Marriage is no picnic, and so they say. It is hard work that can be fraught with ups and downs that constantly test the strength of both partners. In some cases, they must move heaven and earth over several years before they find their sweet spot and become livable cohabitants.
Really? So why in dogs name do we get married? This is not a rhetorical question, but a sincere one. Of course, the answers are situational. Today, the top five reasons we get married are as follows:
1) Why not?/It seems like the next logical step
2) A life event (pregnancy, changes in financial status or security, partner taking a job far away, etc.)
3) Fear of being alone/growing old alone
4) A desire to ‘grow up’. Translation, getting married makes us seem more mature and adult-like.
5) Fear of losing our partner. As in, I don’t want to get married but if I do not, they will leave me.
You need not be a rocket scientist to see that love and desire are nowhere on this list. Click on any number of articles like this one or this one and you won’t find love in those lists either. Strange, eh? Perhaps, but not inaccurate. I read an interesting New York Times article that put the reason people are ‘still getting married’ into perspective. It read, “people marry to show their family and friends how well their lives are going, even if deep down they are unsure their partnership will last a lifetime”.
For me, this reality is hard to shallow, it truly is. I do relationship coaching for a living and I do not want to be a skeptic in the mind and body of someone that is supposed to help people find and sustain authentic, meaningful relationships with others. The average age range of my clients is 35-47 and most of them are either divorced and trying to get it right the second time or they have never been married and are being very cautious and selective about who they would marry.
I like cautious and selective. I also like authentic and meaningful. Marriage should be born out of all of these, and other, adjectives. So here’s the question. If we love and desire the whole PIE, aka physical, intellectual and emotional intimacy, but we are skeptical about finding someone that can satisfy our lifelong appetite for it, but we want a lifelong partner, what do we do?
This is really a question for women moreso than men. Why you ask? Because women have greater needs in relationships and from their partners and thus are more likely to be left wanting for more, feeling unsatisfied. What is a woman to do?
Settling is clearly not the answer, nor is lowering expectations. Adjusting for the purpose of having something instead of nothing will eventually leave women with nothing special. Women already do this far too much in so many different aspects of their life.
Waiting for Mr. Perfect is not the answer since there is no such thing. Though, I must say, I do not see many women doing this. Instead, they are waiting for Mr. Perfect For Them, a reasonable expectation from my lens. This said, what I do find is that women are rarely clear about their needs and wants. In other words, what specific attributes would a Mr. Perfect For Them need to possess versus what would be a nice to have (want)? When women can be clear about their needs and wants, they can begin to become clearer about who they decide to meet, date, and get into relationships with.
Besides coming to grips with their needs and wants, women should let go of the idea of marriage and embrace the idea of partnerships. This does not mean that women should not want to get married nor does it mean they should put aside their desire to get married just because a potential partner may not want to. Very often however, women put artificial barriers or limitations on their dating experiences because they over assess someone’s marriage potential or they feel their biological clock ticking. I say breathe, date, make smart decisions about who you date again, and enjoy. If someone ends up having lifelong potential, the thought of marriage will reappear in your frontal lobes anyways.
The good news is, women are already leaning in this direction. The idea of being single and mingling or finding someone that can be a lifelong partner is gaining popularity for women. The next challenge of course is dealing with a reality that sees women becoming increasingly comfortable with not marrying and men wanting to marry, especially as they get older and fear being alone and untaken care of.