Love, for me, has always had the goalpost of marriage and children at the end of it. I was lucky enough to have been raised by a very happy couple who, since I was old enough to understand, always instilled in me the wonderful life that a family brings. Finding someone with whom to spend your life, bringing new, amazing people in the world — what could be better than that? And as I grew up, the world around me only reinforced this idea. Couples smiling while picking out rings, women living happily ever after with her doctor/lawyer/prince charming, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over a newborn baby. There is an overwhelming feeling that this is the right thing to do, that there is a clear good path, and you are taking it.
I was always happy to follow in line. You give me something even slightly romantic, I’ll eat it right out of your hand. I adore love stories, romantic comedies, looking at wedding stuff, cooing over babies, and generally being supportive of the entire concept of “first comes love, then comes marriage.” If I’ve ever cornered you at a party and asked you like some drunken grandmother if you were planning on marrying your long-term significant other — and there are several of you — I apologize. It’s not that I don’t think you’re all wonderful people while single, or simply dating, it’s just that I so love the ideas of commitment, monogamy, and making a new family together. It’s a feeling that comes from somewhere I cannot identify, and colors so much of how I view relationships.
Yet I know that love can exist outside of legal matrimony. I’m aware that couples who, for whatever reason, choose not to get married, can be perfectly happy and just as committed. Similarly, having children in no way defines the level of love a couple might feel for each other — it only defines the amount to which they wanted to have a child. These grand symbols of how love is supposed to manifest itself in our lives are so ingrained in me — in many of us — that they have largely become synonymous with a kind of love that can healthily and happily exist without them.
One only has to look at the kind of response women get when they say they don’t want to have children to understand the degree to which these life choices are not entirely choices anymore. Even the most well-intentioned loved ones in her life will gently prod her…
Read more: Chelsea Fagan, Thought Catalog