How is marriage really supposed to begin? The tradition itself seems to be subjective between cultures. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, many marriages are arranged by fathers as diplomatic agreements between families. The civil union of sorts is for life; cultural expectations rarely permit a public separation no matter how abusive or unhappy the relationship. In the United States, a marriage is a designer affair where the bride gets celebrated and a Hollywood story is the ideal. About half of all marriages end in divorce, but a romantic life can continue on for most. In Europe, marriage is a bad word. Most couples these days do not marry at all instead choosing to raise children and live together all outside of the umbrella of a government- or church-sanctioned civil union. Rings and proposing are only for the company of kings and royalty.

Maybe a union set up by older (and hopefully wiser) parents will lead to marital longevity. Many Midwest American Christians defend marriage as a sacred institution set up by God to give a man a place to care for a woman (or women, if you are a polygamist). Perhaps not getting married at all is less messy than imagining the paperwork of hiring a divorce lawyer. I grew up thinking of the husband and wife unit as an ideal set-up for true happiness. Then, like many children of my generation, I saw first-hand that happiness slip into a divorce court. Today, I am not so naïve to think that marriage solves problems; more often they can be the very source of the problem.

How in the world does someone define their marriageability age? Above all, one can count on plenty of unsolicited opinions regarding the matter from movies to the church pulpit. Without a doubt, there is a fine line between a conscious thoughtful decision and an ignorant blissful youth looking to find happiness. If you don’t know how to think about getting married, talk to someone who has been at it for a while (successfully). If you know someone who has failed at it, they may be an even better resource being seen as someone who has mastered all the ways NOT to do it. Some people I know who are already married say there was a point when they just knew, as if a light clicked in their mind and they realized their life wouldn’t be complete without that certain someone.

Have you seen that t-shirt with the cartoon bride and groom? The caption under the couple says, “GAME OVER.” That pretty much sums up my concept of marriage. Avoid it as long as you possibly can but get as close as you can to it without getting burned. Ultimately for me, there was a specific moment when I knew the person I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. As most love-related subjects for men (or grown-up boys) go, it also happened to be one of the most surprising and frightening moments of my life. Why is it that so many guys fantasize over a relationship that does not even exist? And I do mean fantasize in every sense of the word here. Consider it this way: why are guys so afraid of intimacy that they would rather google “naked women” than fully explore the notion of having a thoughtful genuine relationship with a woman?

Marriageability is anemic without an open heart.