Why Believe in Marriage?

Back in my days as a self-proclaimed online dating expert (aka: the best college job ever), having been in only one serious relationship in my whole life, I was filling the internet with dating advice. I also dabbed in marriage advice, as well. Who better than a 21-year-old college student to fix your marriage?

Many of my post on marriage presented readers with more questions than answers, much like I do on ChapterTK today. By that point, I had come to the realization that spiritual growth one’s relationship with Divinity/The Universe/God/ etc. was and is more important than all the rituals and traditions. When it came to marriage, the important part is the commitment between two lovers and the promise they make. Without that, even the most holy wedding ceremony won’t make that relationship healthy. With that commitment, a relationship can thrive, even without going through the sacrament of marriage.

On November 17, 2011, I wrote a post titled ‘Why Get Married? A Young Woman’s Perspective.‘ In it, I go through all the reasons I hear people tell me they want to get married. They get married as some sort of insurance they’ll relationship will last a lifetime, but we all know marriage doesn’t guarantee that. Some think marriage will change them or their partner for the better, but it doesn’t do that either.

Love can exist without marriage. A couple can have children without marriage. Two people can live their whole lives together, happily committed to their love, without marriage. After going through all this, I wrote down this conclusion.

The only thing marriage gives me that I don’t already have is relief from the condemnation of those who think it’s tragic, trashy or immoral not to be.

Despite those ideas, which I still believe, I very much want to get married. I admit, my family’s ideas about marriage is a motivating factor. I remember when one of my cousins decided she and her boyfriend would never get married. Having both grown up in less than ideal homes, they no longer believed in the sacrament. “How can you believe in God if you don’t believe in marriage?” I remember my father asking.

There are a lot of things we try to make marriage about. Many push God above all else when it comes to marriage. Popular movies would have us believe marriage is all about the bride. Some mothers think it’s an opportunity to relive their wedding day.  If you ask me, that’s all misguided. Marriage is about love first. Marriage is about two people, celebrating their love, proclaiming it to the world and committing to spend their lives working hard to keep it alive.

This photo, “Act of Faith Hope Love Collage - text” is copyright (c) 2014 Sharon on Flickr and made available under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license
This photo, “Act of Faith Hope Love Collage – text” is copyright (c) 2014 Sharon on Flickr and made available under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license

If you’ve read my blog for a long while, you might remember a post about God and Love. At this point, someone out there wants to bite my head off for not putting God first, but the reality is, Divinity is still at the center under a different name: Love.

I believe God is Love. By that, I don’t mean that God loves more than anything. I mean that God is literally Love. They are one in the same. The love we experience in our lives is the literal manifestation of Divinity in our lives. The love we share with our life partner is the greatest love of all. That love, which we would gladly sacrifice ourselves for, is the closest we come to the love of a Divine being who would die for the sake of creation. While we don’t have the capacity to love every human being like that, we can love one with that much intensity. So, when I say the love between the two people getting married should be at the center of a wedding day, it is the same as saying God is at the center.

A few weeks ago, the boyfriend and I watched ‘Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend‘ on Netflix. I won’t spoil anything for you, but let me say this. That stand-up comedy skit basically describes how I view marriage. It’s not about belief in one religion or another. It’s not about some insurance plan to guarantee the relationship will work out. Marriage and love is about belief in each other. It’s about celebrating the love two people share and committing to keeping that alive.

Do you believe in marriage? What is marriage about to you? Would you ever consider eloping? Why do you think we have all these stereotypes about marriage, such as the wedding being all about the bride or sex disappearing after the ceremony? Have you seen My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend? Is it not hilarious?


46 thoughts on “Why Believe in Marriage?”

  1. Our marriage ceremony was incredible. It acted as a public declaration of our commitment. If we were willing to commit to each other for the rest of our lives, then we were willing to throw a party to celebrate that fact. In our ceremony (and most modern ceremonies, I believe) the couple no longer say “I do”, but instead “I will”. Our ceremony focused on the idea that it wasn’t about some mystical concept of love that Hollywood would have us believe we could fall in and out of, but a choice. It was only by our will that we could work for the rest of our days to raise each other up and work for the good of the other before ourselves. I praise God for His example. And for (and I might be a little biased) the greatest partnership ever.

    1. ‘I will’ huh? I haven’t heard that before, but I like it. I might add that to my plans. I’m not one of those girls who has her whole wedding planned out, but I do know three things: I want a tea-length dress, I do not want a Catholic wedding and I want to say ‘I will’ instead of ‘I do.’ I like that a lot.

  2. For me, a wedding is (among other things) a promise of fidelity and mutual support made in front of God and other people. It’s a moment where you declare you will do what you can not to turn around and run away in times of struggling; and to work on issues together instead. I think it’s also a kind of security for those who want to build a family, as it makes some financial and legal issues easier, as well as offering emotional security because the other person promised to stay and work things out not only to you, but in front of others. Still, I understand people who don’t want all this, and I can see the beauty in other forms of binding (or lack thereoff) as well. Some time ago I read an essay called something along the lines of “why christians aren’t the bosses of marriage” or so (over on blogher), and I think that while it’s good to act according to one’s faith and/or culture and cherish the meaning of rituals and tradition, we can’t make everyone act the way we want them to. I’d never tell an atheist to get married in church saying otherwise their relationship can’t be for real or something, even though for me it was the most normal thing to have a christian wedding.

    1. I agree, especially with your last point. Marriage predates Christianity after all. They don’t get to claim a monopoly on it.

      I remember learning about marriage and all the sacraments during my days in Catholic School. They literally don’t believe a person is married or baptized or anything unless you have a Catholic ceremony. I remember thinking how stupid that was. If two people commit themselves to each other, their committed. The power of God has been with them since day one. They have everything they need to bond themselves.

      That said, I’m terrified of the day I tell my parents I don’t want a Catholic wedding. I wonder if they’ll consider my marriage to be real.

  3. I guess, marriage is a “coronation of love”. You get married because you want to take “love” to the next level. A level where nothing or none can separate you.
    I know many people who think that by getting married, their sons or daughters will settle down and to just leave everything behind and care for their families. Which is so sad, because then marriage will feel more like a responsibility than a way to celebrate love.

    1. As far as I’m concerned, marriage is nothing more then promising to date the same person indefinitely. I don’t expect my behavior or the behavior of my boyfriend to change when our labels become wife and husband. We’ll still grow and they’ll always be new things to learn about each other, but neither of us will magically ‘settle down’ or change our dreams just because there are rings on our fingers.

  4. I believe that marriage is for people who want to have a life partner, someone that has found a person that they want to be companions with and can trust. I agree with you as far as believing marriage is love. I leave God out of it. 🙂

    1. That’s cool too. I believe God is literally love, so when someone says ‘I’m marrying for love’ it’s the same (to me) as marrying for God. That’s why I have no problem with all forms of adult, consenting relationships or how they choose to commit themselves together forever. Love is everything, regardless of whether you think Love is God.

      I almost wish people would leave God out of it these days, though. Unfortunately, people have a hard time seeing Divinity and Love as the exact same thing. Divinity is supposed to be this great rule maker who will magically make two people stay together. That’s just not true. Nothing like that exist. What exist are two people and their commitment. Their efforts are what will make it succeed or fail.

  5. I believe in marriage and marry people in my position as a Pastor. But, with that said, I catch a lot of flack from other Pastors because of my views on this. I’m a little bit non-traditional from the societal norm on this one, and I’ve seen the greatest successes among couples I’ve married in those that valued the relationship with God at the core of it more than the marriage license, the wedding, the family guests, the cake, and all the other entrapments. Just two people and love.

    1. From what I’ve seen having God at the core can work, I’ve seen it work, if the idea is God as Love. Believing in God as som great wizard who will magically guarantee a marriage will work out does not work as well.

      I really hate all the hoopla of marriage. I don’t want it to be about me, I want it to be about both of us. I don’t need a million guests or the best food in music. Honestly, I sometimes think about eloping just to avoid it all. I just want it to be about the relationship.

  6. I think somewhere, whether or not disappearing with the newer generations. Marriage will always be that kind of institution that gives some sense of security. Like something you can hold on to or hold up as proof. Those stories have been told for decades

    You are right about love existing without marriage.
    Just that it is maybe believed to be proof of and something to show for or hold on to.

    It does become clear it is also something that is toyed with more and more and thrown away as if it meant nothing. But that happens after most likely the realization marriage is not love. or vice versa.

    Just happy we can at least already choose who we would like to marry if we want to get married. No matter the reason. Because you would only know after if you was right.

    1. Thank God we can all choose who we marry. In the history of the world, that opportunity is pretty new. Maybe what’s happening now is a transition from marriage being about the institution to marriage being about two people in love.

  7. Personally I would love to get married for the experience and religious elements of it, however I don’t think that in this day and age marriage is important.

    Marriage is more a symbol of commitment than a way of showing your love, in my opinion, you are committing to this one person for the rest of your life. Unfortunately people tend to be marrying earlier on in relationships and allowing divorce to become a normal thing – when in actuality it shouldn’t have been allowed to get that far in the first place.

    I know so many young girls who are planning to marry their high school sweetheart and I am so worried that they are going to find themselves in a relationship full of commitment but no love.

    1. That seems to be common, especially in rural areas. I went to four weddings the summer after I graduated college. Every one was marrying their high school sweetheart. I really only have faith that two of them will work out.

      It’s interesting that you say people are getting married sooner in relationships instead of saying they get married too young. What you say may be true. In my days as a self-proclaimed dating expert, I did some research into marriage and divorce. Apparently, the longer a couple dates, the more likely they are to break up and/or never get married. On average, a man ask a woman to marry him after 1.5 – 2 years. Every year after that decreases the chances of the couple ending in marriage (Sorry I only know the herterosexual stats. I’d add more diverse stats if I knew them). I couldn’t help but think, maybe that’s the problem. People are getting married too soon in a relationship. If a couple breaks up after 5 years, that break up was probably meant to be.

  8. I do believe in people being married but it has to be a pretty huge commitment which will work for the rest of your lives. A marriage should be about a celebration about the couple, not just bout the bride, it’s a special day for the guy as well. There has been comments about sex disappearing but it’s important I think that the sex lives are still there and as positive and fun as ever before.

    1. I agree to all of the above. Marriage is not about one person, it’s about a couple. As far as I’m concerned, little should change in the couple’s behavior toward each other after marriage – meaning their sex lives should be alive and well.

  9. I think everything you said is true. A contract is going to keep you married forever. At the same time, I know someone who went from living together to marriage, and who said that marriage changed the relationship for the better — at least in her case — and that she was surprised by that. Married people are more likely to stay together than others are. Maybe the ceremony speaks to their commitment, vs. people who are just dating or living together — just seems logical that the non married would have less commitment on average. Because many of them are dating or living together because they are not sure they want to be committed. Or be committed yet. So if commitment is important to you, It seems that marriage makes more sense than other arrangements.

    1. That’s sort of how I see it. All religion aside, marriage is a sign of commitment. There are other ways to make that committment, but for me, the only thing that will do is marriage.

  10. It kinda makes me sad that religion claimed marriage. Marriage was around 4,350 years ago. In the beginning it was simply a way to bind women to men, and thus guarantee that a man’s children were truly his biological heirs. Through marriage, a woman became a man’s property. As the Roman Catholic Church became a powerful institution in Europe, the blessings of a priest became a necessary step for a marriage to be legally recognized. By the eighth century, marriage was widely accepted in the Catholic church as a sacrament, or a ceremony to bestow God’s grace. At the Council of Trent in 1563, the sacramental nature of marriage was written into canon law.
    That being said, J and I are definitely going to elope. Someone once told me, “Marriage isn’t about others. It’s about the two of you and your love for each other.” J and I don’t want to have a wedding because we’re not religious people, the whole thing seems like a huge waste of money we don’t have to spend, and the only thing we really want out of our union are the tax benefits. We’re just gonna have a kickass honeymoon!

    1. Whoa. That’s why more history than I knew. That’s sort of cool in a way. I’m not religious per se, but I do have my own spirituality. But, even if I elope, I can make that spirituality a part of the ceremony if I want. It doesn’t have to cost money.

      I doubt I actually will elope, though. Every person I mention that to say ‘That’s cool, but I’ll be invited, right?’ The answer would be no to everyone…. so I figure I may just have a small ceremony somewhere. That can be fun, so long as people don’t complain about how I want things to be done.

  11. My mom disliked being married to my father but she stuck it out in the name of religion. They’ve been married 40 plus years and recently celebrated another year. Their form of celebrating? Giving each other a hug with my mom saying, “we’ve stuck it out this long?” Needless to say I had a less than stellar example of two people in love. I’m not sure if I understand the institution of two people being together for the rest of their lives. As I’ve matured, I realize that I’m a lot like my mom. Today I see their marriage differently than when I was a kid. I’m a very strong willed independent person and dislike asking people for help. I’m not sure I would do well in a long term commitment. If I’m like my mom, than I’m sure marriage just wasn’t for her personality type either; but in 1950s Mexico, where she’s from, there were no other choices. As a gay man, I have what I call a weekend relationship. My boyfriend and I both have careers which require a lot of time and we both enjoy our personal space. I don’t need to have him next to me 24 hours a day in order to know the he cares for me. In today’s world where women have the choice to be financially independent, I don’t understand why most want to get married in their early 20’s still?

    1. I know what you mean. I’m 24 and I still feel a little too young to be married. My boyfriend and I have something similar to you and your boyfriend. We spend most weekends together and once or twice a week, we may do something together. He’s currently looking for a job closer to where we both live (he has an hour drive to and from work right now). Once that happens, we’re looking to live together. Even when that happens, I imagine we’ll both have our own space. He hasn’t said anything about wanting his own room, but I know I want mine. I want my own creative space that is 100% mine. It will be the place where I work on my creative pursuits and where I keep any posters or items he doesn’t care to see in the rest of the house. I think the ideal for us will be for him to have a room like that for him as well. Our bedroom, living room, kitchen and every other room in the house will be a compromise, but I think we’d both benefit from having a space that was exclusively ours.

  12. We got married after three years of living together but we were 20 and 21 and part-way through our undergraduate studies so many people didn’t understand why we were bothering. For us, there were lots of compelling practical reasons – legal stuff, wanting to get married while grandparents were still living, before my in-laws moved back to the US – but mostly just an instinctive desire to celebrate our commitment to each other with our family and friends. Ours was a very small, intimate, simple ceremony and reception (we funded it all ourselves so, as students, it was a bit of a penny wedding) because for us it was not about a Big Day but about properly embarking on life together. We did consider eloping simply because it would have been cheaper, easier and less public (as neither of us likes attention) but wanting to include our family won out. We have never (yet!) had cause to regret marrying when we did or how we did.

    1. I think it’s different for everyone. Amid all the stats and advice, that’s the most important thing people need to know. Every relationship is different. What works for one won’t always work for the other.

      1. Precisely and I totally agree. However, I have known so many people who’ve gotten so caught up in the traditions of hype or drama of planning their weddings that they’ve forgotten to focus on what it’s really all about and layer regretted that they didn’t do something that was more them.

        1. Which is why I’m determined to stick to the few things I want, regardless of who I piss off. I don’t want a Catholic wedding, which might piss of my parents and my uncle the Catholic priest. I want no veil and a tea-length dress. Oh, and I want both of my parents to walk me down the isle. And… I could care less about the other stuff. Those are the important parts.

          I might decide to care about other things once I’m at a point where I’m actually getting married.

  13. I basically hold the same point of view that you do, here. If two people love each other and want to spend their lives together then that is what their marriage should be all about. Their love for each other should always be the source of their commitment because they are committing the rest of their lives to their love. However, fifty percent of marriages end in divorce (I forget the percentage now I think it’s 50% I may be wrong) so…
    For me being in the serious relationship that I am in I really do see a future with him, but marriage is not required. I guess I’m trying to say that if he never purposed marriage then it wouldn’t affect my love for him. I would still want him in my life, I would still be in love with him, I would still want to commit all that and more to him. Don’t get me wrong though, if he proposed today I would totally say yes, lol. I wouldn’t even think twice about it! 😆 And yes I would so elope! Like you said the marriage is about the two people committing their love for each other. Adversely, I would be happy to have a big wedding with both our families and friends involved. I think we grow up with “that kind” of marriage in mind. As if it’s suppose to be our mile stone and/or rite of passage and I think all those preconceptions and expectations clouds what the marriage should really be about. I have not seen My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, but I am so putting it on my watch list!
    I love your posts TK!

    1. Personally, I think 50% of marriages end in divorce largely because people get married for the wrong reasons. People get married because they feel obligated to, because they want a Disney life, because they don’t know how else to move forward, because family is pressuring to. Then, when the marriage happens, it’s all about the bride and the flowers and the drinking. People obsess over ever detail but the love allegedly being celebrated. I think a lot of people what to have a wedding, but don’t actually want to be married. Me? I could care less about the wedding. I just want to be married to the love of my life.

      1. In my head I picture it and I think the “idea” seems… captivating. But that’s besides the point, as you stated “I just want to be married to the love of my life.” That’s why I’m totally ok with eloping! It’s funny a lot of people couples I’ve asked wished they had eloped. You don’t have to deal with all the stress and drama and all that extra stuff that distracts the couple from the real reason why they are there. I already have enough of that crap in my life, why would I want more? lol.

        1. exactly. I went through 4 weddings the summer after I graduated college. That was more than enough to convince me I did not need to get married like that. It made me want to wait a long time before getting married.

  14. I believe God is literally love too — glad to find someone else who does. 🙂

    For me personally, partially informed by my perspective as a bisexual person, marriage is about legalities. It’s about legal rights to be consulted, to be present, to stay with the person you love no matter what. Religion doesn’t come into it at all — the personal religious aspects come into the relationship, not into whether or not two people are married.

    1. “the personal religious aspects come into the relationship, not into whether or not two people are married.”

      I like that. That’s exactly right.

  15. I think for me, marriage was a part of something that made the commitment to my husband so special. I waited to have sex, waiting for that special someone. I waited to live with anyone other than family or a college roommate in the dorm, until I was married. I committed myself with that marriage ceremony in front of my friends. Them all knowing that I was engaged gave me time to think about my life with Andy and also gave me time to get advice before I took the ultimate plunge with someone to become more than a kissing buddy/best friend. The whole thing was a commitment to him. However, that does not equal perfect. It doesn’t even equal forever. Divorce still happens to those who do all that. Life isn’t perfect or fair but I think if we took sex/love/and marriage more seriously, commitment would be more solid all around. Maybe. I could be wrong. I don’t know…. – the wifey

    1. I think we should take it more seriously and I think we should also embrace all the different ways people carry on their relationships. I think the way you went about it is lovely, but I also know people who feel they could never marry someone without living with them for a bit beforehand. Both of those are good choices. We need to choose what feels right for us.

      I think the idea of marriage suffers a lot because people keep trying to dictate what is should or shouldn’t be. Every relationship is different, which means every marriage is different. It then goes without saying that every wedding will be different. Part of taking marriage seriously is seriously acknowledging that those who have a relationship or marriage different from what you think is ideal are still have marriages worthy of respect.

      And I mean you in a general sense, not you you, in case that wasn’t clear ^_^

  16. I am happily married, though when I was younger I never thought I would get married. We did the typical big wedding, and to be honest, I didn’t need it. I thought I did. And I’m ok that we did it, but looking back, I think a small, intimate wedding with just close family and friends would have meant more than having parent’s co-workers, etc. I don’t know that I had that option (would have upset too many people to be worth it), but it would have been nice.

  17. “I believe God is Love. By that, I don’t mean that God loves more than anything. I mean that God is literally Love. They are one in the same. The love we experience in our lives is the literal manifestation of Divinity in our lives. The love we share with our life partner is the greatest love of all. That love, which we would gladly sacrifice ourselves for, is the closest we come to the love of a Divine being who would die for the sake of creation. ”

    This definition of God is one that I can still believe in as an atheist. I don’t believe in the “big old man in the sky who sends people to hell” type of God that christianity taught me about but I won’t deny the existence of love. Defining love is still something that people will debate, but at least in that case there is something to debate about.

    1. This is another reason why I believe God is love. I think God is in people, whether they believe in Divinity or not. It’s not something we can separate. When an atheist celebrates love, they are celebrating divinity, whether that’s how they think or not.

      And I agree, I have yet to find a religion that believes in God the way I do. That’s okay, though.

  18. When I was in my twenties, no one could see the point of marriage – it was ‘just a piece of paper’ when love should be enough. Marriage was seen as just an old fashioned tradition for the religious or the timid. As a Christian, I didn’t really have much to say other than, ‘Well, I trust God and he seems to like marriage’. Of course that was all a bit academic then because I wasn’t with anybody.

    But now I’m older I do find people seeing that marriage has a point – though they probably don’t agree my Christian viewpoint. So for example a girl who’s been with her boyfriend fora few years and she’s thinking – does he want to stay with me or not? She didn’t start out wanting to marry or to get the guy to commit – but now she’s been with him for all that time she doesn’t really want to start out again (and especially not if this is the second time around.)

    Getting together without marriage can take a whole chunk out of your life. When you gradually get into a relationship – you are making a big commitment, whether you get married or not. It’s not the Christian ceremony or the contract or the romance that makes a marriage into a big commitment. It’s that you have two people in love with one another, Isn’t it?

    1. “It’s not the Christian ceremony or the contract or the romance that makes a marriage into a big commitment. It’s that you have two people in love with one another, Isn’t it?”

      Exactly. I can understand people who don’t want to get married. There are other ways to be sure of a person’s commitment. Marriage certainly doesn’t prove anything. it’s a person’s actions and dedication that really make it work. I still like the idea of marriage, though, because I like the idea of celebrating love and making a promise in front of everyone to do all you can to make the relationship work.

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