I’ve been thinking a bit about marriage, this being a season of new marriages and significant anniversaries in our circle. We are seeing everything from the blush of new couplings, to those having reached a half century and stretching beyond.
Marriage serves many purposes. Once upon a time, a marriage could forge alliances, settle feuds, and enlarge estates. The bride was property to exchange, and the children would be the beneficiaries of those alliances. That was a long view of marriage, a kind of dynastic vision with the individuals’ place firmly seen as a small cog in a greater machine of familial destiny and power mongering.
Nowadays, we tend not to think such of great thoughts and purpose. Sure, a spouse with a rich or influential family provides a nice security, and undoubtedly a youthful trophy on an man’s arm gives him at least an imagined superiority over others. Some pay for their shallow reasons in hefty divorce settlements, and that’s the price of doing such business.
Way back in the second book of Genesis, God declares, “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:18) and so God fashioned woman. Consider some ways to interpret that: a helper is a help mate, a companion, a consort, an accomplice, a partner, a protector, a guide, and a colleague (so says the on-line thesaurus).
A spouse (whatever the gender) must be all those things. What first brings a couple together may be prosaic, and some romantics might scoff at the dispassionate process that bonds some couples, though I think such sober decision making provides stronger glue than the chemical waterfalls of attraction and biological imperative. Sexual coupling requires far less effort than a lifetime partnership, after all. I know a lot of people who choose toxic partners repeatedly and then bemoan their horrible relationships. It seems ironic in the extreme that they don’t recognise that “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.” Choose your life partner for more important reasons than the colour of his eyes or how she looks in her jeans.
I once heard that falling in love releases massive amounts of hormones into your system. The result is that your brain is numbed and drugged, as the rush of dopamine is equivalent to a cocaine high. You can’t make rational decisions when you’re so befuddled. I heard that it takes a full year for your brain to clear the chemicals so you can think lucidly again.
The most important question to ask yourself when your brain function returns is “Why should I marry this person? What would the purpose of such a marriage be?” When you can step back and study the goals, you stand the best chance of making a marriage that will have staying power.