It seems like as a single, divorced person, marriage is always at the periphery of my thoughts. Not marriage in the white lace and rehearsal dinner sense, but marriage as a public oath, a declaration of loyalty, a legal bond. Perhaps surprisingly after the catastrophic end of my first marriage, I am not anti-marriage, but nor am I drawn to it.
Perhaps I have always been a bit ambivalent towards the institution of marriage. Even with my ex-husband, we felt no real rush to marry and felt no differently once we had. We had already made that commitment (at that time, at least) to each other; a piece of paper and an embossed seal did not amplify nor alter that connection.
After he left, I knew that I wanted to be in a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship again. That’s in my bones. I left it open as far as marriage. I am nowhere near as conflicted on the topic as Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love) was in her book, Committed, but I still have my questions as to the place of marriage, in my life and in general.
I think that marriage is a necessity for some due to their religious beliefs. I have had friends who have been deeply conflicted about their relationships due to the fact that they were not sanctioned by the church. In this case, marriage serves a dual purpose: validating the relationship in the eyes of the church and helping to alleviate the guilt surrounding the relationship. This criteria does not apply to me, as I have no religious affiliations.
I am unsure about the value of marriage for parents. Recently, reports have come out stating that 25% of babies are now born to unmarried couples. This does cause me some concern, as I see students face stigma at school for having ambiguous parental ties and I think that it is important for kids to have some security in their parent’s bond. However, I fully believe that it is the right of the couple to decide their path and marriage does not offer the kids any security beyond a title. Again, this reason for marriage does not apply to me, as I choose to remain childless.
Another reason I could see for marriage is if it was important to one partner, for one of the above reasons or for something different. In that case, the ambiguous partner may have to compromise to fulfill the needs of the other. Yet again, this does not apply to me. My boyfriend, who has never been married, does not feel any great urge to do so.
So, here I am, two years into a cohabitating, committed, monogamous relationship. No church. No kids. No ascot-craving partner. What does marriage mean to me? If it was a guarantee against heartbreak, I’d walk that aisle today. If calling him “husband” rather than “boyfriend” meant that he would never lie or stray, I’d sign up today. If sliding that ring on my finger meant happily ever after, my hand would not be bare. But, there are no promises that are unbreakable no matter how many witness the oath. I have no illusion of protection from the dissolution of a partnership. I know now that certificate can be torn. I find it strange and somewhat funny that I am more certain of my boyfriend’s fidelity and honesty than I was of my husband’s. That is what is important.
Regardless of the intent, relationships happen on a day by day basis. And, today, I choose to be with him and I choose to remain unmarried. And he chooses the same. As for tomorrow, only time will tell.