I often question whether marriage is everything we should long for and desire, whether it’s something that we should even center as an overarching life goal. I keep trying to list reasons why marriage, or even romantic relationships, would be absolutely necessary or essential to anyone’s happiness, and I cannot come up with one.
Personally, I would love to find a life partner who has mutual respect, love, trust and support for me, but if I don’t find that in the form of romance, it’s OK! Pressure to get married, or enter a romantic relationship regardless, shouldn’t overwhelm us, for marriage and romance are not the be-all and end-all.
In our society, there is so much emphasis on marital life, but love and companionship are so much more than traditional ideas of matrimony. These ideas are often rooted in Western constructs of marriage, gender binary and gender roles. We’re taught from a very early age that romantic love is something to desire and aim for, that it can only exist in the form of wedlock.
Many traditional — and therefore heteronormative — ideas of marriage are often rooted in forced sacrifice and servitude. For women, or those we perceive as feminine, this demands constant access to not only our bodies and physical labor, but our energy, thoughts, feelings and pain, while still expecting us to carry the emotions and responsibilities of an entire family. Oftentimes, to be a woman in love or a married woman is to be viewed as expendable.
Weirdly, at the same time, to not be married or in a relationship is to be perceived as less valuable, unworthy of love and unwanted. Our value is linked to our desirability, which is partially confined to and defined as either being in a romantic relationship or being married.
These social notions of romance and divisions of gender are largely constructed and can do more harm than good. I don’t want to spend my years waiting for “the one” who will supposedly make me worthy, valuable and complete, when life has so much more to offer. No one’s value, regardless of gender, should be tied to marriage or romance.
I think the large fear is that, once you divest from romance, there’ll be no one left to love you. But in my personal experience, my strongest, most passionate and most fulfilling relationships have always been the ones based in friendship and platonic intimacy. The more I think about it, the more I feel that our modern and largely Western-imposed understanding of love is so limited.
Ultimately, you may get lucky enough to meet a life partner who provides you stability and companionship in the form of romantic love or marriage, but if you don’t, that’s OK!
Love, community, belonging and acceptance exist in more than one form — and as we open ourselves up to that truth, life blossoms.
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