An oxymoron is basically a contradiction in terms. It's a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction, for example, 'working holiday,' 'plastic silverware,' or 'awfully good.'

So does it make sense to pair the words, lasting and love, together these days? Is it better to keep one foot out the door than to count on everlasting love?

Of course, it depends on whom you ask. My first self-help relationship book is called Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love. The title of my new book is Marriage Minded: An A to Z Dating Guide for Lasting Love. Call me counter-culture because I believe in marriage. I know love can last. A cynical literary agent, recently divorced, warned me not to write about my fulfilling marriage because you never know. It could blow up in my face, as happened to a co-author of The Rules.


When I recently asked a woman if she was interested in marrying, she said, "Definitely not," then added, "but I'm in a twenty-year relationship."

How many single women do you know who say, "I don't want marriage, but I'd like to be in a committed relationship?"
A man introduced me to — "my life partner." I wondered what's keeping him from taking that one extra step.

Some people think, "I don't want to commit to what's supposed to be a lifelong relationship. Instead of setting myself up with false hopes, I'll 'commit' to something less permanent." Some unmarried couples do become lifelong partners. Yet research shows that, in general, unmarried couples who live together have less stable relationships than married people.


Perhaps Julie was ahead of this trend. When we worked together as therapists at San Francisco's Alcoholism Evaluation and Treatment Center in the 1970s, this pleasant young woman was single and pregnant. When asked if she and her boyfriend were planning to marry, she said, "We'll stay together as long as it's good."

Was it easier to have lasting, stable marriages in the old days when people didn't live so long? Were they more likely to die before disillusion set in? Or was it because divorce was taboo, or women needed financial support?


I certainly understand the fear of marriage. My parents divorced, and I grew up hearing about other disappointing marriages. Yet fairytales and romantic novels painted a different picture. They showed marriage as an effortless happily-ever-after romantic experience. No wonder my relationships were disappointing. One flaw uncovered, and I moved on to someone new, and so on.

Over time, I learned to overcome my ambivalence about marriage and gained confidence that I could succeed. Committing can feel risky, given the crazy-high divorce rates and our own experience with divorce close to home one way or another.


Knowledge is power. I knew I didn't want to live in what looked like a halfway situation, where either of us could have one foot out the door, give up rather than learn to work things out. In my mind, "commitment' without marriage is a true oxymoron. I understand that not everyone feels this way. As noted above, some living-together unmarried couples stay together for life. And a marriage ceremony doesn't assure that the union will be lifelong.

I wonder what became of Julie, my pregnant colleague who said she'd stay with her boyfriend as long as it stayed good. Another acquaintance surprised me recently by marrying her live-in-boyfriend after eleven years. When I asked her what motivated them to finally marry, she said, "It was time." Our relationship evolved organically to that stage."

So is lasting love an oxymoron? It depends on how you look at it. I agree with the saying, "True love isn't found, it's built." "And that takes more than promises. It takes hard work," adds columnist Jeff Burkhart. That's true whether or not a couple is married, and whether you call it 'hard work' or 'investing energy.' However, those who marry after living together say taking that extra step makes a difference.

Author's Bio: 

Marcia Naomi Berger, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and the author of Marriage Minded: An A to Z Dating Guide for Lasting Love (She Writes Press 2021) and Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You've Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014. Her books are available in print, e-book, and audiobook formats.