Yesterday I was on Twitter and I came across a link to an article from Newsweek called “I Don’t: The Case Against Marriage.” The article itself was really interesting and if you haven’t read it, you should check it out (just be sure to come back!). It was written by two (presumably single) women and talked about all the reasons they didn’t believe in marriage. I do happen to believe in the institution of marriage but I can certainly understand some of the arguments against it. Shoot, reading their article I started thinking it would have been more practical to stay single myself.
But here’s the thing about my philosophy on marriage. I don’t think we get married because it’s the best thing for society or for our families or for our religion or our country or the Western world. I don’t think we get married because it’s the financially responsible thing to do or because we can be counted as part of a statistic. I think we get married because, like any relationship, it teaches us and helps us grow as individuals. (And I should add here that I believe people of all lifestyles should have the opportunity to grow through marriage…). Could I have stayed with Chris this long and not been married? Absolutely. Could we have raised a child who is happy and healthy if his parents weren’t married? Of course. But would I be the person I am today if I weren’t wearing a wedding band? No, definitely not. And here’s why…
Marriage teaches me commitment and responsibility. Chris and I agreed before we got married that divorce was not an option. We took it off the table. Whatever we went through, we would work through. We were able to make that commitment to each other because we trusted the other person would always put our marriage and family first and, so far, we’ve been right. Knowing that I’m in this until the end, come what may, means that I can’t give up. I can’t give in. I can’t wash my hands of it or walk away. And on those rare occasions when I have wanted to do just that, one look at my wedding ring reminded me that I have a responsibility to Chris to work through things. And that means that sometimes instead of running to my bedroom and hiding under the covers or instead of walking out the door and never looking back, I have to suck it up, put on my big girl panties, and start working. Sure, you can make the same commitment to someone without a wedding ring on your finger, but for someone like me who is always going to look for a loop hole, that wedding ring is a binding, physical reminder that I have committed to Chris and am responsible for the actions in my relationship.
Marriage teaches me that sometimes I can’t be the priority. I’m pretty good at making my thoughts and opinions known. I’m a blogger, so that means that I have a pretty large ego to even think that people would have any interest in what I’m saying. But anytime that ego starts to overtake me and my head becomes too big to fit through doorways, my husband is what grounds me. Having a husband teaches me how to put someone else first. Take paychecks, for example. When I get paid, what I’d really like to do is go out shopping for a great new pair of shoes, maybe spend a couple hours walking around Target, maybe have a nice dinner out. But being married means that I have to weigh my needs and wants against someone else. Sometimes I get my shopping spree or dinner out. But sometimes that means that Chris needs a new set of tires for his car or that it’s finally time to replace all of his socks with holes in them. Being married has taught me how to consider other people. It has taught me that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that sometimes my needs and wants have to wait for a while. When you are single, you learn this lesson from a variety of people in a variety of ways and to a variety of extents. So, I am not saying that single people are more selfish. Single people learn the same lessons on compromise as I do. It’s just that when you’re married, you learn this continually, day after day, from the same person who loves you to the extent of your lifetime together. Marriage gives that life lesson a level of intensity that I need in my life.
Marriage has the best ROI. In business, you don’t put your money into something unless you are confident that your return on investment is going to be high. In marriage, it’s the same principle. Because I knew when I was getting married that I was choosing a partner for the rest of my life, I made sure to do my research. I put the time into understanding all about the person I was getting ready to commit to. I know his profits and losses in life. I knew what it would cost me to keep him happy. I went into the marriage the same way I go into investments – with my eyes wide open. Had I been choosing a long-term boyfriend or partner instead of a husband, I might not have done all the preliminary preparations. I might not have been so sure that we had the same thoughts on family or that we viewed money the same way. I might have cut corners a little bit and settled for someone who had a 99% chance of returning what I put into the relationship. But 99% for a lifetime is not good enough for me. I knew that if this was going to work til death do us part, we had to have certain non-negotiable things in place first. And so Chris and I worked hard to build a foundation for our marriage to be built on. Not a foundation that would last 99% of our lifetimes. But a foundation that would withstand the test of time. Does everyone need to get married to have this kind of certainty? Absolutely not. But in marriage, you are making a definite decision to invest at a specific point in time. And the act of making that decision will require (should require) some good old-fashioned leg work in order to be sure you are investing in the right stock.
Marriage is my promise to Chris. For Chris and I, our marriage was a statement to each other that we have found The One. Before our marriage, Chris and I – like many young couples – struggled with the question of how we knew if we’d found the right person. But I don’t think that is the right question to ask. It’s not so important how you find the right person, but have you found the right person? Because we were making a decision to become married and not instead realizing overtime that this had become a lifelong thing, we had to be really sure that standing there at the alter at a specific day and time, the search was over. That after those vows to love, honor, and cherish, we were done looking. There is a reason that people say when you get married you “take yourself off the market.” In real estate, choosing to put your house on the market or take it off the market requires a contract with your realtor. A binding statement at that on this signed date, your house is no longer for sale. You aren’t leaving your house on the market indefinitely while still living in the house. You are taking that sign out of the yard and making a public statement that this house is taken. That is the promise that my marriage made to Chris. That I loved him so much, so confidently, so completely, that I was done looking. I had found my home, moved in, and taken the sign out of the yard.
I was offended by the article in Newsweek. It offended me that marriage was boiled down to a financial or statistical decision. For some it might be, but in my house, our marriage was a distinct decision made for reasons that may not be logical to some and probably aren’t able to be quantified by others. And it is a decision that we continue to make every single day.
Being married doesn’t make me a better person than someone else. It doesn’t make my lifestyle superior to any other. There are a thousand different reasons that people choose to either get married or not get married. People live the lives that work for them. But being married brings things into my life that otherwise I wouldn’t have. It makes my life richer, fuller, more complete, grounded, hopeful, and confident. Some may find those things in their life through other ways and means, but for me I have those things in my life because I am married to my husband.