I'm a single 30 year old female so it is expected that I be obsessed with all things marriage-related. I'm supposed to be planning my wedding even though there is not spouse in sight, choosing my wedding dress, and fantasizing about my groom, but, contrary to social norms, I don't do any of that. In fact, I have (sometimes) consciously and unconscionably spent my entire life trying NOT to think about marriage. The simple reason is that marriage scares the compete heck out of me!
Let me acknowledge that there are a thousand reasons I am single which fall into any of the following categories. 1) Relationships are a numbers game. Live in a space where the numbers are better for you and you win the game. Otherwise you lose. 2) The complete dearth of quality men. 3) I'm a commitment-phobe. Reason three is the one I choose to zoom in on in this post.
One of my optimistic friends called me right after I had attended my cousin's wedding. Naturally the topic of marriage came up. I expressed to him that I did not like marriage because it concentrated on two recurring themes: unconditional love and the concept of forever. I've been on roller coasters before. Everyone knows that the time to make a decision NOT to ride is before you even get on. Once the bars are locked and the train starts making its nerve-wrecking assent up its steep incline, any second thoughts are irrelevant. You have no choice now except to stay on for the rest of the ride. I often view marriage this way. Sure some aspects of it seem fun, but once you are strapped in, and the assent is steeper then it looked when you were merely peering at it from the safety of the ground, there's not a lot you can do but ride it out. You've reached the point of no return.
And marriage is truly the point of no return. Unconditional love says that no matter what this person does, or who he becomes, or how he treats me I will remain by his side. This idea--as romantic as it might sound, promises that you will love this person not as he is now, but for who he may become in the future. That's scary stuff! So even if this sweet, mild-mannered man morphs into a drug obsessed, pornography addicted, unemployed loser you will still love him. Or more extreme if your tall dark and handsome man gains 300lbs and hoard cats like those people you see on reality shows, you will stay by his side. Or if he beats you and gamble away your savings, or uses your toothbrush, or suddenly refuses to practice basic hygiene, and farts the alphabet in public, you stay and endure. This thought disturbs me because we don't know what we will become. Our ability to predict the future is about as accurate as our ability to select a good mate. The man who shot up those marines a few months ago may have been a real swell guy at one point, we don't know, but one way or another things happened and he ended up a homicidal whack job. With all this uncertainty we stand before God and family and pledge unfailing love to a fallible human being. I can't seem to wrap my mind around that.
I do not know why anyone gets married these days. The divorce rate should be evidence that at most marriage has failed as an institution or at least we have failed at it. Romantic feelings fade fast leaving you asking the question, "why did I get married?" Biologically programmed longings, neuro-chemical highs, and hormonal drives push us down the alter, but they are not strong enough to keep us married. The vast majority of marriages tend to end in divorce or exist on the ledge between misery and apathy. However, in a world where we jump right into things. Where we follow our hearts and hormones or busy ourselves so much that we don't make time for quiet introspection, we don't consider the harsh realities. Perhaps I'm crazy for gazing up at the intimidating roller coaster of marriage from the safety of the ground, considering its ups and downs, its safety, and its practicality, before making an all or nothing commitment to riding the unknown.