I've noticed a trend of engagements among my friends, and basically, I just don't get it. The whole concept is weird. I mean, you choose to be with this person, and he/she chooses to be with you, right? So why make it a legal thing? Why change it from voluntary to mandatory? That's what marriage is, after all. It's a chain. It's a legal and/or religious bond that ties two people together so that they have a hell of a time trying to go their separate ways if they decide that that's what they need to do. In its current form, it was originally a transfer of ownership. "You don't belong to your father any more. Now, you belong to me," which is why the woman's last name was changed.
Personally, the idea of owning my lady is repugnant. And the idea of legally requiring her to stay with me.. how can you not start to question? After a while, how can you not start to wonder whether the person who is with you is with you because (s)he's on a leash, bound by an unseen chain between the rings you wear? I'd like to know that the reason my lady is with me is because she wants to be, not because she has to be. And if she decides that she doesn't want to be, she shouldn't be trapped by the law. The law isn't going to make a relationship work. I need to know that she can walk away any time, and so does she. And then it means something that neither of us does.
I can't see any possible advantages to being married. It strikes me as a remarkably stupid thing to do. I've heard all kinds of arguments for it, up to and including that if you stick a ring on your significant other, (s)he is not going to be able to cheat. Hello? If you have to brand your SO to stop him/her from cheating, there's a lot more wrong than a marriage can fix.
But people who are married, and believe in marriage, tend to get all condecending when you say things like this. They say that you'll understand when you find that special someone. They call it "taking the relationship to the next level," which is silly. If anything, it's doing quite the opposite. You take the training wheels off when the bike stays up by itself, you don't put them on. If you need some sort of externally imposed legal or religious bond to keep you together, you're not at "the next level." You shouldn't even be together. And they say that if you find someone special, you know that things will work. But that's my point. How do you know? How many people go into marriage knowing that they're going to be divorced? Almost everyone goes into marriage knowing that this is it. This is the person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life. And in 1998, at least 36% of them found out that they were wrong. And it's only getting worse. My last girlfriend and I were together for six years.
Let me clarify that:
How many people are together for six years before they get married? No one I know, certainly. And the breakup was ugly. No, seriously. It was ugly. Suppose we'd been married. It would have been so much worse with all of the legal things to take into account. The horror... and believe me, when we first got together, I didn't plan on having a horrific breakup six years later. So that whole thing about mystically knowing that it will work doesn't wash, because you can't see the future. You can't know.
And then, on a slightly different note, there are those people who not only marry, but don't even move in together before they do it. Do you have any idea how many marriages have been ruined because of the way he snores? Or the way she leaves the bathroom in the morning? People say that the important things are the little things, and these are the things that you don't see until you live with someone. You don't really get to know someone until you share your home with them. Shouldn't you try that before you legally bind yourself to them?
To put it another way, over the years I've known many married couples. About four of them are still together.
update: As of February 2002, make that three of them.
update: As of May 2005, make that two.