For many people, reaching our mid-to-late twenties kickstarts a lifetime of attending weddings. As many people will tell you if you’ve been to one of them you’ve been to the majority. The speeches are usually somewhat unique, but one stands out among them all as the absolute worst advice you can give a newly wedded couple — “Never change.”
This isn’t a slight against any person who has ever said “never change” in the past, I don’t believe anyone is less of a person for saying it. I do think that if the newly married couple takes you seriously, you’re dooming their relationship.
Language matters, we’re a context-driven species that owe our success to our ability to communicate with each other on a frequency that we understand. “Never change” ignores one of the most fundamental truths of the universe and our lives, change changes. No person, married or not, is beyond the reach of time.
See the problem is, when we tell a couple not to change we’re setting them up to fail. As most married couples will tell you, the partner you commit to today will not be the person you’ll wake up to days, weeks, and years from now. On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward, but underneath the words is context and understanding.
Pulling from a personal example: I was at a wedding recently when the words “never change” were uttered during a speech. It went something like, “You know why you love each other now, so be sure never to change.”
Now, we can imagine the context the speaker was trying to convey. Something like, “You both have fallen in love with each other because you value qualities about your partner. As you undertake the journey, never forget that each of you has a personal responsibility to be the best you for your other half. You’re going to change, but know whichever directions you grow towards, always remember why you’re here today.”
Of course, that’s not what they said. The speaker said, “Never change.” As in, resist transformation. Refuse growth. Root your expectations of the future in the present. Deny time. It’s an impossible task that neither individual will ever succeed at mastering.
But why does any of this matter? It matters because as human beings, we can only advance as far as our language will allow us. Throughout our history as linguistic primates, new forms of communication, both alphabetical and numerical, have propelled advancements in our understanding of the world. Language isn’t a static entity, it’s ever-evolving, and it’s our responsibility to challenge and change it always.
When we frame human experience through the ideal of stasis, a frozen time, we shape expectations and understandings into a form that can never be realized. This innocent misunderstanding of time and our relation to it permeates throughout countless aspects of our lives daily. The byproduct is the generation of unrealizable scenarios that impact not only our personal lives, but our political, economic, social, and legal arrangements as well. What seems minuscule in the moment cascades into a tsunami of cultural impacts that shape the way we perceive the world.
“Never change” is the worst marriage advice ever because it denies the one absolute truth we all grapple with: we are all vassals of time. Our best tool to navigate the flow is and always has been our words. So next time you’re giving a wedding speech think hard about the message you want to convey and why you want to express it. No matter what you say, well-spoken advice from the heart will provide their love with a fresh perspective. Of course, if you have ulterior motives, you could always say “never change.”