A Wedding For What?
By Richard Keir
Once the actual purpose of a wedding had much more to do with property, parenthood and moral propriety in the eyes of the community. And those 3 elements were strongly interlinked, particularly among those members of society who made the rules.
In most western cultures, inheritance passed from father to son. So who was the father of the child was an important question, generally answered by identifying the father as the mother's wedded husband. And the issue of moral propriety tended to have to do with the fidelity of the wife rather than the activities of the husband.
Those days are largely passed despite lingering remnants of a double standard and the more modern belief in marrying for love rather than to ensure paternity and the orderly handing down of property. While alliances between powerful families may still be built based on bonding through marriage, generally the participants have a little more to say about the process these days.
Statistics today suggest that not too many marriages are until death do us part. Many hardly last long enough to have a child, much less raise one securely to adulthood. And the belief in the sanctity of marriage? Well, the statistics do also indicate that most divorced people remarry. That may not say much about sanctity but clearly marriage is seen as desirable even by the divorced.
In industrialized countries the increasing numbers of single parent families, also indicate that marriage is not serving all that well to protect and nurture children.
Many trends in modern society can be pointed to that contribute to these challenges to a successful marriage. To be raised in a consumer oriented society can be a curse. Things, ideas and people all tend to be turned into consumable items. The incessant hammering of advertising insists on new, different, better. Television and movies portray a parody of life. It's a rare individual who experiences one hundredth of the excitement and glamour (or fear and terror) of a 2 hour movie in their entire life. Our lives, our selves, appear drab and uninteresting. And our loved ones become boring, tedious, unexciting and uninteresting. Glued to the TV, passively sucking up pseudo-existence, we are divorced from the possibilities of real life.
Sensation addicts (which every advertiser deeply desires to makes us) just don't do well with commitment. The fizzy magic of falling in love is delirious and mysterious. If that's what you want, don't do the wedding thing. You'll be disabused, discovering that the magic mysterious person you fell in love with has a lot of really annoying habits, is kind of boring (maybe really boring), actually doesn't like your kind of fun much and wants to watch different TV shows too.
We all want to believe that we want a permanent long-term relationship - or at least we all pretty much have convinced ourselves of that before deciding to get married. However, it is a lot harder to actually do it than to delude yourself into thinking that's what you want.
And you also have to consider that your partner may change his or her mind while you still want one of those permanent long-term relationships. Is there some way to be sure? No.
I'd love to say yes, there is a way and here it is, the perfect and infallible method of knowing, in advance, if you will have a wonderful lifelong marriage. Regret it as I might, no one can guarantee it.
What is clear is that there is only one way to find out. Get married. Know the pitfalls. Work on your relationship. Share. Communicate. Build your dreams for the future together. Take care of each other and never fail to appreciate each other and treat each other better than you would some stranger. Absurd as it may sound, be polite, say thank you, be grateful for every good thing and equally grateful that you survived any bad thing. Take each other seriously and never take each other for granted. If you can do even half of that, you'll be ahead of 87.3% of all married couples.
And here's the nearly impossible thing - learn to see your partner anew. We never really know another person fully. We come to believe that we do, but this is an illusion. Every person is a bottomless mystery. Our vision becomes clouded day by day as we go through the routines of life. Eventually we think we know it all because we have blinded ourselves to reality. Sometimes we even become our own petrified visions of our selves. At that point we are convinced that somehow we are done, completed, beyond the need or even the possibility of internal change. If that were true, then only an outer change - modifying something external to ourselves could change our lives. And that, rarely works for long. No matter where you go, there you are. If you can not change yourself, it's futile to change your circumstances. You'll simply recreate the same old problems. Check the statistics on how many divorced people who marry again, end up getting divorced again.
Sounds bloody awful, doesn't it? But think of this, the incredible joy of parenthood lies in seeing a child grow and change and become something new. Our nature as humans is to be not only capable of learning and expanding ourselves, but to find our meaning in learning and changing. Marriage is serious business, not to be entered lightly. It is the beginning of what can become an awesome journey of discovery, rich with rewards and, certainly, full of challenges, uncertainty and trouble. Growing within a commitment shared with an equal partner can be the most rewarding thing you can do. But never think it will be easy or without pain, doubt and suffering. Any road you take through life will present challenges. Walking that road, successfully, with your partner, may not be an easy thing, but ultimately it is most definitely what a wedding is for.
Copyright 2005 Richard Keir
About The Author
Richard Keir writes from the perspective of both a background in clinical psychology and more experience with marriage than he really wants to share. Relationships have always been one of his primary interests.