We’ve all seen the movie, the one where the man won’t marry that woman, and she dumps his ass and finds life is far better on her own, where she can focus on finding a relationship where she gets what she wants. I’ve heard countless friends end relationships when they find out their partner doesn’t want to have a family. Those are things magazines, articles, blogs, advice columns, your aunt that’s been married 6 times all tell you that you need to find out within the first few dates, especially when your “internal clock” is ticking. Even men have that “biological clock”, because it’s super annoying to have to constantly correct people who assume your wife and child are your daughter and grandchild.
Those life goals are delusions. Not bad delusions, by any means, just…delusions. When you go out looking for a partner who wants marriage and kids, you’re looking specifically for a partner who shares your delusion for exactly how you want your life to proceed. You’re asking another human being to hallucinate the exact same vague future fantasy that you envision for yourself. It’s a wonder we find anyone at all, and not surprising that our divorce rate is so high, when we cannot fathom that the independent human being sitting across from us on a first date could possibly have a different hallucination that we do about the way life “should” end up.
It’s a huge societal expectation to get married and have babies, enough so that all the folks in happy, committed, long term relationships get asked continually when they’ll be taking that trip down the aisle.
I’ve heard many of my friends in happy, fulfilling marriages lament the constant badgering about when they’ll be procreating. I’ve learned that there is absolutely nothing more uncomfortable than a woman’s mother-in-law asking for grandchildren, as if that doesn’t involve discussing condomless sex with her son.
All jokes and gripes aside, though, why not choose happiness?
Marriage is a lot of pressure. I’ve seen lavish weddings that put wonderful couples into debt that strains their union. I’ve seen one party pressured into a step that’s too fast, deteriorating what might have been something lasting if given time to grow deeper roots. Children are a lot of pressure, they change everything about a relationship. To embark on these beautiful and worthy adventures, love needs to be deep, strong, and well-rooted.
I know goals are admirable things, and they give people a sense of purpose and direction in the world. Why not, though, make the goal happiness? If your partner doesn’t want marriage, but you do…why not ask if you’re truly happy with that person instead of simply whether your future goals are compatible?
If the goal of a relationship, if the goal of seeking a partner, is marriage and kids, where does happiness fit in? How do you know reaching your goal will make you happy, and not simply make you temporarily euphoric on accomplishing a set goal? That fleeting happiness that comes with a new love, or a cocaine bender, whatever your poison.
The feeling of finding someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with is unparalleled. After that euphoria that comes with bedding someone new, and the giddy honeymoon year of new love, there comes that make-or-break moment. The moment when the perfection starts to fade, and you start to really notice the other person’s flaws. Ideally, you will see their flaws and love them for their fallible human nature. For the fact that they are imperfect, just like you. For the fact that they will drive you crazy, make you mad, and still you can’t imagine your life without them.
There’s such a pure happiness in waking up next to the same person every day, and feeling an intense surge of joy and love when you open your eyes and there they are. When you see their scars, their humanity, their failings, their weaknesses, your heart turns over in your chest. They are strong and they take care of themselves, but you offer your support in the way of a non-judgmental shoulder to lean on. You let them know that your respect, admiration, and love grows when they show you that they’ve made peace with their imperfections and know that a person is only as strong as the community they surround themselves with.
One day, you may both decide that marriage is how you want to cement your bond. It may be something that is important to both of you, and no matter how big or small the wedding, you decide together that marriage is simply your relationship. Marriage is something you want because of the person you’re with, not because your friends have it, or your parents want it for you, or your church requires it. Marriage is not a doorway to be able to have guiltless sex, or to guarantee someone’s heart forever, or to prevent cheating.
One day, you may both decide that you want to raise a child together. That you want to be partners in growing a tiny blank slate into a functional, good-hearted human being. It’s an urge that should come out of a deep love and respect for your partner, and a commitment to your relationship separate from your parenthood. A mother and a wife, a father and a husband. Your love should bloom from this adventure, not wither. A child is not a way to save a relationship, make someone stay put, or convince someone to come back. A child should not be born of a single desire, or a single responsibility, with the other half only adding weight and baggage to the equation.
One day, you may both decide that you want none of those things. That being together is more than enough, that your happiness is all that matters, and anything else that comes along, you will face together.
Life doesn’t have to follow a path or a guidebook.
Love doesn’t have to have goals or endgames. Dream big, but know that the universe is infinite, bigger than our individual dreams and fantasies, bigger than anything we could ever set aside to accomplish ourselves. This is not so much an argument as a call to adventurers: choose happiness, and the rest will follow.