Marriage isn't as cool as it used to be, and I'm fine with that.
I'm both pro everyone getting married who wants to, and I'm also alright with anyone who thinks it's not for them.
But this is why I got married:
I wasn't always the girl who dreamed of the white wedding, the names of her children, or the picket-fence-surrounded house. However, I did meet the love of my life at age 14, and I married him at 25.
I loved him for over 10 years before we chose to walk down the aisle in front of our friends and family. We'd lived together, not only in a few different apartments around our college town, but we also moved across the country. We lived miles away from where we grew up, and miles from anyone else that we loved.
I already knew sacrifice. I already knew commitment. I already knew that love sometimes isn't enough for two people, and that work, dedication and forgiveness are just as important as having the same sense of humor, or enjoying looking at each other across a candle-lit table in a crowded restaurant.
I already went through the "in sickness and in health" bit, too. In short, our relationship was significant to me before he asked me to marry him, and before I said yes.
I did say "yes," and we got married, and I took his last name.
I wore a white dress, and I had a traditional wedding, including a wedding party of my favorite people, delicious food, and a dollar dance. On my left hand I wear an engagement ring, a wedding band, and an anniversary one as well.
I married this man that I call my husband, my significant other, my better half, my best friend, my baby daddy, and my lover. I married him because I wanted it to be hard -- mentally and emotionally -- to walk away.
When life gets rocky, when I resemble more of an exhausted mother-monster than the woman he proposed to 11 years ago, and when everything about being an adult is momentarily overwhelming, I wanted it to be hard as hell to walk away.
To me, marriage is more than an ancient tradition of dowries. I'm married, and I'm a feminist. I'm not religious. I got married because I wanted to love this one man for forever, or for as long as our forever on Earth could be.
Marriage also has practical benefits, and this aspect of a legal union is only a part of why marriage equality has been worth fighting for. More, as someone who does believe in equality, both inside of a marriage, at work and in all aspects of life and humanity, I can't help but ask myself, rather than throw marriage away as outdated, why can't we rewrite it to better fit into modern society?
Ironically, it seems that finances might even be the reason that marriage rates are plummeting. My husband and I were just talking about this while cooking last night.
While apathy towards marriage has long been accepted as the reason that fewer Millennials are wanting to get married, there are also a myriad of other considerations, and money is a main one.
A party like I had is expensive. Would I have gotten married without it? Absolutely, but I was extremely fortunate to not have to make that choice, and it would be easy for me, or anyone else in my situation, to say we would still get married without a large formal event.
Still, in my life, being a wife has been something that has always been positive. I'm not claiming to have a perfect marriage, a perfect life, or perfect circumstances, but being married, for instance, has made the legalities of having my children easier not only for me, but especially for my husband as their father. My married status has been convenient for many aspects of daily living, including benefiting from the insurance through my husband's job. Yet none of these perks are why I got married, and they aren't why I stay married either.
Divorce serves a place in society, not the least of which is to allow women to leave abusive relationships (just for example), and not getting married has a place, too. There are less tangible benefits to encouraging specifically women to date, have successful careers, and to see the merit in staying single. It's becoming more and more socially acceptable to avoid marriage, and it's becoming more commonplace as well.
But I wanted to get married, and I've never regretted doing so.
And although I didn't dream of my wedding as a little girl, I do sometimes now daydream about dancing with him in my wedding gown -- and that smile on his face of pure, delirious joy -- when I'm feeling stuck in the trenches with dirty diapers and temper tantrums -- my own and our kids' -- and I miss that rather naive girl who met him all those years ago.
I'm relieved we had to wade through our hardest years together after we got married, because we couldn't just break up and move on and grow apart.
I'm thankful for something that others might see as just a piece of paper, but that I see as the best decision I've ever made in my life.