By Nicolle

I need more than two hands to count the number of people I know who’ve gotten married in the last year. In a recent conversation with a friend, we lamented about everyone’s need to pair off. Why do we do it?! we asked. Why do people feel like they need to be married?

We wrestled with whether it was a societal pressure, an unconscious expectation that when you hit your 20s, you start the search for Mr. or Ms. Right.

We thought it was our generation who, even though we’re more scared to get married than any generation before us, is still craving an intimate bond with one person (even if that one person turns into two, three or four people throughout the course of a lifetime).

We couldn’t come up with an answer, besides that people have an insatiable need to cure a feeling of loneliness. And that’s a pretty dismal way to look at matrimony.

It’s easy to think that marriage is just some outdated tradition that society and years of indoctrination have laid upon us, but the truth is, the desire for private intimacy has long been the rogue knight, conquering a multitude of institutions before it became an institution itself.

Though the church, Catholic and otherwise, claims to have a sacred hold on traditional marriage, what it doesn’t want you to remember is the days during which it actually condemned marriage. Early church leaders urged celibacy over marriage, as marriage distracted people from more honorable goals.

Marxism also tried to squelch marriage. With its communal living and communal nurseries for raising children, it tried to remove the intimacy between couples – and their children.

Feminism gave eliminating marriage its best shot too. At its core, it longed for a time when women would chose solidarity and sisterhood over the repressiveness of marriage.

Now, the Catholic Church has, as I’ve mentioned before, declared marriage a sacrament.

Now, communism claims “the family” is the backbone of a good communistic society.

Now, feminist lesbians are fighting for their right to get married.

And the reason they’re all embracing marriage now is because, no matter what they did, they couldn’t stop people from pairing off, from desiring a one-on-one, private partnership.

“We yearn for private intimacy even though it’s emotionally risky,” said Elizabeth Gilbert in Committed. “We yearn for private intimacy even when we suck at it. We yearn for private intimacy even when it’s illegal for us to love the person we love. We yearn for private intimacy even when we are told that we should yearn for something else, something finer, something nobler. We just keep on yearning for private intimacy, and for our own deeply personal set of reasons. Nobody has ever been able to completely sort out that mystery, and nobody has ever been able to stop us from wanting it.”

So, when what we want collides with what “the powers that be” think we should want, people get mad and take matters into their own hands by merely ignoring the rules. That’s why African slaves in early America created their own ritual for bonding two people in matrimony. That’s why a man and woman in Europe before the Middle Ages could just declare themselves “legally married,” no witnesses or presiding minister required. And that’s why, no matter who or what tries to control or regulate marriage next, couples will always win.

When we think about it in historical terms, marriage isn’t the cookie-cutter box of traditions society has handed us to blindly accept and proceed numbly toward like lemmings following their leader off a cliff. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. In the game of the chicken and the egg, the desire for private intimacy beats out tradition and society – and I’d be willing to bet that it always will.