I loved receiving this question as it’s something that we may expect that we all understand but in truth maybe we actually don’t.
So I started my research into answering this question by scrambling to the Macquarie Dictionary which defines marriage as “the legal union of a man and a woman for life including a legal or religious ceremony.”
This definition really doesn’t give us very much at all as marriage today in so many cultures, legally and through the various churches, is open to being dissolved on the wish of one or other of the parties. In most countries these divorces are even permitted without even having to prove that one party is in some way more at fault than the other.
So I thought that I should proceed in this article to discuss my thoughts on what marriage is and would welcome you to add your thoughts on the topic as well.
While marriage may relate to a legal process for me marriage is more about the commitment two people make to be there for each other come what may. I would also expand on the dictionary definition to include not just the communion of a man to a woman but also of either a man or a woman to another man or woman. In my view they are as much a marriage as any marriage could be.
The sad thing here is that too many people enter into a marriage without really knowing what they are getting themselves into or without going through any preparation to ensure that their marriage will go the distance.
When I work with couples contemplating marriage the first thing I get them to consider and discuss with each other is this very question: what is marriage to each of them? How do they define it and are they ok with how their partner defines it or does it need some tweaking to make it something that both of the couple can live with.
As most of you might know I am in a relationship and have been for more than 20 years. My partner and I are not married nevertheless I describe him as my husband and wear his ring. He also describes me as his wife. It actually took us some time to acknowledge each other in this way as we were assessing our future together especially as I had four young children already as part of the package.
One of the first things we discussed in terms of our marriage was about whether we would live together and where that would be. We then had many conversations about how we would manage my children and whether we would have any more children. We then had to decide on the division of responsibilities both in terms of household chores and financial contributions. Finally we had some conversations about ownership of property and what would happen in the event that either of us predeceased the other.
And while this was not an issue for us as we are both of the same religious beliefs, for many couples there is also the question of what their particular religious beliefs are and how they might impact on their relationship and/or to any children of the relationship.
So while some of these issues are still conversations in progress for my partner and myself, the underlying promise is that we will be there exclusively for each other for the rest of our lives. In this we committed to never walk out on the other and to always raise it whenever we had an issue that affected us both and/or our future together.
This is how I define my marriage for me. It is a safe place to collapse into at the end of each busy day where I can feel safe and not be judged negatively no matter what I do or think. It is a place where I feel loved unconditionally and love in the same way.
So until next time – Relate with Love