I was talking to an old friend (she’s not old, we’ve just known each other for a long time) last night about her fiancee, which led us to the topic of marriage. I asked her what she thinks marriage is, and she said it’s a commitment to be with someone even when you don’t want to any more. Those weren’t her exact words, but it’s what I got out of it. It’s taking your feelings at the beginning of a relationship and betting your entire future on those feelings never changing. I think I have a good idea of why a person would do that to himself/herself. Society expects it of us. It is considered virtuous to commit to one person and wrong to spread your love around.
I can see the reason for some of this. We live in a world of sexually transmitted diseases, and limiting your number of sexual partners to one is a way of quarantining yourself and your partner. But doing this isn’t about being with who you want to be with. It’s about keeping yourself safe.
Living this way will make you unhappy at some point because feelings change. You don’t stay in love with someone for very long. The brain chemicals stop flowing, and you’re left with a relationship you don’t want to be in any more. Marriage is supposed to be a way for people to force themselves to stay in these stale relationships, but it doesn’t really work because there’s divorce. Approximately half of all marriages in the united states end in divorce, and it’s a messy situation because the partners mesh their lives together so much and come to depend and count on each other. You can’t count on someone when your relationship with them is based on an emotional connection because you can’t count on your emotions to remain constant. You can only count on you being there for yourself.
So what is the alternative? If you go by the opening theme of Married With Children, love and marriage go together like a horse and a carriage, but you can love someone without being married to them. Lots of marriages end because the people involved fall in love with other people. It doesn’t mean they are bad people. The mistake was committing to a marriage in the first place, and that’s simply a mistake caused by a lack of experience. When you have a favorite food, you may want to eat it for every meal of every day, but you don’t because if you do, you’ll get sick of it. The same is true of your favorite song. So if there is someone you love and want to be with 24 hours a day, I say pace yourself and don’t spend as much time with them as you want so you won’t get tired of them. Love other people as well, and let those you love love other people. After all, nobody owns you, and you don’t own anybody else. Just make sure you get yourself checked out regularly for sexually transmitted diseases, have the results on hand whenever a relationship gets sexual so you can show your partner that you’re okay, and make sure you inspect the results of your prospective sexual partners. If people just allow things to go naturally and conduct themselves with common sense, relationships can go much more smoothly and end much less messily.