Diary: Why Do We Want to Get Married Anyway?

We’ve been married for over a year now, and this piece still hits! It was first published in the I Heart column in the Santa Barbara Sentinel as “What’s With the Ring?” in March 2019. Can you relate? Please share in the comments below!

Diary: Why Do We Want to Get Married Anyway?

I want to get married, and some of my California friends wonder why.

I blame my family. The strongest relationships I grew up around were married couples. So, no matter how long I live on the West Coast, consuming Reishi mushroom tea and açai bowls, I’m still a traditional girl at heart.

Because marriage, to me, means security. That you’re wanted and desired. It means you both chose each other over everyone else in the world. And as far as your love life is concerned, you’ve figured out that part.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. Rings come off, people get divorced, and relationships end.

As a woman in her late thirties, I have enough experience to know the risks involved when committing to another. For example, you have your dreams and goals, then suddenly, you fall in love and want to build a life with another who has dreams and goals of their own.

Then, the give-and-take begins: How much are you willing to compromise? What sacrifices are at stake?

I recently spoke with three women about marriage—two in relationships, all with careers. The first, a single woman in her early thirties, could take marriage or leave it.

“Sounds pretty archaic to be ‘owned’ by another, don’t you think?” she said. “But if the relationship goes down that road, I don’t know…it just depends on the person I meet.”

The second woman, about thirty-four, had been with her partner for over seven years and was in the midst of in vitro fertilization when he proposed.

“Honestly? I don’t care about a wedding,” she said. “I just wanted the ring.”

To her, in vitro didn’t mean commitment. The ring did.

The third woman, in her late twenties, said the same thing. She doesn’t want a legal union but went on to explain a pretty memorable event, including a ceremony in front of family and friends with maybe a few monetary kickbacks thrown in.

And to be clear, it isn’t a diamond the women are after. Just a ring.

Millennial women are paving a new path, just as generations have before. But instead of saying, “I do,” commitment now exists in the form of a shiny metal band. It seems the modern woman is more interested in a committed relationship than actually making it official.

Maybe with high divorce rates in our country, getting married means an eventual end to some women. So, instead of throwing out the concept altogether, they’re redefining a committed relationship to fit their taste—something less intimidating but with the same bells, whistles, and Instagramable moments involved.

And if it’s the commitment they’re after, instead of a white wedding, isn’t that more meaningful?

The other night, Chris and I were in the galley of our sailboat. He was texting with a high school friend who now lives in Puerto Vallarta.

“I’m excited to introduce you to him,” he said, “as my beautiful girlfriend, soon-to-be wife!”

My heart melted, yet a wave of nerves hit me all at once. Although we’ve discussed marriage many times (and he’d already asked my father for my hand in marriage), hearing the word “wife” made it hard to swallow.

Maybe my friends’ non-committal vibe was rubbing off on me after all. I see marriage as similar to a business contract and the ring, a down payment. I need to be sure the other party is equally at risk before investing more time, money, and work (both emotional and physical) into a future together.

After a certain point in your adult life, you’ve got to put your heart aside and use your head. And as unromantic as it sounds, you learn that romance in an intimate partnership becomes merely incidental. (So you’ve got to put in the effort and prioritize it!)

The day I met Chris, my life completely altered to include another, which turned out to be a great adventure and learning experience all its own. Though being with Chris is something I want, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic.

I think back to my single days when I dated men of all ages and learned so much about myself – my likes, dislikes, and, more importantly, how I wanted to evolve.

Single life was exciting, sometimes scary, spontaneous, and free. In a way, I miss the time when the path of a committed relationship had yet to be traveled.

But I find myself in a similar space again. In an area in our relationship that has yet to be defined. Where the terms “husband and wife” do not exist and the delicate space on my ring finger remains untouched and unclaimed, save only for me. ⚓️

What about you? What are your thoughts on marriage – why do you want or not want to get married? Please share in the comments below!

If you liked this, you’d love this story when Chris said he DIDN’T want to marry me and how I responded. Yeah, WTF.

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  1. I understand this feeling of not wanting a formal legal marriage but I want a ring, anything will do, that shows the world I’m not just his “girlfriend” and is infinitely meaningful. We love each other and are committed but the term girlfriend at my age of 39 and his 45 seems like a younger definition, a for now type of thing. He’s dated other girls before me for 2-3 years and it ended. I want physical proof our love won’t just end if something happens. I was married and divorced and he was married but she passed 11 years ago. He’s the first msn I’ve actually dated and love more than anyone prior, he’s dated but in my opinion something happened and he ran; I want him to confirm that we are different and our relationship is true and pure. He has said he wants to create a ring for me so I’m hopeful. Thank you for listening!

    • Kelley!
      Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful insight into your relationship. That makes complete sense, and I would feel the same if marriage wasn’t the door I chose. You’re right, the terms “boy” and “girl” friend seems to belittle the quality of a relationship in your middle adult years. Not to say you can’t have it in your teens and twenties. But there is something to say about age and wisdom and melding as more fully embodied/grown/settled/ humans. I’ve asked many couples together 30+ years about advice on a strong relationship. It boils down to things like deciding on a person you enjoy being around, someone you love & lust after, and – to be quite blunt – you can deal with when they trigger you because it will happen! 🙂 Supporting, loving, and working as a team to build a life(style) together are a few foundations of a strong partnership, and it sounds like you and your partner have that in boatloads.💙 Thank you so much again for sharing, Kelley! So nice to know you as a fellow POCF!!! xo