I always get into these discussions somehow with young people over the worthlessness vs worth of marriages. It's surprising how many youngsters are at the brink of giving up on the belief in it or are in the maze of an astounding fear of the institution. Especially arranged marriages.
I have these weird theories about life on various issues and there are several at play regarding marriages too. I would say it is a bit rash to write it off the list in your twenties. Just because we give you the right to drink and vote and drive, it does not mean we stand by and watch you throw away your peace.
I believe no person can live as an island. We aren't programmed that way. We're meant to interact, share, evolve in togetherness, sometimes with one and for some, along with several. If you think you're better off creating and enjoying what you're building now in your hay days, rest assured you'd be standing and watching it be ruined by your very hands eventually. Unless chanced by circumstances, the idea of shunning marriage by own sweet will would only leave you with regrets. Like they rightly say "Yeh shaadi ka ladoo hain...blah blah".
That need for having people goes up and down through a meandering curve in our lives. We grow up, time changes, perspectives overhaul but the inbuilt craving for a person on whom we can claim some amount of ownership, stays. If you think you can survive the later years without a companion as you did in your twenties and thirties (while the frivolities of life kept your body and mind occupied), you may have to think again. Breaking news: You get more vulnerable as you age.
Marriage in itself isn't wrong or right. It's two people venturing into it, shaping it in a way that appeals to the eyes or is grotesque depending on how they've handled it. Youngsters in today's time have at their disposal seeming luxuries while making this decision. Unlike us who had to decide within a meeting of half an hour, whether or not we want to spend the rest of our lives together. These days the decision is made over several meetings and even prior phone conversations whereby you get a good inkling of what you're getting into unless you're totally daft or clueless about what you want.
That brings us to the grand old idea of "What we want". Ask someone at a "marriageable stage" about what they want in a life partner and they would probably begin by 'I don't know' and then give you a long scroll down kind of list of what all they expect or should be there (Yes, make it impossible for anyone to match that granth so you eventually get to crib you never got what you wanted) I ask them tell me one most important thing and they stare back with jaws dropped as though I'm expecting the U.S. nuclear codes from them. It's impossible, they cry. I give in and let them pick two. But only two.
Do that with yourself. Two qualities. Let them be the priority with a give and take on the rest of the package. You know it sounds filmy but when you really desire that one quality (most important for your happy existence) in your partner with all your heart, the universe and you yourself conspire to bring it to you. Unfortunately we're so inexperienced or immature at this stage that we fail to judge what we really want. So please, can we keep aside "he should make me laugh" or "she should be a family girl" etc out of the room. Think of QUALITIES people.
When I was in the 'marriage market' a decade and a half ago, I remember silently praying for just one thing "my man should be very loving and love me unconditionally" and you know what, I got just that. Whereas some of my friends wanted "all riches and luxuries" or "drop dead gorgeous wife" and you know what, they ended up with just that too. It's only in hindsight that you realise you should have wished for a bigger picture had someone told you there's actually an invisible genie (you could read that as subconscious too) listening somewhere.
Marriage is an institution which extracts crazy amount of respect from me. Sure live-in is nice, hopping from one girlfriend to another is exciting. But that security that comes through the idea of being in a sacred contract is unmatchable. The idea that there's someone waiting for you home or someone coming back to you each evening, is often enough to help you take just that one thing in life at least, for granted.
That comfort you get, to have your partner by your arm in a crowd of people matching shoulder to shoulder with theirs! You're lost in polite conversations and you look around and there he is by the bar, your man giving you the look to come over to him coz he's read it in yours after years of being with you. That is how two people evolve together. You understand. You know. And you work for it to work. Things that a marriage provides.
Imagine working on all of that in a long standing live-in relationship and one fine day you get to hear, it's not working, let's see other people. And you pack your bags or are told to pack your bags and leave, just like that. No fear of law or society. No binding of any kind. It's like you know you can drive without a license but you also know it can land you in deep shit when you fall in trouble.
You ask where is love? Well, you grow fond of even a pet that you take under your care. You mean to say two people who are like minded and have decided to stay together and are at a phase to please each other, living under the same roof day in and out, cannot feel any affection for each other? Oh come on! We aren't stones. Unless we become firm like a rock to not let another seep in. That's why the need to cautiously walk into such an agreement when you have the choice. Do it when you feel this is it. Not to shut up the pressuring family or to be polite to a stranger whom you might crush with a 'no'.
In the long run some marriages run out of passion or adventure or conversations. It's not because of the failure of the institution. It's because one of the two involved slowly gave up and the other let him or her. Or because they were just two very different people who evolved separately. You made the wrong choice of a partner not the wrong choice of partnership.
There are happy couples too in this world, you know, despite the temptations and distractions that modern lifestyles are throwing at them. Look at such couples. There's hope still. No reason why you should not strive for it. I don't believe in quotes like "Better to be alone than lonely with someone". I say "Better to believe there's hope than think it's hopeless".
Be with people, risk getting into relationships, to know what you really want. I'm not saying become a Casanova and go around breaking hearts. But you can't stand a mile apart to gauge if the heat of that bonfire is enough, can you? So don't be scared of risking your heart in someone's hand. Do it after you've used your head. Don't be boggled by the idea of an arranged contriving of falling in love. People through centuries have lived in it. Stop dismissing things just by the merit of them being around for a long time. There's often a good reason why they have. It's unique to see bits and parts of you falling in love with bits and parts of another each day.
Marriages are beautiful. It is the foundation on which a child must be brought in this world. Kudos to single parents. But if you have a choice in your hand, I say exercise it. Be there. Be there with your all. Do that. Do it with a purpose. Then be done with it, if you run out of choice. But that choice, make sure you choose to use. Best of luck.