We are often made to believe that marriage is a natural process and humans have always had marriage. However, marriage is simply an institution created with specific civic purposes, invented by people and governed by laws that are based on the tradition, culture, religion, values and beliefs of the state that imposes them. With marriage come along moral and financial rights and obligations, which are definitely not natural, but imposed by society for various reasons.
Nowadays, in western cultures most people believe that they get married based on love. However, love in its true essence doesn’t fence in one’s freedom; it doesn’t involve rights, obligations, attachment, possession, need, judgment and punishment as a consequence for not complying with the institution’s “rules”.
People who love each other don’t need their relationship to be validated by anyone other than themselves. They don’t need anyone’s approval and certainly don’t care about anyone’s opinion about their relationship. They don’t need vows and guarantees. They are just grateful for being together and enjoy every single moment to the fullest, for as long as it lasts.
When we seek our significant other we often look for the so-called soul-mate or ideal match. S/he has to be attractive, have common values, vision and beliefs, be our best friend, and just about everything else in between. However, these expectations are not realistic, as we cannot have everything in one single person, so something is got to give. Therefore, we end up choosing the person who meets most of our requirements, and usually the most important ones – in other words, we compromise.
The passion and excitement that usually occur in the beginning of a relationship fade away in time and suddenly we tend to believe that the other person has changed. In reality, s/he didn’t change, but it is us who see things clearly after a while, when the veil covering our eyes in the beginning has lifted.
Another thing worth mentioning is that people have different needs/ expectations / requirements at different stages in their lives. What we wanted in a partner when we were younger may not be the same with what we are looking for when we get older. A relationship/marriage can evolve and adapt to meet each partner’s needs, or it may not.
The mistake that most people make is that they try to resist the natural process of change by compromising even more to make that marriage/relationship work, instead of accepting the situation as is and moving on. This usually leads to even more frustration and in the end, the consequence is often the same: separation or divorce.
Therefore, marriage as it is perceived nowadays is not a natural process as most people tend to believe, but it’s an institution based on needs and interests at a certain point in time. Take these two words only (need & interest) and try to relate them to what love really means and you will realize that they are on opposite sides.
Marriage/Commitment, in my opinion, could be a union between two people based out of love and nothing else, for as long as it lasts; no needs, no untruthful promises and no interests of any kind.
How can people promise to love each other forever when they don’t know what true love is, in the first place? Moreover, feelings are not based on logic – particularly when we refer to love. So a commitment to endless love and devotion may be untruthful because we cannot promise feelings, we can only promise actions. Although, for most people actions are based on feelings rather than logic – therefore, it would be a vicious circle, difficult to get out of unless we learn to control our inner emotional state.
In the same time, we can only be certain of the present moment; when we say “I Love You” we might mean it, but we surely refer to what we feel here and now. Any promise that goes beyond the present moment is based on the assumption that in the future we will feel the same, which can be true or false.
Nowadays we see most marriages falling apart after several years, some of them just months or even days. These people who made vows to stay together in sickness and in health and to love each other till the end of their lives, suddenly realize that they are not compatible anymore, or that they have irreconcilable differences. As a consequence, they file for divorce, which is nothing but, again, a validation of their separation from the state that married them in the beginning.
Another common thing nowadays is that most couples are getting along really well before marriage, but after they tie the knot something goes wrong. One of the reasons relies in the false belief of ownership. Before marriage couples are aware that each of the parties can leave the relationship at any time, so they do their best to keep their significant other close. After marriage, partners tend to gain a sense of ownership towards each other, taking things for granted and starting to neglect what brought them together in the first place.
So how can we change the way we perceive marriage and start developing relationships that are based solely on love?
Sadly, most people need some sort of catastrophe within their marriage/relationship to wake them up; they need to be overwhelmed by a fear far greater than any of the other fears that are currently running and sabotaging their lives.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Raising our consciousness and letting our actions come out of love instead of fear will make the difference between the success and failure of a marriage/relationship. In addition, learning to accept ourselves and the situation as is and moving on, instead of always trying hard to make it work, will also lead to a higher quality of life. There is no such thing as “I don’t have a choice” – we always do.
Marriage is not an obligation, at least not in the western cultures – it’s a choice that we make. So our options are pretty simple: either choose not to marry, or adopt this practice as is. And for those who choose to adopt it, the only way to make it work for as long as it can is to make the choice of entering it based solely on love.