Is Marriage even Necessary Anymore?

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Relationships are hard work.

They take practice, communication, patience, and commitment, just to name a few.

I’ve found myself at the age when all of the sudden, friends and siblings are getting married, having kids, and buying houses (all beautiful things, don’t get me wrong!). And witnessing these experiences all around me, I’ve begun to question my own.

You see, I’ve been with my partner for over five years, and I can feel society’s expectations creeping in on us. It’s like we have something to prove to the world to assure people that we are committed, we are happy, we are in love.

Little did I know how much of a gift this tension would prove to be for our growth. It’s forced us to have some really open and honest conversations about our future that may not have happened otherwise. Instead of being committed to fulfilling society’s ideals—or committed to “monogamy”—we want to be committed to each other and to our growth. There’s a big difference! So we’ve found ourselves asking our hearts what that really means. What does that look like for us? What do we yearn for when the fears of judgment are taken away?

The truth is, the way humans relate in our current day and age is completely different than the way we related a mere 50 to 80 years ago. Marriage used to be an economic institution; people were a part of marriages (sometimes arranged) in order to gather assets. We wanted security, children, family, property, and social respectability.

It’s a fairly new concept that we marry for love. We now actively choose our partners—and expect them to fulfill us in all ways. As Esther Perel says, “Contained within the small circle of the wedding band are vastly contradictory ideals. We want our chosen one to offer stability, safety, predictability, and dependability. And we want that very same person to supply awe, mystery, adventure, and risk. We expect comfort and edge, familiarity and novelty, continuity and surprise.” We now ask one person to fulfill us in the same way that a whole community used to—a pretty problematic ask, as seen in the 50 percent divorce rate of the United States (and 65 percent in subsequent marriages).

I find myself asking, is marriage necessary anymore? Is it causing people more harm than good?

Luckily, conscious love is on the up and up. But what is conscious love exactly, and how does it differ from traditional monogamy?

Well, when we think of what a “successful” monogamous relationship looks like, we might think of a couple that has been together for a long period of time, is sexually exclusive, feels completely fulfilled by their partner, and will continue to maintain the relationship that way “‘til death do us part.”

In short, monogamy tends to emphasize commitment to the institution. In contrast, conscious love is about commitment to the people and love within the institution (or not). Conscious love is not attached so much to the outcome of the relationship as it is the growth that is happening within it. The conscious couple strives for expansion—even at the risk of out-growing the relationship.

Fueling this growth is radical honesty: an ability to have open and vulnerable conversations about wants, needs, and desires without fear, shame, or guilt. Instead of hindering ourselves to please the people we love, can we be honest in sharing our truths. Can we come from a place of abundance instead of fear of scarcity? The conscious couple understands that love is rooted in truth, compassion, and freedom. Love cannot flourish under an institution of rules, shame, guilt, or fear.

I’m not sure what the future holds for how we humans relate (or rather, the institutions we use to label and legitimize our relationships), but I do know that I don’t feel frustrated by this uncertainty. Instead, I feel excited. I think we are starting to wake up to the reality that the old ways may no longer be working for us. I think we are instead tuning into our deepest truths, expressing our desires, and owning our sh*t.

I hope you will join me as we commit ourselves to this ongoing practice of realizing and living out our truths as they are today and as they evolve in the future—whether or not that falls within the context of a traditional monogamous relationship.

~

Relephant:

The 6 Traits of Conscious Love.

~

~

Author: Ashley Adamek
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis

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Ashley Adamek

Ashley Adamek is a writer, poet, bare-foot walking, plant-eating, love-making machine currently living in Wayne, Pennsylvania. She runs a yoga studio, eats books for breakfast, and is almost always questioning everything. She speaks Dutch, surfs small swells, travels the world, and believes that meditation will save us all. She makes a living off getting people out of their heads and into their bodies—asking them the right questions, allowing them space to take off the mask of who they think they should be and instead step into who they authentically are. Ashley’s life’s work is to give others permission to go deeper, be vulnerable, remember themselves, and above all, have fun. You can connect with her best on her blog or Instagram.

Kaycie Keith Jan 20, 2018 8:54pm

PS- Just to preempt the obvious replies, no, I'm not a conservative, nor am I an archaic fuddy-duddy stuck in "traditional" times. I understand marriage doesn't "fix" depression (my comment was a general bond about the "throw it away if I have to work at it" social culture we seem to be in today), that it has been used previously as a method of patriarchal control, and that some people are totally fine without marriage. I'm very much To Each Their Own. if it works for you, great! But I'm also a realist, and everything I've seen and read (psychology AND sociology AND anthropology) makes me believe its got important value. Anyone who's ever fostered and adopted atop all that will see the consequences of children in unstable homes as well. It's not pretty and has a lifelong impact.

Kaycie Keith Jan 20, 2018 8:42pm

Radical honesty? More like radical waste. Compared to the life-long stability and gains I've seen in my family having stable marriages, verses the relationships I see happening all around me where people treat others like their commitments and loyalty are useless garbage to be thrown out on a whim or convenience, I'll take the supposed "downsides" of marriage any day. It also ensures legal equality and motivation NOT to screw your spouse over, such as abandoning them with your own debt or with children you've abandoned. Marriage gives them avenues to protect themselves if/when things do go bad. People wonder these days why they can't build a deeper bond and connection with anyone, why depression is more rampant than ever. Then they dump their significant other if they learn they like pinnaple on their pizza (IE: not literally that, but for very silly reasons). Learning to live with a person and accepting little flaws and faults, working through the problems that pop up while getting to know them on a deeper level, not only creates a stable home for yourself (and kids if you have them), it also creates a more rounded and mature person. It's not like you HAVE to get married, but there's a reason it's been seen as a turning point for peoples lives for generations. It legitimizes social bonds in recognized ways that simply co-habitating doesn't do, or at least hasn't been able to do so far.

Nancy Vedder-Shults Nov 10, 2017 5:53pm

Wonderful article, Ashley. I would just quibble with your statement that 50 - 80 years ago marriage was very different, i.e. traditional. Like you, I had no intention of marrying 47 years ago, because I was a feminist and realized that marriage was a patriarchal institution. But my mother — who I loved dearly — was freaking out because I was living (in sin!) with my boyfriend. So he and I decided to get married and to change the insitution of marriage from the inside out. There were a lot of us doing that back then in the dark ages, although I believe we were the first generation to begin changing marriage to a commitment between two equals. That involved changing a lot of other things as well: women's job opporutinties (when I married, want ads were still segregated by very stereotypical gender assumptions); women's ability to get credit cards without their husband's permission (can you believe that?); creating good day care, so mothers could continue their careers; convincing our husbands that housework was the responsibility of both of us (I didn't have any trouble with this one, since I married a feminist); etc.You get the idea.

Tim Dibble Nov 8, 2017 5:44pm

Jim Wohlford that’s the nice part. You can chose the term you like! But unlike the haphazard relationship by love which dominates romantic culture but has never existed in human history, a contract requires agreement by two equal parties, establishing their objectives, limitations and expectations. It treats people as rational, participatory adults rather than romantic fools and optimists. For anyone who has gone through a divorce, it is readily recognizable that the love which got you married isn’t gonna survive after 5 years-it is a whole new relationship with a completely different person (every human changes noticeably after 5 years).

Jim Wohlford Nov 8, 2017 3:55pm

Nicely Written Ashley... Thank you. <3

Jim Wohlford Nov 8, 2017 3:54pm

A timeline for love... is for me.. very unloving. ;) I feel that an open flowing line of love and communication is simple and feels 'right'. If you want a 5 year contract go for it... I'll choose to allow unlimited freedom for both my partner and myself.

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Aarron Saini Nov 6, 2017 6:19am

"I find myself asking, is marriage necessary anymore? Is it causing people more harm than good?" Happiness does not lies in marriage rather it lies in your belief http://www.dadabhagwan.org/discover-happiness/

Tim Dibble Nov 5, 2017 5:39pm

May Wagner two years is too short. People don’t significantly change in 2 years. In five years you have a feel for what is tolerable, what is changing, what needs changed. Unfortunately in US marriage people see the goal as the marriage and then they stop. They forget continued negotiation, flirting, interest is required. That’s why I propose 5 year contracts. First, if you can write a contract you are entering an agreement with a like minded adult who is rightfully skeptical of “Love conquers all”. Secondly, It evens the playing field requiring full disclosure of finances, past and plans for the near future. Finally, by being renegotiable every 5 years, you can agree to change the deal. Like any contract-it is terminable at any time by the payment of damages.

May Wagner Nov 5, 2017 4:50pm

maybe 2 years? haha

Hakan Özdemir Nov 5, 2017 4:25pm

It's so cute whenever a new generation of young people believe they've just discovered and reinvented "real" love.

Tim Dibble Nov 4, 2017 6:38pm

Marriage should be a five year renewable contract.