Launch out into the deep, and your nets will be filled

There was a piece published in The Atlantic about a week ago, titled “Mitt Romney’s Case for Getting Married Young” (read it here). I read the headline and quickly dismissed it in favor of more interesting-looking articles about the pros and cons of the word ‘feminist‘ and a bill that could give the government access to the private information that people give companies online. But after reading these articles and still looking to procrastinate studying, decided to hear out Romney.

The article opens with a quote from Mitt Romney’s recent commencement address to Southern Virginia University, in which the former presidential candidate spoke about choosing to marry young:

“This is a promise: ‘Launch out into the deep, and your nets will be filled.’ How do you do that? Well, getting married is one way to launch into the deep. I’m so glad I found Ann when I was still so young. Combining your life with another person, particularly someone—men and women as different as we are, this combination is tremendously challenging and enormously rewarding.”

I didn’t think too much of the quote, as I think there are many others ways to “launch out into the deep” without getting married, but I found the author’s later reaction to and analysis of Romney’s speech to be much more interesting.

“Romney articulates the so-called “cornerstone” theory of marriage: that marriage is an institution worth building life on, not something to enter into once you’re already established in life … people are getting married later and later, and more and more people are seeing marriage as a “capstone” to life’s achievements rather than a foundation for those achievements (and inevitable disappointments).”

I agree with the author that people’s perception of the purpose of marriage, as well as the right time to get married, has evolved. When I brought up the topic, a number of my peers were quick to agree with me that you should marry after you had established yourself. After you had finished school, maybe even gotten a job. After you figured out what you wanted and what you liked, after you had gained confidence and independence as an individual.

But in a way, I also sympathize with the arguments of marrying young. To have a partner, someone by your side, as you go through some of the most exciting and most difficult moments in life. To be able to tackle life’s challenges with the love and support of a spouse, someone with who (ideally) the bonds run deeper than friendship. To grow together and not have to build your life alone.

But in many ways, that’s incredibly idealistic. The biggest nagging questions is: how do you know you’ve picked the right person? Especially if you’re choosing so young. What if you pick and then realize it’s a mistake? Or someone better comes along? What I want in a serious romantic partner (not necessarily a future husband…) now is vastly different from what I wanted five years ago at the age of 16, the legal age for marriage in NY state (so. young.). And I’m sure what I’ll want in 10 or 15 more years will be different as well. Choosing to put off marriage allows you to ‘test drive’ different potential partners for compatibility. To put off commitment until you have a high degree of certainty you’ve picked the right one. (As if there ever really is a ‘right one’ and picking him or her makes things easy).

But then I realized that this attitude doesn’t just apply in romantic matters. Come Friday night, on the rare chance that I’ll have multiple invitations to hang out/drink, I’ll be in a similar situation, weighing out my options, not wanting to choose the wrong one. If I show up early to a certain party and it turns out not to be as awesome as I’d hoped, then I’ll probably spend the rest of the night lamenting not having left my options open longer. I don’t want to make the best of what I have, I want to have made the right decision the first time.

Finally putting all these thoughts together, I began to ask the question: does that make me jaded? Do I have trust issues that make it difficult for me to make decisions unless I’ve weighed out my options with 100% certainty? Is there some sort of bravery, a sort of reward that comes with putting trust in others? With being the kind of person who marries young?

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About evajge

A friend once told me that all I eat is chocolate and cheese. I was both disturbed and amused to realize that he was right.
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3 Responses to Launch out into the deep, and your nets will be filled

  1. am says:

    The Romneys may be an extreme case: “The two were re-introduced and began dating in March 1965; they informally agreed to marriage after his senior prom in June 1965.”

    There’s also a numbers game here. It was probably much clearer to Mitt what he was looking for. There were fewer people, and he pretty much had to marry a white, Mormon, upper-class woman. There were fewer people in the US in total, and it was harder to meet people (travel was relatively more expensive, no internet/social networking, etc). In short, Mitt Romney had fewer options than people like us have.

    By itself, that shouldn’t be a problem. If we suppose there exists some compatibility score between people, and that it’s distributed as a power law (or even exponentially, to be more drastic), it’s still scale invariant. That means that, for any fixed definition of “good enough”, it should take an equal amount of effort to find someone who’s “good enough”, regardless of population size.

    But that doesn’t work. People want to find the “right” person, rather than someone who is just “good enough”. Even though feeling that someone is the “right” match is (to an extent) a self-fulfilling sentiment. This could leave us to either flounder around in fear of a regrettable decision (regret = best outcome / actual outcome), or raise our standards beyond the realm of our own understanding, or even to lose faith in the system.

    Cheerful, isn’t it?

    • evajge says:

      I did not know that about Mitt Romney’s romantic timeline… it’s a little terrifying.
      And yeah, perfectly cheerful… Personally, I think marriage is headed for obsoleteness, at least among the non-religious crowd. Not just because people can be more picky now, but also because marriage is no longer necessary for the practical reasons it once was. Both men and women can have/raise children outside wedlock, and both men and women can be primary breadwinners now. The numbers might be bleak, but unless you’re really set on finding the “right” one, which I think fewer people are nowadays, maybe things aren’t that bad.

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