Screw Dating. Just Get Married (Yes I Said That)

If you’re dating and dating and you hate it and wish you could just get married already, well, maybe you should do that. Exactly that: Get married NOW, and date that person later.

I got this nutty idea from Hellen Chen, who has given herself the moniker “matchmarker of the century,” thinks dating for years on end is a big mistake. It’s a recipe for heartbreak. And she may be right on the money.

There’s no security in dating. And she’s right about that. Though I’ll also add that there’s no security in anything, really—not marriage, not employment. But dating is the very definition of “I’m not sure about you but am finding out.” What you need to be truly happy and free, says Chen, is a spouse (I’m not 100% on board with this, by the by, but you’re the one who wants to get married). When you have someone and something to come home to, she says, you can experience freedom like you’ve never had. In her world, the barrier that separates two single people poses the problem; if you just get rid of that and get married, well, problem solved.

The Case For Settling

This is bound to strike singles as odd advice, if not out-and-out preposterous. After all, how do you find the person you want to marry if you don’t date first? This is Chen’s wheelhouse, of course. And while I haven’t experienced her matchmaking style directly, I’m guessing she’s going to match you with someone right quick and not entertain your concerns that he doesn’t share your passion for the Hunger Games or House of Cards.

Her message is clear: Stop nitpicking every date to death and finding reasons not to commit to someone. Stop wasting years and years in relationship limbo, cohabiting with someone you’re not sure about, knowing the writing’s on the wall. Stop all this nonsense and get married already. That’s what’s she believes.

It’s not too far off from what Lori Gottlieb told us years ago in Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough—when she warned us that we’d regret the day we let that nice guy with the receding hairline or questionable spelling get snapped up by the woman willing to overlook male pattern baldness. The risk being, of course, that if you find something wrong with everyone, you’ll end up past your prime with fewer prospects and fewer men to choose from.

I’m not a fan of this argument, due to its scarcity-minded approach, but there is some truth to it, especially as the biological window closes. Regardless, she made her point, and perhaps humbled more than a few women into solid marriages they might have missed. (Did Gottlieb herself ever settle? Word on the street, says Melanie Notkin in her book Otherhood, is that she has not.)

Marriage requires compromise

Fact is, anyone who wants a specific thing must make some compromises to get it—be it a Manhattan apartment or a spouse. And this isn’t even just about marriage: If you want sex without relationship, you can have it, but you risk not having a supportive bond. If you want kids but not marriage, you can pursue ways to make that happen. And if you want marriage, and to be married, more than anything else, then you can do that, too, provided you’re willing to do away with the impossible standards and pages-long dealbreaker list for Mr. Perfect.

In other words, if what you want above all is marriage, you must have to be willing to commit first and love second. After all, it’s only (fairly) recently that we demanded the whole package: true love, intellectual match, best friend forever. As Stephanie Coontz taught us in Marriage: A History, for most of recorded history, love was considered a pretty fickle reason to get married, and not enough reason to stay—which maybe why today, with so many marrying for love alone, so many leave in droves.

DIY Arranged Marriage

99204-284x425-Arranged_marriageYou know where this is going right? It’s estimated that 55 percent of the world’s marriages are arranged—90 percent of which happen in India. The divorce rate, as you know, is roughly 50 percent in this country.

Guess how many divorces result from arranged marriages? Four percent.

That’s not because people are happier elsewhere as a rule, or don’t suffer the same emotions or experiences that all couples go through. They do go in, however, with different expectations. They go in knowing they will make the best of it, and in many cases over the course of history, the bond forms overtime, and love happens—not in all cases, certainly, but a lot more than you realize. Full lives, children, a summer home perhaps—that can be yours, too.

Do the countries where arranged marriages happen have a history of being oppressive towards women? Yes. Do I like the idea of women not being able to choose? Of course not. But you can choose. You just…aren’t.

You’re not willing to work for it.

You, like all of us, fell under this spell, from a fairly young age, that you should just be able to have something magical–true, everlasting love. That it’s your God-given right, and it “should” happen.

But let me ask you: Where else in your life would you expect something like that? You don’t assume you just “deserve” a CEO position if you’ve never held another office job, and wait around for someone to hand it to you, right? You don’t walk into a company who’s looking to hire a project manager and say, “Nope. I’ll take THAT job, up there in the corner office.” If they said, “Sorry, that job’s not available,” would you stomp out in a huff and complain there are no jobs out there? Of course not. But that’s what women (and lots of men) do when it comes to relationships. Fact is, if you want to be employed, you find a job that’s available and you make it work so that you can have the lifestyle you want.

Now I realize corporate hierarchy is a limping analogy. But, in essence, you do want the job, so to speak. And if you want to be married and have a married life, then you have to start with what’s available and commit to making your life what you want it to be.

And even though I’ve never felt the compulsion to get married in the traditional sense, I’ll admit, the idea of dating the person you marry is appealing. It’s enough to make me wonder if we waste all the good stuff while we’re dating and then bore ourselves to tears after vows are exchanged.

Chen may be onto something: Imagine if the good stuff wasn’t the appetizer, but the main meal. Think of how differently your romantic life would be if you could enjoy all the sexy fun of dating without wondering “where this is going”—because you’re already there.


A previous version of this story originally appeared on