Marriage is a legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions, it is specifically a union between a man and a woman).
A commonly accepted and encompassing definition of marriage is the following: A formal union and social and legal contract between two individuals that unites their lives legally, economically, and emotionally.
Marriage is defined differently, and by different entities; based on cultural, religious, and personal factors.
I asked my fourteen-year old daughter what she thought about marriage.
‘I’m scared of getting a divorce’ she said.
I asked her why and she said ‘Because, it might not work out’. Sigh.
This is the dilemma we face today. People do not see the rush in getting married, the divorce rates are not encouraging, they doubt whether it would work, people are not ready for the commitments that it entails. When you think of everything that might go wrong, you ask yourself ‘why get married, why not just have live in partners?’
When I was growing up, marriage was (still is) a beautiful thing and almost like a fairy tale that most girls could not wait to experience. However, I am seeing the increased reluctance of our young girls today. Are they indeed scared of the things that my fourteen-year-old daughter listed above? Or are there more insights or reasons for this?
I went into marriage based on my family beliefs, cultural beliefs and religious beliefs. This was based on the fact that marriage was a life-time commitment – you were in it for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health and till death do you both part. Those were the vows that a lot of us took when we were getting married and I believe that we all took them wholeheartedly, at those times.
There are five pillars that help us achieve a healthy and strong marriage according to Steve Wright. I will elaborate on them based on my personal experience:
- Love – We must ensure we fully understand the meaning of love. A lot of us go into relationships thinking we love the other person when in the real sense we just love certain aspects of the individual such as their physical appearances. It might just be an infatuation. What we must understand is that love is patient. It is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrong. These are the qualities of Love and we must all embrace these qualities/actions to help our relationships and marriages. Our children/young adults must learn to love as much as they want to be loved. They must understand that it is a two-way action and that showing love is very contagious and the individuals you love would automatically love you back. You cannot expect what you cannot give. Love is about giving without expecting back and not about feeling.
- Trust – A healthy marriage cannot be built and sustained without trust. Trust is very easy to build initially but once breached or broken, it becomes very difficult to restore. Trust issues in most marriages are always based around infidelity, dishonesty and bad behaviors. Most people fail with regards to infidelity because they have gone into their various marriages for the wrong reasons or have not truly loved their spouses. With regards to dishonesty, most people do not put all their cards on the table when they are dating people. We want to show the good sides of ourselves and not share the “all”. Whilst dating, you are to share as much as you can with your partner to ensure they fully have the bigger picture and decide to love you for who you are. Most relationships today are based on more material than emotional foundations.
- Respect – This is one topic that I can write a full article on. Respect is very critical yet it is an area that our younger ones struggle with. Respect should be shown to your partner because you value them. The question we must ask ourselves is “How much do I value my spouse?” If you value your spouse, then respect will come naturally. Respect should not be tied to financial ability. I say this because a lot of the young ladies that I mentor always tell me that they find it difficult to respect a man that cannot afford to take care of them. Whilst it is great that a man must try to support and provide for his family, we are seeing more women becoming more independent and some even earning more than their spouses. This, however, should not be seen as a license to disrespect your spouse, to avoid friction in the marriage. This also is the case for men that are the breadwinners and have their spouses being stay-at-home mums. You should respect your spouse for the sacrifice of giving up their career to stay at home.
- Understanding – You must understand each other. We must take the time to understand and study each other before committing to getting married. You are not going to know all of each other before marriage, but at least you must have a very good idea of what makes your spouse tick and not tick. You must understand their culture, beliefs, religion, ambitions, drive, habits; good and bad, family; very critical as marriage involves the extended family as well. Understand whether they are social or introverted, you must also understand their expectations of you and you of them. Understanding one’s spouse is vital in order to ensure that one will be able to show respect, communicate effectively, and be what that other person needs.
- Faith – Faith is the understanding that there is something larger and bigger than self. I would also say that this links to being selfless. Your concern should be more with the needs and wishes of your spouse than with your own. This is a very difficult topic to convince our younger generation on. Every time I try to speak to them about this, I lose the argument. Most times, it is because they just cannot see themselves as not looking out for themselves first before others. They tell me that it is easy for my generation and that it is because I am not from their generation (I’m not sure what this means!) I think it is just because they are unable to be selfless and to compromise. It must be their way or the highway. What they seem to forget is that if you put your spouse’s need first before yours, then your spouse would automatically do the same. I am not saying that some people would not take advantage. However, if you are indeed married to someone who loves, respects, trusts, and fully understands you, then it would be very difficult for them to take advantage of you.