Marriage Lessons Introduction

Marriage lessons must necessarily begin with an understanding of the institution of marriage

We are about to attempt to wade through and break down this Wikipedia article on the topic of marriage for the purpose of understanding marriage and what it is really all about. Because it occurs to us that most people have no real idea what marriage is all about (that includes us). We get married without knowing or caring what it really means to be married. We think that marriage is something you do because you’re in love and you want to spend eternity with the one you love, listening to love songs, cuddling, kissing, having sex and being deliriously happy together for the rest of time. Then life happens, and because we weren’t prepared for the realities of marriage–we didn’t learn any marriage lessons ahead of getting married–we don’t know how to deal with each other’s expectations once the honeymoon is over.

Marriage Lessons – understanding marriage

The starting point for learning any subject well is to know what the thing is to begin with. So before we begin to construct our marriage lessons, we are going to try to learn what marriage is or was intended to be. Most people think they are getting married because they are in love, and that is the begin and the end. And as it turns out, that belief–that marriage is all about love and romance, kisses and sex–typically results in marriages not working. We think that people should be required to learn marriage. There should be a course that you have to take before you can get a marriage license. Just like you have to pass a test before you can get your driver’s license. But there is no such requirement. All you need is to be of age and to think you’re in love.

Let’s learn marriage …

Marriage has a purpose outside of sex

This is how the Wikipedia page on marriage defines marriage:

Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognized union between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.

We are in the 21st century. So, when we see words like “rights” and “obligations” we immediately want to object. Rights and obligations? This concept sounds antiquated. But then, marriage isn’t exactly newfangled. Marriage is as antiquated a practice as you’re going to find still in vogue in this modern age. The 21st century world is a very different world from the world in its biblical days. Yet, with few exceptions, marriage more or less works the same way today as in times past. At least, the intention of marriage from the legal and religious perspectives is pretty much the same as it ever was. But in today’s world, women have rights they did not have back in the day. And some of those rights directly conflict with the rights of their spouse as intended by the designers of this  “socially or ritually recognized union” we call marriage.

So what are some of the rights and obligations established upon saying ‘I DO’?

It’s interesting, because it seems to us that while we have kept marriage around as part of our way of life, modern marriages aren’t really about “marriage” as marriage is defined. The conflict between women’s rights as established by the movement, and husband’s rights as established by social custom and religious law, has lead to a situation where , in these modern times, people don’t talk about marriage from the perspective of rights and obligations. That is, except when talking about the rights of women and the obligation of the husband to his wife and family. But you don’t have to dig too deep into the archives of Internet message boards to realize that both men and women have certain expectations in marriage that are based on the antiquated establishment of  “rights” and “obligations”

We found this on lawyers.com when looking up rights and obligations in marriage

Marital rights can vary from state to state, however, most states [in the USA] recognize the following spousal rights: (source)

  • ability to open joint bank accounts

  • ability to file joint federal and state tax returns

  • right to receive “marriage” or “family rate” on health, car and/or liability insurance

  • right to inherit spouse’s property upon death

  • right to sue for spouse’s wrongful death or loss of consortium, and

  • right to receive spouse’s Social Security, pension, worker’s compensation, or disability benefits.

We also found a New York Times article that was published in 1860 titled “Rights of Married Women.; AN ACT CONCERNING THE RIGHTS AND LIABILITIES OF HUSBAND AND WIFE”. It ‘s a document that contains a number of sections outlining what appears to be mostly rights of a wife as regards property. It does seem to be specific to the state of New York. We don’t know if any of this applies to marriage today, but here are a few of the sections summarized. You can read the full document at nytimes.com

SECTION 1. Whatever property you bring into the marriage that is property acquired before the marriage, remains yours. Your husband has no rights to that property. It remains solely yours to do with whatever you choose. And if your husband gets himself into financial hot water, your property cannot be used to pay his debts, except for debt that results from his efforts to support you and/or your children.

SEC 2. You [the married woman] have the right to sell your property and keep the money for yourself. Money you get from selling property that you owned before your marriage is entirely yours to keep.

SEC. 3. You can sell or rent or otherwise “convey” any “real estate” that is your own separate property, but the legal validity of the “conveyance or contract” requires your husband’s assent in writing.

SEC. 4. If your husband refuses to give his assent, or if he is insane, disabled or otherwise mentally/physically impaired and unable to give his assent in writing, you can appeal to the court to allow you to sell or rent or otherwise “convey” your real estate property without your husband’s agreement.

You can read the full document with all the sections at nytimes.com

These are all rights of marriage according to law. And by all means these are important and useful things to know; but the rights and obligations you will find people discussing on internet forums are those unspoken rights such as:

  • the right of the husband to have intercourse with his wife  whenever he wants regardless how she feels about it
  • the right of a husband to expect his wife to cook and clean, do laundry, take care of the children
  • the right of the husband, being a man, to come and go as he pleases and owe his wife no explanation of his whereabouts
  • the right of the husband to be respected by his wife regardless of how he treats her
  • the right of the husband not to have to endure listening to his wife “nag” and complain

Marriage lessons – when did people first start getting married?

According to the Wikipedia article on marriage, the word first appears in 1250 -1300 CE. It can be traced to the Latin word marītāre, which means “to provide with a husband or wife” and marītāri which means to get married. These Latin concepts in turn can be traced to an Old French term “marier” which means to marry. And the Old French term can be traced to the Middle English word “mariage”. The point here is that marriage is a pretty ancient institution. According to our research, the practice of getting married predates recorded history. People have been getting married for ages. But marriage did not always have as it’s purpose for two people who are in love to legally commit to the decision to love each other from the day of their marriage until one of them dies. Back in day, the primary purpose of marriage was to merge and grow families.

What is marriage?

From Wikipedia – The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.

We interpret that to mean that marriage is more or less an arrangement or agreement between the married parties to be each other’s lawful sex partner. And the “cultural universal” means that  marriage for the most part is something that takes place universally across all cultures. So basically, this definition suggests marriage is really about sex. People get married so that they can have intercourse with each other for the rest of their lives. Of course, we all know that after some time people get bored with each other. Attraction fades. Sometimes attraction changes to repulsion, and people become horrified at the thought of having to engage in intercourse with their partner for the rest of their life.

Why people get married?

Here are some of the reasons listed in the Wikipedia article on marriage, answering the question why do people get married.

  • Financial support
  • To be able to have sex as frequently as they desire
  • Because it is expected (that’s what people do when they reach a certain point in life)
  • Because it is required (arranged/forced marriages)
  • Because they think they are in love and believe that being with the person they marry is necessary for their happiness.
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