And you don’t need shit on lock-down to love
Today I was on a mini-road trip with The Boy, as we like to spend our Sundays — the only day of the week when we’re both off work — and the topic of marriage came up. Just, like, in general. Philosophically. In theory.
I get marriage — on the surface. I absolutely understand why other people want to get married. I especially understand its appeal for the very wide majority of most people who value social markers — who look for and map one another by things like hometown, job, neighborhood, age, religion and, yes, marital status.
For these people, marriage is an important part of joining the social framework, of integrating and becoming a fully actualized member of society, who can finally have a seat at the adult table and some space all their own, as though to say, “I’m here; I’ve arrived.”
But apart from this part of marriage — and the “romantic” part of marriage, which I’ll get to — the reality I’m left with is: I don’t really get it.
Nobody needs to tell me what my partner means to me
I get it, the “seriousness” of marriages — and the connotations that those titles “husband,” “wife” and “spouse” may carry. But the reality is: they’re completely arbitrary. I can decide with or without a ceremony that I am long-term committed and “in” with my life partner. And what’s more, I can even go “all in” without his consent. I don’t need his permission to decide “I’m here now; I’m serious; I’m invested.”
I have been a contract employee at a handful of companies, some of whom refused to see me as little more than “contractor” even when I was building multi-million dollar programs and caring more about their employees than the full-time employed managers did. And as a consultant, I am routinely more invested in my clients’ products than they are — and granted, that part of what I get paid for.
But the point is: none of that “caring” is actually under contract. But that doesn’t mean I need their permission to do it anyway.
And I know there are others out there who will counter: but what about when you care and they don’t, and they let you go? And in response I will tell you: no amount of contract will change the reality of that risk. That decision is always theirs and more on them than me. I can give my all even if they’re giving less. I can care more than they want to. And if they choose to part ways, that’s their decision. And the thing we so often miss is: contract or not, they always have that option either way.
Legal bindings are inferior to blinding love
The minute you lean on legal binding and your big plan is to get people bound up in one, you’ve already lost.
I don’t want to run a business where my objective is to get my customers under contract and make it inconvenient or painful for them to walk away. On the contrary, I want to run a business where I throw the front door open and tell them, “nobody’s keeping you here — you can leave whenever you want.” And I want to do such a good job that other companies and competitors would have to drag my customers out kicking and screaming, grasping at the door jam to keep from leaving. This is how I want to live my life. I don’t want to rely on a contract. I want to build something so fucking good people eye the open door with relaxed nonchalance, where the only competition that matters is the space inside.
And it’s sort of the same with anything in life. Relationships included.
I don’t want to get my partner “on lock.” I don’t want to bind them up in paperwork just for a false sense of security. I don’t want to make it hard for them to leave. I don’t want to kick back.
I want them to know the door is wide open. I want to have to work every single day to make them happy. And I want them to stay not because divorce is annoying and expensive and ugly and inconvenient, but because anything else would have to pull them away kicking and screaming.
People don’t do this, though, because it’s harder. It’s harder to run a business that’s actually good. It’s hard to build a relationship where people choose to stay. It’s hard to build something where people want to be, over and over day after day.
Real romance isn’t seducing once. Real romance is re-seducing every day
Real romance is looking at each other and choosing to be there. It’s waking up each morning and re-investing and not taking each other for granted. It’s fucking working at it.
It’s respecting our partners as the free agents they are — understanding that, marriage or not, they are fully-actualized, independent people who can walk away at any time.
I don’t want to kick back and build up a false sense of security with contracts. I want to fling the door open and turn to everyone in my life and make it perfectly clear: you can leave whenever you want to. And it’s my job to make it worthwhile to stay.
I don’t want to seduce my partner once. I don’t want to get them good enough to get married and think I’m “secure.” I want to respect them as their own person. I want to win their heart each and every day. I want to wake up in the morning and greet each other and know: we’re both here because we want to be.