Love? Or Social Norms?

I often wonder if anyone married has ever truly considered why they married. We like to say we married because we fell in love. OK. Why did you fall in love?

Maybe the better question is actually, why do we even feel the need fall in love? Who told us we should fall in love? Who decided it was “natural” to fall in love, get married, and have kids?

I began to consider this question after returning to school. I speak with many young people, obviously. Many, particularly young women, tell me they have a lot of pressure on them from their mothers and grandmothers to get married and have children. I’ve watched smart, talented young women drop out because the pressure became too much.

Why do people need to get married and have children? Why is this something that is never questioned? Why are single people looked down on and considered to have something wrong with them, or, in the case of single men who never marry, to be gay?

Is falling in love really what we are doing? Or does the fact that we are raised with the indoctrinating statement, “When you grow up and have children,” influence us so greatly that we go along without giving any thought to it?

For most religious people, the answer is probably not too difficult. They don’t get to have sex unless they get married. Their religions teach that sex is a terrible and sinful thing that can only occur between people married to each other. In many religions, young people are encouraged to get married as soon as they graduate high school to avoid the temptation of “fornication.”

“Love” is a social norm. At least what we call love most of the time. I say that because most people give it only a cursory thought. They have a nice feeling, or they think that person is a nice person, so they “fall in love.” But they never bother to ask the most important question, why fall in love at all? What reason is there?

None of my children desire to get married. Not one. Why? I started telling them a few years ago that their own dreams and pursuits were more important than getting married and having children. I also let them know that I have no desire to become a grandmother. Then I told them that if they happened to meet someone who would support their dreams and whose dreams they would support, and they wanted to be in a relationship, that was great, but to never lose sight of their own dreams.

We don’t talk about marriage around here. I never say, “When you get married,” or “When you have kids.” Marriage and children are not assumptions. Pursuing our dreams is the only assumption. Overcoming the obstacles and encouraging each other in that pursuit is the only encouragement my children get. As a result, Surprise!, they don’t talk about getting married or having kids when they grow up.

If everyone told their kids what I tell my kids, the social norm would change. Love would actually be a true decision at that point. It would be something weighed against our own pursuit, whatever that may be. Consider the heart ache we’d save our children who we now push into relationships simply because being single and pursuing our dreams are things we were told were selfish.

It’s not selfish for our children to pursue their dreams. It is selfish of us and society to demand that people give up on those things to satisfy our need to retain an archaic and useless social norm.

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