Q. I read your column every week. Some of the questions seem reasonable, some seem nuts, and the responses from readers are always interesting. The main thing I am wondering about lately is: Why do people feel the need to be part of a couple? When I was much younger, I did always want to have a boyfriend, and I had several.
I was married for eight years until my husband died. After that, I had two more boyfriends, but all of that was almost 20 years ago. I am 60 now.
I can vaguely remember what being in love was like, and I know it was great, but honestly don’t remember why that was something to be pursued as a goal.
Why do people get married? I’m not sure anymore. If they want to have children, it makes sense I guess. For people who don’t plan to reproduce, what is the benefit of being a “couple” as compared to just having friends? I live alone and greatly prefer it.
A. We all want different things for different reasons.
Some of us like to skip experiences, and that’s OK, too.
For instance, I’ve never wanted to have children because it looks scary, expensive, and time-consuming. Also, no matter how much you love your kid, they’re probably going to look at you one day and say, “So many things are your fault!”
That’s an oversimplification, of course, and for the record, I love kids. I’m grateful my friends have become parents so I can have wonderful young people in my life (and take them to Taylor Swift concerts on the 1989 tour, etc.).
Similarly, my friends did a lot of dating (and marrying) in their mid-30s, but that’s when I was happiest being single. I was a lazy dater. I wanted to go to the movies and eat guacamole with platonic companions.
Now I’m in a place where romantic love can be part of things too. I see room for everything.
The point is, we evolve. We shift our priorities. We find human connection in new places as we get older.
You don’t have to want what others desire, but I’m sure you can have empathy for their experiences and hope they return the favor.
At the very least, you can be grateful you get to read some letters about their adventures. That counts for something.
What an interesting question! I suppose for me the answer would be intimacy. Not just the physical intimacy but the knowledge that my partner knows more about me than anyone, and that I am able to be vulnerable to/with him at all times. He is my bellwether and I can rely on him to let me know if I’m ever not operating at full empathetic capacity with other people. With him I can share my thoughts, fears, wishes, and hopes for the future — all without worrying about any secret agendas. I guess I mean that I’m able to be my best self with him acting as my mirror. Hope this helps.
Love, companionship, sex, money, health, and happiness. Love, companionship, and sex speak for themselves. Now, about money: Filing your taxes jointly generally saves money. My wife gets my pension(s) until she dies, not a fortune but not nothing either. She’s entitled to Social Security spousal benefits, which for her are about $2,100 a month, then, after I die, the spousal benefit goes away but she gets my Social Security benefit which is about $4,600 a month. Also, two do live cheaper than one. With me so far? Health: Married men live longer. For a reason. ‘Nuf said about that. Happiness: My wife’s the finest woman I know and I’m happy to be married to her.
If money was no object, I would go back to school and study the history of marriage, it’s a fascinating subject. ... I also think that if marriage were abolished, it would be reinvented.
You feel how you feel! We are all different and want different things. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to feel. You enjoy being single and others enjoy being coupled up. I don’t think you have to analyze this too much. You do you!
Marriage is an outdated institution. Nothing says I love you like a legally binding contract. Said contract has onerous terms and both parties are purchasing a depreciating asset.
I’ve been married three times and they were all for different reasons. Only one of them valid.
So you’ve had love and marriage in your life. Be grateful for that; some people never have so much to experience. As for your feelings about living solo today, it feels like you’re at odds with yourself in terms of whether it really satisfies you. It’s OK to admit to wanting romantic companionship at your age. Marriage and babies and living together don’t need to always be end goals, being fulfilled is. It’s also OK to be happy with solitude; some women find extraordinary freedom at this time in your life without all the cliched obligations of spouses, kids, etc. Do what makes you happy, and try not to judge others’ relationship choices. They’re on journeys of their own.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.