It looks to me like in the Western world we live in, marriage loses its value and importance with every year that passes. People do not see the necessity to marry anymore and many now believe that being in a serious, committed relationship is just as rewarding, if not more – it frankly does not make any difference. Many celebrities set us an example of how marriage looks like these days, and it is not necessarily a positive one. You meet your love interest, you get together, have a relationship, have sex, move in together, maybe even have children, and at some point, you may also decide to get married, just to kinda round it up and “seal the deal”. Many, many times, however, we equally witness how these supposed happy lovebirds (and people who can basically afford everything they ever dreamed of) end up divorcing.
If you are not the type that tries to emulate celebrities or who gets their inspiration from them, most likely you had been affected by either parents, relatives, friends or the community you grew up in. The way they lived their lives, if they were married or not, if they divorced or not – at some point, your views in regards to marriage, divorce and relationships has been influenced by at least one person in one way or the other.
Having experienced separation and divorce in the family myself, I personally know what divorce and a happy marriage looks like. I know the effect it has on you, which I will love to elaborate on in another post. Equally, I also know how it feels like to see happiness in the eyes of your parents. The memories of seeing them so in sync and made for each other that you would not even entertain the thought of a possible divorce. You see the look in their eyes, what they have built, how far they have come together and start believing, “what belongs together gets and stays together, no matter what”.
This showed me that there certainly are several good reasons and benefits for marriage, and why it actually is good for you. So I did some research to see if my assumptions could be backed up or if they were merely wishful thinking. To my amazement, the reasons for marriage were not just very high in number, but also surpassed reasons to be single or in a (serious) relationship by far. Let’s look at a few common (and partly even scientifically proven) ones:
- It makes you live longer
- It makes you happier
- It increases your earning power
- It gives you stability and security
- It represents a solid platform for procreation and family building
- You have more and better sex
- You get tax and legal benefits
- And much more
I will let you research these points and more on your own, if you are interested. But here is a good start.
This list looks amazing, right? A dream come true – all we ever wanted, we ever strived for, it pretty much looks like we can find it in marriage. So, why don’t we all just jump on the marriage train, get hooked and settle down already?
An additional reason people use to argue for marriage is: “It is not good for the man to be alone”; if you are a Christian, somewhat familiar with the bible, this may resonate with you. The problem I see here is that, while rejoicing due to that divine endorsement found in that sentence, we often blend out the context within which it was made. To enlighten you, before God made that statement, the man in question (Adam) had been busy – busy working, going after his purpose, his goal in life. He was at a stage that allowed him to discover himself – his strengths, his weaknesses, his likes and dislikes, his flaws and areas of improvement, his passions and aptitudes, his potential. He got to a stage that allowed him to know himself and identify who he was. Equally, he a had a deep relationship with his source (God) which enabled him to derive and cultivate positive values such as humility, hard work, dedication, selflessness, responsibility, etc. These governed the way he looked at life, the way he valued life; all of this put together gave him a sense of fulfillment. He had acquired so much inner wealth and substance that he was legitimately entitled to share all of that with someone in his category of species. Hence, God concluded that, now was the time for him to put himself together with a companion – because the man was ready.
Now, you may say this is ages ago, not everyone reading this is a Christian or believes in this, we do not all necessarily identify with that statement, etc. I get you. So here’s my point: Apart from the legal and tax-related aspects, where do those benefits come from?
Bearing in mind that marriage itself consists of two individuals, it leaves us with only one logical conclusion: that goodness we are searching for is found in the people that relationship comprises of, not in marriage per se.
This looks like a no-brainer, but really, have we taken the time to analyze what that actually means? Well, if not, let’s brainstorm together. “For a marriage relationship to bring forth those benefits, the following are ingredients both individuals must supply:
- a sense of health; healthy living and a healthy lifestyle/attitude,
- a solid occupation allowing you to live a (financially) comfortable life,
- the values of commitment and dedication which create a sense of security, stability and protection,
- values of honesty and truthfulness feeding into the above and also providing emotional and mental security,
- time, passion and humility – being there, being available, being willing to spend time with your spouse, exchange your innermost desires, and keep the fire burning with creativity, openness and the decision to love in good and bad times,
- the skills of communication, listening and cooperation to strategize their lives and future effectively,
- the willingness to think about the needs of your spouse first
Let’s stop here. I want you to do something right now. Take one moment – just one short moment – and simply imagine with me what it would mean to receive all of that. You may even close your eyes if you want. A partner who supplies every single one of those ingredients. Every single one. For you. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I bet it would!
Now add the following circumstance to that picture in your head: you would be that partner. The question is, would you be ready to supply those ingredients? Would you consider yourself capable of that?
Someone may say, well, I am not ready for marriage, I am definitely ready for a relationship, so this does not apply to me. Alright, if that is so, it means the list of ingredients to supply must be different from the ones we just brainstormed. If so, I will be very grateful if that person could share them.
The reasonable question to ask is therefore, if marriage supposedly provides so much happiness, all those benefits and a bright future, why do these not always sustain that union? And why does its popularity rather decline as opposed to increase? Particularly if you think of the mental, emotional, and physical harm a divorce can do to you, your spouse and even your children – who would want to purposefully do that to themselves and others?
Obviously, no one wants to purposefully do that. Still, it happens in our world, every day. It is saddening to see that, thanks to marriage, we apparently hold a solution to a variety of issues of the world in our very hands, but do not know how to properly avail of it. We kill dreams this way, and we kill each other as humans. Could it be because our reasons for “being in a relationship” were actually selfish or ignorant in their nature? Could it be that one major reason for the declining of marriage popularity is due to the fact that we spend less and less time developing, adding value to ourselves and more on wanting to be cared for? Is our desire to be in a relationship legitimate? Are we ready for it? Maybe we should invest more into adding inner wealth and fulfilment to ourselves, so that we can reach a point where can we selflessly share it with someone else?
Having witnessed divorce, realizing the effect it had on me and my siblings growing up and in my adult life, I have actually not lost hope in the fact that marriage can work and work incredibly well. Rather, I came to understand that we highly underestimate the consequences of divorce. But on a much significant level, we underestimate the importance, the consequences, the responsibility of marriage.
Whether you believe in marriage or not, I am sure that the ingredients we have brainstormed are ingredients you would want to see rooted in your relationship. You definitely want the good thing in marriage (or your relationship, for that matter).
But ultimately, what is good (or bad) about marriage – is you.