Monday, 20 April 2015

Is marriage just a piece of paper?

If you keep an eye on my Facebook page, you might have seen an opinion piece a friend of mine posted about marriage. She sent it to me and suggested I pen a blog noting my thoughts. I'm not sure the following is going to win me a heap of friends but here it goes. 

The opinion piece, by Melissa Hoyer, is an example of the ever increasing neutralisation of traditional marriage. It provides the following early quotes:

"...I've just never been someone who longed for wedded bliss. The big frock, the big cake and the who-to-put-on-the-wedding-list dilemma.
The ‘certificate’ that declares my commitment to love. The public validation that ‘somebody loves me’ just isn't something I've ever aspired to pop on my must-do list."
As we know, marriage is a hot social issue and many people share the same beliefs as Hoyer. They may be in the minority as it stands but traditional marriage is becoming less and less desirable in western culture. 

You don't have to be a brain surgeon to see that society is confused about marriage. In one instance we indulge in shows like Married at First Sight - where unmarried couples undergo a "social experiment" and marry someone they have never met nor know the name of - and in the other instance we scream equal rights for same sex attracted couples to marry. We are so confused about marriage we end up trivialising it on TV and while arguing for it at the same time!

As a married man, I obviously sit on the other side of the fence to people like Melissa Hoyer and I'll provide my reasons why in the following.

Firstly, marriage is a free choice (for the majority who are not party to arranged marriages). If you don't believe in marriage, nobody is forcing you to walk down the aisle. Not everyone is called to marriage which is perfectly fine.

However (and I think Melissa Hoyer would probably know this deep down), marriage really has nothing to do with "the big frock, the big cake and the who-to-put-on-the-wedding-list dilemma". 

Yes these things form a big part of the wedding day, but you'll almost certainly never wear your wedding dress again, you certainly won't see the cake again and the wedding list will be as big a dilemma the day after as the one you compiled for your 7th birthday party.

It's an argument, (and a poor one) that is sadly repeated by those who frankly have no idea of what constitutes marriage. What does a dress, cake and invite list have to do with your marriage the day after your wedding day? 

Hoyer goes on to quote a few celebrities who don't believe in marriage, and why would they? On the whole marriage and celebrities are as compatible as oil and water. Many seem to believe that marriage is simply a piece of paper that apparently "validates that someone loves you". 

“I definitely don’t want to get married just for the sake of getting married. This is my life. I don’t need a piece of paper to make it a family unit." - Kourtney Kardashian
“He and I have a family. We’re very much together. We just don’t have that certificate, and that’s OK with both of us. - Naomi Watts
 "Without sounding pessimistic, I learned that I don’t believe in marriage ... I believe in a commitment that you make in your heart. There’s no paper that will make you stay." - Diane Kruger
Since when is marriage defined by a certificate? Does the certificate "make you stay"? I couldn't actually tell you where my wedding certificate is (don't tell my wife that!) but I can guarantee you it has zero to do with whether I stay with my wife or not. Yes it represents the legality of your wedding, but again, it has very little, if anything, to do with your marriage per se, going forward. More on why marriage is much more than a piece of paper in a minute.

Fine, marriage isn't about the paper or the cake or the dress. It's just for the religious people right? As Diane Kruger's partner Joshua Jackson said:
"...neither one of us is particularly religious, so I don’t think there’s any particular push." 
People on this earth have been getting married for millenia. Marriage is highly regarded in most religions, but religion does not own marriage. You don't have to be religious to get married. In fact, the mere suggestion is a slap in the face to the millions of people who are not religious yet tied the knot and put themselves through the rigors and joys of marriage. 

Personally, I find it incredible that we are even quoting (or needing to quote) these comments. We have one of the oldest institutions on the planet (marriage), that is proven to be the nucleus of family and by extension the common good of society, one that has been respected and followed by the majority of humankind for thousands of years, and all of a sudden it is just a piece of paper?! All of a sudden we are hanging out hat on the wise words of Hollywood? Is it just me or does this highlight how stupid the Western World has become?
In my opinion, one of the major catalysts for the neutralisation of marriage is convenience. It is easier to simply be in a relationship than getting married, as the former provides an easy out to a generation that cannot commit to anything long term. Why commit when you can hide behind phrases such as "love is my heart so I don't need marriage"? Even better, why commit when you think there is a fair chance you'll "fall out of love"? If you're naive enough to think your spouse will be the same person you married in 5, 10, 50 years, you will lose before you begin. 
Marriage isn't this fluffy, perpetual state of utopian bliss Hollywood makes it out to be. At times it's a slog, and like anything rewarding, requires hard work. In most instances it is a joy. Yet sadly, many either marry without a view to staying together (anyone for a prenup?) or simply cannot bring themselves to commit. 
Here's a fictitious scenario based on many real ones I've witnessed. 
Sally and Greg have been a couple for 8 years. They bought a house together five years ago. They're both earning decent dollars and have a fair bit of cash in the bank. Sally suggests they book a holiday (secretly hoping Greg will provide a romantic and memorable proposal after 8 years together). Two weeks in Europe climaxing in a few nights five star accommodation in Paris. Sally's friends whip her up into a frenzy telling her she'll surely come back with a shiny rock on her finger. 
The trip goes...and Sally is back at work with no ring on her finger. She's disappointed, she even states her disappointment to work colleagues. A couple of years go on and still no proposal. By this stage, Sally, in order to push her disappointment away, claims she has "learnt" she doesn't believe in marriage and that marriage is simply a piece of unnecessary paper she doesn't need in order to prove she loves Greg.
Throughout the process, Greg has done what countless other blokes have done before him. His life is comfortable. He has a decent job, a house and a girl he loves. He knows deep down the likelihood of her leaving him now are remote (will she really trade off a wedding for a break up?). In short, he doesn't need marriage. He has everything he wants. 
So why get married at all? What does it represent? Why did I choose marriage and not take Greg's approach? I didn't "need" to marry my wife to prove I love her.
The reason is twofold. One, marriage is the ultimate witness of my commitment and loyalty to my wife. Through marriage, I vowed to live my life for her until the day I die. I knew before I married her that tough times would be shared. That's no different to any relationship, in or out of wedlock. However, there is not a hope in hell that I'll walk away when it does get tough. As they say, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going".
I wanted to give the most I could give. Marriage affords me this opportunity. It provides me with the ultimate test of selflessness, of giving freely and fully to the one person I love most, for the rest of my life. That to me is liberating, it is honourable, it is rewarding.
My wife and I chose to commit to a life long union and we did this through public marriage. That is, we committed the rest of our lives to each other in front of 200 family and friends. This brings me to the second reason I chose marriage; community. 
The big public wedding doesn't really have much to do with a show of love and/or commitment as many will have you believe when they tell you they don't need a wedding to prove their love for each other. I didn't need a wedding as "public validation" that I loved my wife. I could have done a multitude of things other than take part in a wedding to prove my love to her. 
The big public wedding has everything to do with engaging in community life and being part of a civil society.  
It is in our nature, as interactive humans, to come together or gather in communities to share news, joys, hardships and to celebrate achievements. Marriage is no different. It is something to celebrate and proclaim publicly, no less than publicly announcing the birth of a child. I'm yet to here someone claim that the birth of their child is just a birth certificate. 
If we don't need to celebrate a wedding publicly, why do we celebrate anything publicly? Why do we have birthday parties, or publicly celebrate the birth of our children? Why do we publicly celebrate Christmas and Easter and Ramadan and Anzac Day? 
Given we are all members of communities (family, friends, sporting clubs etc), it is natural to publicly celebrate and share news, triumphs and achivements. This is one of the main reasons my wife and I decided to commit to each other in front of s large crowd. We believe the vow to commit to each other forever is as worthy a celebration as a birthday. And trust me, if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have volunteered to cry my way through my vows in front of 200 family and friends. Something I still hear about from certain friends!
Marriage is a good thing. It's good for us as humans, it is the catalyst of healthy families and healthy families are the nucleus of society. Marriage is worthy of celebrating with family and friends. 
It is so much more than a piece of paper or a fancy wedding cake. 
The more that people understand this, the greater the flourishing of public life and the broader community. 
If you don't believe in marriage, that's fine, but don't bring the ship down with you to the detriment of everyone else. Marriage has been and forever will be the rock of society. 
All the best,
Dom Meese


  1. No dear, that is not true. It is a union of two beautiful hearts in love and souls made for made for each other. I just got married and now I am planning my wedding reception at reception halls in Atlanta and I love my life for what I have.

  2. Hi Zerry, sounds like we agree? Congrats on your recent wedding!

  3. Interesting post!) Answering to your question I want to say that it's not!) The marriage is a hard work! Maybe that's why I know that many people can't handle any marriage. I read about it on and it's so sad... Maybe if they read this post they would change their view attitude to marriage! Good luck.

  4. Hi Anna, thanks for the comment and the link. Yes it is a sad situation. Marriage is really hard work. Harder than I expected. But it's character building at the least and teaches you a myriad of virtues, such as selflessness, love, courage etc. All the best to you