The Meaning of Marriage

I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of marriage lately. When I was growing up, you were expected to be engaged for one year and then have a big white wedding. In the eighties, I was a maid of honor and a bridesmaid several times. The traditions were all the same, and the process of getting married was a cookie-cutter event. Engagement party, showers, bachelorette parties, and rehearsal dinners all led up to the big event. The rings, flowers, invitations, and dresses—it was madness. Not to mention I was a starving actress during the eighties, and these events cost money. Buying gifts and bridesmaid dresses added up.

Getting Married, Then and Now

Thirty or so years later, I find myself wondering what the meaning of marriage is. I often ponder about relationship issues and coach people through breakups. But marriage still baffles me today. Let’s face it—a lot has changed since I was many times over a bridesmaid. I was like the main character in the movie 27 Dresses. I had bridesmaid dresses for several of my friends’ weddings and a special dress for being the maid of honor!

Did I mention I was also engaged a few times in the eighties? I was literally the runaway bride because at such a young age I could not grasp the concept of being with the same person forever. I also watched my friend get married only to be divorced within five years of her very expensive white wedding. As I walked down the aisle at the wedding, I knew the marriage would not last. But she said “I do” anyway!

The meaning of marriage has changed dramatically with every decade. The fifties and sixties saw a lot of “shotgun weddings.” My parents had one themselves, and they eloped. A double whammy! The meaning of marriage today is drastically different. Couples sometimes live together for years and never get married. Today you can “play house” and live together first, and if it doesn’t work out, you move on. And then you look at the beautiful relationship Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have. They paved the way for a successful partnership.

What Is the Meaning of Marriage?

The meaning of marriage is actually quite simple. Marriage is about mutual growth and forgiveness. It is a profound commitment. When a couple is married, both partners should feel safe and be able to be completely honest with each other. The commitment these two people make means that no one is leaving. Marriage is a blessing, and I am in awe of people who have been married to the same person their entire life and are still so bonded. Their presence is healing to the world!

When I relate the meaning of marriage to my own experience, I can see now that I had unresolved issues with my parents, which unfortunately can play a huge part in the failure of a marriage. I was not in love; I was in fear. I denied love instead of giving love. The meaning of marriage is to put love first in everything we do in our relationship.

Our relationship with our parents is a part of who we are. But I also believe that we have a choice to recover from those childhood wounds. I, unfortunately, did not realize I had unresolved issues until it was too late. I stunk at the most basic task, which was to love, no matter what.

If you are reading this and you have not figured out the meaning of marriage and are hesitant about commitment and marriage, I get it! Before you leap in, you’ll want to resolve anything that is haunting you, and the only way to do that is to take ninety days to spend some time alone. Write down what marriage means to you. Everyone is different, but like I said before, you need to feel safe and be able to trust your partner.

Statistically, most marriages do not have trust. When I read the data, I was not surprised. Whatever issues you have outside of a relationship, you will also have within the relationship. So if you already have trust issues, for example, you’ll have difficulty trusting your partner in your relationship too. We all come with baggage, no exceptions. The goal is to work on our own issues and be of service to our partner.

How to Find Your Meaning of Marriage

All this reflection on marriage began because eighteen years ago, I got divorced. I have also come close to saying “I do” a few more times, but I am now more aware of the real depth of partnership I crave. I don’t feel rushed into getting married again, and partnership and trust are high on my list of values these days. I also noticed that I kept dating the same type of man. When I finally realized that, I had to regroup. I wrote out everything I wanted in a partner so I would stop attracting the same type of unavailable guy. What is on your values list? What do you want in a relationship?

Guess what the first item on my list was. Availability! Some men appear to be available at first, but they aren’t. I get to explore that now. The last person I dated seemed available, but as time went on I realized he had unresolved issues with his parents that prevented him from being the king of his own kingdom.

Come up with your own list! Writing out exactly what you want and who you have to become to attract this type of person helps a great deal. When you become clear on what you want, you save time by not getting involved with what you do not want. I read my list daily to stay on track. I now will go on two to three dates and think back to exactly what I want and decide whether I want to move forward. This check-in saves a lot of confusion and helps me avoid immature or stunted relationships. No falling into something.

The meaning of marriage, partnership, commitment, or whatever you want to call it is about total growth and commitment. A partnership is emotionally stable. It isn’t about falling in love but rather growing in love.

The only job in this partnership is to love and be loved—to be a giver, a trusted soul, and a warm embrace to this human you love. We do not enter into a relationship to get anything. Love yourself. Work on yourself. Practice being alone. Practice surrendering to life’s ups and downs. Prepare yourself for this mature commitment. Above all, figure out what your meaning of marriage is.

Deborah Driggs

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