At least, that's the correct order of things that we've been taught. Date, live together, get married, have children and live happily ever after. But is this the right order of things, and if so, right for whom?
Marriage is something that I know I want eventually. I know this so much that I usually bring it up in the beginning of the dating process, to see if my potential boyfriend has the same vision of "commitment." The funny thing is, I have no idea where this sense of "knowing" came from. Was I born knowing that marriage was part of the natural order of things? Or have I been socialized and taught that along the way of growing up? I'm trying to understand where this root comes from, and if my ideas of "knowing" I want to get married are my own or from society and my cultural upbringing.
I don't have the answers to all these questions, and this article is really about exploring the reasons why we (well, a large majority of females, at least) are so adamant that marriage is necessary, and in some cases even mandatory. While I understand that a legal contract doesn't necessarily make a relationship or bond suddenly more committed, I do believe that a healthy couple making such vows to each other can take the relationship to the next level of commitment. I'm aware that divorce rates are higher than ever, but I'm optimistic that statistics don't inevitably equate to the reality you choose to create.
So what are my reasons for wanting to get married? I am one who takes labels and words seriously. Words like "boyfriend" or "I love you" are ones I do not throw around lightly. To me, they are sacred words that come with commitment and promise. And that same thinking would apply when my partner changes from "boyfriend" to "husband." To me, when you make those vows of commitment, you are making a promise to both yourself and your partner that you are committed to making the relationship work. Even through the many bumps and times you feel like giving up, you will try your absolute hardest to work it out. Of course, you can have every intention of this in the beginning, and then the really hard times come and don't seem to pass. This happens, too. But that doesn't mean that marriage is doomed or hopeless.
There is the argument that when you live with each other, own property together and your lives are completely intertwined, being common-law is legally the same as getting married. So what's the point? Why does a piece of paper hold so much meaning?
But doesn't everything in this world have meaning due to what meaning we create and apply to it? Sure, you can fall into that same level of commitment by being common-law, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the people who choose that route. Maybe it's the hopeless romantic in me, or the socialized North American girl, that still believes that there is something incredibly special and bonding for two people to make a celebration where you declare your commitment to each other. This "declaration" doesn't have to follow the traditional ritual. You can create a marriage in the way that suits you, whether that be in private or with an abundance of friends, with God as your witness or your best friend.
While I think that marriage is non-negotiable for me, I have to say that when it comes down to it, I actually don't know. If the man I'm in love with tells me that he is forever committed to me but doesn't believe in getting married, would I leave? Or after a period of time, would I give an ultimatum? I really don't know. But as I keep exploring and growing, I hope to have a clearer understanding. Maybe things will just flow in the organic way things are to unfold, and all these hypothetical questions about marriage and next steps are pointless. I guess only time will tell.
Amy Chan has a column in the 24 Hours newspaper and blogs on www.amyfabulous.com