Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the mythology of marriage?

The institution of marriage. A dying structure? Something that doesn't really exist? Still going strong after thousands of years?

There are a billion different opinions on the subject. And many people are pulled strongly either for or against marriage. But what does it mean when people say that they don't believe in marriage? Type "don't believe in marriage" in Google, I dare you. Trust me, I just did it. And I was bombarded by tons of opinions. Some people are scared to get married for fear of divorce. Many feminist abhor the idea. Some people have political motivations for avoiding the institution. A lot of people don't want to enter into an institution that excludes people based on their sexual preferences.

These reasons, I get. I can understand the fear of divorce. I'm terrified of it and quite often, I find myself wondering whether or not marriage is the right step for us. Not because our relationship is lacking but simply because I don't ever want to have to deal with the stigma and trauma caused by a divorce. And while I completely understand the civil rights issues associated with marriage, I am lucky enough to live in a country that has accepted gay marriage and since I have always supported marriage equality, I feel that I can continue to do so as a married woman.

So these reasons, I understand. But how is it that people don't "believe" in marriage? In some quick research for this post, I've come across references to the institutions of marriage as being "fake", a "set of formalities" which only acts as a method to sustain "strained metaphors". Every time I hear the phrase, I immediate think: "Well, okay, you can be against it, you can choose not to participate, that's fine. But you can't deny it's existence... can you?". And honestly, I continue to find myself wondering that. Has the "institution of marriage" as we know it been so drastically altered and obscured that it no longer exists?

As far as I'm concerned, um, no. It still exists. Of course it does, because it is an institution and although it follows certain "formalities", it is stable. Plus, it's different for every one that enters into it. There is no formula for the institution of marriage. Every marriage is different because every couple is different.

Marriage is what you make of it. You don't want to let it strip away your identity as a woman by being dominated by your husband? Fine. Keep your maiden name and put yourself on a level equal to your male partner. Like Amy Williams says in this article -- "I Don't Believe in Marriage, Here's Why I (Grudgingly) Got Married Anyway" -- getting married no longer means a loss of identity or of freedom.

If couples enter into the institution aware of how they want to treat each other and how they want to be treated in return, marriage has the ability to work. Another columnist, Courtney E. Martin discusses how she has a "fantasy that, without the dominant culture's definitions of husband and wife as default, [she and her partner] will be constantly pushed to reinvent [their] relationship, question our assumptions about who should do what, and stay honest and authentic". But I think... hey, why can't we reinvent our relationship and stay honest/authentic and still have the marriage certificate? Martin seems to think that the adoption of a marriage label causes couples to be tempted to fall into a "his-and-hers routine". However, for most couples, there is no longer something inherent to marriage that reinforces traditional gender roles and forces us (usually women) to lose ourselves in the process.

For us, marriage was a natural progression that just made sense. Is that an archaic concept? It very well could be. But for me, it's the highest form of commitment. Do we need a marriage license to have a better relationship? No, of course not. But I do look forward to our wedding because I think it'll be a communal celebration of the commitment we've willingly chosen to make to one another.

And although I realize I'm opening this up to a skewed sample of the population since the majority of you readers are brides, but what do you fellow fancies think about the institution of marriage?


Anonymous said...

I never wanted to get married remember. Kick in the butt. Thing is, I don't know what I think (urgh I know). I am pondering this question as I wed "what is a successful marraige?" apparently lasting is not considered it these days. In order to have a successful marraige shouldn't you know how a successful marraige is defined? Probably. I believe in it. In it's endurance as an instuition. In it's political power. In its strength. Maybe the question is what is marriage to me? It's everything. It's proclaiming to my friends/family and facebook that I love this man. To remember that I made an oath in front of family, friends, God. To have the courage to be myself with someone else all the time and completely. To love someone else and to grow with them. At the end of the day, that is the questions you need to answer to yourself. The rest, whatever the world says, is just white noise.

Great article

Darci said...

Such a great post! Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert's new book "Committed?" It addresses a lot of these same thoughts, and looks at the history of marriage. I was actually thinking of starting a virtual book club of sorts on the blog to discuss it...what do you think?

miss fancy pants (the bride) said...

@Darci: That's a great idea. I've heard of "Committed" (from Sara at 2000dollarwedding) but I haven't yet gotten a chance to read it. I'm sure it would rouse a whole lot of great conversation.

Miss C said...

I think you were right in saying that marriage is what you make it.

People just need to make sure that theirs and their partner's view of marriage is the same.

nicoliolihpf said...

I agree with you. For us, getting married was the next logical step, and it is something we both wanted, but we're also both very aware that it is really not going to affect our relationship. I mean, we've already been living together for years, and we act like a married couple already, and if for some reason we were to break up, both of us would consider it on par with divorce. But I want to be recognized as a couple that's devoted to each other, and I very much want the legal benefits that come with marriage, and yeah, I want an excuse to throw a massive party where people look at me and go "ooo, pretty". But I also want to get married because it's traditional, and hey, why not? I like having the security that we know this is something we're committing to for our whole lives. It's nice. But I do also agree with a lot of the points in that article. I really wish domestic partners had more legal rights because I could do with my fiance's health insurance right now. Anyway, I understand why some people don't want to get married, and I think that should be recognized as a viable choice, but I also think there's nothing wrong with telling someone you want to spend your life with them which is really what marriage is to me.

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