Why I don’t believe in the importance and sanctity of marriage (and why my wife does)

While it might not be a popular opinion amongst married people especially, I don’t believe in the importance and sanctity of marriage. In fact, beyond being a largely administrative and social construct, I struggle to see the value of it beyond a formality of what a couple presumably already have before they decide to tie the knot. At face value, my opinions on marriage probably appear to present a dichotomy with my own relationship. But I can assure you they don’t. My marriage is just fine, contributed to by that very stance.

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Despite my views on marriage, my wife thinks the opposite. Again, this difference of opinion has no adverse effect on our relationship whatsoever. The crux of what constitutes a balanced and healthy relationship is what we do agree on and the entity of marriage is very much secondary to that. Nonetheless, to give a balanced viewpoint, and in a first on iamalaw, this is a co-written article with my wife arguing why she believes in the importance and sanctity of marriage and why I beg to differ. And just like most things we disagree on, it’s appropriate that she has the last word.

Why I don’t believe in the importance and sanctity of marriage

What is marriage? It’s a representation of a union between two people to signify their commitment to each other. That might sound like a fairly sterile definition akin to a merger between two companies but essentially, that’s what marriage is. When you consider the reciprocated love between a couple, marriage didn’t bring that about, it existed long before. Hence marriage simply declaring an existing arrangement rather than creating a new one per se. Indeed, the belief that said emotions will appear or develop consequent to getting married is what many short-lived or flawed marriages can be attributed to.

Marriage doesn’t unlock a door to relationship utopia. Anyone claiming it does is a liar or in a situation where they need to convince themselves and everyone else that they’re happy. Sadly, there are a lot of people like that. I’ve even been to a wedding where unbeknownst to the poor groom, I knew the bride loved someone else (not me I should add) and it was written all over her face. Alas, she thought marriage might be able to eradicate those thoughts, not to mention she felt she needed to be married so as to not ‘fall behind’ with her already married peers. It therefore serves to support the notion that in some instances, marriage can merely further the antithesis of what society erroneously claims it establishes as the basis of a bona fide, committed relationship.

When I decided to propose to my now wife, I didn’t wake up that day with an epiphany that I was suddenly on the brink of total commitment to her. Nor did I feel I was just shy of such sentiments but needed to be married to facilitate those feelings being at 100%. By definition, I was ‘married’ years before I was married in the legal sense. So what’s so sacred about something I already had?

Our wedding was great and an opportunity to celebrate our relationship with the people that matter to us while publicly formalising our relationship. Along with knowing the significance marriage has for my wife (which while not wholly in agreement with my own views, has no adverse or compromising impact on me), deciding to get married was exactly for those reasons. Nevertheless, a wedding isn’t a marriage. And a marriage is something we already had before exchanging vows in front of our friends and family.

Once I was married (in the legal sense), nothing changed in our interaction or anything whatsoever. We already lived together (which was non-negotiable before marriage for both of us) so what was going to change when we went back home the following day after our wedding? And if anything had changed, or if we had expected or hoped it to, our marriage would’ve delusionally been based on the wrong reasons and our relationship upon a very shaky and flawed foundation.

When the pomp of even modest weddings is considered and juxtaposed with the supposed meaning of marriage, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t another driver behind the desire of many to get married. Do they really want to celebrate what is already a union with each other or is it an opportunity for the pantomime that many weddings are? Particularly in cultures where the status of being married is bizarrely celebrated as the pinnacle of one’s existence and a meaningless measure of success within a society that often laments being single, the value of marriage as an entity surely needs to be questioned. I’ve also noticed that it’s often a case of the bigger the celebration, the more the couple are trying to convince and distract themselves and others that their marriage is a good idea.

We all have free will to determine if we want to establish and remain in a relationship with someone. Being married doesn’t keep me with my wife, it’s my free will and desire to coexist with her that does. Marriage has nothing to do with it. If a married couple decide to go their separate ways, the acceptance of their marriage having broken down often occurs later than it should have because of the status of being married being clung to, and the unwarranted stigma of being divorced or separated, that can delay the relationship ending. In those situations, marriage can actually constrain one’s free will with consequences that can’t be good for the well-being and mental health of the couple or even any children.

From my perspective, marriage doesn’t even rank at the top of manifestations of commitment between a couple and certainly not above having a child/children together or jointly owning a home. Rather than embody, marriage illustrates that commitment and articulates it in a religious, legal or cultural context. It certainly doesn’t facilitate it as it should have already existed in the relationship.

Contrary to what the above might suggest, I’m not anti-marriage. I just don’t think it embodies the sanctity of the commitment it’s claimed to epitomise. Some of the most committed relationships and solid couples I’ve seen are unmarried and many of the flawed relationships I’ve seen are within marriages. Marriage doesn’t maketh a relationship. It’s merely a label society has foisted upon us in trying to demonstrate commitment between two people via a romanticised social construct.

Why I believe in the importance and sanctity of marriage (even though my husband doesn’t)

Marriage has always been important to me. I didn’t chase getting married like some of my peers but deep down, I probably always wanted to get married and I’ve always believed in the sanctity of it. I’ve never really questioned why but I’ve always seen it like that. When I got married, nothing changed. However, it still remains important to me.

Getting married shows commitment between a couple. There are other ways that commitment can be displayed and I understand that actions like buying a property together or having children show that. But the commitment in those instances are usually secondary factors to actually wanting those things. People don’t say “we’re committed to each other so let’s buy a house together and have children”. People usually want a house and/or children and their commitment to each other can increase on the basis of that.

With marriage, it’s a public celebration of your relationship but one that the couple make for themselves and with each other. It’s not because of any reasons or circumstances that are really about something else like having both names on a mortgage.

Especially as someone who hasn’t changed their surname in marriage, I think marriage creates a unit for the couple, and children, that doesn’t need to be defined by a shared name. That isn’t to say that I think you need to be married to have children. Although personally, being married represents a unit that you can say is yours and that you feel a belonging to.

I can admit that marriage has messed up a lot of people. Within my community especially, people chase it as if they’d be incomplete without it and I’ve seen many people get married for the wrong reasons and to the wrong people in relationships without real love. Even in the current generation, marriage is the done thing; it’s not something people would necessarily do or see as important without that cultural influence or push. But the importance I feel marriage has outweighs any of that negativity.

Marriage brings security as the couple make a conscious decision to declare their commitment to each other. When they have problems within their marriage, they therefore feel like they want to work harder to fix it because they took a step toward that position of being married in the first place. Marriage isn’t just a throwaway commitment that a couple are less likely to want to hold onto.

Culturally, a wedding, and especially a daughter’s wedding, is a big deal in my community and I feel the same way. Families want to celebrate marriages and that’s a valid and happy reason to celebrate. I know that can make for a bit of a show but it’s culturally important to us and that’s something I can’t really explain beyond it being of importance to my identity.

Marriage means something that can’t always be put into words and I know it isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t make a relationship but it represents the union of two people in a way that shows just how important their relationship is to each other. It puts that on display for everyone else to witness and gives something ‘official’ to what a couple admittedly already had together.

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