Marriage question

In answer to a question from Dan

What does marriage mean to you? What baggage do you carry about the concept?

I think that there are at least three different things people refer to using the word “marriage”.

The first, obviously, is the process of civil union as described in law. This gives the married individuals certain rights and obligations to each other—and to the tax man, unfortunately.

The second is the religious ceremony of marriage. I don’t have much to say on this subject; I gather it’s quite different depending on the religion. Even Christian sects seem to have some major differences.

The third is what, to me, is the important thing: the relationship and commitment between the people being “married”. This is really down to the individuals to define for themselves.

I think one reason that there are so many divorces is that people are distracted by the legal and religious aspects of marriage, and they don’t really put in enough thought about the individual, personal aspects—what they want it to mean to be married. The average American marriage, according to MSNBC, costs just over $22,000. People spend a lot of money getting married, but they don’t seem to spend much time seriously defining it first. Which brings me back to the original question.

It’s hard to say what marriage means in a few words. It’s much easier to say why I married sara: I realized that she was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I’d never met anyone like her, I’d never got on with someone as well as I had with her. I realized that she had become my closest friend ever.

So I suppose marriage is the process of living your life in association with another person. I see it as primarily about finding a life partner, and I feel your spouse should be your best friend. Of course, that’s just my definition of marriage; maybe you’d prefer a trophy wife.

As to baggage… I’ve seen marriages—and serious unmarried relationships—fail badly. I’ve seen people get divorced in less than a year. I’ve seen friends go through a string of drama-filled relationships they can’t sustain beyond a year. Then, on the other hand, I’ve seen people suffer decades-long on-again-off-again almost-marriages where they couldn’t quite commit. I don’t think it has given me any particular baggage, other than a determination to do better myself.