Marriage has long been held up for little girls as an ultimate aspiration. Most media aimed at girls shows the charming prince riding off into the sunset with his new bride to live out their perfect marital happiness. Love stories are commonplace in children’s media and there’s always the implication of marriage if not an outright statement of it at the end. Marriage validates love and validates femininity and therefore validates women.
I never wanted the whole white picket fence and 2.3 children to go along with this mythical wedding, but something about marriage spoke to me and eventually, it sucked me in. Catholic sexual education that I grew up with made it quite clear. You got married and had babies or you went into a convent to marry Jesus. I molded myself to be a wife before I even realized what I was doing. I held up ideals for marriage in all of my relationships no matter how inappropriate it was.
I couldn’t separate marriage from sex or marriage from dating or marriage from anything else. My entire view of men revolved around a wedding ring to the point where I would size up total strangers as potential husbands. And no one was there to discourage me. It seemed only natural for a young woman to want to get married and no one questioned my reasons for it. But my reasons were not sound.
When I was younger, as much as I imagined marriage to be a partnership and a working relationship between two equals that had similar goals and values, I found myself banking on marrying someone who could fix me. I needed someone to make me feel safe, loved, cared for, and treasured because I didn’t feel that way on my own. I wanted someone to complete me because I wasn’t complete myself. And no one can be not only themselves but someone else as well.
When I got engaged I was so enamored with my new position as fiancee that I never really examined the man I was committing myself to. Our relationship went better when I didn’t analyze pesky things such as how I felt or what I thought. I was getting married and that’s all that mattered. I was going to have a husband and be a wife and who gave a shit who it was to?
Now I realize there was quite a lot wrong with my engagement and the relationship in general. But not only that, I realize just how distorted and skewed my entire view of marriage had become. I had made myself a possession. I was going to be a wife and as such I belonged to someone else. I had to devote myself to his needs and thoughts and feelings at the expense of my own. The only concern I allowed for myself was abject necessity for my own mental health. Beyond that, I belonged to him.
When I pulled away from the relationship, even before the breakup, I found my views shifting. Marriage suddenly didn’t seem like a fun, enlightened endeavor. It seemed like prison. It seemed like chaining myself to someone and giving up myself in exchange for a full-time carer position for someone else’s needs. As hard as I had worked to become the perfect wife, I found myself hating the position. Or at least, what I thought the position could be.
My dream of marriage was slowly destroying the person that I was becoming and then all I could think of doing was stopping it. But the idea of rejecting the very thing I had built so much of my life around didn’t go over well. I wanted to salvage the concept. But the truth was, what I had taken on marriage to mean was so toxic and dangerous that there could be no saving it. I needed to get rid of all of the damaging notions that I had ever filled my head with and start fresh.
Right now, I’m at a stand off with marriage. I still think of it fondly in a sense that one day, it’s a goal I will accomplish. 29 years of dreaming and being socially encouraged is too powerful to overcome, despite my experiences. But realistically, I know that I don’t need to get married and can live an amazing life without it. Even if I did get married, I might not even want it to be monogamous. There are more options floating in my head now than two people for death do they part.
In the end, I only feel terrified of making the same mistake again and committing myself to someone that only wants to take. I’ve always given so much. The notion of finding myself completely drained and left with nothing while someone will holds out their hands and demands more, once again, just exhausts me. Right now, the risk doesn’t seem worth the reward. Maybe marriage will be right for me again. Maybe one day I’ll figure out what marriage actually is. But right now, marriage is just a concept that I’ve seen on TV and it has no real dealing in my life.