For a few years now I’ve been writing about relationships, and marriage. I consider myself “pro-marriage”, and a lot of my writing (in my mind at least) has been about trying to help others make their marriages into the best marriages they can be.
But one thing I’ve realized recently is, I don’t actually give a crap about marriage.
Wait a second, what am I saying here?
As of right now I’m up to almost 150 posts over almost three years of writing; mostly about love, relationships, and how I believe long term monogamous relationships can and should be this wonderful thing; and how we can all strive to take what we have and make it better.
Isn’t marriage kind of the culmination of that ideal? And if so, shouldn’t I be all “rah-rah” pro-marriage?
Well, yes and no.
Let me explain…
I do believe in marriage, very deeply. But to me marriage isn’t about a piece of paper, or a title. It’s not about being someone’s husband or wife, and it’s definitely not to give “legitimacy” to children that come from the union of two people.
Instead, marriage is a symbol.
And it’s a symbol of a RELATIONSHIP; a symbol that a relationship has reached a certain level of depth of caring, compassion, and commitment that a couple is now willing to make a promise to each other that they will be there to support each other and be there for each other for the rest of their lives.
Marriage is supposed to be about the relationship. But for some reason, over the long term people often lose sight of that. The relationship comes to be seen as a “given”. After all, you’re already married – so what else is there to do?
Btw, that’s probably the worst line of thinking ever, and one that kills MANY relationships.
But even so, we often do it. And instead of being about love and the relationship, the marriage comes to represent all the “other” stuff. The house, the chores, the bills, the kids. All the stuff that is part of the grind of regular day to day life starts to become associated with the marriage, even when that was NEVER what the marriage was initially supposed to be about.
Rather than a celebration of love, a marriage becomes associated with the mundane. And when people start to lose sight of what brought them together in the first place, problems start to set in.
That’s when connection and communication starts to break down. And where resentment and apathy can start to set in. That’s where disillusionment with marriage can start to set in, and a couple will often start to drift apart.
To prevent this, they need to be able to go back to what brought them together in the first place. They need to find the love and the connection again. And they need to focus on the RELATIONSHIP instead of the marriage.
If they can’t?
Well, I’m going to steal my own words from a post from almost two years ago:
Let’s say you meet someone and fall in love with them, but they don’t feel the same way. Is that a relationship? No. You may love them and accept them for who they are. You may think of them all the time and have pictures of them in your house, wallet, at work whatever. But if they don’t feel the same way about you, then that’s just creepy (and probably puts you at risk of a restraining order).
If you believe you are in a relationship but the other person sees you as one of the many people they are dating, sorry, again it’s not a relationships.
It doesn’t become a relationship until they return the love, and there is an acknowledgement that the two of you share something together and you are committed to each other. So although love may be unconditional, relationships aren’t. Relationships do have expectations, and some degree of reciprocity is required.
Lets take this idea one step further….
Let’s say you are in a relationship, and the other person checks out emotionally. They stop doing the little things, they stop showing you that they care. You become two people, effectively living individual lives. If that happens, are you in a relationship? It doesn’t matter if there’s a piece of paper saying you are married, or you are living together. Even if one person still loves the other with all their heart, the relationship has effectively ended.
Relationships require reciprocity. They are about intent, and effort.
So I ask the question – if the relationship has died, what’s the point of the marriage?
Either work on the marriage, and get back to a place where the relationship is at the heart of it; or get out.
Personally I don’t care about marriage as a piece of paper or a contract. When people lose sight of the relationship and marriage has come to represent the routines of day to day life, I don’t see the point in continuing it.
Because to me, that’s not what it is.
When people are married, vows are usually spoken. And if those vows are not being actively practiced, then the marriage is broken.
Commitment doesn’t just mean someone is “staying” in the marriage. They have to be living it. Staying in it without practicing the vows is just a waste of everyone’s time.
But when people ARE living it?
When the marriage continues to represent the love and the relationship that brought people together? And when the marriage is a symbol of that active commitment and love?
Then I think marriage is one of the most beautiful things there is.