I’ve seen too many people throughout my life refer countless times to their “future wife” or “future husband” or “future spouse”. Despite hearing that so many times, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized just how socialized we are, whether child or adult, religious or non-religious, heterosexual or non-heterosexual, into thinking that we will one day be a husband or a wife or a spouse.
I remember being a child and having discussions with my friends about what our lives would be like when we were older - where we would go to school, when we would find a career, when we would move out - but most importantly, when we would have children and get married. “When I’m married…” was a commonplace phrase, and of course, we thought and think nothing of it because we look at our parents and at our friends’ parents or families throughout mainstream media, and we take the status of being married as a natural step in life; marriage being the end-all of everything that we work towards; of having this idea in our minds that one day we will find “The One” and want to spend the rest of our lives with that person.
My opinion of marriage has changed since then (as have basically all of my opinions). I don’t dislike marriage or even dislike the concept of being in a long-term monogamous relationship with someone until infinity and beyond, but I do believe that being socialized as brides or grooms or bridegrooms or groombrides is dangerous.
It’s dangerous because we turn love (aka marriage) into a measure of one’s worth. We turn marriage into something that is considered natural or normative and that anyone who doesn’t end up in a monogamous marriage (completely ignoring the fact that whole groups of people are excluded from the right to marry) are lesser beings; are morally and emotionally inferior. We’ve made marriage an indicator of maturity - everyone always talks about being young and going through multiple relationships (hence commitment issues), but then expecting to grow older and reach the greatest level of maturity by ‘settling down’ with someone and therefore gaining some sort legitimacy. But why did we decide that someone who never marries is immature? Why do we decide that we have to fear being in a relationship with someone? Does it really mean turning off all other possibilities with regards to desire and pleasure?
Most of us look at marriage and think ‘restriction’ or ‘monogamy’ in every sense of the word; we fool ourselves into thinking that all of us have the capacity or the desire to live a strictly monogamous lifestyle with someone for 30+ years, but if we fail to do so or want that, we diagnose ourselves with having “commitment issues”, or we possibly become the worst people in the world, next to murderers and rapists, for cheating on our spouses. We expect that of ourselves and we expect that of other people, all because we rushed into the have-to-eventually-find-the-one-and-turn-off-almost-all-desire-and-devote-myself-completely-to-that-person-forever-and-ever mindset.
If people weren’t taught to be so jealous, possessive, thinking we have the right to feel entitled to a sense of ownership towards our partners, and using marriage as a means to police each other and label each other as ‘MINE FOREVER AND ALWAYS’, people would be a lot happier. And maybe, just maybe, more than half of marriages wouldn’t end in divorce; we would be able to think of marriage as a companionship coupled with freedom and fulfillment instead of simultaneous joy and dread. If we thought of marriage as an option instead of the ultimate goal in life, or just one type of lifestyle among many, the gap between legitimate and illegitimate would lessen and we’d figure out that we can walk away from idealistic heteronormative standards. Otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and we’re setting up an additional hierarchy that allows us to judge people based on their ‘status’.
Relationships don’t have to be inhibiting, relationships are not mandatory, monogamy isn’t a superior lifestyle, successive relationships are not progressive, marriage is not a measure of maturity or of the ‘seriousness’ of love. Maybe we will find “The One”, maybe we won’t. Maybe “The One” is not “The Last”. Maybe “The One” can be “The Many”. Maybe instead of planning future relationships and measuring who is a worthy-enough candidate for marriage, based on an unrealistic and unfair checklist, we could come to the conclusion that we are not obligated to marry anyone, ever.