Voices: On Marriage
Welcome back to Voices, a monthly series/discussion of topics, ranging from periods to professional advice, featuring my best girlfriends. For this ninth installment, I picked their brains on marriage, a topic that’s on my mind more than I’d like to admit, especially around wedding season. Read what they had to say below!
Disclaimer: My girlfriends and I are straight, cisgender females and that completely influences the ways we may view marriage as an institution and interpret and respond to these prompts. We would love to hear your take in the comments.
are your parents married?
L: No. They divorced when I was 11.
B: My parents have been divorced since I was very young.
G: Yes, for 30 years.
K: Indeed. I believe it’s been 36 years or so!
how did/does your parents’ marriage inform or impact your perspective on marriage?
L: My parents got divorced because my dad cheated on my mom multiple times throughout their marriage. Because of this, I’ve always looked for qualities in a partner that showed they are respectful and committed to their loved ones. So basically, I looked for someone who is not my dad.
B: Growing up with my parents divorced definitely made me realize that marriage is not always a permanent and sure thing. It made me realize that people continue to grow and change, which may also affect whether or not two people can remain happy together throughout their lives.
G: They don't have a great marriage, and it's shown me how not treat people.
K: Their marriage has shown me what works and doesn't work in a romantic relationship, and how to tackle difficult situations. We often don't give our parents enough credit: they're winging it like everybody in life, and doing it with kids! Marriage changes over time, and kids see that. I feel like it’s great to have that perspective. I've seen nearly three decades of marriage—the ups and downs, the responsibility of a family, the balancing act between kids and spouses. It's amazing.
what is your current perspective on marriage?
L: I think marriage should be viewed as a lifelong relationship with one person. Some of my views have changed over time, but I whole-heartedly feel that you can spend the rest of your life with one person. Because of this, I feel that we need to first know who we are as individuals, then find the right person (which can take years) and gauge how you two are as a couple before committing to marriage.
B: I believe that marriage should be taken very seriously. To me, marriage is not just an end goal or an end-all. I believe that a strong relationship where two people can share their lives together is essential before a marriage, and that the relationship continues to develop even after getting married. People are constantly changing, they are not static beings. I believe that no matter how long you are with someone, you must continue to learn more about them and about being with them.
G: Marriage can be a wonderful thing if done right with the right person. That being said, a person you enjoy dating may not be a person you enjoy being married to. Given the 53% divorce rate, people are clearly not doing something right.
K: The concept of marriage itself has evolved so much. Current/younger generations have made it more than a contract, and are throwing out gender roles. It's a great thing for those who want to partake, but people seem happy without signing a piece of paper as well.
I love seeing my friends in their relationships. It brings me great joy to see they've found somebody they can have a lifelong relationship with. It also gives me pointers on different aspects that make a great relationship/partnership work.
how has your perspective on marriage changed throughout your life (as you get older)?
L: I've realized it’s more complicated than it looks. You start to understand the complexities of a relationship as you get older. That's what my mom used to tell me when trying to explain the divorce. "It's complicated. You'll understand when you're older." I’ve also realized that people are more selfish than I thought growing up. I think people have a tendency to give up without working toward a successful marriage, though this isn't applicable to all cases (e.g., domestic abuse).
B: I started seeing that marriage does not mean you have it all figured out. As I mentioned above, marriage isn’t the end point. It’s just another step in the long and complex adventure that is sharing your life with someone.
G: I never wanted to get married because I used to think every marriage was like that of my parents: violent, abusive, angry, and sad. I still don't want to get married, but for different reasons that I could talk about for hours. And the older I get, the more I don't want to get married. Who knows what the future holds, but I plan to shape my life around different goals and find purpose in different ways.
K: I thought marriage was another one of those rites of passage that one must eventually do/accomplish. I realized as I got older and started to find my bearings in life that it’s not just another thing you do. It's a choice. Do it if you want to and if you've found the right person.
is marriage important to you? do you want to get married? why or why not?
L: Yes, and yes, because admittedly, I'm the type of person who needs a companion in order to get through life.
B: Marriage is very important to me because I see it as two people making a commitment to one another. It’s becoming a family, not just emotionally, but also legally. I do think that building the emotional strength of a relationship first is the most important thing, but I still see marriage as making a bigger commitment, and promising to one another in front of your loved ones and the world. I would like to get married, but only if I am with the right person and at the right place in my relationship.
G: Marriage is important, but it's not relevant to me.
K: I used to think I'd definitely get married one day, but now I don't think much about it at all (which is a great thing). Why waste time thinking about something that doesn't have any bearing on my current situation? I like to take life as it comes, and if I meet somebody who wakes up the desire, that I must have a lifelong companionship with this one specific person, I'll do it happily (and hopefully those feelings will be reciprocated, hehe).
have you ever had a partner you thought you might want to marry?
L: Yes, my fiance, and he's the only one.
B: I have been in a long-term relationship before where I thought about marriage in our future. I never actually reached the point in a relationship though where I knew I was ready for it or that I wanted it at that time.
G: I've had partners who I thought would make great husbands for someone else.
K: I did. I haven't been in many romantic relationships. I think of them as serious things that I put my heart and soul into. I thought that my first relationship had the potential to turn into forever, but I now know better.
how was ‘marriage’ demonstrated or communicated to you throughout your life? (religious, cultural, and/or family beliefs and traditions, norms within your friend groups, through society and the media, etc.)
L: Marriage was a partnership between my mom and dad. They were business owners and relied on each other heavily in order to succeed. I saw their marriage as a means to living the American Dream, immigrating to the US and starting a business together and raising my sister and me.
I see some of this in my relationship with my fiance. He works in a very different field in a very different industry, and yet I think of myself as not ‘pulling my weight’ because he makes more than I do. He and I have to keep my mindset in check. We are a team, not competitors.
B: I have always seen marriage as something sacred, to be respected and valued. I’ve seen it as a commitment to be together and work together to solve anything that life might throw at you. Through my culture and traditions, I’ve learned that it means you are a family, a team, and you take on the world together for all its positive and negative aspects. In social media, though, I feel that marriage is not taken as seriously as I’ve learned to. People seem to get married more spontaneously and separated or divorced at such young ages.
G: I have PTSD from my parents’ marriage, which was communicated to me through abuse and negative reinforcement. And then I was told to look at it as my life's purpose. No, thank you. I have different goals planned.
K: Growing up, getting married was something that always loomed in the background, in addition to all the other life accomplishments society pushes on us. I wouldn't say it was more or less stressed than working hard and getting a good education, but it was present. And so, it was embedded in me. I've thankfully been able to get it out of my system since.
what cultural/societal/family pressures (if any) have/do you experience around marriage? are these gender-specific? how has this changed with age?
L: I was never pressured to find someone and get married by a certain time, but my older sister was. At first, my mom and dad wanted her to find an Asian boy who was a hard worker. Then, as time went by and my sister got older, they were open to any boy of any background because they were concerned that she was falling behind on their timeline of life events. My mom even prioritized my sister's love life over her career when she turned 30 and wasn't in a committed relationship.
B: My family had never pressured me about marriage until more recently. Now that I’m reaching my 30s, my family asks about who I’m dating, and if I see it as a lifelong relationship. Societal pressure has probably been the worst, even if it’s indirect or unintentional. Being single in your 30s is not a popular theme. Seeing all of your peers already married and having children makes you feel like the odd one. And there’s even more pressure (biologically?) if you know you want children in your future. This is a new pressure that I’ve recently started experiencing as well. I know that I want to get married, but not until I’m in the right place in my relationship and in my life. But at the same time, I get stressed out knowing that if I want children, I only have so long before the possibility of having them becomes less and less likely.
G: As an Indian and a female, marriage is all people in my family talked about for me. I've always been very vocal about not getting married, and I think my parents are finally starting to see that I really do mean it.
K: I've only started to hear some comments and jokes from my mom in the last year (after 27 years on this earth). My brother and I aren't very far apart in age, so he's heard the same things. My mom doesn't want to be too old at my brother’s or my wedding, or to play with her future grandkids, which I think is sweet. Other than that, we haven't had much pressure despite being part of the Indian culture, which is very marriage-heavy, especially for kids our age.