People love marriages. Wills and Kate. Brad and Angelina. KK and what’s-his-name. We are either all massive romantics (overtly or secretively) or we just love the hoopla.
Getting married is one of the big social milestones in one’s life. It’s a right of passage along with getting your first proper job and popping out sprogs. You only have to hear the high-pitched squeals of women around the world when they hear an announcement to know how much excitement the news of an impending marriage can generate. Even men will conjure up some mock sympathy for their mates (“that’ll be the end of your sex life!”) but deep down they’re pretty happy for them.
Call me unromantic, but why is being married held up as such a desirable status, the pinnacle of a relationship? What does the act of marriage actually add to a deeply committed relationship that wasn’t there before? What value do people place in marriage these days if you can divorce 70 days after getting hitched and, if it’s so small, then what’s the point? These are the questions that crossed my mind about five years ago when, in the space of about two years, four of my girlfriends separated from their husbands. When something like 1 in 2 marriages will end in divorce, despite the vows to love and cherish each other as long as you both shall live, why bother with the ridiculous expense of a wedding day (apparently the average cost in Australia is around $30,000!) and then lining the pockets of the lawyers when it all falls apart?
In many countries, a couple must be married before it is socially acceptable for them to live together. Often this is tied to religion, and those of faith may want to be married according to their religious beliefs. In the olden days (and still in some countries), a wife became the property of the man and the whole thing was not dissimilar to a business arrangement. But these days, in secular societies such as Australia and Western Europe, it seems to be more difficult to rationalise the concept of marriage.
De facto relationships have the same legal rights as marriages in Australia, and there are no longer any social taboos around living together or having children before walking down the aisle. You can be just as committed to someone, heart and soul, with the same intentions of raising a well-adjusted family or working through any relationship problems together, without getting that piece of paper. Surely, if you need to have that piece of paper before you are willing to commit wholeheartedly to another person, then you probably shouldn’t be in that relationship anyway.
The bizarre thing is that it seems as though married couples are viewed as being more committed to each other than non-married couples, even if this is not actually the case emotionally. If you have only been married for a year, you will be of a higher social standing than someone who has been with their boyfriend or girlfriend for ten years. People feel more comfortable hiring someone who’s married than someone who’s not. It’s as if the married person is innately more trustworthy, more stable, more reliable. Isn’t this just ridiculous?!
I’m not anti-marriage. In fact, despite my diatribe above, I think I do want to get married one day. I suppose that marriage is one of those things that is not really a rational commitment that one enters into anymore; it’s an emotional commitment. It’s an explicit, formal declaration to all your friends, your family, and the whole of society, that THIS is the person that you want to grow old with. It’s the romantic ideal to find that one person that you intend to spend your whole life with, through whatever shit life may throw at you. For the romance, that’s why we bother.
* Photo courtesy of stock.xchang