The Weeknd, the 26-year-old Grammy-winning singer who recently started dating Selena Gomez, is pretty sure he wants to have kids. But he fears marriage.
“I feel like I’m the kind of guy that would have kids before getting married,” he told GQ. “The first thing would be kids. Marriage is scary to me, man.”
As a woman who has been married and divorced twice, and who is also a mom to two young men, he has no idea how scary being a parent is! Really.
His comments came out around the same time philosophy professor Laurie Shrage wrote an article in Aeon on the need for co-parenting contracts, basically tying a parent to a child and not his or her romantic partner — if there even is one. Shrage wrote:
(A)kin to a public marriage contract, we need an official ‘co-parenting agreement’ and associated civil status, which not only enshrines the rights and responsibilities of each parent in respect of their children, but also sets out the principles by which they relate to one another and make decisions. Although children benefit greatly from having the ongoing support of several adults as they grow up, they don’t necessarily need this nurturing from people who commit to marriage. Their parents simply need to cooperate effectively, to respect the relationship the other has with the children, and to contribute in comparable ways to caregiving and family finances.”
This is something I have written a lot about, most recently in the wake of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce and how that’s impacting their six children, and when I interviewed law professor Merle Weiner about her idea for making parent-partnerships legal. And, of course, in The New I Do.
Why the fear?
To be scared of marriage and not of the responsibility of having a child seems kind of crazy to me — until you start to figure out what might make someone more afraid of marriage than being a mom or dad.
The first thing that comes to my mind is money, as in how much a man might stand to lose if his marriage ended in divorce and there’s no prenup. Since The Weeknd is worth about $55 million, that’s a real consideration.
A few years ago I interviewed Daryl Motte and Seth Conger, two longtime friends who ran a now-defunct irreverent dating advice blog, We’re Just Not There Yet, that produced a book by the same name. The young men — one was a millennial at the time, the other a GenXer — told me are just not there yet when it comes to marriage, and a big part of that was fear of the D-word: Divorce.
But, again — marriage isn’t divorce, and not every marriage ends in divorce. In fact, the majority don’t (unless you’re over age 50 in which case a good half do, but that still gives you a 50-50 chance).
And since so many more women are breadwinners or have money and property of their own before tying the knot nowadays, spousal support (aka alimony) is on its way out. In any event, couples can always get a prenup — even a postnup. So, there’s no excuse.
So, what’s so scary about marriage?
Maybe it’s because it limits your freedom, especially sexual freedom if you don’t have an open marriage.
Maybe it’s because you are always accountable to someone else.
Maybe it’s because we fear infidelity.
Maybe we fear we’ll fall out of love.
Maybe we fear we’re doomed to replicate our parents’ marriage.
Maybe it’s too much work.
Maybe all of the above plus other things — I don’t know.
Age of anxiety
I didn’t spend too much time thinking or worrying about marriage, even after I’d been divorced in my 20s. I foolishly thought I was smarter the second time, but …
Still, I don’t remember any of my friends in my 20s and then again in my 30s feeling as much anxiety as young people do today about the thought of getting married.
Maybe we live in much more anxious times, perhaps fueled by the overload of information on the internet and social media. Or the multimillion-dollar wedding complex. Or maybe because divorce is easier to get (thankfully) and a lot less stigmatizing than in decades past. Despite that, divorce seems to weigh heavily over would-be-brides or grooms’ minds; no one wants to go into a marriage with the idea that he or she will get divorced, but everyone is aware that it’s a reality.
But to imagine that having kids would be easier? No, no, no, no no; in fact marriages can (and do) end and you don’t ever have to have contact with a former spouse again, but you will always be connected to your kids. And contracts like the kind Shrage proposes hold each co-parent accountable toward that child. So, yes, they would have to communicate and always put their child’s needs first — married or not. Once you have kids with someone, you are forever tied to that person or as law professor Patrick Parkinson has written, “The experience of the last forty years has shown that whereas marriage may be freely dissoluble, parenthood is not.”
Someone please tell The Weeknd that.
Want to individualize your marriage so you have nothing to fear? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.