With so many professionals, lay people and religious folks focusing on marriage, we have to ask, what is marriage for, anyway?
The answer is not what is important but rather -do you and your fiance(e) have the same answer? So many communication problems occur in expectations we hold dear to our hearts but don’t think to express. Women stereotypically want the romance and chilvary while the guy assumes what the woman thinks and feels is what she says – and if she doesn’t say anything, she must be doing fine.
I don’t personally resonate with the religious side of marriage so it makes me a smaller minority of “marriage freaks” who believe in marriage outside of any religious significance to the relationship.
For me marriage is about facing life along side someone who is there for you emotionally, physically, spiritually (however you define that) and financially. Life can really beat you down and to go through life with your one true partner – the person who is going to grow old with you, hold your hand through lifes ups and downs, the person who knows you better than anyone else, this is part of what marriage is to me.
I also think marriage is the best way to bring children into this world. This isn’t politically correct to say anymore and I do not think people are morally inferior for having children outside of marriage. But, from my core of how I was raised and all I saw around me (divorce is ugly, single parenthood is not something most would chose on their own) and how children are naturally a product of two people – well, call me old fashioned but marriage is a wonderful start for children. Who wouldn’t want to be brought into this world wanted by the two people who are responsible for your existance??? And better yet those people love each OTHER and can model to you what love looks like.
I also think marriage is for others. It is one of those signals to family, your parents, to friends and to the broader society that you are a unit. A unit has different expectations put on it and expected from it. If you attend a cousins wedding with a boyfriend, he is most likely going to sit out for family photos. If he’s a fiancee or husband he IS family and IS going to be in the photos.
Similarly for parents it is an important signal for whether they should deeply get to know and bond and love the boyfriend/girlfriend or whether this is one of a few relationships their adult child will have before finding The One. As a parent you would treat the holidays and family functions differently with a “boyfriend” around vs a son-in-law.
I sometimes like to use the “funeral” litmus test. If you had a very important event that you were in charge of or test to take, or some big responsibility and someone died, almost everyone would completely understand if it were your spouse or your inlaws and you had to attend to your sorrow/funeral. If this was your boyfriend, they’d be sad for you but it wouldn’t be the outpouring like a spouse, and if it were your boyfriends parents who died they would admit that was very sad but chances are pretty low you would be able to get out of an important meeting or function just because you were in mourning. Those people were not related to you and they would not view you as the primary support person for your boyfriend the way they would if it was your husband AND the inlaws.
So there you have it. Marriage (in my own view), is for deep personal gain, marriage is an ideal setting for children (for we all would aspire to be brought into this world loved by both our mother and father who also love each other and can model for us what a loving adult relationship can be), and marriage is for the broader community to separate the casual relationship with the commited relationship.