Finding a universal applicable, true meaning of marriage may be quite a challenge as there are so many different views and understandings of what exactly constitutes a marriage. These differences occur from culture to culture and even within a culture from person to person. Views and definitions of marriage have also changed significantly over the centuries and decades. But generally, everyone understands that the meaning of marriage is when two people make a public pledge or commitment to live together and share their lives in a way that is recognized legally, socially and sometimes religiously. This sharing of two lives entails myriads of facets involving a bonding of their bodies, souls and spirits in a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual union. So when it comes to finding the true meaning of a happy and fulfilling marriage, this article will explore the following five facets.
1. Marriage means being in agreement…
There is a saying that says ‘how can two people go on a journey together unless they have agreed to do so?’ And it is the same with marriage. When two individuals decide to get married there has to be some level of agreement between them. In the past, this agreement may have been reached by the family members in the case of an arranged marriage. Nowadays, however, it is generally the couple themselves who make the decision and reach the agreement to spend the rest of their lives together.
After the fundamental question ‘will you marry me?’ has been asked and answered in the affirmative, then there are lots of further questions and agreements to be reached. The couple needs to agree on what kind of legal marriage contract they will use, such as the community of property or an antenuptial contract. Some other important agreements would include whether or not to have children together, and if so how many. They need to agree on how they will practise and express their faith and what they will teach their children.
2. Marriage means letting go of your selfishness…
Once you get married you realize that it is no longer all about you. In your single days, you could make your own plans, come and go as you chose, and basically make most of your decisions according to your own wishes and desires. Now that you are married you have a spouse to consider twenty-four seven. Whether it is what to cook or buy for dinner, what to do over weekends, or where to go on holidays – both of your opinions now carry weight. In this sense marriage is one of the best antidotes to selfishness.
Marriages which work the best and render the most satisfaction are those where both partners are one hundred percent committed, wholeheartedly seeking the happiness and wellbeing of their spouse. The philosophy of a fifty-fifty marriage does not lead to fulfilment and contentment. When it comes to finding the true meaning of marriage, it is all or nothing. And incidentally, if one of you is giving all and the other is giving little or nothing, you may need some help to find the balance and to get on the same page.
3. Marriage means becoming one…
Another facet of the true meaning of marriage is that one plus one equals one. It is a blending of two lives on every level, the most obvious of which is physically, where sexual intimacy creates profound bonds as the marriage is consummated. These bonds reach way beyond the physical though, as the emotional, psychological and spiritual levels are also touched. However, becoming one does not mean that you lose your own identity. On the contrary, it means completing and complementing one another to such an extent that you can both be better together than you could have been as singles.
Oneness does not happen automatically as you start living together – it requires a determined effort and considerable time spent together, getting to know one another deeply. As you learn how to communicate effectively and how to resolve your conflicts sooner rather than later, you will find your oneness and intimacy increasing. It is also important to define your expectations clearly and find the middle ground in decision making.
4. Marriage means shaping a new generation…
One of the most profound and wonderful privileges given to a married couple is the privilege of bringing forth children into this world. A secure and happy marriage is the best context in which to raise a child. A couple, who are united in loving and teaching their offspring, will train them to become mature adults who are ready to make a valuable contribution to society. This facet of shaping the future generation can and does indeed bring true meaning to marriage.
But again, child rearing, like the other facets, does not come automatically or even easily. In fact, the challenges of parenting are renowned for placing a certain strain on the marriage relationship. That is why it is essential to keep your priorities firmly in place when children start arriving – remember your spouse always comes first, and then your children. By keeping this order clear, your marriage will be able to survive intact and blessed even when the nest is empty again.
5. Marriage means changing, learning and growing…
Change is one of the most certain things about life, including marriage. Change is also a sign that something is alive as only inanimate objects never change. So enjoy all the changing seasons of your marriage, from the honeymoon to the first year, the baby years, the teenage and then college years, and then your golden years as you progress to retirement and the blessing of spending your old age still holding each other’s hands together.
Think of your marriage as an acorn which gets planted on your wedding day. Thereafter it begins to sprout and push up bravely through the dark soil, proudly displaying a few leaves. Slowly but surely as the weeks, months and years pass, the little oak shoot becomes a sapling which grows stronger and stronger. Eventually one day you realize that your acorn has become a sturdy and shady tree, giving shelter and pleasure, not only to yourselves but also to others. So, in simple words the meaning of marriage is to accept the other person and adjust to the various situations that you encounter in marriage to make it really work.