There were two engagements on my Facebook timeline this morning. One of the girls is two years younger than me, which I must admit I find startling (I’m 23). And yet, I’m certainly happy for her. I’m happy for all of you newly engaged lovebirds out there, preparing to plow forward into the abyss of life hand-in-hand, one joint tax return at a time.
That will not be me anytime soon. I should note: I’m not single. I’m in a healthy, loving relationship with my live-in boyfriend. We’ve known each other for six years and have been dating for almost two. Admittedly, our life is pretty domesticated and “married-like.” Some might even call it Marriage Lite™. I have a full-time job. He’s working several part-time jobs while navigating the murky job market. He cooks dinner while I drink a glass or three of Malbec. We work out together. We have two pet turtles. Our free time is spent discussing politics and watching House Hunters marathons.
While the subjects of marriage and kids have invariably come up, we usually discuss them with a grain of salt. I’ve been pretty explicit about my desire not to get married anytime soon, and he’s receptive. Of course, we have our reasons for feeling this way.
For one, I’m not that religious. I’m a self-described “wandering Catholic,” who went to Catholic school for five years, stepped foot in the public school system 10 years ago, and has yet to look back. Many of my personal beliefs do not align with my faith and, as such, I don’t feel a need to consecrate my love before God or any higher power.
I am, however, very spiritual. I don’t call myself an atheist because that’s inaccurate. While I may not believe in God as defined by the Bible or by certain religious doctrine, I can’t say God does or doesn’t exist. In this sense, I more closely identify with agnosticism. Even so, I believe in the healing power of prayer. I believe the universe is far too vast and complex to have simply just come into existence. I believe in many things that are rooted in faith, but are not necessarily proven by faith.
All that being said, as a non-religious person, my approach toward marriage varies greatly from my religious peers. I don’t see it as a sacrament or as a gift from God. I see love as a gift – from whom, I don’t know – and I work every single day to treat it as such.
That’s really what it comes down to for me. Love is a gift, and marriage is one way of expressing and sharing that gift. But it isn’t the only way, nor is it the ultimate way – and that tends to get lost on many young couples. They fall in love, plan out their futures, and identify marriage as the big “It.” Once you go through with It, everything else falls into place – the pet dog, the two-car garage, the house in the ‘burbs with a white picket fence and a red mailbox.
Marriage is a clear marker of convention, that’s for sure. But why does it have to be the ultimate marker of love – save for, say, having kids?
My boyfriend and I have each other, and we have our love. And as painfully cliché and rom-com as it may sound, that’s all we need. Maybe one day I’ll be in a lacy white dress standing at an altar next to him saying that exact thing – “I have you and our love, and that’s all I need” – and it will be beautiful and I will cry like a baby, I’m sure.
But even if that moment never comes, that statement will never be any less true.
I’ve never considered myself on a race against time when it comes to marriage. Nor do I think of marriage as what lies at the end of the “dating race,” as if it were some trophy to be attained to prove that you’ve found someone who doesn’t think you’re mentally insane (or who loves you in spite of your insanity). Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way, or if I just didn’t get invited to The Great Marriage Marathon.
Either way, I’m okay with coming in last place.