Let’s discuss this marriage thing. What is it? What makes a “marriage” a marriage? When does a marriage take place? Why do so many people just “have to get married?” What about divorce? When does it start? Why does it end? Why does it happen? When is it finally over? The answers to these questions should be understood by literally everyone prior to making a decision to be with someone “for the rest of their lives”, because sooner or later we all, at least give consideration to getting married.
First of all, you do not have to have a wedding ceremony to be married, in the truest since of the word. Read on and you will see why. We do have the weddings of course because it makes our friends and relatives less nervous than when we just “shack up”. Besides, if you’re going to do that, “you might as well be married.” “Why not just go do it?” Seems as though society has evolved us into this marrying machine. You date, you get engaged, you rent the church and hall, you get married, you go on your honeymoon, then you go to your house and start living, having babies and you make everyone in your world much happier because you did “what is done.” They are satisfied. Are you?
For many years I have counseled and talked to many individuals regarding their being “married”, who wondered: “What have I gotten myself into, and how do I get myself out of it?” After describing the frustration of being in something that they don’t want to be in and are trying to find out what happened, I always asked them the same question: “Think back to two or three days before you had the wedding and ask yourself, and be honest when you answer: “What is the REAL reason I did it?” Every time, almost without exception, the reason for the breakup today has its beginning in that reason. It is almost ALWAYS for the wrong reasons. Got pressured into it, invitations were already sent out, Daddy spent thousands of dollars, didn’t know how to say no, I was pregnant, he was good looking, she was great in bed, she had a great body then, so did he. The numbers of reasons are as vast as the numbers of people not being able to say no. When we take a close look at why we did it, we find that it was not based on anything we have discovered that is anywhere close to what we thought a marriage was. But, maybe we still don’t know what one is. Stay tuned.
When a writer starts by saying, “The dictionary defines such and such as”, I tend to drift away right after the word ‘dictionary’, but let’s stay awake for just a second and just see what it does say: “Marriage: the state of being married b : the mutual relation of husband and wife : WEDLOCK c : the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family.” [Yawn]. Way too vague for me. But wow! The definition of WEDLOCK is scary: WEDLOCK. Makes you think of jail? Me too. Some feel that way when they are living with someone they now don’t want to be with. They were joined by “society’s pressure” (society, again) and a legal something (we’ll talk about this later; it’s a good one). Check this definition out and think about this for a minute: “‘an intimate or close union’, the marriage of painting and poetry”. Well, sounds like that is getting closer. But, can two people have that kind of close union? You know, like the marriage of painting and poetry? Sounds pretty poetic to me.
You’re still reading thus far so I will assume that you want my definition (or, that since you paid for it you want to get your money’s worth). Don’t know if I can sum it all up in a few words because, after all, no one else can. But, that never stopped me from trying something. Here goes: a meeting of the minds along with the agreement that we think much alike and therefore, we like each other. And, when you think like I do you compliment me. When you compliment me, you make me feel good about myself. I like people who make me feel good about myself. You have to like each other or it all stops right there. When you find that you like each other, which makes you feel good about yourselves, you respect each other, and, if you respect each other over a long period of time and don’t stop, you start loving each other in the truest since of the word. It is sort of like a process to go through. When and if we truly are “in love” we have gone through the process whether we are conscious of having done it or not. It sounds like something that our grandparents did. You know, the two that stayed together for 65 to 70 years, and still loved each other? They respected each other, and then came the agreement to be together until they died. Wow! What a long time that might be. Yep, but they did it, because by the time they decided to have a wedding to celebrate their “marriage” and let everyone know what they were doing, they had time to have thought about every reason not to be married to each other and they couldn’t find any. They liked each other, which lead to respect, which lead to love, which lead them to the commitment to being together until they died.
What about intimacy? That is icing on the cake of being truly in love, (in the definition of marriage we are discussing). Let’s imagine that grandma and grandpa wouldn’t even consider doing anything under the covers until the preacher pronounced them married. Why? Because they liked each other, they respected each other; they loved each other, and were smart enough to know that the icing enhances the cake. It is NOT the cake, nor is it the biggest ingredient of the cake. Besides, back then, even though there were still human emotions and hormones acting up, the thought about such things were just different. Of course, I am not so naïve as to believe that some of them did not do the wild thing as often as they could before the wedding.
Well, I would be amiss (and you would probably be disappointed in me if I didn’t discuss the “icing” that we enjoy so much and so often today). First, let me point out that my pointing is in no way being accusatory or judgmental. If that were the case I would have to look in my own mirror and see the icing smeared on my face too. I am merely showing our present way of looking at, and doing things. Things: arbitrarily having sex, anytime, anywhere, with anyone. I have thoughts on it, which I will discuss a bit further along. But for the moment, grandma and grandpa more than likely abstained (with exceptions for some, of course), but more than likely they just waited.
A marriage basically then is a blending of two different “somethings”, or of the lives of two people, to make something brand new from the blend. Something is created that has never existed before. It my contention that once a true marriage is formed it can NEVER be destroyed, not by anyone or anything. It is there forever. When it is true from the beginning, it is like your life vocation. If it is real and true it chooses you, you don’t choose it. When it chooses you, it doesn’t take no for an answer. Whatever “it” is, is indelible.
We have discussed basically what a marriage is. Now, let’s discuss when it takes place. Is there a precise time, or does it gradually happen over time? Does it take place in the church before the preacher and in front of family and friends? Does it take place before that, or after the wedding? My contention is that it takes place at the precise moment that all those ingredients discussed a few paragraphs ago come together. You’ve heard many times people say “they just knew.” On the first night that my mother and father first saw each other, without even having met, my father pointed my mother out to my uncle and said he was going to marry that girl wearing the red dress standing across the way from them. At nearly the exact same time, my mother saw my dad and told her sister that he was the guy she was going to marry. They had not even met before and yet “they just knew.” They were “chosen”. That was when they became consciously aware that the other person and themselves had created something new that never existed before. All of a sudden they became aware that something had taken place over which they had no control. As soon as they met, they were “in love.” It lasted 32 years until my dad died much too young at age 56. My mother never remarried. There was never anyone else in her life except for my dad.
You sometime say you love someone and call yourself being in love with that person. But look at the very expression itself. How can you be “in love” with someone when they don’t have a clue that you care, or if they do, they don’t even like you, let alone love you. Being “in love” takes two agreeing upon the same feelings and emotions toward each other. Let’s call it what it is. If the other person is not going along with it, it is only your wanting things your way. It’s an infatuation. It is your fantasizing about something that you think you want. It is actually being self-centered and childish. You might like what you see and under the optimum circumstances heretofore mentioned, you could be in love should all things fall into place. I am not saying that you can’t love another person as another human being, but let’s not throw the expression around to suit our own selfish motives. Together, or being “in love” has to be a meeting of the minds, in values, in sentiment.
When people have a ceremony and call it getting married there is usually more turmoil within the relationship than there is peace. The ingredient that they hoped would be “given” to them, many times is just not there. They, in their minds, manufacture every reason they can conceive to justify getting “married.” Human beings usually use every excuse, not reasons, to do what they want to do, including lying to themselves. They have a ceremony. They may be legally together in the eyes of the law, and of third parties, but being married is not what they are. They play at having a marriage. They buy a house, buy a car, and have a baby, but living happily ever after is not going to be in the plans.
We must be honest with ourselves if we want to avoid the suffering that is surely to come if we have made a choice that is as important as one where we say we want to live the rest of our lives with someone. We must wade through the emotions that are screaming at us trying to make us force things before we have been able to think about them without the pressure of the situation. Being totally honest with yourself is the only way to be assured that you don’t make a mistake you will regret.
Copyright 2008, by Wayne E. Smith