Growing up, we are taught to love the idea of marriage. Images of lacy white weddings drip from magazine ads and rom-coms; nearly every popular TV show features a power couple that eventually ends up at the alter. It’s no wonder that people our age are obsessed with finding The One, settling down, having a couple of kids and living happily ever after. Rarely do we turn our minds to what constitutes “ever after.” Rarely do we consider that marriage is what happens after the wedding, that the glittering movie ending is only the beginning.
This ignorance of the reality of marriage disturbs me greatly, especially with specific regard to our generation. The years of our collective maturation have been fraught with the proliferation of façades-Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to name a few. We are expected to present the best parts of ourselves to the world, to lock the downsides of life somewhere no one will ever discover them. We pluck and preen ourselves to the point of sterility.
Of course we want the wedding. Of course we want the kids and the house and the pretty white dress. These moments all make good pictures, good checkpoints of a life acceptably lived. Wedding photos and baby’s first word videos glimmer with pride from Facebook pages, announcing to the world that the person to whom they belong is good/beautiful/lovely enough to be loved, to live out the fairytale. They garner admiration, something people of our age crave.
Of course we want the wedding, but we do not want the marriage. What happens when the ring starts to feel normal on the finger? What happens when the baby cries, when the wife yells, when the husband comes home late? We lose the novelty and the glimmer of the fairytale and must, for the first time, face reality with another-we must tear down the façade.
This is an understandably terrifying task for a generation whose communication is based on niceties and shiny falsehood. To be completely vulnerable with someone and to learn how to express and address negative feelings with them are tasks for which we have not been prepared. They are foreign, they are scary and they are difficult. They have resulted in countless failed marriages.
I am not against marriage. I do not believe it is a lost cause or that it is a meaningless endeavor. I understand why some people consider it an important part of life. However, I am against the romanticized, sterilized and cherry-picked image of marriage that we have developed for ourselves. I am against the idea that a wedding is an accurate representation of marriage. I am against the idea that marriage equals The One plus Love. I am against the continuation of a culture which glorifies the ceremony but ignores its promises and complications.
It’s time to stop touting marriage as an accomplishment and to start considering it with gravity as the lifelong contract that it is.