Much has been made in recent years about marriage’s new economic classification as a luxury good, a rite only reserved for the well-to-do. The argument is usually made from an economic or sociological perspective, which although valuable and fascinating, tends to skirt the practical and ignore the relational and romantic (or perhaps decidedly unromantic) ramifications that we see every day amongst our peers.
It’s no secret, either, that as a generation we tend to push off marriage in a way that directly rebuffs the expectations placed upon our own parents and grandparents when they were our age. (In a note of irony, this seems a funny trend to point out when daily evidence of new engagements on Facebook and Instagram seem to point to the contrary). The two trends are not unrelated or coincidental. Though delaying marriage can be seen as a prudent response to the skyrocketing rate of divorce we laid witness to as children, it seems we are living in and worrying with the daily practicalities of a marriage before we even get married—and, regrettably, skipping over the good stuff that makes it all worth while.
…it seems we are living in and worrying with the daily practicalities of a marriage before we even get married—and, regrettably, skipping over the good stuff that makes it all worth while.
In the increasingly complicated world that is post-graduation, I see it all the time. Couples who were meant for each other, whose love is unbounded and abounding, whose stories of how they found each other (and sometimes re-found each other) rival the classics. But many a great love story is blunted by a reality whose harshness we have long overplayed in our own lives.
I worry that our approach to marriage has become more about the positive half of the wedding vows: for better, for richer, and in health. We push marriage off for practical concerns and get married later because we want our life to be a little more settled, a little more put-together, a little more refined before we invite another to fully share it with us. This suggests a slightly skewed perception of marriage as a looming state of being that demands perfection and excludes fun. It is also an uncommonly rational and grounded response from a wildly creative, mobile, and passionate generation. But is it an expression of love?
Of course, things change when we get married, as they should, but if we continue to make decisions based on whether or not the outcomes will chiefly benefit “me me me,” even as we are seriously dating or committed to “the one,” that will be a tough habit to break once we do walk down the aisle. From my second-hand experience, me-centered habits have no place in a marriage. They can engender a level of distrust we won’t know is there until someone unknowingly dredges it up.
Growing together as a married couple in the face of adversity that meets us when college ends and real life begins—or even in the circumstances that are a little less easy or ideal (paying off student loans, attending demanding graduate schools, recovering from illnesses)—is part of the crux of what makes marriage the lasting and worthwhile institution it was meant to be. Marriage, when entered into with highest mutual respect and seriousness, can actually be a radically practical decision that makes these temporal adversities easier to bear because they are shared.
Growing together as a married couple in the face of adversity … makes marriage the lasting and worthwhile institution it was meant to be.
Living out a great love story is neither impractical nor imprudent. Rather, it is the opposite; romance is the foundation upon which one of our most rational social customs (marriage) rests—and also by which it survives.
So know what you want, aim for the best keep, and set (and keep) your expectations high. Pursue a great marriage, not as some sort of accessory to the perfect life, but as an essential spark to begin the life of which you have always dreamed.
Image via Emily Blake