A few years ago, I had what you might call a “mentor,” who once told me the only reason she and her husband got married was because her accountant recommended it for tax purposes. Otherwise, taking that leap wasn’t really on their minds.
Marriage (or “mawwiage,” as the priest says in the movie The Princess Bride) was considered a part of the plan when I was growing up, and in a way, I’m glad my mentor told me about her experience. It offered me a different point of view, like trying a new food.
While I’ve written about how long a couple should wait before they get married, based on some rad science, I also see mawwiage like the comedian Amy Schumer has joked about in her comedy bits: “Oh, great, now we need to get the government involved in our love?”
Even this New York Times opinion article described mawwiage like entering an overhyped nightclub: you wait in line for a while, and when you finally enter, you look around and go, “What’s the big deal?” The author was pressured into finding “the one” while she was in her 20s, and when she finally met and married someone while in her 30s, she was kind of like, “Wait, this is it?”
Moreover, a 2017 Pew Research study found that “the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or partner has climbed to 42%, up from 39% in 2007, when the Census Bureau began collecting detailed data on cohabitation.”
As humanity climbs Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs toward “self-actualization,” we realize we can have more options in love, from practicing polyamory to maintaining a sense of independence, including over our finances.
Don’t get me wrong: if mawwiage is in your plan, and if you can get past its traces of sexism (e.g., a man gives away the bride to another man) or find ways to reinvent it (e.g., give yourself away), then by all means, go for it. I know some people reading this are wearing an engagement ring.
The tradition has also stood the test of time and provided many with legal and financial perks. Also, I’m sure a few women feel some intense “bride pride” and see mawwiage as living a real-life fairytale.
However, as a woman who questions virtually everything and likes to break from tradition whenever possible, I write this to offer another perspective, like my mentor did. Yes, it might sting a little to hear. However, you don’t need to live by society’s blueprint, even if it’s difficult to carve a new path. That’s how several trailblazers have changed history.
In the end, it’s totally healthy to throw away old rules and adopt new ones. For example, if my partner Phillip and I ever decide to tie the knot, I’m throwing away the old rule of taking a man’s last name (and even hyphenating) and adopting the new(ish) rule of keeping my last name—not to maintain my professional identity, but because I see it as being my own woman. (We would also maintain separate bank accounts.) We would be treating mawwiage as just a government contract.
What other old (relationship) rules can you throw away today? What new ones can you adopt? The choice is yours in this one life we get.
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