In this article I want to address some questions on what is marriage, why do we marry, and the role of extended families in marriage.
Firstly let me define marriage. For me marriage is about two people committing themselves totally to one another. And I’ll add to this my personal opinion that this may refer to a man and a woman or two men or two women.
For me also this does not necessarily require a government or church ceremony, or approval, or even a document to authenticate that the couple are actually married. Of course for those who want to affirm their commitment to each other, and have others witness them doing that, is a way of including the whole of their family and community of friends into their commitment as well as into their marriage.
Marriage is a state of mind.
For me the essence of being married is more about a state of mind than about something defined by people on a church panel or state board. It is about a commitment to a relationship at the exclusion of all others. A relationship from which you get personal nourishment that makes your life worth living as you dedicate all that you have and all that you are to the wellbeing of this other person.
It is more than kinship, more than friendship and even more than a relationship. It is a spiritual connection with another human being that involves all of you every minute of the day whether you are together or not.
I have been in a relationship for more than twenty years and while my partner and I have not married, for me I am as married as I could be. I even refer to my partner as my husband as he refers to me as his wife. Not being married has in no way compromised our love for each other or our commitment to be with each other for as long as we are alive.
I’ll also put another qualifier on this definition. That is that marriage also doesn’t necessarily require the couple to live together. There are now as many ways to be in relationship with each other as there are couples who are finding that some arrangements work for them and others don’t. What I’m referring to here are situations that sometimes have couples living separately from each other; sometimes across town, sometimes across countries. Sometimes these different arrangements are by personal choice and sometimes they are because of work or other commitments.
So why get married?
A challenging question! Again, I can only answer this from my own perspective. For me there is really only one reason to get married. Because my husband completes me! As an individual I believe I can achieve great things. As a couple I believe we can not just double that but multiply it many times over. This is for me truly a case of the possibilities of what we can achieve together being much greater than just the sum of the parts.
Beyond what I’ve already said is the simple fact that as human beings we are basically social animals who tend to be drawn together into groups rather than roaming the world alone. These groups can be as small as a family or as large as a city.
It is within these groups that we get cared for in ways that we might not otherwise. As a grandmother I gladly give of my time in the care of my children and grandchildren in a way that I might not otherwise give so readily but for the fact that they are my family and I also commit all of myself to their wellbeing.
It is in these extended families that we all can find a soft place to land when we are in need. So marriage is maybe something even more than simply a lifelong commitment to one other as it embraces our whole family and beyond.
For our family that extension embraces what I proudly call a “league of nations”. For my partner and my children and their partners we collectively represent, within one generation, persons from Holland, Canada, Greece, China and, of course, Australia. I think for one small family that is pretty spectacular.
So until next time – Relate with Love