The moment you’ve been fantasizing about ever since you were a little girl finally comes. The man of your dreams drops to one knee and asks you to marry him and places that 3.5 carat emerald cut rock on your finger. All of a sudden you have reality TV visions of getting “Married Away” only to become the ultimate “Bridezilla” who is constantly screaming, “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway”?

Recently, I looked up the definition of marriage in the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, and it said: Marriage- the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.

I kept reading it over and over again… “contractual relationship recognized by law” stuck in my head.  I realized that the only difference between a long term relationship and a marriage is that the marriage is recognized by law. I personally know quite a few couples that have been together for a long time and are not legally married but function as if they are. They have the home, the kids, the cars, as well as the deep connection and commitment to each other, even more so then the married couples that I know, and they actually outlast the married couples. Why?

Today, couples that get married go into the marriage with a Plan B already formulated even before they’ve walked down the aisle. “If the marriage ends, what will I get? What will I do after?”  Hence, prenuptial agreements, which de-romanticize the entire institution, but unfortunately in a society of such a high divorce rate, it is sometimes necessary. Why do they even bother getting married? These couples need the boundaries and rules that come with being married to make them feel like they’ve taken this big leap of faith and have “grown up” when the true leap of faith is sharing an unwavering commitment to each other; one made of steel where no one can touch you two, having a friendship on fire, trusting completely, living in each moment together without doubts and insecurities. Sharing deep love and mutual respect without feeling the pressure from family, friends, television and society to make their union legal, I believe, is the true meaning of marriage. Many times, religious beliefs cause couples to succumb to the pressures as well. It’s unfortunate that couples cannot have their priest or pastor marry them without a state issued marriage license.  Does anybody remember learning about separation of church and state in junior high? Whatever happened to that? (That’s a whole other story…)

Some marry for love, some marry for money and then there are some who marry purely for the companionship. The list of reasons for why people marry each other can go on for days, but your reasons must be conducive to your partner’s reasons or the marriage will fall apart. Marriage now being merely a legal bind and a financial transaction has lost the romance it once had when our grandparents and parents got married. Whether you have a marriage license or you’ve been with your partner for many years, there are certain realities of marriage that need to be discussed before hand.  Once armed with that knowledge and awareness, I believe men and women will be able to navigate through their marriage and/or long term relationships to more fruitful outcomes.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself in regards to marriage and your partner:

  • How does your partner deal with adversity?
  • What type of lifestyle do you both want?
  • Do you want children?
  • Who will handle the money? (bills, savings, investments)
  • Do either of you have personal goals that you haven’t reach yet?  Dreams of entrepreneurship? Will your partner support them?
  • Can you see yourself with the same person forever? Will they keep you interested forever?
  • Self-preservation…do they take care of themselves?
  • Who’s more dominant? Does he/she welcome balance?
  • Pre-nuptial?

I wish that I had realized some of these elements that could possibly make or break a marriage before I got married. At the time, I felt I was getting married for love, but in retrospect I succumbed to the same societal pressure as many others; trying to keep up appearances and trying to prove to myself and others that I was finally happy with someone, even if I knew in my gut that that someone was not completely right for me.

Being a true romantic at heart, I am in no way bashing marriage but I do feel that it is not for everyone. The more traditional couples who are absolutely confident of their love, bond and commitment…I say go for it and jump that broom and revel in the rarity that is your relationship. As for the more liberal couples who are completely content as you are and don’t need society’s stamp of approval, rock out a la Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn; 20 years strong and never married. Go figure.

Martine Chevry received her B.A. in Communications and Culture from the CUNY School of Professional Studies in June 2011.  She currently works as an Editorial Assistant and lives in Queens, New York. Martine is currently planning on self publishing her first novel in Spring 2012. She enjoys writing, working out, shopping, reading and reality television.