These are choppy waters, so let’s build our boat with these sturdy timbers, y’all: say it with me now, “there’s no such thing as a ‘soul mate.’” According to this article, that eliminates about 73% of you, assuming you’re red-blooded, Freedom-Rock loving Americans (No one in Europe believes in “soul mates”; they’re too busy having socialist blood orgies). So if you’re among that 73%, please look away, nothing to see here, and start hiding money in preparation of your inevitable divorce. For the rest of you, the intelligentsia of America, let’s talk turkey: If there is no such thing as “soul mates,” and inherently that means a happy relationship is possible with more than just one person on this Earth, why would anyone get married? Why bind yourself to someone, thus limiting your life path to their input until you die? And, of course, why would you give up the opportunity to have sex with whomever you want? Well, my apologies to romance, but I would argue because it’s convenient.
Now, don’t mistake me, this is not a takedown of the absurdity of marriage. I’m not the stoned moron in the corner of the party talking about how marriage was invented to secure land rights. My feelings on the social convenience of marriage being a good reason – the best reason even – for marriage are in earnest. I really do believe in long-term monogamy, but not because we are inherently bound by some cosmological force, or because God meant for us to be together for all time, but because it’s simply easier. And I know that all sounds counterintuitive; wouldn’t it be easier to just follow our basic instincts of sexual desire? But the way I see it, you have two choices in this life: fuck around or settle down. The former is a path of hedonistic indulgence, occasional pleasure, bathroom-door-open poops, freedom, and, oh yeah, lonerism. If you want to make the ‘evolutionary biology’ argument, then we can agree that evolution may have given us genitalia and some indescribable urges, but it also gave us the desire to exist in a community structure. An overpowering one, in fact, because more than getting to compare and contrast differentiating nipples for the rest of our lives, it seems most people prefer to get married like everyone else. As a matter of fact, nearly everyone you know will get married at some point.
But maybe this is all changing. Marriage rates are declining, divorces are climbing, right? It seems we’re all sort of catching on to this idea that marriage is a difficult proposition in a modern world. Maybe we even acknowledge that we’re in this Mexican standoff of sorts, pointing revolvers of social expectation at each other and some brave souls just mustered the courage to put down their guns and walk away. Maybe – and I’m just throwing this out there – we’re eventually reaching a utopia where everyone just has sex with everyone all the time and then we come home to the wonderful dinner cooked by our spouse/partner free of jealousy and contempt and possession. That’s happening, right? Tell me we’re moving towards heaven on Earth. Actually no. While 40% of people think marriage is now an obsolete institution, the overwhelming majority of single people polled still want to get married. Count me among them. I guess the heart wants what it wants, even if our brains are picketing the proceedings. Marriage, monogamy, romantic comedies, the “What are we?” conversation; they’re not going anywhere, my friends. Besides, I don’t plan on being at the vanguard of this marital complex coup, do you? If so, will you be the one explaining on a first date that you’ll never be fully faithful? Anything short of that would be disingenuous, so good luck with your sex life.
It may seem like bullshit that anyone would get married simply to socialize themselves, yet here you are, wearing a shirt to work. You refrain from masturbating in public. You’re not licking tabs of acid right now. You try not to audibly fart on the elevator. You’re a good citizen. Virtually every decision you make on a daily basis is made under the umbrella of socialization. Your life is easier and more fun when you can live it with other people in relative harmony. Why should marriage be any different? You met someone, you like spending time with them, they get you, maybe you love them and maybe you can’t imagine a life without them. They make eminent sense to you. You want to marry them because you know, in the long run, they’ll actually make things easier for you. Which is another way of saying they’ll bring you fulfillment. The only favor they ask in return is “don’t sleep with other people.” Oh well. You win some, you lose some. At least high speed internet exists.
Acknowledging this practicality of marriage can also ensure the success of marriage. Studies show that “soul mates” tend to be less committed over time, probably because when you’re looking for “perfect or nothing” you tend to pass over “great.” However, if you can look honestly at the person across the table from you, acknowledging everything that bothers you about them, knowing that they are only a human you happen to be compatible with, then you can make your decision from an honest place. If that decision happens to be, “I could spend the rest of my life with that person,” well, call me crazy but I happen to think that’s a touch more romantic than throwing a penny in a well and wishing for Mr. or Mrs. Right. One is an intentional act of love in defiance of personal desires; the other just a wish to the sky.