The Happiness Connection  

Shifting sands of marriage

A statement by Dr. Rose Backman while I was at the Okanagan Real Estate Investors Group’s Success Summit caught my attention.

She has asked hundreds of people why they got married and only 17 gave love as the major reason.

The number surprised her, it surprises me, and I’m sure will surprise many of you reading this. Isn’t love the most common reason people decide to marry?

Our culture encourages the belief that romantic love is necessary for a successful marriage. How can that be if so few people marry for love? I accept that Rose’s statistics aren’t from a scientific study, but somehow, they ring true.

The No. 1 drive that all people have is to survive, both as an individual and as a race. If we are going to survive as a species, we need to procreate.

Romantic love is a biological process that encourages the sex necessary to produce children. Many women have no desire for babies until they fall in love. Suddenly, they feel pulled to bear their lover’s child.

Marriage is not a new phenomenon. It has existed from the beginning of recorded history, and probably before that, but it didn’t look the way it does now.

For most of this time, romantic love has been a bonus, not a necessity in marriage.

Traditionally, matrimony was a contract between families and centred around the good of the clan not what the individuals being married wanted. Whether you were in love was not a consideration.

If marrying a man that was old and smelly was good for the family, a woman was expected to suck it up and start producing babies.

Social standing, economic security, money, political alliances and children were all common reasons for a marriage to be arranged.

If you watched Downton Abby, you might remember that the earl had a title and land, but the money he needed to keep the estate afloat came from an American heiress.

Her family had new money, which wasn’t respected by old moneyed families. The marriage provided her with a title and the respect her family craved.

For powerful clans, the decision to join two families through marriage was often made when the bride and groom were very young, or even babies.

Linking romantic love with marriage became a popular idea in the 1800s. Before that time, unless you were lucky, romantic love was something that happened outside marriage.

Although being in love with the person you married became popular in Victorian times, it wasn’t the sort of physical passion that we think of today.

An ideal marriage provided spiritual love through companionship. Sex was normal, but passion wasn’t valued. Sex was primarily for procreation, not enjoyment.

After the First World War, western societies perceived that the institution of marriage was in crisis. To help this problem, popular literature began to emphasize romance and the expression of making love became popular. Society was sold on the idea that successful marriages resulted from being in love and was necessary if you wanted a good sex life.

This belief is still held by many in our society. We grow up believing we should fall in love and experience the giddy emotions and passionate sex of our honeymoon stage forever. I’m not saying this never happens, but I suspect it isn’t common.

Relationships look different over time. That doesn’t mean they aren’t as good, it means they have grown and developed just like you have. I’m sure you are different now than you were 10 years ago. Anything that stands still becomes stagnant.

If you don’t understand that your marriage will shift, grow and develop, you may begin to wonder whether you married the wrong person. The answer to that is likely to be no.

It doesn’t matter who you choose to settle down with, you will have disagreements, challenges, and change to deal with.

I believe it is the change in our expectations of what marriage looks like since adding romantic love into the mix, that has sent the divorce rate skyrocketing.

There are far more options for our lives today, and our roles in society are not as well defined. Women don’t always have children, and if they do, they don’t always stay at home to look after them.

Men aren’t always the major bread winner and provider, or the one who is in the position of power in a family.

These changes in our society has made being married a much more challenging experience.

The old beliefs and reasons to marry are no longer adequate. We need to redefine the purpose of marriage and reimagine what marriage might look like.

Although there are many new looks for non-traditional families, marriage is still viewed in a conventional way.

I’ve seen descriptions for single family houses with two master suits. Your first reaction to this new layout may be puzzlement or even negative.

Surely, if you are in love, you want a single marital bed, doesn’t having your own space reflect a lack of love and the death of passion? Not if one partner is an insomniac, a heavy snorer, or just sleeps better in their own space.

This is just one instance of redefining what long-term relationships could look like.

If our society wants to continue to advocate for marriage, perhaps it is time to give the institution a makeover. Figure out what works for you and your partner and then let the fear of judgment go.

It’s better to be happy together in a marriage of your design, than in an unhappy one that has been designed by traditional acceptance.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories