The rate of divorce is roughly up to 50% nowadays, depending on where you live. This post is dedicated to this new "˜norm', as well as to those who are in long-term relationships looking towards marriage and to those who also hope to find their spouse.
There's nothing more disappointing than to know that as much as you look forward to meeting your life partner, or have this big amazing wedding to celebrate an amazing relationship, you later find yourself at the brink of reality and statistics gets the better of you with the option of divorce looking at you square in the face. Although divorce is a convenient option to have, it's more important to know the meaning of marriage and look at it as it's meant to be, whether we are married or not. Let's explore the meanings of marriage we have today and the current belief systems which have lead to divorce or unhappy marriages. Lastly, this is to remind us the true, original meaning of marriage at its core with only three things we need to know about it, and I think the simplicity of it can inspire many couples.
So what does marriage actually mean?
My initial search on the meaning of marriage pulled up: 'the legally recognized union of two people as partners (those with shared risks and benefits, yes, that means I had to look up the meaning of "˜partners' too!) in a relationship'. Sadly, when I searched "˜marriage contract' for more specifics on this "˜partnership', guess what pulled up? A bunch of lawyer ads and samples for pre/post nuptial agreements in the event of a divorce.
It's important to know the widely accepted definition of certain concepts, like marriage, because these define our expectations, and the lack of meeting our expectations is what leads to divorce or unhappy marriages. From the definition alone, we expect marriage to be two individuals becoming one (union) and also be partners. Physically, emotionally, financially and in every other sense, it's impossible for two human beings to actually become one, even if it's just legally speaking. So right off the bat, we are setting ourselves up for impossible expectations on marriage.
Next, the suggestion that married couples are partners "“ this is quite an ambiguous expectation because the next question that comes to mind is, "˜partners in what? life? business? etc?'. Some might say marriage is a partnership in raising a family, but when there's children involved, most often the little ones are those who "˜run' the household and then the partnership dissipates into a board or shareholders meeting. "˜Partnership' mostly refers to business relationships, and most of them have well defined contracts that both parties negotiate, then sign, and if not, there's an understanding that both partners share a common goal at the very least.
If marriage were to be viewed similarly with business partnerships, what's the common goal? If the goal is to live happily ever after, and your partner is to share the risk and benefit ratio on that, then this, my friends, is the reason why divorce is so common. No one else can give you a lifetime of happiness but yourself.
There's a lot more other definitions and expectations about marriage that are more than this blog post can cover, but for the most part, many of us are caught up in expectations of what the husband, wife, or partner must do. The true essence of marriage and its pure meaning at its core is missing. When marriage is stripped down of all its expectations in terms of legalities, finances, intimacy, faithfulness, and health, all you're left with are two individuals who made a promise to simply love each other.
What is true love?
Interestingly, true love is not measured by time or physical limitations, and some wedding vows do clue into this with the phrase "˜until death do us part'. Also, before one can truly love someone else, they have to love themselves first. When one gambles all the family's life savings away or lost everything because of a high or becomes intimate with another person or becomes abusive, those situations make it very difficult to love that same person again. But the simple promise to continue to love that same person is what marriage entails. Love, meaning that regardless of the hurt created, such hurt is learnt to be left in the past, withstanding the test of time, and with a strong sense of self-respect and self-love, one can recognize that the hurt was not targeted towards their spouse, but rather, a manifestation of their own lack of self-respect and self-love.
Of course, the degrees to which love can sustain a marriage, especially when it's only coming from one side, varies significantly and the case for divorce can be justified in each unique scenario. But for the most part, marriage is a declaration of one's beloved, and after a certain amount of time with enough damaging storms, sometimes the spouse is no longer the beloved but even becomes an enemy. When such a point is reached, the marriage needs two things that are most often ignored: friendship and cooperation.
With friendship, the expectations become much less, the walls start to crumble, and more importantly, the negativity is replaced with small gestures of having fun. With cooperation, the spouse's specialties become appreciated and their effort in the small tasks of living day to day with their loved ones are taken with patience and support.
To recap, many of us today are missing three very basic things about marriage, which are love, friendship, and cooperation. With that said, here's an alternative definition to marriage: a recognized love one person has for each other with the values of friendship and cooperation between two people. With this definition, the emphasis is what kind of love one can bring into the marriage, rather than expecting or demanding what the other person should be doing. Also, the simplicity of marriage being rooted in friendship and cooperation reminds us how free and easy marriage can really be.
When you're having a bad day at work, you have a friend at home you can talk to, or when you can't open a jar lid, you have someone else you can ask to give it a try. But when your spouse is the one who's suppose to make your life happy and easier, it's those subtle but very heavy expectations that take a toll on a marriage. With friendship and cooperation, everything else will follow smoothly and the fruits of a pure relationship can be experienced.