Jessica Bennett is an American writer who met the man of her dreams when she was 23. When she was 24 her boyfriend proposed in a grand romantic fashion:
I loved him desperately. I knew, as much as I would ever know, that he was the one I wanted to be with. We balanced each other. I wanted to frame his dimples.
But she turned him down. She was a feminist who was oriented to career and independence. Still he stuck with her, whilst she devoted herself to writing tracts against marriage. One article she wrote put a positive spin on infidelity, another declared marriage to be an outdated institution, inferior to the European model of de facto relationships:
...when these egalitarian, independent couples decide not to marry at all, they lose none of that stability. Just take a look at couples in Europe: they’re happier, less religious, and more likely to believe that marriage is an outdated institution, and their divorce rate is a fraction of our own.
But what of the boyfriend who had so much wanted to marry her? What was his response to his girlfriend writing against marriage? This is what transpired between them:
I told my boyfriend about the article, and he rolled his eyes. I assured him it wasn’t about us, but he said it didn’t matter. Over the years, he explained, I had convinced him that he didn’t believe in marriage, either.
Ah, so all the cynical stuff wasn't supposed to apply to her own relationship. What she wanted and hoped for in her own relationship was one thing; what she wanted for the rest of society was another.
But she didn't manage to quarantine her relationship from her public beliefs. Her boyfriend took her at her word and lost his own belief in marriage. And just at the time that she was finally changing her mind and warming to the idea of a wedding:
Then one day, in the most tired of clichés, I, too, started daydreaming about a wedding ... I began to wonder what he and I might wear, who would be there, and whether we’d write our own vows.
I brought the issue up tepidly, to feel him out. Lying in bed one night, I asked: “Do you still want to do it? Do you really not believe in it?”
“I’d marry you at City Hall,” he replied, then dropped it.
Another time, he threw my argument back at me: “Why do we need marriage? It’s only a piece of paper.”
Some time later he broke up with her abruptly and moved out:
We had spent seven years living in a 600-square-foot New York City apartment, inseparable and intertwined. Yet in the end, the relationship ended in one night. No discussion required.
Which now, after all those years of marshalling arguments against marriage, has led her to the view that,
there's something to be said for saying "I do".