Proposing the big question

by Staff

Artwork courtesy of Taylor Stookey

It’s the day every girl dreams of. Church bells, a beautiful white gown and the person you’re devoted to spending the rest of your life with is standing proudly by your side. All eyes are on you as you promise loyalty and commitment by reciting the traditional wedding vows: for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. When contemplating these words, it’s impossible not to marvel at what it represents: unconditional unity through thick and thin.

However, I can’t help but ponder in awe about how often, and how quickly, couples these days are willing to exchange these cherished words without having the capability or maturity to actually honor them. Let’s narrow down some culprits: the half-minded celebrities who race to the chapel one week then sign annulment papers the next, or the numerous TV shows and Hollywood movies portraying the all-too-familiar scene of a very drunken night, ultimately leading to a boozed trip to a chapel, with only a cheap wedding ring to revive any memories of the previous night. These are all examples of the discouraging and pathetic ways people so often tarnish what is expected to be one of the most meaningful and momentous occasions of a person’s life.

Why then, has a recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press revealed 39 percent, or roughly four out of 10 Americans, believe marriage is becoming obsolete? Perhaps people are finally starting to realize the fundamental mentality of marriage has been so deeply skewed in our brains that it has wrongly convinced us that a life of stability and happiness is unattainable until we walk down the aisle.

Even worse, it seems most of us feel the privilege of having a family should be restricted only for wedded couples. According to the study, 43 percent of Americans believe unmarried couples living together and unmarried couples raising children are bad for society. In addition, 88 percent of Americans consider a married pair without children a family, while only 43 percent would think the same about an unmarried couple without children. This ignorance astounds me and makes me wonder whether people truly understand the difference between unmarried couples and single parents and the effects of both on children. Unwed mothers and fathers are fully capable of giving their children the same amount of love and support as married parents; believing otherwise is ridiculous and displays a horrific lack of judgment. I’m not denying the logical benefits of marriage 8212; such as an easier time getting loans and mortgages and receiving additional financial benefits 8212; but the quality of one’s parenting skills is not, and never will be, determined by a marriage license.

Wake up, people. Cohabitation, joint bank accounts, monogamy and having children are not reserved only for the married. On the other hand, I’m not denying the fact that things get a bit more complicated when you are unmarried. One inconvenience is how unwedded fathers must establish paternity in order for custody proceedings to run smoothly in the case of a separation. The bigger picture here is that unlike divorcing couples, unwed parents wouldn’t have to settle any of the horribly complicated issues that come with legal separation. Resolving custody and child visitation agreements would be much more simple.

Refreshingly, it seems more Americans are warming up to atypical traditional family households. According to PRC’s study, 34 percent of Americans believe the “growing variety of family living arrangements is good for society.” Clearly, what we have here is a controversial battle between traditional values and a blossoming, new age perception. While I greatly admire what wedding vows symbolize, marriage doesn’t come with any guarantees, and a vast majority of us have seen that first hand. Many are quick to judge an unwed couple, but no one questions the insanity behind feeling the need to legalize your commitment to another person in order to obtain validation from friends and family. The distorted way in which we narrow-mindedly define family has habituated us to measure the quality of a couple’s relationship based on some sort of point system. Marriage: four points. Children: three points. A house: three points. Congratulations, your family is a perfect 10. Before you shuffle in line with other brides-to-be, consider your motives and ask yourself if they revolve around an underlying yearning for society’s seal of approval. After all, knowing you’ve found a person you want to spend the rest of your life with is the only validation you really need.

8212;Stacey Oparnica is a journalism sophomore.

8212;The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.