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?