I’m in my mid-twenties now and I’m starting to see a lot of smitten couples around me get engaged. Naturally, in my own coming of age it’s gotten me wondering about whether marriage, or more specifically having one partner for life, is still a practical custom in the era of Generation Y.
Now, to preface my thoughts I’m going to start by saying that this does not necessarily reflect my future personal life choices, nor is it my intent to chastise anyone for choosing to get married. I’m simply presenting some ideas to consider before tying the knot, given today’s world.
The first question I’ll present here is, are humans meant to have only one partner for life? Tradition and society both tell us yes, and while many couples can and do make it work, statistics suggest this might not be the case for many others. Numerous researchers view monogamy as a social construct. In a report by Live Science, Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington stated that “monogamy is invented for order and investment – but not necessarily because it’s ‘natural.’”
In the same article it was suggested that humans are “mildly polygynous,” meaning that there is biological incentive for males to mate with multiple females as it presents the opportunity to produce more offspring, and therefore pass on the genes.
Apart from the scientific facts, common life experiences can tell anyone that people change throughout their lives. Maturity level differs throughout the years. Interests and preferences change. I like to compare this scenario to young people going to college.
I’d like you to think back to when you were 18 or 19 years old choosing a college major. I’m willing to bet that whatever you chose back then is not what you’re currently doing with your life. Personally, If I was forced to work in the field I chose when I was a freshman in college I’d currently be an astronomer. That seemed pretty cool at the time, but experiences down the road made me realize I would be absolutely miserable had I stuck with that path.
My point here is that people change. And that’s not necessarily a bad or unnatural thing. Do I wish I was of the same maturity level I was at age 18? Hell no. Priorities change as people get older. People drift apart. It’s just a part of human nature.
The institution of marriage has proven also to be fairly noninclusive if you do not identify as a monogamous heterosexual person. Those who do not identify as monogamous are often times left off of the marriage train, as presently marriage between more than two people is not legal in any Western country. Fortunately the national legalization of gay marriage in the United States this summer was quite a big step for the LGBTQ community, and I suspect that the future will bring more social reform. For the time being however, marriage as an institution is not inclusive of everyone.
I’m hopeful that the future will bring more inclusivity and social progress with regard to marriage and our fixation on monogamy, but in the year 2015, frankly, I think marriage is a little outdated. Does this mean it can’t be reformed in the future? Nope. Does it make you a bad person if you are currently married or plan to get married in the future? Absolutely not. As a society we need to be more accepting of non-monogamy and non-heterosexual relationships and only then will marriage necessarily be regarded as a progressive institution.
I’ll end my thoughts with a quote from The Washington Post:
“Although society cherishes monogamy, the expectation of exclusive sexual activity is unsustainable for most couples. We may need to investigate other relationship models: open arrangements, or what sex columnist Dan Savage calls ‘monogamish‘ relationships, in which couples have flings, affairs or threesomes. These ways of loving, along with polyamorous relationships and even singlehood, should be as equally valued in our culture as monogamy.”
Photo courtesy of Roddy Chung Photography