Why Wanting To Get Married Doesn't Make Me Any Less Independent
I want to get married some day.
Not tomorrow, not a week from now, not five months from now – not even five years from now – but I do hold on to the hope that one day, marriage will happen for me and to me. (And no, this isn't a subliminal message to my partner. Don't worry, dude! We don't want no engagement ring yet! We're on the 20-year plan, so let's just stick with that.)
I have never been the girl who's dreamed of the big white dress, the roses and rose petals, the first dance, the matchy-matchy bridal party and the handsome man waiting for me at the altar.
It's not that there's anything wrong with dreaming of and wanting that (there's not), but just because I've never held that dream doesn't mean I don't want to get married.
For so long I'd fought the notion of nuptials. Modern feminism had made me feel that if I did want that dream for myself to come true, I'd somehow be surrendering the fight for feminine freedom altogether.
Collectively, the She-Man-Woman-Haters made me feel that wanting this was a sign that I had lost everything and that I'd foolishly turned a blind eye to the unfair advantages that men get; that I would somehow instantaneously become second rate; that I'd unfairly fitted myself to tradition's fashion and donned the white dress out of conformity instead of a desire for coupledom — that I'd let myself down or worse, that I'd somehow “settled.”
Marriage isn't “settling.” It isn't lazy or a decision you when you're bored and home alone on a Tuesday afternoon.
It isn't something that you just say you want because you think it's the next logical step. It's something that you need to want in order to have.
I'd always felt I should feel ashamed by my desire to get married and that it would make me feel like less of a woman and less of advocate for women if I submitted myself to actually wanting the white dress, the vows, the cake-cutting, the first dance and the mushy mess of so-happy-you're-delirious tears that comes with the entire event.
So I hid from marriage, even though it's an institution I believe in, respect and hope for. I ducked and covered with an intensity that's laughable now, afraid that if anyone saw the flicker of hope in my eye, I'd be exposed.
Exposed as what? I never really paid much mind to what they would unearth me as — a dreamer, a believer, a hopeless romantic?
Looking back, I'm embarrassed that I leaned so earnestly on an viewpoint of marriage I didn't, at all, side with.
Like an addict coming clean, I want to make it known: I do believe in marriage and of everything it brings.
I believe that it's a union and a choice between two people who are committed to upholding and honoring that choice every day from now until forever (or, at the very least, for as long as “forever” can legitimately last).
I believe in the vows, the “I dos,” the process of picking another person to be your mate through every rough patch, easy swim and hard decision that comes my way.
I do want someone to raise children with, to argue and fight with, to cry with, to succeed with. I want someone to come home to and I want someone to come home to me.
Marriage isn't a concession of ideas and womanly aspirations. I don't look at my mother and my grandmothers and think that they are stupid for aspiring to be a wife — to trade their “Miss” for a “Mrs.” as if it is something to be ashamed about.
To be honest, I respect them for knowing themselves well enough to know that this is what they want. Hat tip for them for knowing that they can wear the ring and still be the Queen.
The union, the partnership and the House That Marriage Built is as much a compromise for men as it is for women and yes, even though the institution of marriage is traditional and unwavering, that doesn't mean a modern marriage has to adhere to those same habitual beliefs.
I don't want to get married because I think it will make me love my partner more; I know enough – and have seen enough – to know that a piece of paper that legally binds two people to each other isn't enough to congeal a lasting relationship or to keep love alive and thriving.
I'm not looking for a lawful agreement, but I am looking to spend my life, my laughter and my love with another person. I am looking for a home to give that love, to keep it alive and thriving, to keep its heart beating.
There are some people who don't need or want marriage – they don't think it's something that they need to make their partnership legitimate or real.
It doesn't work for them, it's not in their plans. Good for them. I'm not that person, and though it's taken me a long time to realize that, I'm happy that I finally have. I do want marriage, even as much as I don't want the retro picture the white dress paints.
Leah Hager Cohen, author of the book, “I Don't Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance Except When You Shouldn't,” penned an editorial toward the tail end of 2013 at the peak of marriage rebellion on the “6 Reasons Never to Get Married.”
In it, she writes that “real security comes from being known for who you are and cared for no matter what.” She goes on to say that, “feeling known and adored by the people around you – be they lovers or co-workers or chums – provides the greatest security of all. And you don't need a spouse to rely on it.”
I agree and disagree with Cohen so many times in that two-sentence span that my fists hurt from constricting. Yes, real security does come from being known for who you are.
The problem sits in the fact that Cohen says that you don't need a spouse to rely on for “real” security. It plays into that same assumption that marriage somehow makes you need a spouse for security.
What happened to choice? What happened to being a grown-ass woman and wanting a spouse? What happened to being a woman who recognizes her own real security and yet still wants someone to share that with?
Cohen makes the assumption that women who want to get married are doing so out of some “need” to find things in themselves and also insults women by asserting that you can't be married and still be an individual.
She ignores the fact that women, much like everyone else on the planet, possess the capacity to want things for themselves – and then the ability to go out and get them.
I want to get married, I want to wear that ring, I want to don the white dress and worry about the something old and something blue and if it's going to be sunny or rainy and if that means good luck or bad luck because I am an individual.
I know that marriage is not the second part that makes me whole. It's not something that I need to do to justify and assert myself in our culture and in our society.
I don't need a man, a woman or a partner to vindicate and solidify my place in this world.
What Cohen and so many others like her do wrong is that they pit women against tradition by saying that if we're modern and contemporary and if we recognize the ways that society has faulted our fights for freedom then we shouldn't want to turn back the proverbial clock by giving in to these long-held norms.
But “giving in” to marriage doesn't steal away the glass slipper of our existence and wrinkle our skin. It doesn't turn us from CEOs into casserole-baking housewives.
Wearing the ring, saying the vows, wanting a future with someone, it doesn't turn us into the Betty Drapers of tomorrow or somehow lessen our feminine experience.
We can be women and wives. We can be responsible for our own self-discovery and vacation with our husbands. We can read “Lean In” and “Good Housekeeping” and be fascinated by the firsthand stories and the recipes.
The mistake is buying into the idea that we can't – and then blaming it on the “I dos.”
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