In the November 2nd issue of The Highlander, Fatema Shalabi wrote an opinion piece arguing that the proclivity of younger people to reject marriage in favor of long-term dating is damaging to the emotional well-being of both the romantic partners and to any potential children that they might have. However, the piece fails to properly characterize the reasons behind this proclivity, painting an incomplete picture about the nature of relationships and marriage.
The essential nature of marriage is that it’s a commitment that should last for an entire life. For any other lifelong commitment, especially with a decision that will impact every facet of their life, many people simply won’t want to make that commitment. For instance, many people think that tattoos are cool but won’t get one due to its permanence. However, for previous generations, it was culturally expected that everyone made the lifelong commitment of marriage. Once it became less frowned upon to divorce, over half of these marriages ended. This divorce rate is the consequence of an enormous cultural expectation for universal marriage: unhappy people who want to get out of their decision. What we’re seeing now in younger people is merely the reasonable course of action when faced with a gargantuan decision like marriage. And while children growing up in happily married households is ideal, having multiple households with their parents having rotating partners is often better than being raised by two people who despise each other.
Marriage is a decision that can last more than twice as long as the age of the people making it, and the way people grow over time is intensely difficult to predict. If people don’t want to make a commitment that has the very reasonable possibility of being bad for them in the future, then they shouldn’t make that commitment.