A New (North American) Definition of Marriage
I have become suspiciously aware that everything I know about marriage, I learned from a 1950s laundry detergent commercial.
When I was married, I did not understand what being married entailed or how to ‘be married.’ There was no plan to have children, so that was not part of the equation. I understood I was to be faithful, and we were to live together… that was about it.
I did not know what to do, so as a result, I did what my 1950s laundry detergent commercial told me to… I became a Stepford wife. Supper was on the table when my husband came home from work; if I would not be home, supper was in the fridge and ready for him. I made his lunches and even sat to watch hockey games with him (little did he realize I just spaced out while watching). On my days off, I did laundry, made bread from scratch and went grocery shopping. I only wore clothes he liked, and I cut my hair only after getting his approval. I had no self-worth; because of this, I figured if I did not do these things my husband was apt to leave me at any minute.
After a few years of working on myself, I have come to see how completely ridiculous this idea is and equally, am ashamed I ever believed this. But, that is a whole blog post on its own!
People ask me if I want to marry again and my immediate response is YES! As a romantic at heart, I say, of course, why not? However, lately, I have been asking myself… why? At 36 years old, my chances of having children are dwindling with each day, and I wonder, for what other reason should I get married?
Furthermore, I question if my desire to get married again is a battle with my ego; the ego not wanting to let go of the long sought-after goal of being married. Marriage being the status symbol of our society which proves we are a normal functioning human being. When I tell people I am single, I always sense the question they walk away with is “what is so wrong with her that nobody loves her?” Consequently, I want to run after them yelling, “No, it is my choice! I choose to be single!”
I based my first marriage on principles I carried from my family on how marriage is defined, and that ended in divorce. For this reason, I began pondering what marriage means to me and if I do, in fact, want to get married again.
I love listening to my married friends talk about their marriage. On many occasions, I have listened to married couples explain how it takes work to be married. Whenever I hear that I fight to resist the urge to grab them and say, “tell me more about this work!” In the hope that a secret recipe exists, if you follow the steps correctly, you will end up with a perfect marriage.
What I realize now, through my friendships with married couples, and through the experience with my marriage is, every marriage is different. Each marriage is its own opera filled with dramatic crescendos, peaceful melodies and at times great tragedy.
Merriam-Webster defines marriage as “the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (insert yawning face emoticon here). Nowadays, we are lucky to live in such a dynamic and exciting time. Notably, people are deciding to break free of societal expectations and just do what feels right to them. Perhaps this old definition of marriage does not work anymore.
The history of marriage is terribly interesting, and it makes you appreciate how marriage has evolved. In her book “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage,” (Penquin Books, 2006), Stephanie Coontz states that originally marriage was not about the people involved; marriages centered on creating alliances between families. Only 250 years ago love entered the marriage equation, and it has been around 50 years since men and woman have had equal rights in marriage.
Moreover, as women entered the workforce, the dynamic in marriages changed. Women are independent, finishing their education and starting their career before getting married, or choosing not to get married. Nowadays, in most marriages both the men and woman work requiring the need to sharpen our communication skills and balance household responsibilities.
Even many of the rituals we still celebrate in weddings are rooted in ancient tradition. For example, the wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand; in ancient times it was thought this finger contained a vein which led to the heart. Also, the word honeymoon comes from the ancient ritual in which newlyweds drank a liquid with honey in it during the full moon for fertility. Seriously, if you need a little entertainment, do a Google search on marriage rituals!
I decided to forget the reasons for getting married that are old, moldy beliefs held over from my ancestry in order to create a definition of marriage which works with my romantic soul. As a result, I define marriage as a union between two humans who are united in a partnership of unconditional love and compassion which results in this symbiotic relationship of awesome. When I decide to marry someone again, it will be because we built this connection which establishes a partnership with a strong foundation. We respect each other as individuals and nurture our relationship as a couple; we are both independent and dependent.
I think it is crucial to recognize that everybody has their own beliefs, and likewise, this is important to respect. The new definition of marriage should read as “whatever you want it to be.” Everyone loves differently so how can something based on love have the same definition for everyone. Let us decide to define it how we want.
I do wish to marry again because in my mind it represents a union based on unconditional love, respect and compassion and that sounds like a great way to live.
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