On the Contract of Marriage

There is nothing inherently sacred about marriage. When two people fall in love and become to know each other in intimate ways, this is as common as any other private transaction. There are trade-offs, compromises, but mutual satisfaction in the things that the two can bring to the table for each other. This is no more sacred than a contract for one private company to deliver manufactured goods to another private company.

Yet marriage is tied to reproduction, a mysterious process worthy of religious awe. Like all mysteries of life, like death, it becomes wrapped up in our very psyche, a testament to the great paradox of human existence. The great paradox is that although we have the inherent power to reproduce and to live and thrive we have very little control over that power. Instead, the power tends to control us. Sex and death drive our imagination and our very existence.

Though a marriage relationship is simply another type of contract, a very common one in fact, we don’t treat it that way because of this tie to reproduction. We usually think of reproduction in terms of the general category of sex, since ‘sex’ these days, put in its most clinical terms, is a shorthand for activities involving the reproductive organs. Sex, though, extends to the whole being, both emotional as well as physical.

When we are involved with someone to that extent it is impossible to separate the two. A ‘casual’ fling is not casual at all, but instead shapes our whole outlook on ourselves just as if we had intended to stay with that person for a lifetime. How much more, then, does a marriage shape our identities? Indeed, it very much makes us who we are as a person.

Yet a word of warning is in order. If you ever find yourself committed to someone, someone who you in fact do wish to spend the rest of your life with and they begin to use terms that resemble contractual language, such as ‘deal breaker’ in reference to a circumstance that could ‘break the deal’ between the two of you, however hard this may be, run for the exit.

More than a poor choice of words, you have encountered a person who does in fact see marriage as simply a contract. They have somehow found a way to remove their emotional self from the inherent give and take of the intimate relationship and they are calculating costs, figuring future debts, and they do not have a shred of love for you.

To them, you are easily replaced by someone who can better satisfy the terms of their ideal contract. They have determined that you exist for them and while they may insist that they wish to have a ‘mutual partnership’, this is still contractual language aimed at negotiating a sweeter deal for themselves. Run like hell.

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