Throughout the history of mankind, marriage has meant different things to different people. For some, it’s been a contract for survival and procreation, for others a political arrangement, and for still others has had more to do with wealth than love. In Western society, we’ve pretty much moved past the days when marriage was arranged for us at a young age, but the essence of marriage hasn’t actually changed that much. These days, weddings are most often arranged by the two people who are getting married, rather than by any outside arrangers. And yet marriage continues to be an agreement between two people based on transactions and expectations.
“But what about LOVE?!”
Maybe some of you people with more romantic sensibilities are reading this and getting upset: “But what about LOVE?!” We’re not excluding the idea of love or romance. On the contrary, we believe that love, romance, friendship, trust, and communication are key components of a successful relationship. What we’re trying to say is that even those sentiments are a matter of transaction based on the expectations between two partners. A marriage is really just two people agreeing, verbally or non-verbally, “I will do these things and expect you to do those things.” At the end of the day, it’s a transaction.
The most successful and best marriages are based on clear and direct communication about what each partner expects to give and receive within the relationship. For the romantic-minded partner, it might be important to lay out what love means to them, how they can most easily feel loved by their partner, and what they’re willing to do in order to demonstrate their love for their partner. If this partner expects romantic dinners on an anniversary, flowers on their birthday, and physical intimacy on a regular basis, it’s important that they be able to express this clearly to their partner.
Business or Pleasure?
For the more business-minded married couple, the love and romance aspect of the relationship may not be at the forefront of their priorities. They may find themselves more concerned with what the finances of the household will look like and how they will be managed. The success of this kind of partnership often has more to do with the health of a couple’s finances than anything else. The members of this type of partnership may need to lay out specific parameters for what is acceptable spending or how much money they expect to have in the bank from one year to the next.
Commitment and Kids
Many people still see getting married as a commitment to have children. They might believe that the end goal of marriage is to build a strong and full family life with one another. Having children and raising them well can be a key component to their view of a healthy married life. This members of these types of relationships must be very transparent about their desires and expectations from the start. If you want a whole house full of kids and your partner has no intention of ever having children, you’re bound for conflict, especially without clear communication.
For most people, however, a healthy, successful union is a combination everything we’vce touched on so far. Marriage is an institution within which a person’s needs, whether they’re emotional, mental, or physical, are satisfied on a regular basis with few “let downs” along the way. And, for most people, this success comes from nurturing open lines of regular communication, honest exchanges about their home and family life, cooperative management of schedules, finances, and children, genuine concern for one another’s well-being, and full support of each other’s individual priorities and goals.
So What Is Marriage All About?
It’s tricky to try to answer the question of ‘what is marriage all about?’ Marriage and commitment can mean so many different things to each of us. Getting married is a personal and individual choice and the views of marriage differ widely. Some people understand marriage based on the environment they were raised in and the relationship their parents had. For others, it can be viewed primarily as a religious function. And for still others, marriage is an amalgamation of life experiences, based on popular culture and media, conversations with friends, and the experience of previous relationships.
At the end of the day, we think the question to ask isn’t “what is marriage all about?” but “what does marriage mean to me?”