Marriage is the official declaration of the love between a couple, an indication of settling down and a safe time to bear and raise children. As much as the romance aspect of marriage is true for many I believe there is an overall misconception about the purpose of marriage. There is a less romantic side to it as well; filled with discriminatory issues, sexual-social restrictions and duty. The concept of marriage has evolved so often that people wonder as to whether it is useful or not.
So what is marriage? Marriage by definition is a legal contract between two individuals that binds them until annulment. In the eyes of the law it clearly assigns property, inheritance, and social rights within the members of the unit. That’s all. The signing of the contract in itself does not improve or degrade the emotional bond between two people unless they want to, and it does not guarantee a lifelong union or determine happiness.
Marriage, in my opinion, only became a first-comes-love-then-comes-marriage matter in the Western world in the last century or so. Before that marriage for many people was a business deal. I marry you so we can bring together my plot of land and your livestock to build our lives around and we have children so that our hard work will not be lost. It was a deal decided by those who were not members of the couple and the pair obeyed out of duty. This culture still exists in more traditional parts of the world with arranged marriages taking up 60% of all world marriages.
Marriage is one of those social institutions that has harbored discrimination for centuries. “I don’t think marriage itself is elitist, it’s the people in the government that are elitist,” says Nesli Deniz ’12. We are fortunate to have so many of those barriers broken down today. I think marriage was, and in many cases still is, an elitist affair. There is the matter of social class and background that can prohibit a union.”
Inter-racial unions were frowned upon for far too long. I have met parents who panic at the sound of their Orthodox daughter eloping with a Roman Catholic. The most modern argument has been on gender. The laws regarding who has the right to co-sign documents with whom have changed over time. The reason behind such varieties of discrimination is associated with divine and biblical regulation. Then I ask myself: do we even have the right to be so restricting and so in awe of something so manmade? Of all the creatures of this earth, we are the only ones who observe marriage. Marriage is the result of civilization and not nature. Love is what is natural and it can be expressed without legalities.
Marriage is one of those tools that has been used to undermine and confine women. It has restricted sexual behavior and put fear into people. Modern marriage, like many other aspects of our lives, has become commercialized. The wedding industry rakes in $40 billion every year. Even people of modest means save up for years to put together the whitest and the most extravagant of occasions. It has been overhyped.
We are fortunate to live in a time when it is socially acceptable and possible to recreate the emotional and legal benefits of marriage without actually getting married. Separations can be less cumbersome and messy. As a result, we can all live lives that suit us best. Marriage is on the decline and its necessity is being debated. “People seem to me to prefer an open dating life to, at least, at the moment. Thus marriageable partners who are interested are very hard to find and keep,” says Eric Devaux ’13.