Marriage. A Question.

I was just having a conversation with a friend and we were talking about marriage. We tried to answer the question "When are you married?"

Is it when you share a closet? Is it when you first have sex? Is it when you commit to the other individual? Is it when there is a public declaration of your commitment witnessed by a community?

I was thinking it's a mix of a few of those steps that make a marriage begin. And for me a number of those things happened on the same day. But a growing portion of the world seems to be stretching those different steps out over time.

So my question is how did you know, or how will you know you are married?

Humour is allowed. Encouraged even.

Comments

  1. Can I answer this question and not offend any sensibilities?

    I was married on my first date. The day I committed to helping my partner rebuild his life after getting clean and sober. We were both on the road to recovery back then, (six years ago). There was instant chemistry and angelic intervention for both of us. The second moment was when I committed to taking care of him when he got sick. That took an entire year for him to get better. The third moment was on our wedding day, we will celebrate 3 years of marriage in November.

    Jeremy

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  2. Life is full of opportunities for decisions to be made about our ongoing relationships. That I've found too.

    It's probably the case that marriage isn't a moment in time, though we do create moments for ourselves so that we can recognize the process and continue to walk in it.

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  3. It starts with the promising vow witnessed before God and the body, consumated (when possible) in intimacy. I think the old order works well for good reasons.

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  4. I've been thinking about this a lot recently. I feel married to Kita in every sense other than a ring on a finger now. We've made promises to one another and I feel fairly sure in front of God as well, the only official bit now seems to be the public ceremony.

    I think you've got it right though that marriage is more an ongoing thing and not a single moment, although I'm sure there are mile stones.

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  5. Ok, I'll play - this isn't the deep thoughts portion of your comments, but true nonetheless. After being married 9 years, and cohabitating for 5 or 6 years before that, I think you know you are in this thing for the long haul when:
    You suffer violent stomach flu or food poisoning and your partner just jumps in and wipes your forehead or cleans your bucket and makes you jello, instead of runnng for the hills. Or, you get a bad haircut and they say it looks ok even though you know they are lying. Those are just two examples... there are many more....

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  6. Marriage.

    Hmmm.

    For me, marriage is the private practice of public commitment between a man and a woman.

    I've known cohabiting couples (including gays) that were more 'married' than some with a certificate, but both were missing one or other side of the equation.

    That's enough for now.

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  7. BTW we were 26 years by mid last week.

    :D

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  8. And pleased to be here, my friend.

    "So my question is how did you know, or how will you know you are married?"

    I slightly missed answering your question.

    Chris and I always felt like we were chosen for each other, pretty much from the second time we met (the first time I was busy trying to tickle the tonsils of a girl called Sue - my only other GF). Later I can remember talking to God and asking 'how about a girlfriend?' and He would say 'go out with Chris'. I'd then disagree and want someone else: partly because we had a great friendship and partly because I was hormone-driven and wanted someone a little sexier. But I think, even at that point (we'd been BF/GF a couple of times) that we were going to be married.

    But it was always very clear to us that we weren't married. True, we didn't live with each other or have sex (although that was a close run thing a few times) but we KNEW we weren't married - marriage was a very specific joining at a very specific moment, and it was that moment we were working toward.

    We've talked this over briefly again today. Chris's wording differed a little from mine but encapsulated EXACTLY the same idea. From the moment we made and meant the vows we were married. It was before first love-making, before sharing a flat, before cooking a meal and even before we could get away for a good kiss on the way to the reception. I'd suggest consummation *sealed/confirmed* the vows we made, but that married status was already present to be confirmed, and actually made the act capable of consummation instead of fornication if we'd not been.

    So there you go - we knew from the moment we exchanged vows. I don't know if the words "I now pronounce you man and wife" make any difference. I suspect not, but for the less clued up they might be a useful guide......

    ;-)

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  9. I knew I was married the moment I met Glen. I called my dad the very next day and announced I had met the man I was going to marry. Dad laughed at me, of course - but it was all confirmed the day I brought Glen to my parents' house. You see, Dad's modus operandi was to go out to the barn if he didn't like you...and when he waited on Glen hand & foot, never once stepping outside to the barn...I knew I was about to be a married woman! I've never once looked back, and it's been 16 years. :-)

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  10. I've always told people that Dixie and I were more or less married while we were dating, except without the sex and living together. But otherwise it felt like we already had the beginnings of that kind of relationship.

    Formal marriage just seemed like a natural transition---not a specific marking point, but another stage in the relationship. It wasn't so much a choice of "is she the one for me" or "now we make this choice to marry" as it was "this seems like the natural thing to do at this point."

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  11. I think I "feel" more married to Marc this past year than I have in the history of our marriage, even on our wedding day. Because now I'm starting to (notice I say "starting to") get what marriage really means. You're told all of these things of what committing your life to someone in marriage is, but it takes a while to comprehend it. So, even though Marc and I have been married for 7 years now, it feels like we've been married less. Even though, like he said, it feels like we were married before we got married.

    And when I talk about "feeling married", that's a good thing -- not like a 'ball and chain' married -- but the closeness of vulnerability and understanding what intimacy is, etc..

    And now I'm probably making no sense. But I blame my turkey coma.

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  12. Buttercup: Oh, Westley, will you ever forgive me?
    Westley: What hideous sin have you committed lately?
    Buttercup: I got married. I didn't want to. It all happened so fast.
    Westley: It never happened.
    Buttercup: What?
    Westley: It never happened.
    Buttercup: But it did. I was there. This old man said, "Man and wife."
    Westley: Did you say, "I do"?
    Buttercup: No. We sort of skipped that part.
    Westley: Then you're not married. If you didn't say it, you didn't do it.

    The Princess Bride (1987)

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  13. This question came up in a conversation a few weeks back.

    For me, I think marriage happened over a period of about a year, from when we were engaged, through the wedding day, to setting up a new home, a few experiences of married life, an operation and into our first Christmas together. It was during that time that the contract was created and sealed.

    In theo-speak, I'm outlining a covenental position.

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  14. :)

    From Princess Bride to Theo-Speak.

    I love it.

    It's interesting to see the different responses to the question. Gives me some hope for healthy discussion.

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  15. Marriage is such a broad topic to speak about. There are many things these days that people consider to be rituals of being married. Everything from sharing a bed on a regular basis to how you squeeze the toothpaste tube. Marriage is a difficult place to be. Many things to learn and relearn as life continues to evolve and change with the arrival of children or changes in career. Does a couple consider themselves married once the wife fills the role of the nagging housewife and the husband is the stereotypical sports fanatic? Who knows.....

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  16. Browsing through these comments, I find it interesting how much the word "feel" is used in response to Randall's question, "how did you know, or how will you know you are married?"

    I hold to a fairly orthodox view of marriage, in fact I'm attracted to the RC sacramental view of Holy Matrimony. Obviously taking those holy vows without feelings would be folly, but it seems to me that if I felt that my engagement was really marriage, that feeling wouldn't make it so, any more than feeling that it's time for a new partner excuses the breaking of a marriage.

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  17. This is way too long for a comment – but I am wordy and serious and think too long and hard about how to put some of this stuff into words. So indulge me.

    Maybe marriage is a bit like buying a house – you sign some legal papers and it is yours but it is going to take constant work and upkeep or it will lose its value. When you tend it well and put more than just upkeep into it; when you invest yourself into a house so that it holds significant memories, then it becomes a home. You might say that a marriage at the moment of the wedding event is like a newly bought house – it will take some work, upkeep and significant personal investment to become a marriage where two are shaped into a solid unit.

    I believe marriage does have a defining moment when it begins. A decision has to be acted on. There are papers and documents and religious ceremonies that we use in our culture to mark those decisions. Spiritually, the religious ceremony marks more than just a legal agreement. It is a standing before a faith community and making vows before witnesses; in a way asking the community to sanction the union and hold the couple accountable for it.

    But the investment in the life of another and commitment to build a life together has already begun – it may have begun the moment you first saw each other – and it will continue long after the legal ink is dry. Choosing to enter into this kind of commitment to another, promising to tend the life of the other with love and respect will begin to build something far more significant than the legal structure that began it.

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  18. " believe marriage does have a defining moment when it begins. A decision has to be acted on. There are papers and documents and religious ceremonies that we use in our culture to mark those decisions. Spiritually, the religious ceremony marks more than just a legal agreement. It is a standing before a faith community and making vows before witnesses; in a way asking the community to sanction the union and hold the couple accountable for it.

    But the investment in the life of another and commitment to build a life together has already begun – it may have begun the moment you first saw each other – and it will continue long after the legal ink is dry. Choosing to enter into this kind of commitment to another, promising to tend the life of the other with love and respect will begin to build something far more significant than the legal structure that began it."

    Linea, beautifully said.

    Great discussion. Marriage has so many connotations for so many people - some see it as a deeper sign of commitment, while others see it as the death knell of a relationship. My generation tends to see it as a joke or a useless piece of paper.

    Like many others here within a few days of meeting Colin (and he the same - he vocalized it out loud within a month of our meeting)., we had the commitment there of a marriage. We were young and literally fought a gaggle of well-meaning family and friends to get married on our own timing and our own terms. But we weren't 'married'.

    But, like Linea indicated, the marriage/ wedding part was really important. to me. Not in the "I want to be a fairy princess for day" way like most of my friends, but in the public declaration.

    Can people have that outside of a wedding? Absolutely they can. There are many unmarried folks who have commitments every bit as real as mine. But it's still not marriage. There is something meaningful to me about declaration of intent publicly. I'm not niave enough to see the divorce rates and think married people have the monopoly on commitment, but I still think the act of marriage is important.

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  19. I completely agree that it is important to have that outward show of commitment for each other, but there are many who really have no idea what all that commitment means as they stand before their crowd of witnesses. Words are easily spoken, vows are easily heard. Everyone rejoices on that special day as the marriage officially begins. It's what happens later that noone really sees. For some, marriage has many ideals that are never realized, many disappointments that overwhelm, and yet, given the choice, people either declare that relationship over, remain unhappily in it, or make an honest effort to work on it and be "married."

    I believe that so many people miss the real meaning of what it is to get married. They are so busy preparing for their wedding day that they forget to prepare for their marriage and then reality sinks in.....marriage is hard work!

    I believe my marriage began with a commitment when I agreed to marry my husband but was made legal on our wedding day. We were young. I was 19 and he was 23. Being so young, I truly believe that we had no idea what we were committing to at the time. Nonetheless, that commitment was there and real. On paper we've been married for over 6 years, but our commitment goes further than that.

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  20. This has been a good conversation with lots of good thoughts.

    "Commitment" seems to be a word that has been used a lot here, even if that means something different to different people.

    And there seems to be a bit of a progression for people, as they move towards a long term commitment. Steps toward the commitment if you will.

    I wonder if people often consider the implications of commitment over time, because change happens in life. The one loved gets sick, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and the change seems to trump the commitment we once had.

    Or maybe that's simple selfishness.

    Or maybe it's an indication of our lack of the sense of eternal in our lives. If we go through life with a sense that we only have one kick at this thing called life and afterward it all ceases, then for some people why stick around?

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  21. Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I really need it.

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  22. I don’t think any of us really have a true idea of what the commitment means at the start. For some people the sense of commitment has begun and they work towards it and I guess marriage is undertaken with at least a rudimentary idea of what that commitment should look like.

    Perhaps as a Christian community we should be teaching this to our young people. How? I guess we can model it best in families where there are committed people in marriages that work. But to those young people who have never known this kind of commitment in their own homes, I’m not sure how much attention they pay to the marriages of people who have made marriage a lifetime effort. Maybe expecting them to pick up teaching about marriage by osmosis is not smart on our part as a Christian community.

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  23. I wish I'd been around earlier to get into the discussion...This is something I've been thinking about for the past year or so.

    I definately don't consider myself married, but I do consider myself committed with the same level of committment I hope to have in marriage. I've already decided that this is a good relationship, and that, even though I'm young, that this is a good place for us to be. I feel like the testing and the wondering parts are over, and I've already decided that I'm committed to this thing until one of us dies. So...we're pretty much committed until death, but we're not married.

    The hard thing for me has been trying to find the lines and boundaries within that. What exactly IS marriage, beyond a public declaration of the committment? I know sex is a part of marriage, but there are a lot of places you can go before actual sex.

    So I really don't know any answers, but I'd like some. What really is the difference between committment and marriage, besides the obvious public declaration? Whenever I look to figure it out, it all comes up rather vague and grey.

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