I was just chatting with an old friend about attitudes toward marriage and children. I’ve always understood the desire for these things (to borrow a bit of philosophy jargon) in the de re, but not the de dicto sense. That is, I understand full well being crazy about a specific person with whom you’d like to get married or raise children, and could imagine myself wanting that someday easily enough. But I’ve always found the abstract desire to do either—partner to be determined—somewhat more mysterious. And I finally came up with an analogy that I think captures my perplexity: It’s like expressing an overwhelming urge to join the clergy, without having any particular religion in mind.
Addendum: Obviously, there’s nothing at all mysterious if (as one commenter suggests) you take an expressed desire to marry as shorthand for “I hope I meet someone I fall so seriously in love with—and who returns the favor—that we would get married.” But my sense is that at least some people mean something more than this, that the institutional arrangement is a distinct, and possibly even a prior, goal.