Now while this expression has some acceptable applications in the context of such things as aesthetic tastes and some core personality traits, this phrase has been so abused, that whenever someone utters it, I feel like I'm talking to an animated corpse. Needless to say, that's quite a turn-off.
The explanation for this is simple: I believe we are here to change and improve, otherwise there is no point to living. To get enjoyment out of life is a fun pastime to be certain, but not a goal strong enough to elicit passion. 'Fun' is not a valid existential drive, only an ingredient. If someone wants to stay the way they are, for me they are dead, or animals at best. I may enjoy many things but necrophilia and bestiality are not among them.
For me, marriage is a forge. The most intense training ground for mutual growth and improvement. Someone once said marriage is a three-ring circus: an engagement ring, a wedding ring and suffering. As with any cynical joke, this has some truth to it.
But why would anyone in their right mind go to so much trouble and conflict, and force themselves to change and work so hard on improvement if it involves so much struggle and strife? Why even bother to improve if things are satisfactory as they are now? My life as a bachelor is easier to control and enjoy, why bother working so hard for some nebulous rewards?
This is where we get tricked, my friends. Have you ever wondered why they call it 'getting hitched'? You lead a safe, enjoyable single life and suddenly you fall in love. The physical and/or spiritual attraction is so great, all logic and practical plans for the future get thrown out the window and you find yourself in the ring before you can say 'wedding vows'.
But think about it... what a brilliant feat of engineering! To induce change and improvement, opposition and challenge are necessary. What is needed is an environment with obstacles and responsibilities where one is forced to get out of one's safe little box, and grow. Expansion is not possible without taking risks and dealing with external and opposing perspectives. Since a spouse has physical, erotic, mental, and spiritual sides and the standard marriage arrangement forces you to interact intimately on all these planes, your potential growth is comprehensive and limitless.
The repellent aspect of challenge and growth is countered by a powerful, illogical attraction that keeps you in place while your skin is burned off and a better one takes its place.
That is, as long as you know what you're doing, are open to growth, and are both going in the same direction. Like another joke says: Marriage is when a man and woman become as one; the trouble starts when they try to decide which one.
By the way, I fully realize I am using overly harsh words to describe marriage, and that a nice marriage can be quite blissful and fulfilling. But I have to counter these romantic and static pictures of what a marriage entails.
On a related note, have you ever witnessed couples who lived together for years but suddenly deteriorate when they finally get married? Why is this?
It can be argued that the financial stress contributes to this effect, but others think it is simply because there is no longer a quick emergency exit. Before the marriage, at any time, you know you can simply pack and leave. Your back is not against the wall. If there is a fight, panic does not enter the picture in the same way. If there is tension, there isn't the same intense pressure to relieve it - you can simply wait and see if it gets resolved by itself, or you can move on.
Fighting to make things work doesn't mean 'do it or I leave' or 'do it or you'll regret it'. It should mean 'do it because we have to'. The solutions will then also have to be of a different and more permanent quality. If you get married, then that's it; you chose to be stuck together; you committed. As Yoda would say 'there is no exit'.
Women may bitch about men's fear of commitment, but the truth is I don't see them committing too strongly either. Just because you're married, that doesnt make you committed. In fact, I could turn this around and say that men are afraid of marriage because only they realize what it really means! (Or alternatively, men know they will have to support a family and will always get the short end of the stick if they do decide to divorce)
These obviously are gross generalizations, but it seems just as offensive to me that some women blindly push for marriage without serious thought towards a workable future. Blind fearlessness is not better than fear.
All of the above sets high standards which I have to work on as well so do not think I am taking the high ground here and preaching. I try to aim high but take an easygoing approach - and it's not always successful.
But I did need to rant against all 'relationship' seekers that don't seem to have a clue what they're in for or what they're looking for. It's well known that marriage is like a bird-cage with the birds outside wanting to get in and the ones inside desperately wanting to get out. Well, at least I know it's a cage.
If and when I get 'hitched', I will accept only the one who will make it all worthwhile. I'll know what to aim for, and yes, I will be afraid to commit. And for good reason.