Friday, July 20, 2018

Marriage or Nothing? Why is marriage the only "real" commitment in love?

Is marriage the only form of "true," legit commitment with regards to romantic love?  I imagine while many readers would say, of course not, it generally comes across that way via many of our cultural messages and actions.

For instance, with regards to a wedding, people tend to really put effort into making it to and attending this occasion in someones life with whom they are close (and even to weddings of a Bride and Groom who they may not be especially close with).  Yet, would people take the same pains to save the date for say, an anniversary party?  From what I have seen, the same weight is not given to celebrations related to love which are not weddings.  Occasions such as anniversary parties are hit or miss.  Deemed lovely, that people will "make if they can," but of lesser value than a wedding by far.  Weddings being touted as the pinnacle celebration of life (aside from graduation and baby showers.  Seems like a pretty narrow window of opportunity for celebration, and recognition of awe worthy moments to me).

Aside from husband and wife, why are couples without such a label seen as less committed, less legit, less "official"?

Surely, there must be something between "girlfriend/boyfriend" and "wife/husband."  Some sort of graduation or other term that indicates something deep and with the intent of long term commitment/a building of sorts between the couple, which feels of more weight than the terms "girlfriend/boyfriend" tend to feel?  Though which doesn't necessarily have to be husband or wife.  The terms "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" don't tend to accurately describe many long term, committed, but unwedding relationships.

Personally, when giving them signifigant thought, I feel uncomfortable with those terms.  For a few reasons: many girlfirends and boyfriens are not girls nor boys, but are grown women and men.  Apart from feeling age inappropriate, the terms can just feel insufficient for describing the depth of bond, history, and intent of some relationships.  The term "partner" can certainly more accurately convey the depth of some relationships, moreso than say "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" may, however, this can also be a loaded term.

As a society, the words we use and the way we use them end up setting the expectations we have for peoples behavior.  Also, our language affects our interactions with others.  The way people talk about things does communicate what is "accepted" if you will, and thus, this lack of terminology to describe people who are more than "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" but who do not wish to marry, well, it almost seems to add a bit of silent pressure to the institution of marriage in order to give the unconscious feeling that then its easier to talk about, as well as making your relationship more "real" by evidence of having the clear language and labels to then describe and thus, legitimize it.

Why is a wedding considered the only legit, celebration-worthy occasion for couples that carries any real weight?  Why is it deemed the most important celebration of love?  Because our culture has touted it, and hard, as being so.  Marriage is the end goal, be all end all, the win, the ultimate achievement and wrap chapter of life.  Yeesh.

The only legit symbol of commitment and love?  I think not.

Dont get me wrong, the idea of marriage in its most basic sense, I am a huge fan of.  Two people, loving each other so deeply that they want to commit their lives to growing with and alongside of one another.  This is wildly romantic, beautiful, worthwhile, and an awesome goal to be sure.  I both support and believe in it wholeheartedly.

What I dont agree with or think is alright, is marriage being made out to be the only legit, real, and recognized celebration/occasion/form of commitment with regards to love that is authentic or ideal.  It seems to be getting married, or nada.  Marriage, or its "not a real commitment yet."

We need to have a more diverse range, excitement for, and openness to way more types of celebrations of love and commitment.  Both, because a wedding isnt the golden standard, the "only right" way, the be all end all, top tier level of commitment of any relationship, simply by means of having that piece of paper.  It is absolutely not the only means by which two people are deeply commited to and in love with one another. 

As well as, on a general, broader life scale, I think we need more to both seek and create far more opportunity, excited anticipation for, and investment in way more types of celebrations because life is full of routine, mundane, forgettable moments throughout much of our days and weeks.  What do we remember most about our lives?  Moments.  Emotional ones.  The ones that stood out and moved us deeply.  We need to find worth in creating many, many more of these.

Therefore, why not look for as many opportunities as possible to inject wonder, joy, celebration, and awe into our lives?  To me, this includes a widening of how we celebrate love and commitment, as well as in celebrating birthdays, retirement, the start of a new job, achievements in a persons life, promotions, graduations, milestone birthdays, goals being met in our lives- both big and small, winning an award, there are SO many opportunities for celebrations and elation if we merely look and then decide to make them such.

Back to marriage being the be all, end all in terms of celebrations of love though.  We need to make valid, legit, and equally special, ALL celebrations of love.  Not just this singular legal one.

Lets not forget either, plenty of people who marry are either: not well matched, majorly settling, only somewhat happy, and/or in not the greatest relationships.  Half of all marriages (and relationships) will end.  And thats not counting those who remain together but are either not so happy (and staying out of laziness, fear, comfort, dependency) or those who stay but have affairs and aren't engaged in the relationship anyway. 

Marriage?  It is not automatic evidence of happiness, deep genuine love, respect, or a good match.  Not at all.  It certainly can be though just as much of the time, it isn't.

As a quite sideline though very much related note...

"The truth is that there is no such thing as "love."  Love is an abstraction, perhaps akin to a goddess one worships or an alien being, since no one has ever seen either of these.  In reality, there exists only the act of loving.  To love is a productive activity.  It implies caring for, knowing, responding, affirming, enjoying: the person, the tree, the book, the paining, the idea.  It means bringing to life, increasing his/her/its aliveness.  It is a process, self renewing, and self increasing.

What people call love is mostly a misuse of the word, in order to hide the reality of their not loving.  How many parents truly love their children, for instance, is still an entirely open question.  With numerous and continual reports of cruelty, abuse, carelessness, neglect, and even on a smaller scale, manipulation and control.  Loving parents seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

The same may be said of marriages.  Whether a couples marriage is based on love or, like traditional marriages of the past, on social convenience and custom, the couple who truly love each other seem to be the exception.  What is social convenience, custom, mutual economic interest, shared interest in children, mutual dependency, or mutual hate, or fear are consciously experienced as "love" (though none of these actually are)- up to the moment when one or both partners recognize that they do not actually love each other, and that maybe they never even did.

Today there is some progress in this respect.  People have become more realistic and sober, and many no longer feel that being sexually attracted means to love, or that a friendly, though distant, team-like relationship is a manifestation of loving.  This new outlook has made for greater honesty- as well as more frequent change of partners.  However, it has not necessarily led to a greater frequency of loving, and the new partners may still love as little as did the old.  Still though, some minor progress has been made.

The change from "falling in love" to the illusion of "having" love can often be observed in concrete detail in the history of couples who have "fallen in love."  The word "falling" in the phrase "falling in love" though, is a contradiction in itself, as loving is a productive activity, one can only stand in love, or walk in love.  One cannot fall in love, for falling denotes passivity.

During courtship neither person is yet sure of the other, but each tries to win the other.  Both are alive, attractive, interesting, even beautiful- insomuch as aliveness makes a face beautiful.  Neither yet has the other, hence each ones energy is directed to being (ex: to giving to and stimulating the other).  With the act of marriage, the situation frequently changes fundamentally though.  The marriage contract gives each partner the exclusive possession of the others body, feelings, and care.  Nobody has to be won over any more, because love has become something one has, a property.  The two cease to make the effort to be loveable and to produce love, hence, they become boring.  And hence, their beauty in the eyes of one another can disappear.  Each are disappointed and puzzled.  Are they not the same persons any more?  Did they make a mistake in the first place?  Each usually seeks the cause of the change in the other and feels defrauded.  

What they do not see is that they no longer are the same people they were when they were in love with each other, that their error in thinking that one can "have" love has led them to cease loving.  Now, instead of loving each other, they settle for owning together what they have- money, social standing, a home, children.  Thus, in some cases, the marriage initiated on the basis of love becomes transformed into a friendly ownership, a corporation in which the two egotisms are pooled into one.  That of a "family."

When a couple cannot get over the yearning for the renewal of the previous feeling of loving, one or the other of the pair may have the illusion that a new partner (or partners) will satisfy their longing.  They feel that all they want to have is love.  But love to them is not an expression of their being, it is a goddess to whom they want to submit.  Thus, they necessarily and likely continually fail with their love.

This description is not intended to imply that marriage cannot be the best solution for two people who love each other.  The difficulty does not lie in marriageIt lies in the possessive, existential structure of both partners and, in the last analysis, of their society

Side note: Advocates of modern-day forms of living together such as group marriage, changing partners, group sex, etc, try as far as I can see, only to avoid the problem of their difficulties in loving by curing boredom with ever new stimuli and by wanting to have more "lovers" rather than to be able to love even one.

That was an excerpt from the book "To Have or To Be?' by Erich Fromm.  He is more known for his book, "The Art of Loving," one of the top selling books of all time on love/psychology, and one of the best books I have ever read on the topic.  It changed my entire outlook on love in more than one way.  I thought the above passage was an applicable musing with regards to how we view love as a culture, as well as a support to my argument that essentially, both how we view love as well as how we choose to celebrate it is often narrow, skewed, and even inaccurate.

Finally, the problem with making marriage out to be the only legit celebration of love, as well as the most "important" is that this is a narrow, exclusive, dismissive way of viewing and acknowledging all loving relationships.  Its robbing those relationships who choose not to marry of their own poignancy, power, respect and right to recognition as being equally important and awesome.

Length of relationship does not equal depth of feeling.  Not even close.  Nor does length of relationship mean that two people "have it figured out," or are necessarily good or happy together.

Piece of paper does not equal greater commitment than without it.  Again, not even close.

Legally bound does not equal happier, better matched, or more committed than those who are not legally bound.

So.  What can we do about this narrow minded way of acknowledging, viewing, and celebration commitment and love? 

For starters, when people invite you to anniversary parties, or their own celebrations of love, or any celebrations really, give these equal weight and importance in your heart and life (assuming you love and care about this person inviting you) just as much you would for something like a wedding.  Because they are in fact just as important, and just as special. 

Equally, widen your view of legit, authentic, celebration worthy commemorations of love to being not just marriage.  Remember, plenty of people who marry end up miserable, or are bad matches from the start.  Marriage is not synonymous with deeper love and commitment than those who aren't married.  Far from it.  Of course, there are many happy, well matched, wonderful marriages out there.  Just like there are many fantastic long term partnerships that never marry, though which are equally as in love and committed as their happy and well matched marital counterparts.  There are also boatloads of people, both married and not, who are mismatched, unhappy, and in unhealthy pairings.

And finally, for those who maybe aren't so into marriage but still love the idea of celebrating their own love (and wish for it to be given the same weight, respect, and excitement that would be given to say, a wedding), consider other means of celebrating and recognizing your love.  And then do so!  Do not be deterred by societies lame, narrow perception of what makes for celebration worthy moments in life.  There is SO much more we can find reason to and then take action to celebrate.  Everyone loves a celebration, so be brave and go for it.  Take the time and effort to make your own life magical, whimsical, and memorable in any ways your heart longs for.

Some different ideas for ways of celebrating your love and commitment, other than via marriage or a wedding:

--Promise rings.  Or, commitment rings.

--An anniversary dinner party.

--A commitment ceremony, where you might say certain vows and promises but without the legal aspect.

--An annual date between you and your partner for sitting down and creating a context or intent for your relationship in the coming year.

--Throwing a love party with your closest friends who are also couples.  Invite each couple to come and celebrate the things they have learned along the path of their relationship, with the other invitees.  Maybe a challenge they surmounted and how they did so.  Insights they learned and wish to pass along to the other couples.

--Or, along with the above theme, have a "love party" that celebrates the love and commitment of you and your partner, essentially a wedding but without the legal aspect.
(Just because it "isn't usually done" at the moment, so what?  Break the mold.  Be the reason it becomes a thing.  Make it a thing.  People more often than not love any reason to celebrate, especially when it involves people they care about).

--Buy/reserve side by side grave plots.  That's pretty dang committed, wedding ring or not.

--Get some kind of symbolic tattoos that are meaningful to both of you, which signify your love, commitment and connection to one another.

--Consider some kind of joint ownership of something together, maybe its a home, pets, or some other type of investment in something that is both of yours.

--Off the one above, adopt a pet together.  This is a step down from having children (which maybe you don't want, or maybe you do at some point but not quite yet).

--Have long term goals on which you are working together, whether it be a home renovation, the publishing of some type of work together, opening your own business, maybe embarking on traveling around the world for a year with each other.  Something big, and long term.

--Make him or her the executive of your will.  This means they will be responsible for many of the very important things in your life, including how to handle medical decisions for you if you are in a coma, or how to divide up your assets should something happen to you.  Its a way of saying, "I trust you fully in having my best interests at heart and conveying those for me, if I were not able to do so myself."

--Change your name anyway.  You don't have to marry to change your last name.  If you want to share the same family name with your love, you can do so anytime.  You could hyphenate, make a hybrid of both your last names, or one of you change your last name entirely to the others.

--Have a conversation about it.  Sometimes just having a conversation about how much you mean to one another can take your commitment to another level.  You can express to one another how valuable this relationship is to each of you, and what you would be willing to do to keep it alive.  As well as discuss prospective plans and things you aspire to achieve and build together.

Change the word "marriage" to "commitment."

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