Sunday, March 4, 2012

What’s a girl in a happy relationship want without marriage, anyway?

Today's post is, again, a guest blog from a friend. After reading Jenny's post, Melt wanted a chance to put forth some representation from the non-marrying side of things. Melt is living in the middle of cornfields, raising two adorable kittens, getting her PhD and trying to figure out how to get people to use condoms and not spread STDs. She kickboxes and does yoga, is learning to cook, and always has something to fun--and intelligent-- to say.

It’s always interesting to me when I read well-thought-through defenses of young marriage. I genuinely loved and enjoyed reading Jenny’s recent guest post on this blog. I thought it made sense, I thought it was eloquent and heartwarming, and I wish her all the happiness in the world.

But I must admit, part of why I appreciate reading well-reasoned defenses of young marriage is because I am so frequently enraged by the all-too-ubiquitous insulting and offensive defenses. As a 21-year old woman who has been dating her 24-year old (25 in 1 month!) boyfriend for two and a half years, our commitment has been questioned time and time again. “If you’re really meant to be together, wouldn’t you know by now? And if you know you want to be together forever…what’s the point in putting off marriage? Don’t you think that your hesitation about marriage should tell you something about how you really feel about your relationship?” “Don’t you think you’re being a bit selfish moving across the country and leaving your boyfriend just because you feel like staying in school?” “I mean, we all have different priorities…I guess you’re just putting yourself before your relationship, and I mean, that’s OKAYYYY, it’s just, you know, I guess I’ve just already reached a point of maturity where I can’t be that selfish anymore.” Well, you know what? I agree with Jenny: Maybe go fuck yourself.

The fact of the matter is that marriage simply doesn’t make sense for my relationship right now. I’m in my first year of graduate school, trying to live on my $16,000/year stipend without taking out any loans (and so far I’m succeeding, miraculously!) My graduate program has me living in central Illinois for the next 5-6 years. It’s a horrible economy, with people all over the country unable to find jobs, and my boyfriend was offered a full-time job in North Carolina. I’m finally learning how to live on my own – to cook for myself, clean for myself, make Excel spreadsheets to do my own budgeting, and then make the appropriate budgetary sacrifices to make ends meet and pay my own rent, utilities, cable bills, grocery bills, and other miscellaneous expenses each month. I’m trying to become financially independent. I’m trying to make it on my own. I’m trying to prove to myself that I can take care of my own life. I’m trying to make sure that no matter what happens in our relationship, in my future, I know I can make it on my own and be self-reliant. This simply isn’t the time in my life when I want to be living my life for another person. I need to be selfish. I need to strike out on my own and build my own life before I can feel comfortable enough to share it with another person.

And then there are the other things. I don’t feel comfortable being the one responsible for making major health decisions should any “worst case scenarios” happen. If I end up a vegetable tomorrow (morbid, but something to consider), I’d still want my parents to be the one making the major decisions, not my boyfriend. And vice versa – I’d want his parents to be the one making the decisions for him. Two and a half years is plenty of time for some people, but it simply isn’t for us – and that’s OK. Someone told me a few months ago that once a couple is out of college, if they don’t get engaged after two years something is wrong and they’re wasting their time. Whaaaaaat? Since when is there an objective timeline on major life decisions? I don’t see anyone going around saying, “Once you’re out of college, if you don’t get a pet within a year, you’re cold and unnurturing” or “You have exactly 6 months after you graduate from college to move out of your parents’ home, or else you’re not independent and you’re a failure.” No one would tolerate that. Why do they tolerate objective standards when it comes to marriage?

For me, I will consider it the “right time” for us to get married when I know I don’t need it – when I know that I don’t need his financial support, I don’t need his amazing cooking abilities, I don’t need him managing the finances, I don’t need him to make me feel whole. Maybe this makes me utterly unromantic, but I don’t ever want to feel like I need my spouse to complete me. I want us to get married when I know the only reason I want him in my life is that – pure, unadulterated want. Not need, want. That hasn’t happened yet. I caught myself at one point desperately wanting him to move out here mostly so my rent could halve, because my finances were really tight. I decided to get a roommate instead. I wanted something to cuddle at night; I got two cats. I freaked out when I first moved out here because I didn’t know how to cook and I didn’t know what I’d do without him cooking me dinner every night; I bought every cookbook I could find with the words “Quick,” “Easy,” or “Weeknight” in the title. I’m slowly but surely working my way towards not needing him – and when I reach that point, that’s when I’ll feel comfortable marrying him.

Maybe intelligent, considerate people like Jenny don’t understand why I’m upset. But I’m not upset because people like Jenny love their partners and want to get married before I do. To that I say – Mazel Tov and L’Chaim! I’m upset because of comments like this, which I saw on someone’s Tumblr: "I got married when I was 22 too. I’m 24 now, own several businesses and let me just say that there are people my age that are still trying to figure out how to not show up to work drunk and/or hungover. I think that you and I are in the very small percentage of people under 25 that decided to skip the whole drama + blowing all your money on drinking and parties thing."

Really? Condescension much? Yes, I drink and I get hangovers – so do plenty of married people. And yes, I did admit that I don’t think I’m ready to get married. But when did we decide to equate “marriage readiness” with “overall maturity”? I’m living on my own, working towards financial independence, living on a $16,000/year budget, tracking my expenses, working my ASS off to further my postgraduate education, and caring for two cats. I know married people who lie to their spouses, can’t manage their finances, bury themselves in debt, and have no idea how to care for themselves because they went from being completely dependent on their parents to being completely dependent on their spouses. But no, you’re right, condescending married people – you have a marriage license, which TOTALLY makes you more mature and adult than me, because I’m unmarried and still in school. My mistake.

What it comes down to is that I agree with Jenny’s point of view, and I support her, and I understand her pain. And like I said earlier, I wish her all the luck in the world. This entry is not about her. But I simply wish to show the other side, and maybe explain to her that part of the anger against her might be due (at least in part) to the many other young married people who are not doing her cause any favors.

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