Vicki Larson’s recent Huffington Post piece “Marry For Love, Divorce When Love’s Gone?” explores the idea that love is the wrong reason to get married. According to Larson, because people get married ONLY for love, they feel socially stigmatized for getting divorced simply because they have fallen out of love (and not because of abuse, affairs, etc.), resulting in couples who feel stuck in loveless marriages.
The idea that love is the wrong reason to get married seems a bit absurd at first. After all, isn’t marriage about love?
Well … yes, it is, but it also isn’t. What many people don’t realize until after they have taken the plunge is that marriage is about tying two lives together in every way possible — personally, spiritually, legally, financially, you name it, your lives are now one life. Throw in children, and now there’s no way to go back to your pre-marriage life. The concept of “marriage for love” is beautiful, but like anything that has been romanticized, it’s just not realistic for everyone.
So why do we get married? A part of it is simply because people do actually fall in love, and marriage seems like the obvious next step. And for some of those people, it actually works, sometimes for a lifetime. But many others get married because that’s just what they’re expected to do. So many people (myself included) grow up in traditional households in which pre-marital sex is wrong, co-habitation is asking to get “trapped” in a dead-end situation, and marriage is a given. While there’s nothing wrong with this line of thinking, there is a real danger behind it. When you grow up believing your path is love, marriage, and children, it’s easy to believe there are no other alternatives.
The reality is that we don’t actually have to get married. Society may expect it, but there are no real repercussions to not getting married. In fact, many couples maintain happy long-term relationships without getting married.
As I get older and encounter more and more people who are in unhappy marriages that eventually lead to divorce, I have become much more cautious about marriage. Listening to war stories ranging from custody battles to spending months convincing the cable company to remove your ex from the bill make marriage seems like a scary place. I believe in love. I believe in lifetime commitments. But do I still believe in marriage?
Like any girl, I fantasize about getting married, especially since I’m in my late twenties and seem perpetually surrounded by friends who are getting engaged and married. But I have also found myself becoming more accepting of the idea of a long-term relationship, with or without marriage, as long as I have one thing: my significant other must always be a friend to me. The passionate love you see in movies and read about in books is fun and exciting, but it’s not the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. And who would want it to? Yeah, it sounds great at first, but how exhausting would life be if you lived with passionate abandon all the time? Seriously, imagine the first few months of a new relationship: you drop everything to see your new beau as often as possible, but sooner or later you realize you’ve got to do some laundry and wash those dishes. Real life sets in.
But love doesn’t want to do laundry or wash the dishes, and that’s what makes Larson’s piece so compelling. Love really isn’t enough of a reason to get married. There has to be more there to support the reality of a marriage, and a part of that is the mutual respect that comes with true friendship, and true friendship takes time.
So don’t get married for love. If you’re going to get married, do it because it doesn’t make sense not to.
Love and (maybe) marriage,
The Slasher Chick