“Yale Men” was a completely foreign concept to me, until I had dinner with a friend a few weeks ago. “Yale Men”, she complained, “are all the things you don’t want them to be. Flakey, lacking commitment…”

We are in an era where an aversion to commitment is widespread. This is reflected most clearly in the fact that the average age at marriage is getting higher and higher, not even accounting for the fact that many couples are increasingly choosing to skip out on marriage entirely. It used to be that cohabitation was a precursor to marriage, a sort of “testing the waters” before deciding to seal the deal. Today, however, we see people cohabiting without so much as the faintest intention to marry. 

One of the main reasons that people spurn commitment is the desire to “focus on myself”. Climbing the corporate ladder, working late nights in big cities, backpacking solo around the world. These are all hallmarks of a coveted single life, free from having to answer to somebody else’s needs and wants. Modern society calls such a person “independent,” but just a few decades ago, the word of choice was “selfish”.

Another common reason to avoid commitment is to “keep the options open”. Especially in a college campus like Yale, this is guided by a belief that the more people you sleep with or the more people you date, the more life experiences you amass to decide your likes and dislikes. God forbid you run into someone you find drop-dead attractive at a club and can’t make a move because you have someone else waiting for you at home.

A final reason people cite is to “keep things simpler”. By avoiding commitment, especially of a legal nature, you avoid the hassle of untangling your finances and hurting the children if things go south. Want to break up? All you need to do is pack up and leave.

All these reasons point to one dominant belief: choice is king. We prize flexibility and worship autonomy, but frown upon commitment. Want to sleep around and see what catches your fancy? You are the “independent” and “open-minded” star of the big city. Want to get married straight out of college to your high school sweetheart? You are “tying yourself down,” “wasting your twenties,” and “just wait until you see what happens to people who get married young”.

Obviously, I want to clarify that I don’t believe in marriage for marriage’s sake, which can lead to hasty and poor decisions. I also think that marriage is not for everyone; I have much respect for people who have intentionally and actively decided to pursue singlehood as a lifestyle. What I am reacting more against is the allergy to commitment. The misconception that commitment and marriage are always bad things, and that flexibility and options are always good things. Viewing love like a job you can just quit when the going gets bad, or as a lease that needs to be renewed from month to month.

I am thinking about how commitment still matters. We should celebrate, or at least respect, those who choose to pour their love, resources and time into building a life with one other person. Yes, their finances might get messed up. And yes, they might miss out on the wild twenties with late nights out. And yes, they might get their heart broken in the end. That’s how human relationships are — risky, messy and full of sacrifice. But that’s also what makes love love and something worth remembering this Valentine’s Day.

SHI WEN YEO is a Junior in Morse College. Her Column, “God, Country and Yale”, runs every other Wednesday. Contact her at shiwen.yeo@yale.edu.

Shi Wen Yeo edits the Opinion Desk. She is a Senior in Morse College, majoring in English and Economics. Her column "Through the stained glass" runs every other Tuesday.