s unfair for societal norms to put pressure on us to make decisions that we are under no obligation to make. I don’t know where I’ll be five, 10, 20 years from now, what job I’ll have or who my friends will be, so how am I in any position to make a decision on who I want to be with romantically by then?
So what’s with our obsession with “forever?”
Well, for one thing, we yearn for companionship. Although we weren’t created as a species that is meant to mate for life, like swans or penguins, we were created to have relationships with the other people that roam this earth.
But something went wrong, centuries ago, giving people the idea that there is only one person in the world they’re supposed to be with. Sure, I’m in a committed relationship, but I don’t think he’s the one person in the world for me. That’s terrifying to think, if he is. Just statistically speaking, there are probably thousands of people in the world that I could be compatible with. Why can’t I meet them all?
We don’t expect people to live in the same house, the same town, work the same job, have the same friends, drive the same car their entire life. So why do we expect people to stay with the same person romantically forever?
I’m sure there is some sort of scientific, psychological answer to these questions, but I don’t know it, nor do I care. I’m not so much worried about the answer as I am about the question, as I am about imploring that people, especially young people, to start thinking about this question critically and come up with their own answers.
I realize that I’m only 22 years old, and that I know very little about the world. But I know enough about love, or what I’ve seen of it, to know that it’s more complex than just committing yourself to one person por vida. I know that sometimes it can be hard, and sometimes you can love more than one person, and sometimes you don’t know if you love anyone at all, and sometimes people settle. I’ve seen that happen in my friends’ lives. In my parents’ lives. I’ve watched each of my parents’ worlds come crashing down. I can’t imagine putting myself in danger of that happening. I’d rather love the way I want to than the way the world tells me to. And maybe that makes me naive, but that’s OK.
I’m also at no liberty to tell other people how to love, so if you want to go ahead and get married, please do. I hope you’re happy—sincerely, I do. I just hope you do it for the right reasons, and I hope you see all the inadequacies and unrealistic expectations in what is, what I consider, a severely flawed societal institution.
At 22, it’s rare that I open my Facebook page without seeing a recent engagement announcement, wedding photos, baby photos, etc. from people I grew up with or college friends. I don’t understand why everyone’s in such a rush. Slow down, friends. Forever is a long time.[divider] [/divider]
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