When Oscar Wilde spoke the words that make the title to this post through the mouth of his character in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’, he was commenting on the familiarity between two people that inevitably follows marriage. To put this in proper context, in the Victorian era, courtship was typically very short, but marriage typically lasted a lifetime, – or at least ’til death of one of the parties involved, did they part. Marriage was usually not motivated by feelings of love, but rather an alliance of power or resources, and love (as we consider it) was more of a rare and happy bonus. Due to this, it wasn’t uncommon for married partners in that period to find themselves feeling stuck for life with people they grew to dislike or even resent.
In modern times, let’s apply Wilde’s comment to any long-term romantic relationship, especially when partners cohabitate. Let’s just nix notions of power alliances, and talk about the everyday men and women who marry nowadays. All we really need to do to accomplish this is replace courtship with the honeymoon phase of dating, – that cute little term we use to describe the period when two people are thoroughly enamoured with one another because they really don’t know one another quite yet. After a certain amount of time, the newness and excitement about a romantic partner subsides, and warm feelings either dwindle or they cement into a deeper kinship or a deeper kind of love. This is a handy contrast to the days of yore, because by the time that feelings dwindled (as they did then, and still do, in most cases), people found themselves legally bound to individuals who were really not a good match for them. In this era, even when this is the case and the romance dies, people don’t necessarily feel stuck for life in marriages, and that is something.
Ability to date for extended lengths of time, or share a domicile without the prerequisite of marriage, should theorectically serve to pre-empt the need to unbind the legal ties of marriage. We should take advantage of the luxury of time afforded to us by the modern status quo to discern whether or not we should marry a specific person, based on our assessments of how well we can grow as people with said person. We should, but of course we don’t. Divorce rates are through the roof. Why? Because people are generally pretty stupid, and they allow initial feelings of ‘romance’ to interfere with their judgment. They still make major, life-altering, promises to one another without fully thinking them through. With the wide acceptance of pre-marital sex, and the acceptance of extended periods of courtship and cohabitation without nuptual ties, we have also seen the acceptance of high divorce rates. Now, I realise that I am treading on dangerous grounds in what I am about to say here, but this won’t stop me from saying it. I don’t believe that the latter phenomenon (acceptance of high divorce rates) is rationally congruent with the first two (acceptance of pre-marital sex, and acceptance of extended periods of courtship). In fact, the latter two things really ought to go a fair way to ensure that occurances of the first are depreciated. Should they not?
Unless I wake up one day to learn that my fiancé is a serial killer, and I was somehow completely oblivious to his serial-killing ways (or vice versa), I believe that I know him well enough to difinitively say that we are a pretty great match. We bring out the best in one another, our core values are in sync, we challenge one another (this is especially important to both of us), and we are a team in every sense of the concept. We have been together for about 5 years, and we are both confident that we can grow and develop as individuals, in cohort. I know that I am hardly the first person to feel this way, and there will always be extenuating circumstances or examples that will serve to prove that we could be wrong about our certainty. That’s okay, because we geniunely have done our best to be sure. Our best is only human, though. It is fallible. The point is that we have both done our due diligence and taken steps which we feel are necessary to negate the risk of divorce.
Disclaimer: I am aware that I am painting society-at-large with a fairly broad brush. I am speaking in general terms, and I fail to address many factors to increased divorce rates in this opinion piece. I am only addressing a small part of the picture, but I am doing so for what I believe to be fair reason: I am only addressing factors which one can control.
Funny enough, thorough knowledge (thus, an informed decision on marriage) is romance to me. I respectfully disagree with my pal Oscar Wilde’s implied definition of romance (sorry, Oscar!). In fairness, in Wilde’s social circles, relative to era, there was really no way around marrying someone that one did not know. Today, however, with the time we are afforded to learn about our partners and decide to either abandon, or continue to build, strong relationships, uncertainty is not romantic. It is nothing short of foolish. Marrying someone one has not seen under immense pressures, waiting for someone to change, or coupling up due to societal pressures, a ticking biological clock, or for financial gain, only increases the liklihood of relationship breakdown later down the road. There is nothing ‘romantic’ to me about inviting divorce. Evading this with a state of perpetual ignorance does not make for bliss, but it is impractical – and most likely impossible – to boot.
I contend that certainty is what makes for a lifelong romance and partnership. Yes, certainty.
I’m such a romantic, I know, right!
I will be 36 when I finally make it to the ‘altar’ (*ahem* civil ceremony) for the first time. This is not for lack of prior opportunity, but because I don’t consider marriage a necessary contract. I consider this kind of partnership a luxury that only certainty affords.
We have set our wedding date and booked our private ceremony in Malta for an undisclosed* day in June, 2018. The location and venue are mind-blowingly gorgeous, and our honeymoon there will be a vacation that we’ll both enjoy. We’re thrilled about it, but this happiness is not a pie-eyed Disney fantasy.
We don’t really feel that tying the knot will change the dynamic of our relationship, and that’s because it won’t. We’re already partners and we already have our hopes, dreams, projects, and plans, which we work toward together. We aren’t having children (except for our furry kiddo, of course), so there are no new foreseeable challenges outside of evolving careers, wealth management, and life phases, ahead of us. There have been challenges and strains in our past, including family illness and death, and a major career upheaval.
Yes, I am very excited about all of what lies ahead for my fiancé and me. No, I am not wearing white on my wedding day. And no, we are not inviting you to our ceremony. 🙃
I am excited about my marriage, not my wedding... and maybe we’ll live happily ever after. Statistically, this is more likely for our case than most marriages.
*This date is undisclosed because my fiancé feels that it is unwise to announce when we will be out of the country, for security reasons. See, a man after my own heart!