Perhaps it’s too early for me to be declaiming against marriage; I have, after all, never fallen in love. But marriage, like other variables that must be considered in planning one’s life, is something I have long thought through. And I’ve decided that marriage, like a law degree, is a path I don’t want to pursue. Of course, beliefs change, the best laid plans can go awry. When I was in high school, I was a preachy teetotaler; now I down vodka like it’s buko juice. When I was in kindergarten, I thought I couldn’t possibly marry before I turned 26—I wanted to be an astronomer then, and I knew that would take a helluva lot of years of study—but it was still part of my plans; now, I don’t want to get married at all.
It’s not that I am incapable of loving that much—some people may violently object to any suggestion that I may have a heart, but trust me, I can call in a barangay of witnesses to attest that I do have one. It’s not that I pale at the thought of commitment—all my life I have made and honored commitments to myself, to my family, to my friends, to initiatives, to ideas. I am a guarded person, but when it comes to loving, I am ready to dispense with my walls—but I do it on my own terms.
So why don’t I want to get married? Well, why should I want to?
I don’t deny that marriage is a great expression of faith and love, but it is not infallible, nor is it the only honorable affirmation of its kind. In our society, marriage seems like a natural progression in adulthood, a sign that one has indeed made something of oneself: you develop your identity; you get a job and become self-sufficient; you marry; you leave home (or not, the Filipino’s attachment to family being so notoriously strong). Yet in my short life I have witnessed many miserable marriages, some of them close to home, some of them irreparably sundered; I have seen happy marriages too, of course, but it is a human tendency to obsess over the dust specks that mar an ostensibly lovely, curtained window view.
When I was in grade school, my English teacher, Mrs. A___, said to me, “You’re a bright child, you’ll go far. But don’t marry young, as I did. I had to give up my dreams, and I’ve always regretted it. Kristine, don’t marry if you can help it.” I have often heard this advice repeated to me since then. I know that in our supposedly enlightened (but more probably hard up) times, a woman doesn’t have to give up her career anymore in order to rear a family. Yet, I still see those words reflected in the eyes of so many women; I hear them echoed in the angst-ridden, disdainful outbursts of their children.
But personal trauma is not the root of my objection to marriage; my reasons, instead, are practical and ideological: I don’t think getting married is necessary to achieve happiness with a long-term partner; I want to commit to a person (or persons), not to institutions I don’t even believe in.
Firstly, I think marriage is only advisable if you intend to raise a family—what with tax breaks and inheritance issues and fussy private Catholic schools that don’t enroll children out of wedlock. But since I adamantly refuse to procreate (indeed, if I could have a hysterectomy and not suffer hormonal disasters as a result, I would. But that is a different—and lengthy—story, to which I will not now digress), and I harbor no schemes of being the heiress of an MMMM (matandang mayamang madaling mamatay—a rich, old man just about to snuff it), then I see no practical advantages in getting married, especially when I am not overly concerned about social sanction.
Besides, what if the marriage fails? One cannot rule out this possibility. People change, hormones spike and fall, and one night you find yourself disturbed by the incessant impulse to throttle the husband snoring next to you. Divorce is not an option in this country; annulment is a tortuous and costly path; and murder will land you in jail. But you don’t want to be stuck in a loveless, damaging bond just because you imposed it on yourself in the first place. If you and your partner would stay together, stay because you want to, not because you have to and it’s such a pain to break free of your shackles. “All you need is love,” sang the Beatles, not “All you need is a judge, two witnesses, a piece of parchment, a pair of rings, and a resounding ‘I DO.’”
Secondly, I desire, as the Bard put it, a “marriage of true minds”—the kind that I think cannot be fully realized in a Catholic marriage or in a civil one. As an agnostic-deist—that means I subscribe to no religion—I don’t want to subject myself to those rituals that supposedly bind a man and a woman to each other in a covenant acceptable in the eyes of god. Kid Cudi would scream “fuck that,” while I would say, “Kebs.” And as a feminist, I have no desire to subject myself to a patriarchal, heteronormative institution that still gives the husband greater legal power over his wife and alienates a significant part of the population. And one only has to listen to the scriptures read at weddings to realize that as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, you, woman, mere by-product of man, daughter of errant Eve, should be given the raw end of the deal. I realize that antifeminist exploitation is not a corollary of marriage, provided that it’s with a suitable man—indeed, many of the women I admire, all feminists, have wonderful marriages with such men—but my gripes against the institution stand, and so I will not bind myself to it.
Do I hope to someday find someone to fall in love with, to share my life with, to embrace within and with whom expand my still severely bounded sense of self? Yes, I do. But when I do find him—if I ever find him—and he decides to stay through the years with me, it won’t be because of children, or shared properties, a sheet of paper, or a gold ring. It will be because he can’t bear the thought of not being part of my life, as much as I can’t bear the thought of not being part of his—knowing that we both can freely walk away from each other anytime we wish.
That, to me, is love.
That, to me, is commitment.
That, to me, is faith.
More about this topic:
“Please help me to understand … why our culture caters to something as ridiculous as an institutional confinement of love? … Marriage, in its most unconscious form, is simply a decision to live out an illusion that all will be well in the world if you just have one person to ‘save’ you”
Guess what, George Clooney doesn’t give “a nuptial damn” either. Interestingly (to me, at least), we have the same birthday.