The state of being a married couple voluntarily joined for life (or until divorce)
Of all the things we conform to in society, marriage is perhaps the most serious, in that it is actually a legal contract we enter into. A contract that is recognised by all the courts in the land. Given that the statistics show nearly two out three marriages fail these days, I thought we should explore this deeply. Why do people get married? Why do they divorce? Do we actually know what marriage is?
I got married in 2003, to a woman I loved very much. We were married in england in a registry office, not the church. Both of us were not really interested in getting married although we were in love and wanted to be together. The thing was, our visas for our respective countries (australia and britain) were running out, and soon we wouldn’t be able to be together in the same country – so we came up with the only solution we could.
My wife was anti the whole idea, and I was unsure as to what the significance of it was, although I was sure it was something my parents wanted me to do. It was seen by both our parents as achieving respectability (honourableness by virtue of being respectable and having a good reputation) as we would then fit nicely into society, as a another married couple, ready to embark on a life which would produce grandchildren and continue the family names (and genes).
The ceremony was carried out at a council office, presided over by a council employee who had the authority to conduct marriage ceremonies. The one thing I noticed as we went in was a distinct lack of ceremony, although it was formal – in the sense of signing the papers for a new house. We were asked to state our wish to be joined together in marriage, but vows resembling any kind of emotion were deemed optional. We chose the standard vow, number one, and five or ten minutes later, we were pronounced man and wife. I can’t remember if I was asked to “kiss the bride,” but very quickly we had to sign the formal papers. The contract was complete.
We left feeling very unmarried, save the reasonably cheap rings we had bought for each other. There were no guests except my parents as the two witnesses, (because we were travelling all over the world and my wife’s family were in australia), and there was no drunken party. In fact, apart from a nice lunch and an evening in a farmhouse bed and breakfast, it could have been any other day. We split up one year ago.
One of my best friends got married the year before we did. She and her boyfriend were very much in love and they got married for a very different reason. Neither of them had to worry about visas even though he was from new zealand and she was from australia. They were very much for the idea of marriage. They saw it as something exciting where they would be embarking on a new life together. They were happy to conform. In fact they didn’t see it as conforming, more a natural step in their relationship. Something they saw as evolutionary in their partnership.
Their parents were overjoyed, and a lavish wedding ceremony was arranged costing several thousand australian dollars. Guests were invited from new zealand. The reception was organised. The church was booked. The band was hired. The menu was discussed. The caterers arranged. The dress was made. Suits were hired. The photographer was booked. Hairstyles were discussed. Everything was organised. Bridesmaids were selected. The best man was nominated. The wedding cake was made. Flowers were arranged.
The big day came, and although I wasn’t able to be present as we were travelling at the time, we sent flowers for the bride. By all accounts it was a wonderful day. The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome. Everyone looked just perfect in the photos. The couple’s parents looked so proud. It was the happiest day of their life. They split up one year before we did.
Two very different stories. Two very different reasons for marriage. Two identical endings.
Let’s go back in time shall we? Back to the time when marriage actually meant something. A time when “death do us part” actually meant what it said (I am using a christian marriage as an example but this topic applies to marriages within any religion). Back to a time when couples stayed together “for better or for worse.”
The idea of divorce may have crossed a woman’s mind, but she would rarely carry it through for fear of the humiliation it would bring on her and her family. Women put up with years of physical and emotional abuse from their husbands because, back then, most women had no other place to go. A woman’s place was in the home. She was subservient (abjectly submissive; characteristic of a slave or servant) to the needs of her husband. She quietly brought up the children and looked after the house. The man’s role (as it was seen then), was to go to work to provide for his family.
Women typically didn’t work outside the home, so they had no independent income of their own; hence leaving could not be described as a realistic option. It didn’t matter if the husband was unfaithful, a drunkard, a liar, violent or cruel, women saw it as their duty to remain in the home. And outwardly at least, they were fiercely loyal to their husbands.
To understand this mindset we have to think of the role the church has played. Until recently, marriage was conducted exclusively by priests in the church, and girls were “given” away by their fathers (can you understand the word “given?” How can you give another human being to someone?) And women promised to “love, honour and obey.”
This is a clear example of the patriarchal (characteristic of a form of social organization in which the male is the family head and title is traced through the male line) society. Where the male is the dominant sex, and the female is subservient. It disgusts me that men have conspired over thousands of years to dominate and rule women for so long. All blessed by the church.
We shouldn’t be surprised at this, after all the church is still an all male affair, no matter what they say in public relations statements about embracing the role of women in the church. Men are the most powerful of the human species, physically at least, and have always thought of themselves as above women, spiritually and socially. As far as men were concerned, women were here to look after the house, bear children and be happy with their lot, which for most women was being polite and respectful to their husbands (who were obviously superior). So women had it pretty tough back then, and in a lot of countries they still do.
Men seem to be delusional at times in their opinions of themselves. They actually believe they are superior to women; just because they have more muscle power, and many countries, women are treated with no respect from their husbands, are physically beaten and psychologically tormented. In fact it almost seems to be an accepted part of the culture.
Some women are forced to hide their faces (and sometimes their whole bodies), not speak to other men, and be available at all times for their husbands. This seems to be done under the guise of religious practice, but in reality, it is just another way for men to exert their absolute and total control over women, who in case anyone forgets, are equal members of the human race, and individuals who must be treated with love and compassion.
It amazes me that some men actually still believe in their superiority. It makes me almost angry with sadness to see such a lack of awareness on their part that they cannot see they are (a) deluding themselves as to some imagined status and (b) hurting another human being they supposedly love.
How can you think you are above someone who you love? Love is openness, understanding, sharing. Compare that to dominance, control and violence, and you will see that a man who believes that just because the law gave him the right to “marry,” he can do what ever he wants with his wife, just like a child tosses around a rag doll. He is “married” so he can turn his inner weakness on someone who is legally “his,” or so he believes.
Thanks to women entering the workforce in larger numbers (amongst other things), the tables have at last been turned on these patriarchal bullies. Women have finally gained their financial independence which allows them the ability to leave relationships, without fear of having to rely on others, who may judge them as being an unfit wife. It is amazing that people can have such idiotic prejudices. What is an unfit wife? People are people, and if they are not getting on, it is best to part – even if they have children.
Marriage is not for life. That is dogma, that is religion. Male control and dominance. Marriage is just another illusion created by powerful men to enslave women. Maybe this seems strange coming from a man, but when you become aware of what it is to be married you will start to see what I mean.
Some people think that divorce is too easy. “Life means life,” but that is a naive and unrealistic view of the world. Divorce is not “further evidence of a break down in morals and family values.” If you believe that, you must question where your ideas come from. More often than not you will be a churchgoer, and a strong believer in the word of god. You will not have come to this conclusion by any rational thought.
If you are not able to reconcile your differences, please move on. Leave. Be on your own, find a new partner, because two people who were in love and are no longer in love can create some very negative energy – energy that is not only unhealthy for their own minds, but can also affect others around them, including family, friends, work colleagues and of course, children.
But before you do that, try to find out what is going wrong. Maybe it is just part of a natural cycle that will even out in due course. Maybe you need to get some outside assistance to help you work out your problems, or maybe you could even try to talk to each other before the tension starts building between you. Both of you need to become more aware of yourselves in action. Try to see the other person’s point of view, before you start the inevitable meltdown into constant bickering and arguing. The world has too much sorrow and pain in it already, don’t add even more hurt to the world by hurting someone you love.
In sorting it out, talk a little, but hug a lot! When you hug someone you pass warmth and energy to them and vice versa. Instead of beginning the argument, try to hug each other first. Hold each other tight, and don’t speak. Let the moment be silence. Experience the moment without interacting with it, and when you have finished your hug just stand back for a moment and try to start an argument. You’ll find it much, much more difficult, I guarantee you that. Try to remember what it was you wanted to say, then, approaching the situation with tenderness, speak softly and kindly, even if it is something that has made you mad. Remember to treat this person the way you want to be treated.
If this doesn’t work by all means go back to screaming and shouting and throwing things. Why not go the whole way and become violent as well? Because I can guarantee that whatever it is you are arguing about is not that important, although at the time you may think it is. Talk, then let it go. Don’t keep it in your mind. You need to let your husband or wife know how you feel, agree upon a way forward, and let it go. Don’t let things build up though that just makes them worse.
Sorry I got carried away! Who am I to give you advice about your marriage? At the end of the day, if you know what it is to love, and you feel connected to the other person in love, you will stay together, whether you have a little piece of paper or not. If you don’t feel the connection, do yourselves a favour and split up. All marriage is, is a piece of paper that joins you in a contract. It’s not meaningless, because contracts are enforceable by law, but it is not a love contract.
“You’re just saying that because your marriage failed. Don’t try to spoil it for the rest of us.” say some of you.
Am I? Think about what being with someone actually means to you. What does being married actually mean to you? For a man, one would hope that the reason he got married is not to make sure his girlfriend was off limits to other males hot in pursuit, although as a male I know it can cross your mind from time to time. Perhaps you are worried your girlfriend will run off with another guy, so you propose to her. Make her legally yours. No one can take her away. She is your possession. Until she decides to leave you.
You can’t stop her. She is an independent human being whatever your legal piece of paper says.
Marriage is two people in love, living together, having children (perhaps) and enjoying and sharing life’s great adventure with each other. Can someone tell me why two human beings who are in love with each other need a contract? Because that’s all marriage is. Love is love. You don’t need a contract for love, it just happens.
Break with tradition. See love in reality. See the church for what it is doing. Marriage is a man-made illusion – it did not evolve out of nature. Nature does not need contracts. You are in love, so be in love. Don’t ask your government to make your love “official,” it means nothing, all that matters is that you are in love. Enjoy it. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world.
BY ALAN MACMILLAN ORR
‘the natural mind -waking up’