I grew up with a father telling me “a baby is no reason to get married,” and a mother, married to him, telling me “the only reason to get married is if you want to have children.” Conflicting life lessons aside, they both have strong and valid points. With my own wedding only one week away and no bun in my oven, I, as I’m sure many other couples have, am wondering, why get married in this day and age, in a society that no longer deems is necessary?
The culture I live in doesn’t ostracize couples who chose to have children out of wedlock like it used to. Though I do not urgently need to be made a “proper woman”, my fiancé and I do wish to have children at some point in the future and it would be nice, at that time, to have a strong relationship built on the foundation of a good marriage, which is more important to us than avoiding any societal stigmas. For the time between now and children, it would be nice to not be living in sin anymore, an idea that has managed to stick with us despite that fact neither of us subscribes to any particular religion.
Deciding what to do once you have found your one and only has become increasingly more difficult as the divorce rate rises and more choices become available to us. Once upon half a century ago, people knew what to do when they fell in love. The plan was clear; step one: fall in love, step two: get married, step three: happiness. Today, the looming cloud of divorce casts a shadow of doubt for all young people in love. We know the plan, but it’s a little hazy; step one: fall in love, step two: ? , step three: happiness. The current divorce rate of 37.9 percent in Canada is enough to scare any couple into second guessing themselves. Taking the plunge has higher risks than ever before.
Like all big gambles, getting married can have a big payout. We have known for many years that men who are married live longer and are more successful in their careers. There’s a reason why they say, “Behind every great man, there stands a woman.” Married couples get better insurance rates, better life insurance payouts, better chances of getting a mortgage, better chances of being approved for the adoption of a child, better hospital visiting hours and they even get to be in the room when their spouse dies.
A marriage isn’t all sunshine and saving money every day, without constant work and devotion, even the best marriage will fall apart. Communication and compromise are skills that require perpetual practice and you never even get to become good at them, like me and playing the guitar. You can never truly feel happy unless your spouse is also happy, but, when times are good, the person you have committed to love above all others will provide you with many of the needs present on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, including security, friendship, family, intimacy and respect, as well as, stability and support, both financially and emotionally.
We grow up with a clear definition and sense of family, then suddenly we hit twenty and we lose it. For me, getting married is like finding that family again. Though we don’t have children and are therefore the smallest possible definition of a family unit, the feeling is strong, and it feels really good.
For me, and I suspect for many others as well, getting married is seen as one of the steps you need to take if you ever hope to get your little piece of the “American Dream.” I do not mean this is the crazed, will-marry-anyone-who-asks-just-to-have-a-wedding-day kind of way, I mean growing up with the knowledge that you will someday be a wife; playing your with your dolls, tea set and play house, completely unaware that your are practicing your gender role, whether you choose to rebel against or conform to it in the future. Skipping the marriage is like skipping the white picket fence.
Since the time we started watching movies not made by Disney, the media has drilled into us that commitment is not cool. When my fiancé and I started dating in high school, his friends penalized him for committing to a relationship with just one of the many fish in the sea. They conveyed their disapproval of his behaviour with name-calling and other various forms of light bullying. Everything changes once you get out of high school. People started telling me that they envied how mature our relationship was that they wished they could find someone too. I say that, although you are not half a person, needing to be completion from finding a spouse, like these “better half” affirming people would have you believe, it is nice to have someone to walk you home every night, to walk through life with you every day.
My fiancé and I already live together, we have already committed to a life together, regardless of a legal certificate saying so, we plan to get a dog together, we plan to buy a house together and we plan to someday have children together; we love each other and getting married isn’t going to change any of that. The only thing that is going to change is our relationship titles, but I must say, it is going to feel really good the first time I call him Husband and he calls me Wife.