First Comes Love. After That?

 

Marriage. Or, as in The Princess Bride, mawwige

 

We pretty much think we know what marriage is. It’s that time that happens after the wedding, be it ornate or a few mumbled words in a registry office, the months and years together. Sometimes apart. With children or not, through choice or impossibility.

 

We often think it’s a man-woman thing. Or a woman-man thing. In some places, it can also be a woman-woman or man-man thing.

 

Among people of certain religions, it can be a man+multiple women thing. Much less frequently does it involve one woman and more than one man, although anecdotal evidence out of India and China indicate that such marriages, usually involving brothers, are increasing and will continue to do so as the “lost girls” phenomenon (abortion of female fetuses) continues.

 

A lot of people, like this Washington Post columnist, think marriage is a state to be desired for all single people. Tell that to the women assaulted and murdered by their husbands, or the spouses of both sexes married to the insane, the emotionally cold, the manipulative, the sociopathic.

 

Marriage does not carry the cachet it did a generation ago, and with good reason. As divorce became easier, it grew apparent that what we need is a better way to be matched with a loving spouse.

 

It’s no wonder that in some Western societies, people intentionally have children before they marry. Sometimes they never marry. Swedish children are more likely to be raised by two unmarried parents than American children are to be raised by two parents still married to each other. As we know in rearing kids, healthy presence counts.

 

This Australian article mentions the thoughtfulness that the current crop of young-and-in-loves bring to the question of to marry or not.

 

“Australian Institute of Family Studies senior researcher Lixia Qu attributed the decline in the divorce rate to the fact more than 80 per cent of marriages were preceded by couples living together these days and couples marrying later in life. ‘People are quite cautious nowadays about marriage,’ Ms. Qu said. ‘When they do get married, they’re older, they’re a bit more mature, they’ve experienced a sort of weeding-out process.’”

 

They’re also doing less hormone-driven thinking. In the US, studies show that the divorce rate is higher where people are encouraged to marry young and have children right away. When they wait, they are more likely to have healthier marriages.

 

The Guardian interviewed 20 young adults from different nations to learn their takes on marriage. Yes, no, maybe so? Their responses varied from “oh, yes” to “probably not” and several stops in between. What was most interesting were their approaches. Thoughtful, measured, and in this era, with a definite eye toward economics.

 

Which is not to say that the heart has no say. Indeed it does, as well as a concern for both spouses’ well-being. This lovely article lists ten alternative wedding vows, genuinely meaningful ones.

 

“I promise to nurture your goals and ambitions; to support you through misfortune and celebrate your triumphs” – that’s #6 on the list. What a fantastic promise to make and to keep.

 

As the reasons for marriage have altered through the centuries (who in contemporary Western society marries in order to connect adjoining parcels of land? – a common course in the Middle Ages), so our taste for marriage waxes and wanes. If parenthood is no longer as important as in the past, if remaining with a partner is the most essential thing, including tax advantages, emergency care and passports, then we will still marry. We will still risk. Perhaps we will weigh the risks and marry not from obligation or temporary passion, but out of a loving friendship.

 

While searching for a photo, I found this lovely statement:
“If I had my life to live over again, next time I would find you sooner so I could love you longer.”

 

Says it all, really.

 

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