Marriage v. Contracts

As someone raised with the influence of a successful marriage, but signed divorce papers in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center, I struggle to wrap my mind around this notion of marriage and happily ever after. I was born in the 80’s. My ideals of marriage come from two sources, teachings of my parents and Cinderella fantasies. I didn’t realize how out of touch I was with reality until my situation became prevalent.

The rapid increase of divorce in American society has me baffled. In a small way, I shake my head in shame that so many people played with the idea of marriage. On the other hand, I think that the traditional vow needs reconsidering. Who came up with those vows anyway? And I question why I chose to follow them. Was I really willing to stick with someone through better or worse, even if the worse stripped me of my pride? Was I really willing to stick with someone until death parted us, even if we fell out of touch? There were too many things that I had not considered realistically. And I see now that I conformed to someone’s ideal of the way things should be, rather than what fit my life.

I’m not sure what causes this shift in American statistics. Now that I have become a statistic, I wanted to find out. Am I part of the problem, or am I catering an evolving solution?

I remember trying to convince my father that he and his first wife would have made it through anything had they both been willing to live up to their vows. Oh how naive I was. He tried to explain to me that things are not always so easy or agreeable. Years later I remember his words as others question my situation.

It just so happens that my own marriage succumbed to adulterous activities. The actions were no different than the actions that happened in countless other marriages for centuries. Why did I feel the need to liberate myself from that situation? Why couldn’t I stick it out like the other couples who had gone through it? Was it because I was taught that I should look out for me first? Or was it something else that caused me to move forward?

I’m learning that ending a marriage is more painful due to marital stipulations added by MAN. My husband and I were guilty of going through with the union just the way that MAN intended it to be. I was ignorant to the history of marriage and to the reality of what I was walking in to. So I just completed my research on the history of marriage.

While doing research, I learned that ancient Rome had many influences on the marital sanction that I went through with my husband. It was the ideals of ancient Rome that formed boundaries in our marriage. They were the reason he gave me an engagement ring; because it was Rome that made it a symbolic figure (eternity) between a couple. It was also the influence of the Romans that we had a civil/religious ceremony to stamp our marriage.

Prior to 1545, European marriages were by mutual consent. The couple would merely promise to be married to one another and it was recognized. Sort of like me telling a guy that I’m serious about him.

This verbal communication was accepted. Neither priests, nor witnesses had to be present for their sacred union. (This works perfect for me). It wasn’t until 1563 that the Council of Trent made the rule that marriages should be celebrated in the presence of a priest and at least two witnesses. (wth!) That explains the lady at the court standing in the room with my husband and I as we got married. She was the witness because the Council of Trent deemed it so. Not God (do you religious folk see where I’m going?). The Council’s decision was accepted by majority of Europe by the eighteenth century.

I know people get married for different reasons. My reason was to be with someone that I thought would love me mutually for the rest of my life. Looking back, with new understanding of the marital union, I think that I would have been just as happy living in my own spiritual union with my husband – without the boundaries society has set. Maybe marriage can be a series of short-term contracts (five years maximum). The idea of being with someone forever is a terrible idea.

Maybe if I were able to live freely with him as they did in 1545, I could have endured some of my marital blows, or it may have been easier for me to deal with our situation.

I am unsure if I will marry again, but if I do, it will be under MY terms. No promises of “for better or worse, or death do us part.” There are way too many factors waiting to mess that up. I want real talk with my next husband and a better understanding of what we are walking in to. No rules other than the rules we set.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look back on this one day and think that I was bitter and crazy for thinking this way. It’s all a mystery but definitely one that I appreciate for now.