The Huffington Post recently published an article called “Getting Married Is Not an Accomplishment,” written by a woman who got engaged a few months ago.
Here’s the gist: of course marriage is something to be excited about, but so is furthering your education or landing a great job. Marriage is exciting, and staying married is for sure an accomplishment, the author writes, but a successful woman isn’t defined by a ring on her finger.
I scanned hundreds of comments on the story—some applauding the author, some vigorously disagreeing—but what really caught my attention was this nugget from the story:
In general I have noticed that I tend to be questioned much more about my relationship, engagement, or wedding than my job or related accomplishments. And, this didn’t just start in the last three months. It has always been the case that I was more likely to be asked “So, when are you getting engaged” or “How’s everything going with Craig” than “How’s your job going?” or “What have you been working on lately?”
By nature, women tend to be more interested in relationships, so it makes sense that we get quizzed on that more than school or jobs, or that we focus more on relationships when talking to other women.
Most conversations I have with my female co-workers—besides the ones that are explicitly work-related—revolve around relationships. Not just boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife relationships, but relationships with family, within our churches or other friends. Even in talking about travel plans, cooking disasters, kids, how one friend is getting her master’s or how another is doing with the nonprofit she started, many of the conversations hinge on our relationships—the people in our lives who play a role in all of the above.
I also know I get more excited when a friend gets married than when a friend gets a pay raise. Graduations and promotions may signify a new chapter in life—and that’s certainly worth celebrating, but jobs and education aren’t typically as final or life-altering as uniting two people for the rest of their lives.
At the same time, I know how annoying and frustrating it can be when people only want to talk about relationships—and this time, I mean the boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife kind—especially when you’re single.
Before I was married, I had a few friends and relatives who seemed interested only in my relationship status. Did I have a boyfriend? Why not? Was I interested in anyone? There’s more to me than that!, I’d think, faking a smile. Can’t you think of anything else to talk about?! Ask me what I’m reading, what movies I’ve seen lately, if I have any trips planned, what I think of college, how my car is holding up, what paper I’m writing, where I got my fetching new bag, any number of things.
(Post-marriage, the questions keep coming, but with a slight variation. Do I have kids? Why not? Do I want them? … But that’s another article for another time.)
As for the Huffington Post piece, I agree that a woman shouldn’t be defined by a piece of jewelry on her left hand, and neither should a man. As a Christian, I think our worth lies in Who created us, not in what we do or who we marry.
But instead of discussing whether marriage is an accomplishment or not, I think we can take a broader look at how we see people. Is she your “single friend” or your tech savvy friend? Is he “unsettled,” or does he just have a fierce passion for travel? Is she a soon-to-be wife, or did she also just publish the best book you’ve ever read?
Are we putting so much weight on one aspect of a person—like relationship status—that we neglect seeing that person as a whole?
Think about how you characterize your closest friends. Is there another way to look at them?