In my younger years, I was what would be described as a “player.” I put a lot of effort into sleeping with a lot of women. Unfortunately, for a time, it was an integral part of my identity, which wasn’t healthy.
I was that guy who was juggling four different Lauren’s in his phone and couldn’t remember which one he texted what to. But I didn’t care, because there was always another Lauren just around the corner.
It was a fun life, but it was also shallow and, aside from my own ego trip, more or less meaningless.
My obsession with my penis of course was merely an outcrop of my deeper insecurities around intimacy and commitment — namely, I was abso-fucking-lutely terrified to let myself get too close to someone, and so instead of fulfilling my need for love through quality relationships, I pursued quantity.
A side effect of this was that for many years I entertained a number of beliefs around commitment and marriage that justified my own behavior. Marriage was an antiquated tradition, I believed. Men and women are biologically wired to be promiscuous. Cheating is inevitable and life-long commitment is not only impractical, but tantamount to a glass prison.
On and on it went. I was really smart about it. I researched biology and anthropology and gender. I even wrote some scrappy blog posts about five years ago opining on whether our generation would be the first to break out of monogamy’s shackles, whether marriage even made sense, and whether I was even psychologically capable of settling down with someone.
(Those posts are now long-gone, which is probably a good thing, trust me.)
Yet, here I am. Married. And feeling really damn good about it. So what happened?
Well, a lot of things. I met the right girl, for one. But I also did a lot of growing up. I realized that a wet penis didn’t necessarily make me a more valuable human being (nor did it make me “a man”). And as I began to calm down and let go of my fears, I also began to discover many of the unexpected thrills and benefits of such a monumental commitment to a single person — benefits I had never considered or ever seen expressed anywhere else.
1. Commitment frees up one’s mental and emotional energy for more important things.
Looking back, I spent an ungodly amount of time and energy worrying about the following things:
- What various women thought of me and whether they were attracted to me.
- What I could do to make certain women more attracted to me.
- Logistics and plans to see various women I was attracted to.
- How attractive I was at any given time or in a certain context.
- Where “things were going” with the women I was seeing.
- When I was going to have sex, when I had sex last, whether I was a loser or not because it has been so long since I had sex or might be a long time before I have sex again.
- How was I going to meet more women? Where? What types of women did I want to meet?
My wife has commented a number of times that I “changed” when I proposed to her in 2015. And I think this is why. Once I made that decision, once I stated that commitment explicitly, that this was forever, my brain realized that it would never, ever, have to worry about the above checklist ever again.
And for many years, the above checklist occupied a LOT of my mental RAM. In fact, as any single person, I went through periods of absolute obsession, analyzing every text, every word said, spending hours fantasizing about what if’s and could be’s.
And suddenly, these are all gone. I don’t have to worry about a single thing. And that’s incredibly liberating. I feel free to worry about things that truly matter in my life — namely, my work — but I’ve also reconnected to old hobbies and found new ones with all of my new spare free-time. I’m reading more books. I’m not drinking as much. Life is great.
2. A permanent partner makes you far more productive.
I can’t feed myself. I just can’t. This has been an ongoing issue pretty much my entire adult life. Put me in a kitchen and I’m about as useful as a deaf person at a symphony — I kind of just stare at things and feel helpless.
As a result, figuring out how I was going to feed myself would occupy many hours of my week, and inevitably, I’d end up eating a lot of crap.
The fact is, once you’ve taken that step and merged your life with another person, you become a team. And the things you are terrible at, they can pick up the slack, and vice-versa. My wife has made me a healthier, saner, more productive person for the simple fact that she’s adept at handling a number of life skills that I’m bad at, much in the same way I’m able to handle some of the things she’s bad at. We, quite literally, make each other “better people.”
And now I’m well-fed… which there’s a lot to be said for.
3. The psychological value of a creating a shared history.
In my mid-20s, I spent almost four years traveling the world by myself. I had a lot of amazing experiences, but ultimately, when I came out the other end of them, I couldn’t help but look back and feel like a lot of it was meaningless. I even wrote about this feeling at the time.
When my wife and I started dating, she quit her job and she and I traveled the world together for almost two years. And while the traveling with her was, in many ways, fraught with difficulty and more complicated than traveling solo, the experiences we ultimately shared together carry more weight in my memory for the simple reason that they were shared. It’s cool to go see the Great Wall of China by yourself. But as time passes, all you’re really left with is a photo and a couple vague, meaningless memories. It’s an internal checkbox that has been checked but still somehow feels empty.
It’s only when you add a loved one into the equation that these memories become laden with a deeper significance.
And the amazing thing about this is that it only becomes more valuable as time goes on. Anyone knows that life-long friends are hard to come by. There are few people in the world who have known you for five or even 10 years. And you value those people and their perspective. In a lifelong commitment, you are setting yourself up to generate a shared story with someone who will know you for decades to come, who will literally know every detail of your life inside and out, who will have been there in your greatest successes as well as suffered your worst failures with you. Who, decades from now, will sit and laugh at how stupid your 30-year-old selves were, how blind you were when you thought that first career would work out, who will love you and care when you talk about how differently you wish some things in your life had went.
That is invaluable. That is something that cannot be found anywhere else, cannot be generated in any other way, than through “’til death do us part.”