My Husband and I are coming up on our one year anniversary in March and I honestly could not be happier with our arrangement… Since the moment we signed the Wedding Certificate, however, we have been bombarded with a host of questions; people have been asking us things like “so what’s it like to be married?” or “how does it feel?”.
In all honesty, I was never sure what they were expecting; I couldn’t for the life of me understand the obvious fishing… And then one day after looking at Marriage articles online I finally figured it out.
Our culture seems to be over-rife with the idea that “Marriage changes everything”. More specifically, it is rife with the idea that Marriage changes the mental, romantic, emotional and similar aspects of your relationship; one Google search alone on the topic brings up a host of links which tell you as much- such as this one, this one, this one, and even this one, to name only a small smattering of them.
Oddly, to people who hold this ideology, a number of mental and emotional things apparently change when you get married; supposedly it is more romantic, more passionate, more fun, being married; you try harder at your relationship because there’s no easy way out. Things are more intimate… You communicate better; the number of things that marriage apparently changes is, according to them, upwards of a mile long. And for some people, maybe this is true. But as a married woman, I haven’t found this to be true for me at all.
Some things obviously actually do change when you get married, of course. It is, after all, a legally binding contract entered into with the Federal Government. In that regard, I can now do a lot of things legally that I wouldn’t be able to if not for that “little piece of paper”. For instance: I can now garner loans and enter contracts in my Husband’s name without him present. I can pay his bills for him- and I can open accounts in his name without him. I can visit him in the hospital, discuss his medical records with his Doctors without his permission, and even make health decisions for him. Likewise, I will automatically inherit all his property without the need for a Last Will and Testament. We also approach bills and budgeting differently now, and so on and so forth.
But in reality, that’s not what people asking those questions really mean when they ask them- and in that case? Nothing has changed. In fact, my Husband and I’s relationship is the exact same in that manner; we’re still wonderfully in love, we still have an Egalitarian relationship, we still communicate well, we have still never had a fight, and so on… And so I have always responded- and will continue to respond- with the same retort every time I am asked: It feels the exact same as it did when I wasn’t married.
This will be controversial to a lot of people, but I am determined to say it anyways: I actively and vehemently disagree with the sentiment that marriage should change anything at all about a couple’s relationship. Instead, I am very firmly of the mindset that Marriage should not. If you believe that it should, then I believe that ultimately you have failed; there is potentially something wrong with your relationship in the first place, and you are approaching marriage with a mindset that is more than likely detrimental to its success.
The fact of the matter is that we can subscribe whatever spiritual importance to Marriage that we want. But it doesn’t change the fact that your relationship is not your marriage, and your marriage isn’t your relationship.
Marriage itself- while it is a commitment often made between two parties who love each other, which is made as a way of socially recognizing or validating that love- is still a legal contract and nothing more; it is a federal and state recognized contract wherein two (or more) parties agree to share financial and other responsibilities in exchange for certain legal rights and leeways. It can be nullified through the proper legal procedures, and often upholds the individuals to certain standards, actions, and expectations. In other words, it is genuinely no different than any other legally recognized contract a person could or would sign during their lifetime- except in the social expectations, constructs, and ideology that surrounds it.
It is not the love you have for one another, the communication and trust between you, the emotion, or anything else. These things are why you do- or should consider- a Marriage contract, but they are not Marriage in and of itself… And because Marriage is a pretty standard legal institution, then, you should not expect marriage to make your relationship more passionate, or change your sexual interest in your partner; to make you want to spend more or less time with them; make you and your partner more committed to one another, or attend to one another’s needs any more than you already do; and you shouldn’t think that it means you will be any more likely to communicate with each other, nor that it will erase underlying communication issues. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect it to change whether or not you fight.
It will not magically change your circumstances. And it certainly isn’t going to change people, either. Because it doesn’t; a legal document giving you new legal rights as a couple is not going to mean that you or your Husband are suddenly going to have all your ducks in a row; a childish alcoholic prior to marriage is not suddenly going to become a responsible adult overnight. That behavior can and will continue on into the marriage.
In short: Signing a Marriage Certificate and filing it with your County Clerk doesn’t fundamentally change anything about your relationship- nor should it. If you want a good, fulfilling marriage based on mutual love, trust, and respect, then these things should already be present to their fullest ability in your relationship– and they should be present well before you ever decide to marry them. Because marriage is not a magical wand that you can wave in order to make all of the good things even better and all of the bad things good; marriage is not your relationship, it’s merely an extension of it. And the quicker you realize that? The more prepared for marriage you will be, and the better a marriage you will have in the end.