I'm getting ready to marry my best friend, and because I love her, I must say: I didn't wait for marriage. And hopefully, she'll be happy I didn't.
Let me tell you the story of why I bring this up now, just a couple months before my wedding:
I proposed to my fiancé in December, when I didn't have a job, didn't have money, and didn't have anything to my name but nickels and dimes. Some said it was romantic, but most people said it was foolish.
When the reality of marriage started sinking in, I wrote an article describing my sentiments on why I chose to get engaged at an early age. I honestly said that I got engaged at a young age because I was in love, and love for me is greater than timing, how much money I have, and other jaded opinions on marriage in our culture.
What I didn't expect, however, were the millions of people who would tune into this belief. The article went viral in a short time, with millions of views around the globe and thousands of shares.
Hundreds of people were reaching out to me and blessing my marriage. But also, on the other side of that, people were condemning it.
People said I wasn't ready.
They said I was too young.
They said I was idiotic for getting engaged without a job, and that I should start preparing for a divorce soon.
One person even found pictures of me, scribbled racist jargon all over it, and emailed it to me saying that I should go kill myself because I'm a minority with dumb thoughts on love.
This disturbed me of course, but one response bothered me even more. Multiple people said this when they commented on my future:
Just wait until marriage.
They said this as if I'm going to cross the line into marriage and instantly be dissatisfied.
Why is our culture so cynical on love these days?
People willingly choose to believe increasing divorce rates as a fact for their own lives. They let negative comments and views on love seep into their opinions on marriage, ultimately leading towards cynicism.
Marriage is a contract, they say. Marriage is the end to fun times. Marriage is not all it's cracked up to be.
People listen to that and carry it with them to the altar.
It's no wonder more and more marriages are failing today. People are oddly choosing to believe a pessimistic view on marriage.
Some have even told me that love has nothing to do with marriage.
After writing that article, and hearing what people had to say about marriage and love, I realized something:
The reason for high divorce rates is not because people are too young, don't have money, or aren't smart; it's because too many people have the wrong idea of love.
And yes, I said love. You might be someone who wonders what love has to do with marriage, but if you can't see the connection so clearly, you might be mistaken on what love should or can be.
Here's a definition of love that has helped me battle cynicism towards marriage:
Love means always taking the next step.
This means sacrificing and letting go of what you believe you deserve for a better relationship.
This means handling responsibility and putting in the extra time, devotion, and effort into your relationship, so it can be something beautiful in your life.
This means actually committing and looking for more ways you could further devote yourself to the other.
Taking the next step is a call to not sell your love out short, and to be greater than what the world wants you to be. It calls us to put more into our love so it could be the grand force it was designed to be.
With marriage, you receive more when you give more. Entitlement will trick us into believing we deserve a certain fantasy life, where we are merely receiving more than we are giving. But, this isn't truth. Ultimately, this will disappoint us when we aren't willing to risk for our happy ending.
Selflessness, however, gives us a higher perspective, one that extends past the grim and woe of failed marriages.
Taking the next step with your love is a selfless action, which, if done right, will allow your love to be an inspiring force for others.
If you are facing criticism for your decision to love, use the negativity to propel you to be the difference. Enable your love to compel you to take the next step. Let your relationship be the game-changer. Rise above the cynicism and jaded culture of our day.
Give more and receive more. Inspire others. And live a love-story worth telling.
So to my wonderful bride-to-be, I say this: I'm not waiting until marriage to experience disappointment. I'm not giving up that easily. Rather, I'm taking the next step.
I don't believe any of us should wait for a disappointing marriage. I didn't choose to do that. Instead, I chose to fight for the best love possible, today and forever. It's time for you to do the same as well.
This article originally appeared on nealsamudre.com.