Well some of you might be surprised if you know me (or even if you know just my writing) and saw the title of this post. You would be justified in your surprise because the title is not mine, it is the title of an article I read in the sub parr journalistic endeavor that is the Washington Post. (I promise compared to my opinions for other “news” sources that was a compliment.)
Anyway, I personally don’t recommend reading the article because the attitudes expressed are so stereotypically predictable they are assininely dull by the time you’re through. I barely made it myself. (But here’s the link if you insist you radical free- thinker.)
Nonetheless, since the attitudes she expresses are so common, I still feel they are worth addressing. And I confidently assert that my rebuttal to her article will be not only ever so slightly briefer, but significantly more interesting (because of the discussion content, not in terms of talent- I wouldn’t judge a writer based on one article.)
So to begin the rebuttal I’m just going to summarize her reasoning. Ultimately, her desire is to have a relationship that is established and perpetuated based on feelings of love. A desire that does not seem unreasonable on a surface level. However, this single sentence also perfectly explains why she does not want to marry her boyfriend in a civil or religious ceremony of any kind. She does not want to marry him, because the admitted basis of her relationship is loving feelings alone, and she is not sure that she will always have those feelings for him. She hopes she will, but she is not sure, and therefore does not want the permanence of a marriage that would bind her to this man until death (or now as is more common divorce) do they part.
Regrettably, some of her reluctance probably also stems from the fact that not only is her boyfriend previously divorced, but to use her own words “my parents got divorced when I was 2 years old, and several of my relatives have divorced as well: grandparents, aunts, uncles, great-aunts and uncles, cousins. So I didn’t grow up thinking of marriage as the only way to ensure the longevity of a relationship.” In the culture she grew up in, the security of lasting love was not sealed by marriage, as I admit it was and still is in mine (my parents are going on 31 years and they still only have eyes for each other- and a few celebrities that neither expect to have an actual shot with). So because in her experience, love has never been taught or modeled as anything other than feelings, it can be terminated when those feelings no longer remain. She might even unconsciously, yet mistakenly, associate the unchangeable nature of love with the changeable nature of feelings.
Because as much as our culture worships feelings, and uses them to justify many actions (both noble and ignoble) the problem with associating the nature of love with the nature of feelings is that they are not exactly the same thing. Love can and should be the ultimate pillar of a healthy marriage, but love encompasses so much more than mere feelings. Because, while feelings can be a source of stimulation, inspiration, and affirmation, they can also be capricious, unreliable, and especially selfish- because the first feelings I’m aware of in every circumstance without fail are my own. While being able to process emotions in a healthy way is important, selfishness is the antithesis of love. True and authentic marriage is not about you being perpetually satisfied with your partner (although here’s hoping!). True and authentic marriage, true and authentic love, is about surrender. Learning to transcend your own will and your own feelings and instead placing the will and feelings of your spouse above your own. That’s hard to do. That’s why Catholic marriage is a Sacrament, because the grace of God is required to overcome your human nature (i.e. putting yourself first.) Love is not a cultural construct meant to be figured out by each individual couple and then shown off to the world as a trophy (which I constantly see advertised as the purpose of modern marriage.) It is instead a journey that two people take together, standing on the shoulders of those who have walked the path before them, because while the journey will look different for each couple the trail’s end has a common destiny that binds its travellers together: heaven.
Now, as a woman, does this view automatically qualify me as the ultimate sub-servient anti-feminist who lives to serve her man without any thought to herself at all, as outlined in the “offensive” virtuous woman propaganda of old? It shouldn’t. Because if both the husband and wife are trying to place the will of their spouse above their own who wins? They both do. Because ultimately they are each learning to love unselfishly and be loved by each other unconditionally, the way God loves them and desires to be loved by them. (Mind boggling isn’t it?)
So when this girl says “I love my boyfriend, but I never want to get married” I question whether or not she knows the essence of true love in the first place.
And I can only hope she finds out because in my mind love is the reason we’re alive.