I was married once. When I mention this, people often ask how long it lasted, and 11 years seems to satisfy them that, yes, I did give it the good college try and do understand what this marriage business is all about. I was divorced at the age of 30, and now that I’m in my 40s, I have become increasingly certain I’ll never marry again.
It’s not because I haven’t had the option. I’ve had two (or three, depending on how you count) long-term relationships since then. But in each case, I came to realize that marriage just didn’t seem to make sense for many reasons.
1. I don’t want children (or more children)
I have an amazing, beautiful daughter who is an adult, and I have no desire to have more. Tying the knot for the purpose of having children is a non-issue for me.
2. The institution of marriage seems outdated to me
Once upon a time, it brought people together in cohesive units that spurred economic progress and ensured stability for children. But how does it make sense when two adults are independent earners, there is little-to-no stigma in living together sans a legal document and no children are at play?
3. I don’t want to care about your decisions
I don’t want to have to care deeply about someone else’s decisions when I put so much effort into my own, and I don’t want to have to change the way I shop for food or the way I’ve set up my TV to accommodate someone else’s preferences. I have a beautiful rhythm to life that I’ve come to appreciate as all my own, even if life is chaotic now and then. This isn’t to say that two people can’t figure out good systems; they can. It just takes a lot of coordination and time, and I have too little energy for that as it is.
4. I highly value my independence
The financial reality of splitting expenses and combining money holds little appeal for me. I love my work, and I do a ton of work beyond my formal job writing, speaking and building my skills. If my partner doesn’t work as hard, I don’t want to resent him. And of course, in the worst-case scenario, if we split up, I would take a huge financial hit (unless I jump through endless legal hoops to prevent this). Even on a day-to-day basis, I want to spend my money on the things I value, and I don’t want to care about my partner’s spending habits.
5. I’m a realist
People change. The notion of permanence is romantic—that you feel so deeply and passionately about a person that you think marrying is the best way of expressing this. However, my life experience has confirmed a different narrative that is probably much closer to the truth: I have fallen in love with the perfect person for me in the perfect moment several times over. The two of us offered something important and unique that we both needed and found in one another, but we change, we evolve and we learn more about who we are. It’s almost silly to think that we can be everything to each other forever.
6. I’m happy (happiest?) when I’m single
I love companionship, but I’ve also come to realize how happy I am when I’m single. Many people marry because they’re scared of the prospect of being alone. But I’ve accumulated evidence of my levels of happiness with and without a partner. Turns out, I’m pretty darn happy with both, but when a relationship starts to deteriorate, I get very unhappy. When I’m single, I might occasionally yearn for companionship, but my happiness levels are off the charts.
Social narratives tell us that marriage is just the thing you do when you become responsible and want to “settle down.” We’re instilled with the fear of being alone and dying alone, but marriage is certainly not a guarantee against this. For those of us who are fiercely independent and have our own established lives, there’s no reason that marriage should be considered the only or best choice. For some people it may be, but for the rest of us, we’ll take our alone time and live happily ever after.
Julie Clow, author of The Work Revolution: Freedom and Excellence for All, is an advocate for unconventional thinking about work and life.