Things Are Not Always, Things Are Not Always How They Seem

When I started this blog a few months ago, I thought I’d probably feature quite a few articles (and my reactions and opinions) in my Friday Lounge posts.  So far I’ve done this only once.  

I decided to change that today.  A word of warning: if you’re expecting a political rant (or controversy of any kind), you’re going to be disappointed.  Sorry.  I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again … I’m not against sharing my thoughts and opinions on most topics, but there are some things I just have no interest in discussing on a public blog.  That’s just me.  

The article I’ll be discussing today is one that caught my eye while reading my favorite online magazine, Slate, yesterday evening. 

The article is called “What Do You Call the Person You Are Probably Never Going to Marry?  Your Fiancé.”  It was written by Hanna Rosin and posted on Thursday, 10/03/2013.

If you’re interested in reading the article yourself, here is the link: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/10/fianc_s_today_when_boyfriend_doesn_t_cut_it_but_husband_isn_t_accurate.html.

Reading this article, I kept thinking, “I definitely know people just like this.”  It’s weird, though … Years ago, I was so sure I’d never get married.  I just didn’t have any desire to do so.  Even after being in a happy, healthy relationship with Eric for a considerable amount of time, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of marriage.  I thought about what it might be like to share a life with him, but marriage wasn’t really a priority for me. (This sort of thinking is actually mentioned in this article when writer Hanna Rosin states: “College-educated women flirt with not getting married, provide fodder for lots of movies about the glories of single life, but eventually they get married (even in the movies) …”

Fast forward a few years … Marriage still wasn’t something I thought a lot about.  When I thought about moving our relationship forward, I mostly thought about moving in together.  After a little over 4.5 years, Eric and I finally took the plunge and got an apartment together.  I was incredibly excited to take this step with him, and was happy with our arrangement.

Then, after living together for a while, the topic of marriage inevitably came up.  We’d talked about it before, but never like this … Never so seriously.  

Here’s the thing, though.  When Eric proposed to me, he wasn’t just trying to “take it to the next level” or make our relationship seem more “official.”  He wanted me to say that I would promise to love him and be faithful to him for the rest of our lives, regardless of what life may throw at us.  He didn’t want to just “put a ring on it.”  He wanted me to commit to actually marrying him.  And that’s okay.  For me, that was expected.  If he didn’t really want to get married, he could have saved a lot of money and gotten me a promise ring (if he really wanted me to have a ring) or he could have not gotten me a ring of any kind (which would be the more likely scenario if he wasn’t into getting married).  But we also wouldn’t call each other fiancé/fiancée.  

This article hits on some of the concerns people have regarding relationship titles or labels.  And, despite the fact that I was never overly bothered by the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend,” I do understand why some people are.  I mean, I even started to feel a little weird referring to Eric as my “boyfriend” as we got older.  There’s nothing wrong with those titles, of course.  But in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “My boyfriend?  I’m almost 30!”  “Boyfriend” and “girlfriend” unfortunately can sound juvenile to some … And even if you’re not personally bothered by it, other people may take your relationship a little less seriously (even if you’ve been living together for a considerable amount of time).  And, to be perfectly honest, that really sucks.

A ring (or even a title) doesn’t make a relationship better or more valid.  I know people who have been engaged (in some cases multiple times) who ended things before they went through with the wedding and subsequent marriage.  I know plenty of people who have been divorced (again, sometimes multiple times).  On the other hand, I know several couples who have been living together for years … And they’re happy.  Some of these couples are engaged, but some are not.  The point here is that it doesn’t matter what stage your relationship is in … If you genuinely love and respect each other, why is it anyone else’s business if you’re a “boyfriend/girlfriend,” “fiancé/fiancée,” or “husband/wife?”  They’re all just titles or labels.

One of the most interesting things about this article was Rosin’s mention of sociologist Andrew Cherlin’s description of the dysfunctional relationship many Americans have with marriage.  She writes: “Americans have unusually high marriage and divorce rates, because we are culturally attached to both old-fashioned commitment and to individual freedom.”  This really rang true for me in so many ways.  I was so resistant to the idea of marriage for so long, and the fear of giving up my individual freedoms was one of the biggest reasons why.  I think the important thing to remember here, though, is that agreeing to marry someone doesn’t mean you have to give up all individual freedom (unless maybe you’re marrying a controlling asshole).  You can still do most of the things you did when you were single … You just can’t date or sleep around.  And, really, if you’re in a committed relationship you’re probably not doing that anyway (unless you’re an asshole).

If you’re reading this and feel like commenting, what do you think about labels or titles in a relationship?  Are they important to you?  Do you think they actually matter to other people?  How do you view people who are indefinitely in the “engaged” stage?  

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