What does marriage mean to you?

I thought about this a lot right after we got engaged in July 2010.  Lately as I’ve been dragged down into the nitty-gritty details of wedding planning, I’ve asked myself this question a lot less.  I’m asking it again now because so many of the great comments about name change got me thinking about the different ways in which we define marriage, both for ourselves and for the larger societal group that we belong to.

So, talk to me: what does marriage mean to you?  If you are married, do you have a different definition of marriage now than you did when you were engaged and planning your wedding? How have your definitions shifted over time?

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts.

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5 responses to “What does marriage mean to you?

  1. I feel like it might take me a while to be able to sum up my definition of marriage… but I keep coming back to this clip… it doesn’t capture everything, but it does explain a lot of what I feel marriage is about (and just as a note, I dislike the movie in general – the original Japanese version was much better). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrOtwuW3Pmo

  2. One of my friends who eloped with her partner of about eight or so years put it this way: “getting married just means we got up in front of our friends and family and promised to do all the stuff we’ve been doing anyway.”

    I look at marriage the same way I look at my relationship now: as a partnership that’s romantic but also functional. B is not just some dude that I love, he’s also my sort of life-teammate. We are on each other’s sides and have each other’s back no matter what. People say that getting married changes your relationship but in our case, god I hope not, haha.

  3. I think this is a hard one for me to answer, because while I am sickened by the thought of the patriarchal history of marriage (and yes, I am one of those feminists who throws around the word patriarchy every third sentence) it didn’t feel patriarchal when most of it was happening to me. Which I think is true of a lot of feminists, and that’s okay. For example, the idea of a man giving a woman jewelry as a sign that she is promising to marry him makes my stomach turn. But when I was presented with a ring the whole world melted around me and everything felt right.

    I think that for us marriage solidified that it was us against the world, as a pair instead of as individuals. And as I say that it seems so funny because we wrote our entire wedding around the idea that we would still be individuals and that we were not “two hearts becoming one”. Honestly though, marriage has made us feel more egalitarian than just dating did. Now that we’re married we feel even more obliged to have a partnership than we did before, and that brings out the equality in our lives.

    And…sometimes marriage feels like a burden. I think that while everyone knows marriage will have compromise and sacrifice, it is sometimes a downright burden, a ball and chain so to speak. When you first get married the whole “making decisions as a couple instead of an individual” seems beautiful and fulfilling, but after a while when you realize that – no you can’t just pack your bags for the weekend and jump in your car to have a fun road trip with your friends – that’s when it feels like a burden. Or when you want to be frivolous and buy something you can’t really afford but you realize that your husband is going to be mad at you for being wasteful, it’s a burden. Or when you lose your job and it puts unfair financial pressure on your partner, that’s a burden too.

    I’m sure there are marriages out there where one person packs their bags and skips out for a weekend without any consideration, but I think for most people that’s not quite the case. It’s not that I *want* to just leave for the weekend, it’s the fact that before I can make that decision for myself, I have to decide if it affects him, too. That freedom is a huge thing to give up when you’re 21.

    Now. That being said, I feel like marriage has also given me freedom in how I represent myself. I’m free to hang out with anyone and everyone without searching for a potential partner. I’m free to hang out with a bunch of guys without feeling like they are “rating me” as potential partner material. (Not that I’d want to date a guy who rates woman, but it’s nice to be unavailable, permanently.)

    I’ve been in a race to get married since I could remember. And I got married before any of my friends, and I still feel like I “won” the race. I feel validated that someone married me. Maybe this speaks to my own self-worth but really it’s like we validate each other. It’s like telling each other every day “you’re worth being with.”

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