Pressure to settle

I don’t understand why at this point in American history, there is this pressure to settle down, this feeling that I need to get married and start having a family because I’m going to miss out on it later or I’m selfish if I don’t want to at this juncture, or what is to me the most salient reason: that I will live some kind of isolated existence if not.

More wretched than all of that, in my view, is marrying before one is ready, before one is comfortable enough with oneself, because if that is not the case, it’s natural to look for a partner who can affirm you in a way you cannot. Most people who have gone through a break up have had to go through that stage of piecing oneself together, as well as recognizing qualities that were ignored or suppressed in the relationship, because we felt validated enough by having a partner.

A break-up is a very worthwhile experience, as is so much pain that comes out of taking emotional risks–and professional risks. But how much worse it would be to have to go through all of this if a marriage dissolves, plus doing a bunch of arduous legal stuff.

I do not think this feeling we have to settle has caught up with a modern reality . Historically, people got married for all of these reasons that we are now fortunate enough not to have to deal with, especially young gainfully employed people like myself. Women and men can independently earn incomes to support ourselves, we can seek out emotional support in a variety of ways not including marriage or a romantic partner, we can take time to explore our interests and piece together some semblance of what we want to do in life.

This was not always the case. When people bemoan the divorce rate or the lack of marriage among the younger generations, I wonder if they would volunteer to go back to the eras that they glorify. Any volunteers want to go back to the 1950s, when women had to prove adultery to divorce? Or the 1800s when most women did not have the choice of working, and those who did needed to to supplement the meager income of their husbands? We don’t even have to time travel. We can just hop over to many Middle Eastern or African nations where women have no choice in the matter. Men marry and keep a chaste wife and philander. Any volunteers?

Many areas of person growth are sacrificed a bit for marriage, and it is I am sure in many cases a worthwhile sacrifice, but I don’t understand why we feel the need to hurry into it. If I didn’t live in New York City, this pressure would be even worse, I’m sure of it. Most friends in other cities are married or getting there or all of their friends are married.

I guess perhaps I speak to myself more than anyone else on this issue. For each person this is different I’m sure, but it’s something that has been on my mind.