March 12, 2009

Why I Think Marriage is Kind of Neat...

Marriage. I like the idea, but I'm in the minority in my circle of feminist friends at the London School of Economics. Most say things like, "If you love someone, why do you have to get the state involved? Why can't your commitment just be between the two of you?" Many of my friends also come from divorced families, and that has made many feel that marriage is overrated. I get that. Divorce is common and if it's touched you on a personal level then of course it's natural to develop a healthy cynicism about marriage. Of course it's a social construction. Of course it's not NECESSARY to get the state involved in your love, but just because marriage isn't necessary, that doesn't mean it doesn't have merits.

Marriage is a social construction whereby you tell someone you love them so much and want to commit to them so completely that you're willing to get the state involved as a protection against ever leaving them. Sure, you still can get divorced, but getting the state involved and making it official makes it THAT much harder to desert them. It sets up an obstacle that forces you to give pause before dissolving what you have together. I like that. I'm fine with tying myself legally to someone in the hopes that when things get tough, instead of leaving, this tie will force me to remember why I love them (because I can't so easily just up and leave) and foster us getting through a rough patch. Of course this is a bit of a romantic view. The idea that we could love each other through our rough patches might even be a bit naive. But, marriage does keep people together sometimes, and sometimes it's worth it.

One of my all-time favourite movies, Two For the Road, is a classic tale staring Audrey Hepburn that documents the early years of one couple's marriage from their honeymoon phase through a rough patch and out the other end. The movie doesn't gloss over what sucks about marriage. Oh no, there's fighting and infidelity and border-line insanity. But what the film tells you is that "marriage is worth it sometimes." And those sometimes, if they're good enough, can make it worth it all the time, but if you weren't forced to stay, you might never get to those amazing sometimes.

Sure, marriage is based on monogamy, which some people fight limiting, and it fails just as often as it succeeds in Canada today, but at the end of the day, I kind of like the notion of loving someone so much I want to make it difficult ever to leave him. I hope some day I love someone so much I feel prepared to make that commitment.

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