It's pretty amazing to think of how much marriage, relationships, and even human interaction in general, have changed within the last 100 years. It used to be that marriage was assumed, something that everyone did - a carry-over from the days where it was mainly a business agreement. If a woman didn't get married, she was seen as defective, and labeled an "old maid" or "spinster" - as young as 35! In the 1960s, feminism abruptly brought forth many social changes, and the idea of "barefoot and pregnant" was no longer something a woman felt she had to live by. Add to that the sexual revolution caused in part by the invention of the birth control pill, and women's roles in the household and in society, shifted drastically.
This of course, has had a direct impact on marriage. As women are now self-sufficient, they no longer need to rely on men financially, and thus the concept of marriage has changed. In Western society, marrying for love seems to be our main motivation, but as we've all witnessed, the divorce rate has sky-rocketed as we struggle to redefine what marriage means to us. And so we pose the question, is marriage still relevant?
It used to be that we were "only as good as our word". Times have changed, and not only does our word mean less, but contracts can be easily broken, and are. In this sense, the actual piece of paper
that signifies you are "married", doesn't seem to mean a lot these days. Yet, people still continue to get married - but why? Some of it has to do with family or personal expectations, left-overs from the days when marriage was the "right thing to do". But more than that, marriage still attracts people for instinctual and emotional reasons.
Simply put, Marriage is a synonym for Commitment. Commitment brings with it elements which fit very well into inherent human nature and close relationships:
Security: Our instincts tell us that there's strength in numbers. More food, more protection etc. This still holds true today, where we equivocate financial security with feeling safe. Two incomes provide more security than one...
Trust: They say trust is the cornerstone for healthy relationships. When you're able to trust someone, you can rely on them to have your best interests at heart, personally, and as a couple or family.
In an era where we seem to be very much focused on personal growth, trust in a relationship allows you to "be who you are" and feel emotionally accepted at the same time. The key here is to make sure both parties are having their needs met.
Beyond these factors, committed, healthy relationships have wonderful benefits, which when working properly are the reasons which make it all worthwhile:
Intimacy: Not just of the physical variety, but certainly part of it, intimacy is about accepting and loving another for who they are. When you're truly able to feel this about another, you are able to see it and experience it about yourself. This creates that sense of peace that we all strive for!
Communication: Let's face it - we're social beings. We enjoy communicating with each other and enjoy expressing this and having it expressed to us. When we have problems communicating, or are unable to say what we feel, it doesn't feel right. To have someone with whom you can share your thoughts, views and feelings, is a wonderful thing.
Companionship: When we're cut off from social interaction, we're not happy. Being able to enjoy life and share love with someone makes everything that much sweeter, as simple as it sounds!
The actual "contract" of marriage may be outdated for some, and does perhaps need to be redefined in order to make sense with our changing values. This will never change the fact though, that we are human beings who have an inherent need to love, and share that love with one another.
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