Marriage or Mirage?

I’m not opposed to the idea of marriage. I’m just not bothered about it. I’m pleased for all my friends who have tied the knot and I hope they’re enjoying every moment of it… but the concept of marriage bears no significance to me, and I’ve held the same view since I was 16.

Typically the sort of responses I get after sharing my opinion goes a little something like…

“Oh my God why not!?”
“Really??”
“Yeah you say that now…”
“So what’s the point of being in a relationship then?”
“But it’s part of building a relationship with someone… why wouldn’t you?”


These days my friends don’t bother questioning me, likewise I don’t feel the need to explain (they know what the deal is!) So I was inspired to write about this topic after finishing a booked called “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. There was a chapter titled “Thinking about Life” which addressed the link between life satisfaction and marriage over time (refer to the image below.) On the following page he states: “People who decide to get married do so either because they expect it will make them happier or because they hope that making a tie permanent will maintain the present state of bliss.” Not only did this part make me chuckle but Kahneman’s thinking really resonated with me. While his words are still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d take the opportunity to express my non-conformist, female perspective on this particular subject.


I think it’s fair to say that everyone’s trajectory is different and thankfully we all have freedom of choice. Choice over our own narratives and choice over how we show our own versions of commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I hold many traditional values and beliefs but marriage is not one of them. For many of us, it’s the implicit next step in the script of life, a way to display your commitment to each other through a cultural and legal institution. Seriously though, besides the formal paperwork, ceremony and taking someone else’s surname (we don’t even have to do that), can anyone tell me what the difference is between long term companionship and marriage? I don’t get it. I’m not sure if I’m missing a bigger point here?

I spoke to someone about it today and he made an interesting point: “It’s about financial security for the party that earns less. Over time any gains are seen as a 50-50 split, without marriage, they would be prorated.” To which I responded, “So marriage is an investment?” He answered “Principally yes.” — Financial security… it just doesn’t make a great reason for marriage. I’m still struggling to see any benefits. After some thorough research to back up my views, please allow me to share my findings:

Can we skip straight to the honeymoon?
Industry experts estimate the average wedding cost in the UK to be anywhere between £18,000 to £32,000. I say screw the wedding party and put more money towards the luxury honeymoon holiday. I want paradise, cute outfits, tannage, champagne, all the fancy food and pampering sessions every day… until I return. Honestly, there are so many better things to spend the money on… if not a fabulous holiday then what about a loft conversion? A conservatory extension? Garden landscaping?How about investing the money? The list is endless!

It guarantees nothing
According to recent divorce statistics in 2019, 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. Sorry but I’m afraid marriage isn’t always the finish line for a relationship; neither are kids for that matter. I’m not cynical, I’m just speaking the truth. Everyone knows relationships require a lot of continuous work. You have to sustain them to keep them healthy and worthwhile. The reality is people change, so there’s the possibility that marriages might fall apart.

Cringe
Weddings are planned and few really want to attend. I don’t even know if I’d turn up at my own wedding! 😂 The day is non-stop, all eyes are on you, pointless dresses are worn never to be seen again, awkward family photos are taken, having all of your families in one place sounds like a nightmare, spending the whole day making menial conversations with guests, having to sit through embarrassing or mushy speeches, then feeling knackered out by the end. I can’t.

Social norms
As far as commitment goes, I don’t believe getting hitched is the ultimate expression of love. The reality is that marriage won’t make you love your partner any more or any less, and vice versa. In the earlier days it was expected that one would be married by the time they were in their late 20s or certainly early 30s at the latest. Others would pass judgement if you didn’t meet the expectations. Thankfully we live in different times now, and I merely see marriage as another one of those social stigmas.

The truth is, marriage isn’t for everyone. For some it’s wonderful as well as appropriate. I have a few friends who are in happy and healthy marriages which is amazing! I couldn’t be happier for them. However, in terms of where I stand, I’m quite content examining these implicit life choices and carefully deciding whether I want to buy into any of them.

“When do I get my fairytale ending?”

A few weeks back I was talking to my cousin over WhatsApp, we were exchanging stories on all the latest dating dramas and screenshots of our erm… interesting matches. We’re both in agreement that online dating sucks, and while I’m having a lot of fun with it, my cousin is on the brink of giving up!

There are some women who really want the whole marriage and kids thing (my cousin) and some who are open to the idea but not particularly fixed on it (well that would be me!) Speaking of which, did you know about 17% of marriages and 20% of relationships begin online. I guess it’s not a terrible stat, to be honest I think it’s amazing when people manage to find their perfect partner online, but I think there’s a sprinkle of luck involved too!

The idea of fulfilment

During our conversation, my cousin said to me “When do I get my fairytale ending?” — and even though I’m fully aware that there’s no such thing as a “fairytale ending” (I’m not pessimistic, just a realist), it dawned on me that actually… dating can be quite the opposite sometimes. I feel like there’s this whole stigma about settling down. Traditionally, the stages of a “perfect relationship” has always been portrayed as: dating someone for many years, buying a house together, getting engaged, getting married, having kids and growing old together. Obviously this way of thinking has branched out and moved on yet it’s still an idea that people hold on to. For the singletons who hold tightly on to this way of life, tend to feel the pressure more as the years go by.

I find that as you get older, dating becomes harder. The truth is, the longer you’re alive, the more baggage you build up. We become set in our own ways, we’re more particular about what we want in a partner, we’re more critical. And this is just a tiny handful of reasons why. You’ll also find that everyone has been in some form of relationship(s) already, people might have children, be divorced… all of that stuff. So what do we have left? Well, it’s a choice of:

1. Serial daters – doesn’t take dating seriously and doesn’t want to take dating seriously
2. Broken but healing – may succeed once healed
3. Broken and not healing – toxic and undateable
4, Mentally unstable – this can cover a lot of ground but generally toxic and undatable or adds too much of a burden
5. Married – no thanks
Kids from someone else – might work for some, dealbreaker for others

You get my drift right? Okay, fine… there might be like 10% of “normal” people out there but even so, it’s not the easiest journey, particularly if you’re someone looking to settle down. There are other factors which unfortunately make an individual put pressure on themselves, this includes:

1. When all your friends are getting hitched and popping out babies
2. Parents / Other family members
3. Awareness of your body clock
4. Not being able to enjoy your own company

5. Overthinking about the future

Go easy on yourself

One might not be fussed about any of the above but I totally understand why a number of women are in a hurry to find their Mr. Right. The thing is however, progression of a romantic relationship can’t be forced or rushed, it’s something that should naturally evolve over time. So on that point, I wanted to compile a few “words of wisdom” for my fellow singletons. Mind you, I’m no love guru here, I’m simply picking out some narrative from various books I’ve read and conversations I’ve had — all which I’ve personally found useful and taken onboard.

JUMPING INTO RELATIONSHIPS
There are a number of reasons why people rush into new relationships. A lot of the time, it’s an attempt to get over an old one (ie. filling a hole in their life), but rebound relationships rarely stand the test of time because until your heart has healed you’re unlikely to be in the right frame of mind to let someone new in. Lost relationships deserve to be grieved. Even if the choice was yours to end it, there is still the loss of the hope you once had for it. You’ll be surprised how much you discover about yourself when you take some time out to heal.

Being part of a healthy relationship requires being a healthy person (mentally and emotionally). While it’s lovely to have a companion, it’s vital to feel comfortable and happy within yourself when you’re on your own and before entering a new relationship. It’s worth mentioning that no one ever figures everything out about themselves. I’m still learning every day! But when you know what you want and need in a relationship, the higher chance you will find someone in alignment with those needs.

TRUST YOUR OWN JOURNEY
We need to remember that everyone’s timing and journeys are different — and I’m not just referring to relationships in this instance. What works for some will not work for others. In life, it can be very discouraging when you witness friends or siblings reaching important milestones, whilst you’re there struggling to make ends meet.

Now if we look at dating, it can be hard to suppress feelings of sadness, envy or whatever it is you feel in the age of social media where everyone’s life seems so perfect online. If you find yourself thinking “why can’t it be me?” after seeing a friend’s Instagram post announcing her wedding engagement while she’s in the Caribbean with her new fiancee — it’s totally understandable. There was a study on Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking which found that social media use was associated with lower self-esteem and poorer mental health.

Please don’t focus on how you rank in comparison to others. Enjoy your journey. And remember that your journey has nothing to do with how well other people are doing, or what they have… but it has everything to do with what you want to do, and where you want to go. That’s all you need to worry about.

HIGH STANDARDS VS. BEING UNREALISTIC
People people people… we must draw the line between having high standards and being unrealistic. First of all, there is nothing wrong with having high standards. I think it’s a sign of healthy self-esteem, and it implies clarity about who you are and what you want. High standards conveys someone who knows their worth and what they deserve and are not afraid to ask for it and expect it done.

On the other hand, having unrealistic expectations for yourself and others isn’t great. Expecting someone else to be perfect, tick all the boxes all the time and do things when and how you want is not fair. Sorry but who do you think you are? If you’re constantly feeling disappointed in your relationships, you might want to consider the fact that you expect too much from your partner. Yes, relationships involve compromise and there are certainly non-negotiables, but sometimes we need to do some readjusting where expectations are concerned.

I’ve seen people’s (long ass) lists where there’s a column for dealbreakers and a column for requirements… and boy, some of that stuff is incredibly far-fetched and laughable. I’m not even gonna go there! Anyway, the bottom line is that you must understand and accept that no one is perfect. By doing so, you release yourself and others from this competition that nobody can ever win. 

STOP JUDGING
I have been particularly bad at this in the past, which is why I’ve been called “stush” before. One thing I would like to highlight is that putting yourself out there, being in a vulnerable position isn’t such a bad thing — and I’ve massively appreciated it when the other person does the same. It really helps when two people are honest and can communicate. It takes a good amount of time to really get to know someone and even then, you’ll only know a fragment about them. Even in relationships where you learn more over the years, people change as they go through different stages of life, things also happen and you either go with it or walk away.

Managing your judgement is very important here. The problem with judging early on is that you don’t allow a chance to connect with the other person on a deeper level, where you see their core values and beliefs, and watch their actions to make sure that they’re aligned with their words. At the end of the day, kindness and acceptance is imperative when getting to know someone new.

ENJOYING THE MOMENT
The best part of dating? Having fun! Life might throw a lot of bullshit your way, but it should be enjoyable… and as a bonus, sometimes it’s a learning curve. There are people who restrict the fun side of things because they’re not living in the moment. In fact, the same people are most likely too busy formulating plans on how to lock things down with the “potential”. Remember: Not all relationships will lead to marriage, some will help you discover new restaurants.

We often lose sight of what dating is all about, and in my opinion, it’s about connecting with another person, sharing who you are while learning who they are, enjoying the activity, laughing at the jokes, flirting and appreciating each other’s company. When you don’t take yourself or the date too seriously, you’ll quickly find yourself having the best dates of your life. Perhaps we need to trade the unattainable “fairytale ending” for a happy journey with a few bumps en route.

THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING SINGLE
Lastly…. this. I wasn’t always someone who enjoyed being single but when I took the time out and focused on me and put myself first, my mindset and outlook changed completely. As a society we’re so wrapped up in finding someone to complete us, instead of trying to complete ourselves. Being single is when you learn about yourself and discover who you are. You have all the freedom when you’re single with no one holding you back — so make the most of it! Don’t allow yourself to be so enthralled on becoming somebody’s that you forget to first become somebody. 

Well that’s it from me… I hope you enjoyed this post and it’s given you some food for thought!

Back ups. Safety nets. Back-burners.

A back up partner, standby lover, or spare-tyre lover is a person anticipated as a potential future romantic partner in the event of the failure or unforeseen end of a current relationship.

“If we’re still single when we hit 40, just be with me, let’s have kids together.” — I have a friend who was being very serious about this offer… and by the way, he’s aware I’m writing this blog post! Every time I saw him, he’d say it again and again. I laughed it off, sarcastically joked about it numerous times until he looked genuinely offended.

According to an article I read the other day, “50 per cent of women in relationships have a back up partner.” – Wow, I did not know that. And just to throw it out there, here are some other little facts about women with back ups:

1. Married women are more likely to have a second option in place as compared to those in a relationship.

2. In most cases, the back up choice is usually an old friend, who has harboured feelings for the particular woman. Or else, it could also be an ex-boyfriend/ex-husband.

3. The majority of women said that their back-up would be somebody whom they had known for at least seven years.

4. One in ten women also said that their back-up had confessed their feelings to them already.

I’ve never quite understood or considered a back up. By no means do I judge people who have one but are “safety nets” there out of fear of being alone? Or is it to gain personal confidence knowing you have someone else to fall back on if worse comes to worst?

Looking at it from one perspective, I guess once you commit, you eliminate all other options. If option number one doesn’t pan out, you have to start over, which is probably a daunting thought for some. Then there’s also the element of having someone readily available to cushion the blow in case of a potential heartbreak.

In my opinion, a back up sounds very similar to being a football substitute. You’re essentially “benching” them until you decide you need them. And unless they’re happy with the agreement and are willing to wait it out (maybe forever), I find it unfair to keep someone around (who likely has feelings for you) until further notice. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable with that arrangement.

But maybe that’s just me and my empathy for others. What are your thoughts?