I’d rather have the knowledge that my partner wakes up every day and chooses to be with me, than the knowledge that they’re by my side because they signed a document promising to do so in the past.
Sure, that promise to marry someone and stand by their side until the day you die is incredible and absolutely grand. It’s really, really beautiful. I think commitment, particularly through marriage, is oftentimes regarded as a onetime decision. You made a choice, and now you stick with it. But I believe that commitment is, and should be, an active and ongoing state of being. Instead of standing by a decision I made when I was probably a much different version of myself, I prefer to actively consider my decision to be with a person every single day. If I choose my partner every day, outside of the lifelong commitment and legality of marriage, I won’t need to worry that long ago, I made an immature decision, or that I am stuck in something which no longer serves me. And as the person being committed to, I feel more comforted and valued knowing that my partner is with me because they have come to the conclusion that I’m what they want today - not what they wanted in the past.
I like the idea of knowing my partner can leave at any time. I think it reduces complacency and increases appreciation. True, commitment, with our without a marriage contract, can breed complacency. I believe, however, that the marriage contract and resulting relationship security fosters an environment in which most couples neglect the relationship. Because that contract exists, that box is checked, one’s partner is legally prohibited from leaving - attention is diverted toward other occupations; we tend to career, kids, family, and other important life stuff. As a result, the relationship is neglected and oftentimes, couples forget why they chose each other. Many neglect the relationship to the point of complete loss and get divorced. Sure, some of these couples might have broken up regardless of the contract of marriage. But I believe the marriage contract removes urgency and instills a sense of comfort, and therefore breeds neglect. I do see why people find that sense of comfort attractive; but for me, I work better under deadlines, in higher-stakes environments. I would rather give up the comfort which results from marriage and live with a measure of fear that comes from knowing my partner can leave at any time.
It’s similar to why I like the idea of living like I might die tomorrow: I believe that an awareness of death - as scary and uncomfortable that concept is to think about - helps me appreciate life like nothing else can. But it’s not just that modicum of fear that is helpful. Contrarily, it’s the state of being alive in the face of certain mortality that is so empowering to me. And it’s the awareness that my partner woke up today and chooses to stay with me that I find most comforting. I feel more secure in knowing my partner is with me purely because they choose to be on a daily basis, not because a legal document mandates they do so.
I speak from some experience: I’ve been married. I value that experience and I would never go back and change that. My personal reflection and observation on my own and other relationships, however, has brought me to this conclusion: I would rather have someone choose me every single day than just once.