Summary: This is the second part of a five part series on family. This message looks at: Why Marriage.
2 The Puzzle of Marriage
It is said that Socrates was asked by a young man whether or not he would recommend marriage, Socrates replied by saying “By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you will become happy; and if you get a bad one, you will become a philosopher and the world needs more philosophers.”
Last week I finished my message on family by stating: If there is one word that sums up successful families it is commitment. And so let’s begin this week by stating the one word that sums up a successful marriage is commitment.
If a family is going to succeed there needs to be a commitment. And that is why marriage has been so important throughout human history because it is a couple publically saying “We are committed to each other, forever.” Whether it was an elaborate ceremony or a simple ceremony marriage is public statement of intent. That is why a segment of the gay community was so adamant in their desire to have the right to marry. It wasn’t to undermine marriage for the rest of us, it wasn’t because they wanted to make a mockery of the institution it was because they recognized the importance of making that “Lifelong commitment” they wanted to be able to say to their friends and family and the world at large “we are committed to one another.” For right or for wrong.
(Video of weddings)
What do they have in common? Not a lot, although the Princess Bride is my favourite wedding movie scene of all time. But if you watch in each case it was a public statement saying: We are committed to each other. Whether vows recited in a grand cathedral, jumping the broom in a slave compound or posting your vows on the door of the staff room, legally I don’t recommend the last one. Whether that is actually the case or not will be revealed in time but for that moment in time that is their desire and intent. Do you remember your wedding vows? When you recited these words or words very similar. I take you to be my wedded husband or wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy law and thereto I pledge you my faith. And we meant it. Not one of us went through that ceremony thinking, “I’m going to do this again in 5 years or 15 years or if you are a Hollywood celebrity in 6 months”
Which is why Princess Diana said “I think like any marriage, especially when you’ve had divorced parents like myself, you’d want to try even harder to make it work.”
And in most cases that is what is missing when a couple is simply living together, they have not publically stated “this is forever” and everyone knows that it could end tomorrow if one or the other just walks away. And don’t let anyone tell you that living common-law after a certain length of time is the same as being married legally. If you live together for thirty years and tomorrow you decide it’s over, it’s over. You might have to divide some assets but it is how do you say “tout fini”.
Sometimes I will talk to a couple who are living together and their rationale is “We want to see if it will work before we get married.”
The best of intentions perhaps but to quote my favourite philosopher, Yogi Berra “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice but in practice there is.”
Read this interesting article online at www.nytimes.com “Couples who lived together before marrying have nearly an 80 percent higher divorce rate than those who did not and they seem to have less regard for the institution, according to a study of Swedish women by the National Bureau of Economic Research here.” One of the authors who was involved in the study stated “Swedes were chosen because they tend to precede American social trends by 10 to 15 years.”
So what is this marriage of which I speak? And why is it so important?
Socially: Marriage Protects the Family Let’s start here with some secular definitions The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language mar•riage (mărʹĭj) noun
1. The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife.
www.dictionary.com agrees because their definition is
1. The social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.
Obviously not Canadian definitions.
The reason that cultures throughout history have tended to lean toward a monogamous form of marriage was to strengthen society through stable family units. Without some type of formal agreement, there was nothing to hold family units and thus society together.