I am married.
Marriage is a weird thing. It appears to be an institution on the verge of irrelevance. It has been unhappily wedded to patriarchy throughout its history, a tool of power and oppression. Nor does it address the dynamism and shades of grey of
modern sexual culture (I wrote modern like there is something special about today – the truth is that the things we see today have existed all through history, everywhere).
In many societies, there is often tremendous pressure to engage with marriage as a rite of passage and a reason to make the family happy. I felt this in no small way. This pressure comes typically because of validation: people believe that the way their world is must be right and the way the world should be; or because of positive experience: people had a good experience of something so it necessarily means that it will be good for others. My allergy to tradition and to do things “because that’s the way they have always been done” means I personally glared down this type of pressure with contempt. My ridiculous desire to strip down the world to “the underlying” should mean that I see all of the baggage around marriage and run the other way.
I know all of this. I think all of this is true.
Yet I love being married.
Let’s start with what I think marriage is. Strip away the pomp and ceremony, the history, the families, the bullshit and there is one part of marriage chimes with me: that it is a lifelong commitment to support and give to another human being.
How can one decide to make an eternal commitment to another? It is hard, especially as we are asked to make this decision at a time when we are still figuring out our own identities, often still in a state of flux. I think the answer lies in this dynamism.
I feel that when you are looking for a life partner, you should not look for the static. You should not search for specific interests or someone who loves you for who you are today.
Instead, you should look for someone you can see deeper and can see you deeper in turn. You should find someone who understands that the intrinsic flow of the universe will gently wash against your ego and your body and reshape you over time, especially at the surface. You do not need to share a belief system but you have to believe in and value each other’s core beliefs. You need to find someone who wants you flourish, and you want to see flourish in turn.
It is this type of commitment that I believe is worth making.
If you can find someone like this then you have an opportunity to share who you truly are. The fact that you have a commitment to each other’s spiritual growth, that you accept dynamism, that you believe in each others’ core beliefs allows you to be vulnerable in a way that is not truly possible in any other relationship. It allows you to be fully emotionally and spiritually naked in front of another – another who does not judge but can see that picture and support you to evolve it to be closer to the picture you want it to be.
Humans mainly exist in a weird cooperative-competitive situation with other humans. In virtually every relationship, there are things that stop us from being ourselves fully – be it social convention, competition, power struggles or whatever. Marriage, for me, allows at least one of the relationships we form to break free from these bonds and be real – and commitment is central in this as it provides certainty, acting as a powerful anchor in the turbulent sea of life.
Beyond this, there are hundreds of reasons to get married, or not. I can fully see and understand why one would not want to engage with marriage given the baggage. However, strip this all away and I think you might be left with something important that can truly change how you perceive the world and how you grow in it.
I am a big backer of marriage too:
– it is not rational. Not irrational, just not rational. In an age where I will shortly be replaced by an algorithm, I cherish any available sand in the machine.
-similarly, it is hugely optimistic: you can’t have any idea of the future 5-10-25 years out; there are bound to be problems etc etc, yet you go for it
-vitally, the commitment changes the outcome. This is what anti-traditionalists (like me back in the day) can miss. The very commitment provides an extra bulwark against the various pressures that may make bonds hard to maintain. The fact that you are committed to making it work, is partially self fulfilling. An open, “lets see how it goes” relationship does not have this.
Couldn’t agree more David! It is irrational and hugely optimistic but, if done with the right frame of mind, it can be a haven.
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