Why I regret getting married

Marriage doesn’t add anything to a relationship and I wish I hadn’t decided to get married

While the title of this post might appear to be clickbait, it really isn’t. I actually regret getting married. That isn’t a reflection on my wife but rather the institution of marriage, the social and cultural conditioning it’s responsible for and the reinforcing of gender and societal expectations. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of marriage.

I’ve always been open with my views on marriage so this won’t come as a surprise to my wife or those who know me. I’ve even co-written, with my wife, about why I don’t believe in the sanctity of marriage and she’s voiced her rationale for why she does. I’ve just always felt it to be a largely administrative and social construct that isn’t necessary if you’re already in union with another person. My decision to get married was because I was already in a committed relationship and ‘married’, albeit not in the legal sense.

By that token, getting married made absolutely no difference to me (hence my relaxed stance on something that would, on the contrary, make a difference to my wife).

Some years later, I feel differently and wish I had stood by my principles. I see a wedding as an expensive pantomime and a party under the guise of misleading us that marriage is a necessity for a relationship. Indeed, if weddings were generally more modest, it might be somewhat more convincing. So why did I allow myself to be an actor in a performance I wasn’t down with? Why did I not allow myself to be a champion of the unmarried in a committed relationship that eschewed marriage?

But more importantly, I’ve seen the notion of marriage permeate my relationship in ways that I’m not happy with. Furthermore, it’s arguably allowed my relationship to be overcast by shadows that may not have appeared had we remained unmarried.

My wife and I lived together before getting married, which was much more of a commitment than marriage itself. And now we have a child. Both are much more significant symbols of commitment than marriage. Yet for my wife, getting married remained important.

For context, my wife is of Indian descent. Within her culture, marriage is a huge measure of success. Success for parents in seeing their children (especially daughters) get married and success for the couple in hitting a milestone that is expected, not just desired, as part of life’s journey.

Even in an interracial relationship, that was not met with open arms, getting married was able to salvage some of the disappointment that my in-laws initially held for their daughter being with a black man. However, the emphasis marriage has within her culture and community, as is the same for many cultures (and especially for women), has several undesirable consequences.

It reinforces archaic gender roles and I’ve seen this in my wife. Her undoubtedly caring nature has gone into overdrive since we got married because she’s been conditioned to measure her value as a married woman by how much she does for me. It’s also how she subconsciously seeks to replicate aspects of her parent’s generation’s marriages, which are hardly a paragon of gender equality.

We’ve actually had arguments where I’ve not been forthcoming with what I want to eat because I’m happy and able to cater for myself. Yet she subconsciously sees that as an obstruction to her path to being the ideal wife. And that isn’t just when cooking for us as a family (where I concede my stance would be unhelpful and inefficient). Given we share the cooking, her gratitude when I cook is nevertheless often tinged with a palpable guilt; that’s because she clearly feels I’ve denied her the opportunity to fulfil a role she sees as exclusively hers as a married woman.

Even as an otherwise progressively thinking individual, her stance on other matters also seem to be driven by the expectations of being married. If there wasn’t any pushback from me, I’m sure she would drift ever so slightly towards some of the archaic roles of marriage that deserve to be left in the past. Alas, the societal parameters of marriage are able to place even the slightest tradition upon the most liberal of couples.

I’m sure it’s no different for some men for whom marriage may unlock a once hidden level of toxic masculinity that can often manifest itself as mental abuse. And if you’ve grown up seeing gender roles and similar expectations within a marriage, it can become normalised in your own relationship.

Whenever I share my views on marriage, it’s typically met with an acknowledgement of my perspective but a counter that marriage makes your relationship official and prompts you to make more effort should it be in trouble. Well frankly, that sounds like marriage is a barrier to exiting what might be a toxic relationship. That’s not an advertisement for marriage in my eyes.

It also explains why so many toxic marriages exist as marriage can hold them hostage to their own unhappiness for fear of having ‘failed’ if you rightfully choose to walk away. It’s mind blowing that society inadvertently champions such a damaging path to poor mental health for those who aren’t inclined to leave a relationship that has broken down.

While this isn’t a call or personal endorsement for polygamy or to be polyamorous, marriage also peddles the social construct of monogamy. I respect anyone who feels that should be a by-product of marriage but to suggest that marriage switches off our attraction or arousal for others is absolutely ludicrous. Yet how often do we hear the lie of “I only have eyes for my partner”?

The decision to divert one’s attention or attraction for others is one thing. Although to deny it exists because one is married is laughable. Did marriage deactivate the attraction chip in your head? Behave.

Again, it comes back to marriage stifling one’s free will. Why should you need marriage to stay within a relationship if that’s what you actually want to do? And do you need the facade of no longer recognising other men or women as attractive to convince yourself of that? Marriage can be the basis of living a lie for a life you feel you’re supposed to attain rather than a life you actually want for yourself.

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade who supports marriage. But I do feel we need to recognise how marriage can sometimes be damaging in a relationship with the expectation and reinforcements it can present.

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t get married and for the most part, my relationship would be unchanged. But where that isn’t the case, it’s highlighted even more so how archaic an institution it is. Moreover, it can provide an unhelpful conduit to expectations, denial and social conditioning that no one should be subject to, least of all not in a relationship.

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