I’ve been thinking about marriage a lot lately. That’s partly because I’m approaching 30 and it feels like it's pretty much required to be at least thinking about marriage if you’re not already married with babies as you get into your late twenties. (Oh hey there, cultural expectations and biological clock!) It’s also because my boyfriend and I have been together long enough that friends and family feel like it’s fine to pester us about our future plans, which is… whatever. So yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage and one thing that keeps coming up is that maybe marriage doesn’t have to be the lifelong, monogamous commitment that I’ve always thought it should be.
Let me explain. First of all, I have multiple friends who have hit 30 with one divorce under their belts already. And while divorce that young may seem extreme, divorce in general definitely isn’t anymore. Just take a look at the oft-cited statistic that half of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce now. That means that the odds are stacked against me that my someday-and-future-marriage will last until we both die peacefully in our beds, holding hands as we go off into the next life together.
The other thing I think about a lot is the fact that people live a hella long time now. So, let’s say I got married at 30 and lived until 90, not an unreasonable age considering how old people in both my parent’s families have lived. That means I’d be married to the same person for 60 years! I can’t even fathom what that means! I mean, damn, I can’t even fathom what I’ll be doing 10 years from now, much less 20 or 30 or 40. Is it realistic to expect to find someone who will be down with all the different versions of me that are waiting in the future? The mommy me? The menopausal me? The crotchety old lady me? (‘Cause you can bet I’m gonna be a badass old lady.)
But while I don’t believe in “the one,” I would like to believe that I could weather all the different storms of life with one person by my side. Call me old-fashioned, call me naive, but I look to my parent’s marriage and I want what they have. I want someone who will look at me at 80 and see all of the versions of me still hiding in there. I want someone to celebrate the birth of my children and my children’s children with me and I want that same person to be there to hold me when my parents die.
At the same time, those wants and expectations feel like a lot of pressure, both on myself and on my partner. And one of the things that helps me ease off some of that pressure is thinking about different things that marriage can mean, other than a lifelong monogamous commitment. I’m not saying I necessarily want any of these options to be my future, but just considering the fact that there are other possibilities makes me feel less stressed about the whole thing. Here are six of them.
1. A Partnership For Raising Kids
It's no secret that raising children alone is hard. Some people decide to get married so they can raise kids together. A lot of marriages end after the kids have gone away to college because, well, they've kind of served their purpose. And maybe it's time to admit that that's more OK than we thought.
2. A Financial Agreement
Two incomes are better than one and people of all genders have been known to get hitched because of financial reasons. As long as both parties know that's what it's about and no one is laboring under the illusion that it's a love-match only, who am I to say that's "wrong?"
3. A Polyamorous Marriage
Some people are down to love lots of different people at once. Again, as long as all involved parties are informed and consenting, who does it hurt? Who says marriage has to be monogamous? A lot of poly folks would argue that it shouldn't be.
4. An Open Marriage
While poly people believe in being romantically involved with multiple partners, an open relationship can be a little less... involved. Every couple can decide what's OK and what's not OK when it comes to how open their marriage will be.
5. A Monogamish Marriage
"Monogamish" is a term coined by sex advice guru Dan Savage. It means you're monogamous most of the time but there are certain allowances about outside sexual contact. Maybe you have threesomes together, or sex outside the marriage is only OK on business trips. Monogamish, then, is a special type of open marriage.
6. An End Of Life Marriage
Who's gong to begrudge some old folks for tying the knot so that they can go out together? Definitely not me.
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