My Husband and I are coming up on our three year anniversary in March, and I honestly couldn’t be happier with our Marriage; since the moment we signed the Wedding Certificate, however, we’ve been bombarded with a host of questions.
From day one, people have been asking us things like “so what’s it like to be married?” or “how does it feel?”. For the longest time I was never sure what they were expecting me to say; I couldn’t for the life of me understand the obvious fishing- nor the fact that they looked at me each time as if they expected- or demanded- some sort of in depth, deep, world shattering answer about how “Marriage changed everything”.
One day after looking at Marriage articles online for several hours, however, I finally figured it out: Our culture seems to be over-rife with the idea that “Marriage does change everything”. 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.
More specifically, to people who hold this ideology, Marriage changes a large number of mental, romantic, and emotional aspects of your relationship; 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, and you communicate better; the number of things that marriage apparently changes is, according to them, upwards of a mile long.
On one side of the matter… It’s technically true that Marriage changes things, sure. For instance, I can now do a lot of things legally that I wouldn’t be able to if not for that “little piece of paper” that say’s we’re Married. Like garner loans and enter contracts in my Husband’s name without him present, pay his bills for him, open accounts in his name without him, visit him in the hospital, discuss his medical records with his Doctors without his permission, and even make health decisions for him. Likewise, should he die, I will automatically inherit all his property without the need for a Last Will and Testament.
In other ways, it is also true that things have changed. We approach bills and budgeting differently now; we’ve stopped thinking of ourselves as individuals; we’re more concerned with making long term plans than we were when we weren’t Married; we consult one another more often on decisions even when they only impact one of us; everything is jointly owned now instead of owned individually; and a number of other things.
A lot of things have changed in a lot of different ways. But in reality? The ways in which our relationship has changed are not the ways that people asking those questions are actually talking about when they ask them. And in that regard, nothing has changed… My Husband and I’s relationship is the exact same as it was before we were Married; we’re still wonderfully in love, we still have a true Egalitarian Relationship, we still communicate well, and we’ve still never had a fight.
And so I have always responded- and will continue to respond- with the same retort every time I’m asked:
It feels the exact same as it did when I wasn’t married.
This will be controversial to a lot of people, I’m sure, 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.
The fact of the matter is that we can subscribe whatever spiritual or social importance to Marriage that we want. But the importance that we assign it as a culture, a society, or even as individuals doesn’t change the fact that, as an institution, Marriage is still a legal contract and nothing more; it is a Federal and State recognized contract wherein two parties agree to share financial and other responsibilities in exchange for certain legal rights and leeway. It’s genuinely no different than any other legally recognized contract that a person enter into during their lifetime- except in the social expectations, constructs, and ideology that surrounds it. And like any contract, it can be nullified through the proper legal procedures.
It also doesn’t change the fact that your Marriage is not your relationship; Marriage is not the love you have for one another, the communication and trust between you, the emotion, the sexual or romantic or emotional interest, the commitment you make to be together, or anything else… These things are why you consider getting married, certainly. But they are not your Marriage itself.
More than that? You shouldn’t 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.
Marriage isn’t a magical wand we can wave over our relationships in order to make all of the good things even better and all of the bad things good; point blank, Marriage will not magically change your circumstances- and it certainly isn’t going to change people, either. In fact, Marriage shouldn’t change anything fundamental about your relationship and how you feel about or interact with your partner at all.
If you expect that Marriage will solve any problems you have with your spouse, or will improve your relationship, then I believe that ultimately you have failed in some way; one of two things (or potentially both) is wrong: Either something is wrong with your relationship itself, or you have a warped idea of what Marriage is and what it does. In both cases, you are approaching it in a way that is more than likely detrimental to its success– and if that’s the case, then you should genuinely reconsider marrying whoever it is you’re with.
If you want a healthy, fulfilling marriage based on mutual love, trust, and respect, then these things should already be present in your relationship– and they should be present well before you ever even consider marrying one another. And the quicker we realize that, the more prepared we will be for marriage, and the better marriages we will have in the end.