This is in response to a blog post entitled: “Marriage Isn’t For You” that has flooded the Internet and prompted my undergraduate students to ask whether the central tenant of relationship success, knowing oneself, is true.
While I agree with the author that marriage, or any intimate relationship for that matter, should not be based on a consumer attitude, this is a romanticized rhetoric. William Doherty (2001) wrote about consumer marriages and noted that:
“Consumer culture teaches us that we never have enough of anything we want, that the new is always better than the old, and not to be loyal to anything or anyone that does not continue to meet our needs at the right price.”
It is absolutely normal to experience doubt and hesitation during major life transitions, whether it is marriage or the birth of a first child. The author’s attempt at reaching out to his father for solace and advice highlights the importance of social support networks but negates a fundamental principle of intimate relationships; The fact of the matter is that marriages, and as previously noted any intimate relationship, should be based on reciprocal feelings and mutual admiration.
In other words, it should not require an act of Congress or Executive order to completely evaluate and understand one’s feelings towards their potential spouse.
It seems that the author, despite suddenly feeling that his bride to be was the “…right person to marry” after a heartfelt conversation with his father, did not have a fundamental, not academic, understanding reciprocity in human relationships.
In other words, does recognizing the implications of entering into a civil union require recitation of the penance sacrament?
While it may seem whimsical to assume awareness of the aforementioned notion, it is surprising how many young adults do not understand not only the meaning of marriage but that it also encompasses the merging of potentially two drastically different perspectives such as culture, religion, language, spirituality, socio-economic status, amongst other factors and most importantly, families.
Note that I did not mention giving “oneself completely to another” because its interpretation is subjective and I believe that practicing complete devotion requires completely and fully knowing oneself.
The authors’ conversation with his father sparked a revelation analogous the age of enlightenment where reason was emphasized over tradition:
“My father’s advice was both shocking and revelatory.”
However, this seems to be an unfortunate trend amongst young adults in the Western hemisphere. The author also ironically fails to note that marriages are, in many parts of the world, a practice of improving economic means and of religious belief.
In that sense, you are marrying for others but not yourself and one of the primary predictors of relationship success is in fact knowing yourself.
Doherty, W.J. (2001). Take back your marriage: Sticking together in a world that pulls us apart. Chapter 2. New York, NY: Guilford Press.