by Rachael the Lord
My fingers were fumbling over thick piles of paper, momentarily bringing my index finger or thumb to my tongue to wet the pages, making them easier to separate, before trying to count through endless piles of papers that needed to be filed when my co-worker at the time asked, “Do you ever feel pressured to get married?”
The corners of my lips tugged at a smile before responding, “Yes. Is that even a question?”
We both laughed at how ridiculous her question was.
Funny, right? I guess sometimes it is, but many times it isn’t.
I grew up in a very Christian household and was doused in Christian culture where marriage was deemed something that every woman should aspire to.
The pressure of getting married was always thrown on the backs of women in the church. At youth group gatherings, especially as a teenager, we had to sit and listen at how amazing marriage is and how we are to wait until god sends us (women) our spouses.
Amazing how fervent churches preach about how marriage is a necessity and something to aspire to when many divorces were happening in the church and many people are blatantly unhappy with their marriages.
I remember attending a Christian college the first half of my undergraduate career and hearing my peers say they make Pinterest boards of their marriages.
I’m not judging you, I promise, but I’ve noticed that as women we place our identities in marriage because society teaches women that their price goes up when they get married.
Can we deconstruct this? Marriage is a legal union of two people — keyword here is legal. Marriage can be a lot more important than describing if we are going to serve shrimp or smoked salmon at a wedding, especially when children are involved.
Marriage can be really beautiful, hopeful and full of joy, but the law recognizes it as a way to share a number of components like: taxes, child support, property, assets, etc.
I’m not sure why we weren’t taught that in these youth group gatherings but I sure wish we had.
One of my qualms with the church is that we do not give the full story, we paint everything as if it’s going to be perfect with God. Marriage, as I remember, was painted as this partnership ordained by God and that this path was the only path, especially for women to be happy.
Actually, as I write this my heart grows heavy because I remember sitting in my dorm room praying for a husband as if a husband was the thing to make me feel whole.
I often have conversations with various women about marriage, many of whom know that I have been in a relationship for two and half years now, and scoff when I say we do not have many conversations about marriage.
Marriage is not the first thing on my mind. When we first started dating we knew for whatever purpose and power of the universe that we are supposed to be together and that we loved each other very deeply, but not once have I said that we need to be together because we are supposed to be married.
I’m not saying I do not want to be married, or that marriage isn’t beautiful. In many relationships, marriage is a testament to what true love looks like. It’s more than pleasant to see couples work through the wiles that life throws at them and come out covered in debris still loving each other – that’s a phenomenon.
However, society and religious traditions pressure women into centering marriage as a part of our identities. This is what I came here to challenge.
My identity does not start and begin with marriage. I will not act as a byproduct of my spouses’ happiness or pleasure for the sake of garnering false value.
I will not sacrifice my career or life goals because you think I should bind myself to marriage. We also have to recognize the sexist overtones that accompany telling women to get married.
What you are saying is that a woman has no worth outside of being married to a man.
Women are not mules and many millennial women are beginning to understand that the choice is theirs. If a woman chooses to marry, so be it. If a woman chooses not to marry, so be it.
As I get older and see my friends getting married and beginning a new verse in their lives, I have to admit that the pressure to force these conversations into my space draws nigh.
As I get older, the possibility (or not) of having children with this man grows nigh but I try my hardest to allow this to be my decision and my decision only.
Marriage is not like choosing which outfit I’m going to wear the next day; it can make or break me. Marriage can build me up or tear me the hell down.
Society needs to make vigorous strides to allow women to feel protected in their choice to marry or not marry. Society needs to make it a priority to not pressure women or hypnotize us to believe that our worth begins and ends in marriage.
Quit making fun of women who you see are older and not married, and thinking they have failed because they have not married. Your marriage may be an accomplishment for you, but it is not an accomplishment for others.
I’m 23 and I’ve been in a relationship with the same guy for two and half years. I’m very happy. I’m not ruling marriage out but I’m also not prioritizing it — I have dreams and goals that I think about before all of that.
The marriage ring does not rule them all.
Rachael is a writer. Find her on rachaelthelord.com.