News & Politics

When Your Family Cares About Marriage More Than You Do

There are plenty of reasons to marry, but it's not something that always makes couples happier. Why can't my family understand that?
My boyfriend and I have been together for just under 2 1⁄2 years and at the risk of sounding gag-arrific, I've really never been happier. Not only do we love each other, but we actually like each other a lot, too -- two things I've learned don't always go hand in hand. We have tons in common, have a great time together, always make each other laugh, and never run out of stuff to talk about. Among some of our topics of conversations are: vacation plans, buying a place in Brooklyn, having kids (when, why, and what to name them), and whether, when we're old and gray, we'll be like the senior couples we see in the park sometimes who hold hands on the bench and swap sections of the Sunday New York Times. One of the topics that doesn't crop up in our conversations very much, despite everything else we discuss, is marriage, something it seems like a lot of people -- my family, especially -- can't seem to understand.

I used to think it was generational -- this obsession with couples tying the knot and "making it legal," but lately, even my 25-year-old sister is asking when we plan to marry, if we'll get engaged or just secretly elope instead.

"Why do you ask?" I said to her yesterday on the phone when she brought it up again.

"I just want you to be happy," she answered.

"I am happy," I replied and resisted the urge to ask her why she thinks marriage, of all things, could make me any happier. Kick-ass boots for fall, a trip to the South of France, calorie-free fudge brownies -- these things would all make me happier. But marriage? Meh.

It's not that I'm anti-marriage, or even that I'm opposed to getting married myself. There are plenty of great reasons to tie the knot, but it's not something I think necessarily makes couples happier. I love my boyfriend and I'm committed to him and I know he's committed to me and since I moved in with him a year ago, we've enjoyed making a home -- and life -- together -- one I'm pretty sure will last a very long time. But the reasons I'm not in a rush to make our commitment legal, to take vows in front of friends and family to love each other in sickness and in health til death do us part, isn't because I'm afraid, or because I'm unconvinced we're right for each other -- it's because I like savoring exactly where we are right now.

My family, on the other hand, would like nothing more than for us to savor the next step (and the step after and the step after that). My grandmother reminds me every time I see her that already in my early 30s, I'm no spring chicken anymore. And though I'm more than aware of the passing of time and my ticking biological clock, it's not something I think is going to explode at some unspecified time in the very near future. And I know just as soon as we get married and have assured no babies will be born out of wedlock, the next big question will be, "So when are you guys gonna have kids? Come on, you're married now, it's time."

But I want to savor the right now. I want to savor this time we'll never get back when it's just the two of us and we're still young and we have so much to look forward to and we can take off at a moment's notice for a long weekend away, go on a 3-week trip to China, or spend an entire weekend inside, watching DVDs and ordering Thai take-out. Maybe waiting on marriage is our way of preserving all this just a little bit longer -- of putting off the inevitable hurdles and responsibilities that every married couple faces until we've sucked the last drop of marrow from this fabulous phase of our lives.

And maybe when my sister says that she just wants me to be happy, what she really means is she wants it to be official. I can appreciate that, and I can certainly love her and the rest of my family for only wanting the best for me. But I want them to know is it is official: I'm happy, and no piece of paper is going to make me more so.

If they want to buy me an awesome pair of boots or fly me to the South of France, though, I'd totally be all over that.