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walking on a thin

Marriage as an open-ended question



Hello from Italy. It’s Eli.


One of the first things they asked me when I first came to Japan as an exchange student almost three years ago was if I had a boyfriend. After I explained that yes, I did, and we had been going out for two years, the girl promptly asked me whether I was gonna marry him.


I found the question odd. Now that I’ve been living between Italy and Japan for a longer time I would think it’s a pretty routine question, but at the time the only reference point I had were my Italian friends, and for them talking about marriage was like breaking an anxiety inducing taboo.



Why, yes, I wanted to marry him so much. And then only four months later, I broke up with him in a pretty horrible way.


Back then marriage was the only way to be recognized as a legitimate partner by my ex-boyfriend’s family, who knew absolutely nothing about me. He had made that clear enough when we started dating, and I wanted that seal of approval.


Our relationship wasn’t the simplest. I was being naive – I was putting my faith in marriage as if it were a magic spell that would solve every intricacy, every difficulty of the relationship. He had to be the one.


So when I started seeing my boyfriend, we had a motto. “We don’t know where this fling will bring us so let’s just have fun, and enjoy the moment”. Nothing lasts forever, and if we have to break up, we will.


As of today, me and my boyfriend have been going out for two years and a half, and this relationship hugely impacted my life choices. I would say it’s only natural that we’re thinking seriously about marriage, except I don’t believe anything “natural” exists in this world. I really have no excuse to think and act according to social norms.


So I’m asking myself: what the heck is your deal with marriage?? Seeing how did it end the last time I was sure my partner was the one I’m pretty scared I might be doing the same thing all over again.


There are more complications. Now I know what are my psychological reasons for wanting marriage. Should I give in to the same logic that has made my life “”””hard”””” for the last 23 years? Is there a way to make this right?


My expectations towards life have also changed a lot in three years. Back then, I was willing to give up my aspirations to be with my partner, but I would never do that now. This means that Japan might not be my last destination. What would happen to us if I decided I want to move overseas for my career?


I feel that having an honest, open conversation about marriage is very hard both in my Italian and Japanese social networks. Many of my Italian friends are downright scared of marriage and/or think it’s a backward institution. On the other hand, I feel that the pressure to marry and have a family among my Japanese friends and acquaintances is enormous – as if there is little else to aspire to once you’re done with job hunting. (I believe that this has nothing to do with “Italy” or “Japan” per se, but with my social circles. You can probably find both types in both countries.)


Right now, it’s hard for me to think of marriage as a priority for women. But then again, I want to get married and I don’t have anything against it either. I believe in the practice, both because I have a practical reason to do it (it’s the safest way I know I can be with the person I have chosen wherever I go), and because I think that this kind of monogamy suits me. On the other hand, I don’t think it has to last forever, and I think that marriage needs to be thought of more fluidly.



Marriage should be an open-ended question. Its meanings should be tailored for each one of us so that it’s neither too tight or too loose. For this to happen, we should ask ourselves if we want it, how do we want it, why do we want it.


I like to believe that a “feminist” marriage is not an oxymoron.

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