Evolving Thoughts on Marriage
My views on marriage have gone in an interesting direction over the years. I once thought it was the key to a happy life, the end all and be all of femininity. Because face it– women are still largely judged in 2020 based upon whether we can get a man to put a ring on it. If you can’t — well, there must be something wrong with you. Its noticing this dynamic that has moved me ever so slightly toward feminism.
The following are a few statements by a Christian woman about the purpose of marriage to act as a jumping point for my thoughts. She writes:
Marriage is a public commitment to be a permanent unit as husband and wife and form a family that is then consummated by sexual intercourse.
Now, what do I mean by a public commitment? This does not necessarily entail a public wedding ceremony. A lot of people all around the world do have wedding ceremonies, but plenty of people have gotten married without an official wedding ceremony. What marriage does always include is public knowledge of who is married to whom. A man and woman make it known publicly that they are now married and are setting up a household together. You can’t be secretly married because you whispered something to one another right before you had sex. Marriage is a public institution. The details of what happens in the marriage are private, but the fact of the marriage is public and has a public purpose for building society and the next generation.
Good. I agree with this mostly. Although, I don’t think its marriage™ that builds society, but rather healthy relationships regardless of their form.
I will say, however, that while the core of what marriage is does not necessarily require a public ceremony, it is good to follow the norms of your society for making your marriage known to others because the intention is to let the public know you are married and to seek reinforcement and accountability to help hold your marriage together. I am usually very suspicious of the motives of people who claim they are married without the “piece of paper” (i.e. marriage license or wedding ceremony) when these things are quite easy to obtain to help you make your marriage known and official.
This is where I diverge. Nothing like a facebook announcement to let it be known you are married or a couple. Updating that relationship status is a pretty powerful indicator. That will spread the word better than a license, of which no one actually gets to see anyway. Also, along with a licence comes huge financial and legal implications that depending on unique situations may not always be wise for certain couples to merge. There may be reasons why a couple chooses not to marry that make sense and has nothing to do with their love and commitment.
What too often happens is that people who don’t really want to be committed to one another, but do want to engage in sex, sometimes lie to themselves and others about their commitment. They claim they are married and thus it’s okay to have sex, but when the relationship develops problems, they claim they were never married and walk away. And it’s easy to walk away because they never put those official safeguards in place to mark them as married to one another. They avoided those on purpose because they wanted the option to walk away.
Its just as easy to walk away when married too. When people want out, no “safeguards” are going to stop them. Where there is a will there is a way. If it wasn’t so easy there would be a much lower divorce rate. And really its children that may make it technically harder to get out, not the marriage itself. A childless couple can truly separate and never see each other again. But a couple with children, married or not, is forever enmeshed. Children is the commitment, not necessarily the marriage.
So I would say to someone who is claiming to be married or thinking about being married without making it legal and official that they carefully examine their motives. If you’re committed in marriage to one another enough to have sex, you can’t walk away when it gets tough.
That doesn’t make sense. People committed in marriage and having sex walk away from each other all the time. Marriage really doesn’t guarantee anything. I think, like religion, we want to indeed see marriage as a safeguard in guaranteeing a partner just like many want to see religion as a safeguard to the afterlife.
Overall, what I continually notice from Christians and conservatives is an idolization of marriage. Its used as a measuring stick for your worth as a woman and the values you hold. In Christian circles its assumed if not married no man wants you and/or you don’t care enough about the future of society and the stability of the next generation. It causes us to look at status and “box checking” rather than the individual.