Are you looking for a wife? Or, are you happy being single?
That wasn’t quite the question put to me but it sums up the sentiment. That it is a choice. And that either I am happy being single or I should start shopping.
Because that seems to be the mentality. Looking for a spouse attracting the same approach as I might take to hunting down a new pair of shoes, or maybe to give it a little more seriousness, similar to buying a flat.
Maybe I should confess that I’m not very good at buying shoes. I don’t find the process difficult, it is not a particularly complex task to complete. I just don’t do it. I have a smart pair and a casual pair and wear them until their resemblance to footwear is solely a historic recollection. I also have sandals for the summer, slippers for the winter and climbing shoes for, well, climbing.
But last year I bought a flat and that was a big decision, it was a task I gave myself to. There were things to do, some time consuming but mundane, others swift but significant. Putting in an offer, signing for a mortgage, collecting keys. There were words spoken and written, the handover of a set of metallic objects. Yet it was much more than that, the simple acts were imbued with significance, they meant something because of what linked them together, where they came from and what that signalled.
So I wonder, is finding someone to spend the rest of your life with like buying a house, and stripping the complexities away to push the point, is it like shopping for any other item?
When I go shoe shopping it’s not for a luxury, but for something I urgently need. Therefore I refuse to let myself come home empty handed. And when I bought my flat I had decided I was going to do so, I took some time but eventually made a decision. It was a big decision but it was not an irrevocable one. I can sell, I can let. It is a material possession.
When we buy something we choose to get something over nothing. We decide that while there are better or worse options, having something is better than having nothing at all.
I don’t believe that getting married is more important than getting married to the right person.
I don’t think getting married is like buying shoes, or a flat. Finding someone to spend your life with is not a consumer experience. It is a dance of emotions and expectations and hopes and dreams. It is prospect that absence may take the place of something.
Maybe it is like Schrödinger’s cat. Until you open the box you don’t know if the cat is dead or alive, so by some ridiculous chain of logic which I cannot begin to fathom, the cat is both dead and alive. Maybe you can be both living life to the full as a single person and want to get married. And until something happens you are both.
If I’m in a relationship it’s not much good living life to the full in my singleness, I don’t think that relationship would last very long. But until that point I am living in a contested reality, there are alternative routes that my life can take and I need to be open to pursuing either while acknowledge one would close off the other.
And that can sometimes stop you from opening the box. Not wanting to close down options can prevent you from making a choice. Sometimes I can be paralysed by indecision, and the multitude of options, and potential future options can cast me in formaldehyde and root me to the spot. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t a choice.
But the choice is what gives it meaning. The choice to take a risk and do something you don’t essentially have to do. Doing something you could live without, doing something that will limit your further choices, doing something that will stop you from always thinking that something better could come along.
Because getting married isn’t a step in life improvement, it isn’t a way of becoming more complete. It isn’t an accessory to make you more glamorous, or an investment to make you more secure.
And it is neither mail order nor magic. It is not a formulaic process or the result of an abracadabra. Relationships do not just happen and we cannot script them.
But we live them and we love them, and in them we find life and we find love. And if that’s how you think about your shoes I recommend some therapy.