4 Myths that Prove It's Time to Reevaluate Marriage
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/EMprize
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Marriage, as most know it in western countries, is regarded as the end goal of a relationship between (usually) a man and woman, and it normally has some sort of religious component. Marriage is regarded as "sacred". Weddings are planned that few really want to attend; pointless dresses are worn never to be seen again; awkward family photos are taken.
Being married supposedly conveys respectability. We regard it as "settling down", indicative of stability. For some reason we even congratulate people who are already in a relationship for, basically, signing papers (or just changing Facebook statuses) and calling it an engagement. We spend unnecessarily large amounts on engagement and wedding rings.
Yet, with low marriage rates (the US marriage rate is the lowest it's been in a century) and high divorce rates, more single (by choice) parents (not to mention gay marriage), increasing numbers of people abandoning religious traditions as a whole, and people living happier lives because they only even consider marriage later, we should thoroughly reassess the importance of marriage.
Indeed, well-known people have already done so: Oprah Winfrey unashamedly remains unmarried to her life partner of 20 years; powerful Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina have children, adopted and biological, but remain unmarried. Many of those who live in public eye are unafraid of dismissing marriage as the end goal. They don't need a marriage certificate or label to be happy.
Thus, why get married at all?
Marriage myth 1: It's tradition
One response usually involves tradition, religion, family and/or culture. None of these is sufficient, however, for marriage – or any activity.
To act solely according to what families want would be not only archaic but immoral: just because someone wants something doesn't mean he should get it nor that his demand is right. Parents who, for example, force their child into marriage are increasingly being regarded as committing a crime in westernised countries. Their mere desire doesn't make forced marriage right. A parental desire doesn't have automatic moral soundness (let alone legality).
Love shouldn't be completely unconditional, but it also shouldn't be a gun to the throat. It is our lives, and compromises can usually – but not always – be reached.
Getting married for the sake of your religion also seems problematic: aside from those who are not religious, actions aren't right just because a religion demands them.
Marriage myth 2: It's a public declaration of love
The second argument you often hear is that marriage is a declaration of love. It's about "showing" we're settled, our partners are "off the market", and we're in a position to build a family. Most of this, however, is a display for others. Plenty of monogamous couples maintain stable, healthy relationships without rings or certificates to "prove" loyalty.
Indeed, who are we trying to prove our love to? Our proof should be our treatment of each other: anything else is addition, not basis. There is more to be worried about if we need to "secure" someone, like a raging animal, with a ring or certificate or other public stamp.
Furthermore, as high divorce rates show, being tied to one person doesn't work out for many, especially for the rest of our lives. Compromises can be made. Couples now swing, maintain open marriages, and so on. But this should only make us question why we're still devoted to the "one true love" ideal in the first place.
Marriage myth 3: Married couples make better parents
Of course, there's evidence to support the idea that married couples make better parents and families than, say, single parents. Some of this is because there hasn't been much research into alternative family structures, although that will likely change since trends are changing.