What’s Love Got To Do With It?

I’ve been officiating weddings and writing about them for a long time now. I have a simple topic today, one that we think is at the heart of it all. Why get married? In our modern world couples can live together and raise families without being married. The stigma of ‘out-of-wedlock’ is, for the most, part gone. Women no longer need men as protectors, for financial security, and many other reasons women married back in the olden days.

A few quick facts on women’s rights in America: It wasn’t until 1838 that New York State was the first to make it legal for a single woman to own property. Before 1978 a woman could be fired for being pregnant. A woman couldn’t even get her own credit card until 1974! Yes, the good old days.

Now that women have (almost) gained equal rights – why would women want to get married? And for that matter, why do men? The answer today is quite different than years past. Marriage still matters, but for new reasons. We may not need it, but many women and men want it. Even Gloria Steinem, the feminist icon who once dismissed marriage as an institution that destroys relationships, married at the age of 66.

I think the very best reason is the emotional security it can provide. I often speak of roots and wings. Marriage gives you roots, a strong base from which you can grow and spread your wings.

On the emotional side of the equation, there is love. Declaring your love and commitment before family and friends is powerful. When you put your intention out into the universe, when you speak your vows out loud, you are making it more ‘real.’ It is very powerful stuff.

There are practical and important reasons as well. To be able to make decisions for your spouse, especially about life and death, is clearly a big deal. And social security death benefits are only offered to married couples. It would be a shame to lose all the money your partner earned and put into that account upon his or her death, because you weren’t legally married.

Married men live longer. Check it out – it’s true!

And then there are children. While a child is better off with one parent when the other is abusive or cruel, two good parents is a wonderful thing. Statistically children from two-parent homes do better in school and in life. Maybe for the exact same reason the couples themselves benefit from marriage: that sense of security. Shared tasks or division of labor, also helps. Family is a lot of work. All this only pertains to a healthy home, of course. I think I said that already!

The idea of marrying for love is fairly recent. Until about the mid-nineteenth century, marriage was a business deal, an arranged alliance for the benefit of families, land and money. “If love could grow out of it, that was wonderful,” says Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History. “But that was gravy.”

The Age of Enlightenment brought love and marriage together, when Romanticism came into fashion around the same time. Passion mattered now. And love reigned supreme. It still does.

By the way, same-sex marriage isn’t anything new. Did you know that in 13th century, male-bonding ceremonies were common in churches across the Mediterranean?  Twelfth-century ceremonies for same-sex unions —  known as “spiritual brotherhoods” — included marriage prayers, joining of hands at the altar, and a ceremonial kiss. Sounds like marriage to me.

Around the world people have always found ways to strength their bonds, and ‘tie the knot’, even literally tying a knot.  Not much is new under the sun, but everything also evolves with time.

Yes, marriage still holds real meaning, even if that meaning has changed over time.

In her poem, Why Marriage, Mari Nicol-Haining writes:

Because to the depths of me, I long to love one person,
With all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body…

Because I need a forever friend to trust with the intimacies of me,
Who won’t hold them against me,
Who loves me when I’m unlikable,
Who sees the small child in me, and
Who looks for the divine potential of me…

Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night
With someone who thanks God for me,
With someone I feel blessed to hold…

Because marriage means opportunity
To grow in love in friendship…

Because marriage is a discipline
To be added to a list of achievements…

Because marriages do not fail, people fail
When they enter into marriage
Expecting another to make them whole…

Because, knowing this,
I promise myself to take full responsibility
For my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness
I create me,
I take half of the responsibility for my marriage
Together we create our marriage…

Because with this understanding
The possibilities are limitless.

I hope you enjoy seeing a few photos of me officiating – all by Garth Woods 

 

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    Lois Heckman

    Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies in the Poconos and beyond. She has performed hundreds of ceremonies and brings a wealth of knowledge to her work. Visit her website: ... Read Full
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