Marriage: why do we want what we can’t have?

By Samuel Leighton-Dore

Piercing blue eyes. A thick head of Harry Styles hair. Channing Tatum abs. A six-foot yacht anchored somewhere off the French Riviera. Hell, even just a little green plus sign before my bank account balance. These are all things I desperately want, but for an apparent number of reasons, can’t have.

And yeah, it fucking sucks.

Any number of studies will tell you that it’s rooted deep in the chronic dissatisfaction of our human condition — our natural wanting for that which we can’t have. Whether it stems from our respective economic positions, genetics, or relationship status, it remains true that we’re generally discontent with whichever cards we’re dealt.

Now look, I like to consider myself a pretty reasonable guy. I can deal with my muddy-brown/hazel eyes. My hereditarily thin, mousy-blonde hair. My perpetually fluctuating “almost there” physique. I can even deal (albeit begrudgingly) with my negative account balance. There’s only one thing I can’t bring myself to accept with such grace: being told (in no uncertain terms) that I’m unable to get married.

Nope. Nada. Cannot. Fucking. Deal.


It’s almost like the notion of marriage is my sister’s rainbow paddle-pop, back when we were kids and I’d already spent my five dollars pocket-money on a crappy CD single or copy of Smash Hits magazine. I’d watch intently as she masterfully navigated her sticky multi-coloured mess; the way it dripped down her chin and landed so precariously on her fastened seatbelt.

I wanted it. Of course I wanted it. I wanted it because it wasn’t mine, because she wouldn’t share it — I wanted it because it was unattainable. Now, 18 years later, the idea of marriage grips me with the same elusiveness. And it’s a major problem — because my concerns on marriage shouldn’t be marred by social jealousy or political agenda.


From an objective standpoint, there’s absolutely no way I’m ready to get married. I’m only in my early 20s, neither me or my partner are financially stable, we’re living in a rented studio apartment, and we’ve only been together two years. We’ve yet to travel much of the world together, and we’ve yet to face any significant adversity as a couple. But the thing is, I do want to get married — or at least I want the choice to.

Historically, marriages were often community-recognised unions orchestrated by parents or older relatives with the intention of maintaining economic stability and strengthening political alliances. Love wasn’t a factor — and in some cultures, it still isn’t. But here, in Australia, one should hope it’s the only conscionable factor.

It’s time we face the ugly truth: marriage has lost its mojo. The median length of marriage in Australia currently stands dismally around 12 and a half years. Unless our collective life expectancy has taken an unreported tumble, it would appear that the once-biblical promise of “till death do us part” is pretty much null and void. As is sexual abstinence. And the condemnation of interracial couples.

There’s no denying it — marriage has lost the majority of its traditional connotations. And for good bloody reason.

But what’s left of it?

I think both the church and government need to realise that the only way of retaining the withering credibility and relevance of marriage is to move forward with the times and establish an inclusive state of normalcy. Our fight for equality has become like an ugly battle between siblings over their family’s estate. Someone needs to stand up and mediate, or else we risk becoming the ever-laughable Rhineharts of romance.

At least then the heterosexual community could rest assured that we’re all getting married for the right reasons.

Not just because we can’t.

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