With Valentine’s Day looming, legions of men are plotting marriage proposals to their girlfriends. But we must stay strong, women, and not be lured in by this “season of romance,” because take it from me: marriage is not all it’s cracked up to be. As a woman who’s been there, done that, and getting a divorce, I implore you to skip the walk down the aisle. Here are 11 reasons to not to make that heterosexual romance legal.
1) Despite the modern PC sheen of “inclusivity” and “equality,” marriage is still that same old patriarchal institution
Same-sex marriage is now legal in the U.S. While this is a huge historical milestone in terms of the fight to end American homophobia, it is important to remember that marriage is not simply an expression of love between two people. It is a legal and social institution engineered within a context of heterosexuality, which exists to benefit men and control women, initiated in order reinforce the notion of women as property. Thus, whenever the institution of marriage is celebrated, it is a celebration of this institution and its history.
It is tragically ironic that the rhetoric of the gay rights movement has fueled the patriarchal narrative positioning marriage as one of the most fundamental human rights and the utmost expression of love. This characterization of marriage ignores the entire history of marriage and its functional significance within male supremacy.
Yet, unfortunately, because of rallying on the left and liberals and progressives alike championing the “right to marry,” a feminist critique of marriage has fallen out of fashion, and today, feels decidedly old-school.
Regardless of the fact that mainstream discourse has moved on to more exciting “social justice” issues, the mundane reality of marriage for the vast majority of women, remains the same. That is:
2) Marriage benefits men and not women
Studies show that men benefit from marriage through an increase to their health, wealth, and happiness. Married women, however, are no better off than unmarried women.
This is because:
3) Being a wife sucks
The social norms of wifedom are bullshit. Husbands are depicted as bumbling oafs who can’t even dress themselves properly without their wives. Wives are expected to treat their husbands like incompetent children in domestic matters — to behave like their mothers, ensuring they are fed, washed, well-dressed, and that their things are organized.
Little is expected of men. They get married, but continue on with their careers as if they are still single. In fact, they’re often able to better focus on their careers once married, as a wife can take care of their domestic responsibilities. Furthermore, when married, men are viewed as more responsible and stable by their employers, and are more likely to be offered a promotion. Women who get married, on the other hand, are likely to be viewed with distrust by management, as it is assumed they will soon start having babies, go on maternity leave, and prioritize children over work.
Because men, in general, are likely to earn more money than women, the careers of husbands are valued over those of their wives. This translates to a broader prioritization of a husband’s time and labour. (“He needs his rest because he works so hard for the family.” “He needs to go out and blow off steam after a hard day at the office.” “Oh, he doesn’t have time for such trivial matters — he’s busy with more important things.”)
As young girls, we’re still taught that if we focus on becoming beautiful, desirable women, we’ll succeed in our supposed goal of landing a good husband to support us, so we can relax. But even if you have the “privilege” of staying home while your husband works, you still have to work… It’s just that your time and labour have no value. You’re expected to do everything you possibly can for your husband, because you don’t contribute to the family like he does. (He doesn’t have time to organize his closet — you should do it for him, house-wifey, despite the fact you both technically worked the same amount of hours today.)
Despite supposed gains in marriage equality, studies show that even when both partners are employed, women still do the bulk of the housework and childcare. Thus, men are freed up to maintain a healthy social life. After work, for example, it’s totally normal for husbands to still go out for drinks with the boys. (They’ve earned it, after all). The social life of women, however, takes a sharp turn after marriage…
4) If you’re getting married thinking you’ll never be lonely again, buckle up, because marriage is totally isolating!
I never felt so lonely as I did when I was married. Sure, I saw my husband every day, and we relished our time together, but things change when you get married.
You’re no longer a single girl who can go out, mingle and meet people, join organizations, or do whatever you please. You’re married. Now your husband is your family, and social norms dictate that family comes first. You are allowed, as a wife, to have some friends, but only when it is convenient. After work, before dinner, maybe you can meet for a coffee. Or maybe you can get lunch with your gal-pals while your husband is hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range. In other words, you can have friends during your free time, so long as that socializing never impinges on the time you’re supposed to be spending on or with your husband.
This is the model of the nuclear family, which is so cruelly isolating – separating us from friends and community. It is still considered improper for a wife to become heavily involved in unpaid community or political activities if it means too much time away from her family.
When you’re not married and just in a relationship, it’s the opposite model. You come first, along with your passions and activities. If a person fits in with your life, and it also works for them, then you can be together. While you both might make sacrifices and not hang out with friends as often as you would if you didn’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend, it is the norm to prioritize yourself, first and foremost.
Now, you might be thinking, “But at least being married means you get to have all the great sex you want with someone you love, right?” Well, actually…
5) The sex stops being good
Ask any woman who’s been married for over a year. I’m not exactly sure why the sex stops being good. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that your husband is legally entitled to you, sexually, in a state-sanctioned “conjugal relationship.” (This is a term that was used in Canadian Immigration documents when I was filling them out, and it skeeved me out every time I read it!) Maybe it’s because you are literally in a legal contract that says you can only have sex with this one person for the rest of your life… But it kind of sucks the romance and adventure out it.
And you’d better believe your husband expects sex. When was the last time you had sex? A week ago? You better do it soon! Suddenly you’re on this weird, obligatory sex schedule that extends before you for eternity, with no end in sight, save your death (or his).
Despite the stress and emotional, political, or psychological discomfort, wives still try to meet the demands of the sex schedule in order to make their husbands happy. The idea of “maintenance sex” is a universally uncontested thing, for example. An entire industry now exists in order to capitalize on this phenomenon and endless books, blogs, and magazine articles are dedicated to teaching women how to “get back in touch” with their sex drives. Women try desperately, through the self-help industry and, now, pharmaceutical prescriptions, to force themselves to find sex with their husbands appealing again and to live up to societally-dictated standards that decide what our “sex lives” should be. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration really did approve flibanserin, aka the “female viagra,” a drug that attempts to chemically alter women’s lack of “desire” for their male partner.
There’s something about just being in a relationship, but not married, that can make sex more appealing. Perhaps it’s because you’re not committed to a lifelong sex schedule and, for all you know, your relationship is just temporary – really, you can leave any time. Which brings me to my next point:
6) When you’re not married, you can leave your dude at any time
This is awesome if you think about it. If you don’t like your dude, you can just… leave. If he turns into a huge jerk, just leave. Or maybe you just aren’t feeling him, anymore. Maybe you have your eye on someone else. Maybe you met him when you were both studying Botany, but you’re not so into that plant science stuff anymore and you two don’t have much to talk about… You can just break up! Sure, it sucks to move out all your junk and find a new place to live (if you even lived together), but there are no complicated legalities like there are in a divorce.
When you can leave your dude at any time, the power dynamics are different. He can’t take you for granted as much as if you were his wife. You’re not his family, you’re not his mom, and you don’t belong to him for life. The two of you are more akin to roommates. You both do your thing, and it may last a really long time, but it might not. It depends on how your separate lives go and if you’re both still enjoying the arrangement.
Breaking up with a dude is great and easy. But when you want a marriage to end, it is another beast, entirely.
7) Getting divorced is difficult and annoying
Getting married is very simple. You both go to the courthouse and sign a piece of a paper. DONE! Getting divorced, however, is 10 times more complicated. It seems like the system is set up so it’s easy to lure women into marriage, but then extremely difficult for them to get out of it… Almost like it was set up in a patriarchy or something! And it is women who usually want out of the marriage, with over two-thirds of divorces in the U.S. initiated by wives.
8) Getting married doesn’t make you an adult.
This is a touchy point, because marriage is held near and dear to so many as an important rite of passage in adult life. There are so few rituals left in our society, it’s no surprise that we are so attached to weddings… We’re desperate. (And it’s no wonder that current zeitgeist is obsessed with personal identity, considering there is little meaning ascribed to anything outside of consumerism and the accumulation of wealth.)
Marriage is one of the last rituals we have. When you get married, everyone in the world recognizes and celebrates you for doing so. You visibly display a symbol of your commitment on your finger. The relationship with the person you marry is legitimized as a serious thing, worthy of your efforts.
And suddenly, you seem like a responsible person… a proper adult! People call you Mrs. or Ma’am, and so they should. You did that thing you’re supposed to do. And look how good you are for not doing it too late in life! That means you’re a desirable, together person, because it didn’t take you too long to “land” a husband, right?
We just live in a shitty patriarchal society wherein a woman’s relationship with her man-owner is validated as the most important thing in her life. As such, all other relationships are devalued as frivolous and inessential — no more important than a hobby. You don’t suddenly become more of an adult when you get married. The world might treat you as if that’s the case, but those social norms are the result of a long history in which marriage was used for the purpose of trading women among men – from father to husband.
9) Weddings are overrated
You’ll probably be ill on your wedding day, anyway. There’s so much planning, you’re so nervous, the entire thing is one big photo-shoot, and it’s supposed to be the most important day of your life. It’s so much pressure. I recommend going to other people’s weddings, instead. It’s way more fun.
Or better yet, just throw a big party with all of your friends and family! Isn’t that all we ever really wanted, anyway??
10) If you want to get married to “lock down” your dude, don’t worry — you can always find another one
Men are everywhere. Look over there: A dude. Look over here: Another one. Look out your window: A bunch of dudes! Though your current dude may seem totally special and UNLIKE ANY OTHER, this is a delusion.
The dude is a simple creature. His male privilege has created a comfortable bubble, in which he has not been forced to confront the complexities of the world. As a less complex archetype than his female counterpart, he is more easily replaceable. Dudes are everywhere, and they’re always available.
Think of the last time you tried to hang out with your best female friend. You probably had to schedule two weeks in advance… This is partly because women are required to do more in terms of maintaining their health and appearances, but also because women tend to be more involved in various activities, taking care of others, and are constantly maximizing their time.
Dudes are just chillin’. They have time to play video games, for crying out loud. If you call a dude to hang out, surprise surprise, he’s totally free and can meet you later. Give him a chance, and you might find that he’s just as unremarkable as the last one!
11) Why not just be a spinster?
Picture this: There is no man in your life. There are no children in your life (to whom you gave birth). Your life is all about YOU. You selfishly indulge in whatever activities you want. Your home environment is set up to be perfect for your needs. All of your resources and efforts are invested in you.
Is that really such a sad life? Being a spinster does not mean solitude or a life of emptiness. You can find sisterhood, friendship, community, and political solidarity. In fact, when there is no man in your life, there can be so much more of all of these things. You can even have children, if you like. You can be an unmarried mother, or have non-biological children. You can have nieces and nephews, to whom you don’t even need to be related by blood. You can help take care of your friend’s baby and watch them grow. You can mentor a girl in your community. You can teach a class for kids. There is a wealth of possibilities.
We’ve been socialized by the patriarchy to think there is only one path to take: find a man and give him all your love and energy. But this need not be the case. Why not devote your life to yourself, instead of a man?
Seriously, do yourself a favour: Don’t get married.