So what are we left with?

Even once we recognize that we desire social acceptance and false senses of security, and love things more after we call them ours, it still begs the question: what should we do? What does this mean for marriage?

The answer depends on our goals — and values.

What makes us happy?

If you value social acceptance (especially among family and friends, but also professional and/or religious groups), then just get married. And do whatever it takes to stay married.

But if we value deeper happiness, then we have to take a more complex approach.

(If we think we can have both only pursuing one, we’re wrong — unless we define “happiness” as“social acceptance.”)

Deeper happiness means we understand that the only thing we control is ourselves. And that everything changes, and sometimes people change, and contracts mean very little to the human spirit at the end of it all.

Deeper happiness means we view people as people, not “parts” to “complete the picture” of a “perfect life.”

What makes us happy?

  • Focusing on what we can control (which is only ourselves)
  • Committing (ourselves) to our partner — love them healthily and hard, every day.

After that? For added bonus happiness:

  • Formalizing our (own) commitment, because we love things more when we do.
  • Finalizing our (own) commitment, and entertain no possibility of “do-over” or “take-backsies,” because we love things more when we don’t.

It doesn’t need to be mutual for us to get the benefit.

The only thing we control is us. And “marriage” is about commitment, but it starts and ends with our own.

And after that, we only need to respect our partners as their own person, separate from us, who commit to us not by contract, but choice.