Everyone Laments The Death of the Institution of Marriage, But Maybe it Needs to Die
Every single reason listed here has to do with outside factors. Stress over money. Lack of sex. Too much technology. Not a single one of these things addresses any internal issue or personal accountability.
My husband pointed out that anybody from any generation could blame technology. Someone who lived in the 1940s could say the invention of the television ruined marriage, because nobody sat around and talked anymore, they just sat in front of the TV.
No, social media didn’t ruin the institution of marriage. People who go looking for distractions will always find them in some shape or form.
Every day we’re bombarded with the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce (even though that hasn’t been true since the 70s and 80s). People are constantly writing about why marriages these days fail so often, even though the divorce rate is actually going down – at least for college-educated people.
And then there’s this:
Fewer and fewer people are getting married at all.
That insight particularly seems to send people into a frenzy. “No one respects marriage anymore! They just want to live together so they don’t have to commit!”
Let me ask you one very important rhetorical question:
Have you ever considered that maybe the reason that the institution of marriage seems to be failing so hard is because it’s an outdated dinosaur of a concept that can’t survive in the new paradigm?
People fear nothing more than they fear change, and marriage as we know it has been a staple of our culture pretty much since civilization began. The first known record of a marriage occurred in Mesopotamia 4,000+ years ago, and as you may have guessed, the wife was more or less considered the property of the husband with no rights, and was bartered for a dowry (often money or goods).
Marriage’s primary purpose was to bind women to men, and thus guarantee that a man’s children were truly his biological heirs. Through marriage, a woman became a man’s property. In the betrothal ceremony of ancient Greece, a father would hand over his daughter with these words: I pledge my daughter for the purpose of producing legitimate offspring. Among the ancient Hebrews, men were free to take several wives; married Greeks and Romans were free to satisfy their sexual urges with concubines, prostitutes, and even teenage male lovers, while their wives were required to stay home and tend to the household. If wives failed to produce offspring, their husbands could give them back and marry someone else.–The Origins of Marriage, TheWeek.com
Up until as recently as 250 years ago, marriage had absolutely nothing to do with love. Even after the idea of marrying for love was introduced, marriage was still very much an institution of control and women were still considered property.
The husband’s dominance was officially recognized under a legal doctrine called “coverture,” under which the new bride’s identity was absorbed into his. The bride gave up her name to symbolize the surrendering of her identity, and the husband suddenly became more important, as the official public representative of two people, not one. The rules were so strict that any American woman who married a foreigner immediately lost her citizenship.- The Origins of Marriage, TheWeek.com
Marital rape wasn’t even outlawed until the 1970s. Yeah… up until 40 years ago, it was perfectly legal to rape someone as long as you were married to them. Texas only very recently got rid of a law allowing husbands to shoot their wives for infidelity. Marriage has changed more in the time since then than it has in the last 5,000 years.
We have this “institution” that was built by patriarchy as a means of control and has existed for more than 4,500 years, devoid of the concept of love. Is it any wonder that the moment love was introduced (relatively speaking, it’s been a short time), it has begun to fall apart?
The reason we have so much resistance to it today is because so much of our notion of what love is has blended with with that patriarchal idea of control. The control itself has evolved and modernized, and rather than destroying the notion all together, women have simply absorbed the same sense of ownership over their partner that men have had for centuries… and we call it “equality.”
I have news for you, ladies. What women need to do is not become the equivalent of a man. They need to shatter the entire belief structure around what it is to be male and female, along with any institution that attempts to exhort control over another person.
You might say, “But I don’t attempt to control my husband/wife…”
You may not –at least not physically. But emotionally, you most likely do.
The entire modern concept of marriage today is based around loving one person and only one person for the entirety of your life. Giving yourself to them. Becoming “theirs.” We’re still trying to sell ourselves into slavery, here. We’ve just romanticized the notion. They don’t call it “the ole’ ball and chain” for nothing.
Unfortunately, the consequences that come along with this mindset are not very romantic. Emotional manipulation and control end up creating more problems.
You see, you can never truly own the emotions of another person. You can’t stop them from loving another person. And in our society, our patriarchal notion of love is that we should reserve all of our deepest, most intimate love for a single person. If we discover that our significant other may love another, we automatically assume that means that they have taken their love away from us. But that’s the egoic notion of love, not real, unconditional love.So because we can never truly be certain that the emotion of love is totally reserved for us, we look for other ways to control our partner. We can’t be sure that we own their heart, so we then attempt to own their body. And that’s the kind of limiting culture our society has built around love and sex.
–Let’s Talk About Sex
We demand that love be given to us by our partners. After all, they’ve taken a vow to do so. But consider this…
When you met your husband/wife, did you choose to fall in love with him or her? Or did it just happen?
How many of you have an ex that you still think about and dare I say it, still love, even though you’ve fallen in love with someone else and married them? Why haven’t you just stopped loving your ex? Does loving your ex mean that you love the person you’re married to any less?
You haven’t stopped loving them because you can’t, anymore than you can stop yourself from falling in love with someone new.
You can’t stop love. You can’t control love. Period. When it happens, it happens. You don’t have to go looking for it. It finds you. It exists within you. And it doesn’t mean that you stop loving the person that you’re with or that you love them any less.
So why, then, do we make such promises and demands of our partners, whether married or not? And why do we feel we’ve been hurt when it happens?
Because we are afraid. We are afraid that we are not worthy of love, and so when we find it, we cling to it for dear life until we damn near strangle it. But real love doesn’t cling. It lets go. Real love doesn’t take away, it only gives.
Love is far too big to fit in the box called marriage that we’ve attempted to shove it into.
We live in a culture that tells us that our love should be reserved for one person and one person only, and when we choose that person, we own them, until you realize that your capacity for loving another human being is much bigger than society tells you.
Love is not scarce. You don’t fall in love with one person today and then stop loving them or take your love away from them and fall in love with someone else tomorrow. If you do, then it was never really love to begin with. When you truly love someone, you never stop loving them. And there’s plenty of room to love more, because your heart is an endless well. We try to build all kinds of dams and control the flow. The real task is to tear them all down.
Keep trying to shove love in the marriage box (or is it a cell?). Love will do what love does best: it will blow the whole damn thing apart. Over and over, until you stop trying to contain it. Stop trying to resist it. Stop trying to build walls and control the flow.
This is why the institution of marriage is failing on a grand scale. And this is why it will keep failing, until we change our ideas about love to match what love really is. Infinite. Whole. Unyielding.
Thanks for being here,
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I loved this Ashley. I just put out a column this month that talked of this very subject suggesting the same ideas. I didnt talk alot on it but still did say some of the same. How timely. This is so interesting and so real. Thank you for sharing it. I am glad someone else feels the same way I do. I was taking a chance when I talked about it and was thinking some people may not like what I say. Glad to read this. You wrote this so amazingly. Check out my column it’s on my FB page.