“Why do you want to get married?”
My friend asked me this after I confided in him that although I feel satisfied with my life, it’s not as fulfilling because I don’t have a lifelong someone.
If you, like me, feel the external and internal pressures to be in a relationship and settle down, I’m here to tell you that it’s normal. And that it doesn’t have to be this way.
First — it’s not all in your head
The media we consume shapes us
As children, we’re bombarded by fairy tales that make us believe we need romance and marriage. The idea of marriage is pushed upon little girls, especially. We underestimate the power of things we passively consume, and how it affects our perceptions and desires.
When little girls watch movies with Prince Charming, they may use him as the ideal image for who they want to be with when they grow older. But the truth is there’s no real Prince Charming. And as a woman, you don’t need saving.
I find it particularly interesting that as an adult, I often get my craving for romance after indulging myself with Facebook marriages.
Is the nuclear family the ideal family?
A nuclear family is generally defined as having two married parents and a child, or children. Especially in the West, and after a certain age, people withdraw into a nuclear family, which becomes their priority and their support system.
As a matter of survival and the decline of having a community, we may end up seeking relationships and marriages as a solution for belonging, to have someone to fall back on in times of need, and to have the chance to support someone else.
Subtle shaming from our upbringing
As a woman, and in my experience in the Middle East where I come from, a metric of success is to be married. Whenever I’m home, this is the first question I get asked: “So when? How come you haven’t met someone?”
I like to call it subtle shaming because it’s not supposed to be a big deal. But it hurts deep down.
Buying into a big industry that profits
The worldwide wedding industry is huge. In just the United States between 2006 and 2008, the wedding industry spent around $86 billion, and the estimated number of weddings in the world is 40 million, with Asia having the most. It’s a big industry that wants your money, too. Which means you’re likely to see over-sensationalism of weddings on TV, Instagram, and everywhere you go online. Who wouldn't want that?
The most striking example is the need for an expensive diamond ring. According to the American Gem Society, the first diamond engagement ring was commissioned in 1477.
But Americans were slow to embrace the diamond until an advertising agency, N.W. Ayer, took charge. De Beer launched the ad campaign in 1947 using the slogan “A diamond is forever,” and everything changed. An industry was born.
And a little biology thrown in
It makes sense to want to get married with the intention of starting a family. As we grow older and are pressed for time, with egg freezing not yet affordable or consistently effective, it’s normal to feel pressure to meet the man or woman who you’ll create a child with.
Of course, being a single parent is an option. But still a hard and expensive option, in our society today.
Second — you, have control
While, the context of why we feel the need to get married is important, the subject — you — is important, too. So why do I want to get married? How can I liberate myself from the internal emotional pressure?
I realized I never really meditated on this question from a personal perspective.
So I decided to do the five whys technique:
WHY is it important to me to be married?
I want to be with someone I am committed to, who brings out trust and allows me to fully express and be myself.
WHY is it important to be committed?
I want to build intimacy with someone, both physically and emotionally. I want to share special moments with them, as well as all of life’s banalities and little annoyances.
WHY is intimacy important to me?
I want to build something with someone — a project, a human, a space. The magic happens when you do it together.
WHY is it important to build something with someone?
I want to be exposed, and be able to work through my deepest wounds when my partner, who embodies attachment, holds up a mirror to my face.
WHY is it important to be exposed?
Because my purpose in life is to continue to grow …
Can’t you grow through other means?
So why do you want someone so badly?
The raw, scary, familiar answer came:
I want to belong in the society we live in. Most of my friends’ plans are now centered around relationships and children, and so are the conversations. I feel left out.
I feel irrelevant.
I don’t want to end up alone at 60, in an apartment with no friends to call when I’m sick, with no kids’ achievements to brag about, with no relationship skills on how to be with someone, and with so many wrinkles to turn off any man.
I’ll be judged for the fact that no one ever proposed to me. I’ll be sinking in the mud of shame with no one to save me. Something is wrong with me.
But then the real, brave answer spoke up:
There’s another story I can write. The other story of a woman who did it her own way, who felt whole at every stage of her life. Who inspired other women and men to do the same. Who never settled, even when they told her she was digging her own grave.
The other story of a woman who knew that only she can give herself love, only she can break her own heart, and only she can rise up and love again. The story of a woman who trusted in the wisdom that life threw her, and knew that nothing lasts.
What’s your ‘other’ story?
It’s important to remember that there are women and men who are doing it differently. And society is changing. Having one friend, or even better a community, that supports you in pursuing your truth and charting down your own territory is important.
But first, gain awareness of the external pressures and then tackle your awareness of the internal.
Jessica writes about love, life, and what we’re scared to talk about. She’s been published in Time, The Huffington Post, Forbes, and more, and is currently working on her first book, “Child of the Moon.” You can read her work here, or find her on Twitter and Instagram.