Tuesday, 30 July 2013


I am thinking about marriage this morning. One of my online PALS is celebrating his 19th wedding anniversary today. To him I say, congratulations and may your future be blessed. That may seen strange given the future of ALS patients. I have noticed something with this cohort. ALS patients in good relationships do better, have more energy and more enthusiasm for life, and generally seem happier. No surprise there in that almost all research shows that people in happy marriages are generally happier in life.

Marriage has been around a long time. Anthropologists and archaeologists have found evidence for the existence of pair bonding all the way back to pre-historic times. Marriages are documented in ancient Egypt and the concept of marriage is almost universal within human beings. The nature of marriage changes over time but the idea of two people in a committed relationship has been with us a long time.

From ancient times to medieval times, particularly in the western world, formal marriage, contractual marriage, has only existed within the ruling class. It was used as a way to manage the transition of wealth across generations and a way to build and consolidate power. For us little people, the normal people, marriage did exist but in many cases without any formal recognition. Men and women took up together, engaged in some sort of simple ceremony such as jumping across a broom or such thing, and they declared themselves to be married.

It wasn't until 1563 that the church got involved in the marriage business. The Council of Trent, sensing sin in every corner, decreed that marriages must be performed by a priest, with the appropriate payments to the church, and in the presence of at least two witnesses. It took the Catholic Church in western society to turn marriage from a relationship between two people to a contract before God and a revenue generation tool for Rome. Love, faith, and commitment had nothing to do with it.

In truth, marriage means nothing; it's just a contract. Like all contracts, it can be broken. The sanctity of marriage is simply a church bound control mechanism to ensure conformance, compliance and control. The reality is that marriage isn't about the contract, nor should it be about God. Marriage is about two people in a relationship. All that other mumbo-jumbo simply complicates things.

This is not to say that I don't believe in marriage. I do. I believe it so completely that I stayed in a bad marriage far too long just to comply with that belief set. What I now realize is that any marriage that survives is first and foremost about the relationship; ours was not a good one. Without a good relationship between the parties in the marriage, be it two or three or more, same sex or other, there is no marriage; it fails.

Marriage works when relationships work. No matter what form, contract, or display we put over it, the committed relationship of marriage is important. Whether it is traditional, church sanctified, or simply a couple of people jumping over a broom, marriage is here to stay and so it should be. We just have to keep the relationship part as more important than the contract part. If a marriage is bad, end it sooner rather than later. When a marriage is good, fight for it, treasure it, and keep it as secure is your most precious treasure. After all, that's what it is.

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