This past weekend, my younger sister attended the wedding of her 22 year-old friends. While the couple joined in matrimony had been together for five years or so, I couldn’t help but think: why now?
I know there are pressures from friends and family. I’ve experienced them personally. My boyfriend’s family was recently bombarding him with questions about rings, “popping the question,” and the sort. We’ve been together for almost eight years and I suppose they think that is “long enough” and wonder what he’s waiting for. But why does marriage have to be the next step? And why do we have to take that step sooner rather than later? Is marrying someone the only way to validate our relationship?
People seem to believe that after a certain number of years spent dating the logical next step is marriage. But when the people in question are 21, 22 or 23 years old, they’re still very young. Just because they’ve found someone that they’ve enjoyed for years (so far) does not mean they’re ready to settle down, ready to give themselves to someone for eternity.
Admittedly – at this point – I can’t imagine finding someone more compatible, loving or perfect than my current partner. And yes, we’ve been together for eight years. At the end of the day, however, I am still a young person with much more to do, see and learn.
Who’s to say that in the next year or five or fifty-five years, our hopes, dreams and desires will correlate with those of our current partners? As people in our early/mid twenties, there is a slew of things that could pose as obstacles for us.
Say, for example, my dream job became available on the other side of the country. Is he, my professional, has-his-own-goals boyfriend supposed to drop everything to follow me? Not only does such a sacrifice (which is more of an obligation to married couples than those legally unattached) introduce resentment to the bond, but it also forces at least one party to live an existence riddled in “what ifs.”
What’s more, a relationship like mine – one without a license – is not worth less than one shared by husband and a wife. Unmarried partners can still live together, laugh together, travel together, even make babies together – if so desired.
It’s the togetherness, the bond that counts. Two people can certainly nourish a relationship adequately without bringing new labels upon themselves. Two people can love, appreciate and continue to grow together without paying the state for a license and a shared last name.
I don’t have a problem with marriage. Eventually, I do see myself exchanging rings and calling someone my husband. I don’t have a problem with young marriage, either, but rather the reasons people find it the “right” or even assumed thing to do.
It’s important for people to know that you don’t have to be married to be in love. Marriage and love are not the same thing. You don’t have to get married because you’ve been together for a certain number of years. You don’t have to adhere to traditions and expectations ever, but particularly not when dealing with issues pertaining to love and relationships. Each and every bond shared between lovers is unique, and should be treated as such.
Don’t slip a ring onto to someone’s finger (or say “Yes!”) just because you think it’s what others want from you, or what you “should” do. Do it because you want to, because you truly feel the one you’re with will stand behind you in anything (and vice-versa) regardless of the sacrifices that may accompany that support. Marry someone because, at the end of the day and all your days to come, you really believe nothing else will bring you greater happiness.