#50: Is marrying only for love naïve?

Our 50th prompt comes from Malusi. They ask:

Is marrying only for love naive?

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Malusi,

Great question. Marriage as an institution has been under a lot of scrutiny recently due to the changes we’ve undergone as a species/in our communities. Is it still relevant? What are its benefits? Why are so many people getting divorced? Should we marry for convenience or for love?

Marriage for love is a relatively new concept. For much of the time that Homo sapiens has existed, marriage has allowed for wealth to be exchanged between two families (the father of the bride exchanges her for wealth in the form of dowry from the father of the groom in many societies), thus who one marries is not an individual decision, but an important family decision. Marriage has also been considered an ideal environment for procreation and the raising of children, and many societies still frown upon people who have children outside of marriage. Both wives and children were traditionally considered the property of their patriarch, which is why when a woman got married she exchanged her father’s name for that of her husband, and it is why children take their father’s name as a surname. They were basically the patriarch’s property (it can be argued they still are today).

Marriage is also political, especially for people who come from aristocratic families. You’ll hear many such families asking their children not to “pollute their bloodline” and dictating who they can/cannot marry. Marriage for love came about during the time of “enlightenment” when scholars began to think that the purpose of life is happiness, and that its pursuit should be our goal. As a result, they thought we should marry for love and happiness, as opposed to wealth/status. Because the Industrial Revolution allowed more people to have a chance at becoming wealthy, they were able to marry who they wanted/loved.

But is this the best way? I think that while love is definitely important, much more goes into making marriage work. For one, love between spouses is not unconditional – it waxes and wanes, and many times fades. People change and grow. Then what? People also expect their spouse to contribute to their happiness – in some cases they outsource this responsibility entirely. I think it is foolhardy to outsource your happiness to another person.

If marriage is important to you, you quickly realize that much more goes into making it work. Are you compatible with your spouse? Are your goals aligned? Your values? Are you committed to riding the inevitable storms together? Do you plan to have children? Do you agree on how to raise them? Are you doing it because you are afraid of being alone? Do you think it’s the “next logical step”? Have you romanticized marriage? Are you being pressured? Do you think that marriage will magically fix your relationship with your partner if it’s on the rocks?

Of course these are questions that require much thought, and it is much easier to get carried away by love and hope for the best later on, but I think that is naïve. If you are going to share your space, time and life with another person, it is good to think deeply about it, and consider the benefits that will come out of it as well as the compromises that you will have to make, and whether you are ready/willing to make them. I am happy, though, that the society as a whole continues to have conversations about the place of marriage (if any) moving forward.

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This post is part of a daily writing experiment that I’m running for a year. I’d love it if you took part! 🙂

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