Is Marriage Bullshit?

What is marriage?

I realize what a loaded question this is.  And on this, my third wedding anniversary, I coincidentally happened on a Penn and Teller: Bullshit episode on “Family Values.”  If you’re not familiar with Bullshit, it was a popular Showtime program running from 2003 to 2010, aimed at debunking pseudoscientific ideas, popular beliefs, and misconceptions.  Penn and Teller host the show, typically take an abrasively libertarian point of view, and there are usually people interviewed for the show from both sides of a given topic.

In the “Family Values” episode, the idea/institute of marriage comes under fire as impractical, restrictive and, according to one arguably misogynistic radio personality, entrapping to men, as he remarks, “[We] are paying for use of a vagina.”

One professor of History and Family Studies claims, “There is no such thing as a traditional family… the idea one man one woman, nuclear family […] that’s a pretty rare family form in history.”

Also mentioned is the fact that marriage historically was rarely about romantic love, but rather protecting family interests and assets.  Arranged marriages were common, as was the existence of lovers other than one’s spouse.

While it can (and has) been pointed out that Bullshit is usually fairly one-sided, with Penn voicing over interviews rather than allowing for actual back and forth debate with said interviewees, I found enough valid points to sort of dishearten me with the idea that romantic marriage is a fairly new (and often unsuccessful) endeavor.

I’ve always considered myself a romantic at heart, and although I try to be pragmatic, I want to believe in love.  That’s not to say that I think there is only one soul mate out there for any given person.  Were that the case, given the size of the world and the number of people in it, it would be highly improbable that so-called “true” soul mates would find one another in their lifetime.  Still, if you can find even one person you can trust, confide in, lean on, have fun with, and love, you are a lucky person.

So, considering my cognitively conflicting ideas of pragmatism and romance, I thought it over…very briefly…and decided to rephrase the question to myself.

What is marriage…to me?

In short, it doesn’t matter what the statistics say, what marriage has  historically meant, what other couples are doing, what “biology” says, or even what religions say about marriage.  At least not to me.  The only thing that matters to me are the values I’ve internalized, the values my husband and I agreed upon when we discussed what marriage meant to us, and what we want out of our relationship.  In my husband I have a friend and someone who knows my heart (and my body) well.  And hopefully we can pass along our values and ideas of love on to our daughter.



14 responses to “Is Marriage Bullshit?

  1. Marriage is finding someone who loves you despite your bullshit and sometimes even loves your bullshit. It means agreeing to put up with one another’s bullshit. Forever. :P. Jk. After one painful divorce and numerous failed and oftentimes destructive relationships, I am remarried and very content. I wouldn’t say eternally happy because no one is happy 100% of the time. But a comfort and love beyond the falling in love stage is something to build your life on with another person. So I agree. Eff the naysayers.

    • I agree. I’ve been reflecting lately on my marriage to hubs and I feel a deep appreciation and comfort with our relationship. Like, not to sound sappy, but he is my best friend, and I have a love for him that goes beyond the lusty, blissful “aren’t we so stinking cute” newlywed phase.

  2. Watched the whole bloody thing! So much for cleaning the house a bit to put up Halloween decorations. I’m not a romantic, anymore. Maybe i was when we got married? But being desperately in love has only caused me and others massive amounts of pain. I’m married now primarily for financial reasons, and cultural to an extent – hubby’s family wouldn’t have accepted me as quickly if we weren’t married before I moved here. It meant commitment, to them – which I have. Feic, I wouldn’t move all this way otherwise! But I still know there’s an out if I need it.

  3. Right on yo! I agree with you 100% as far as the whole “soul mate” thing goes. I hear that all the time and I get the urge to spit. Those are the same people that….forget it, I don’t even wanna go there. I’ll save it for a post!!! AAHHHH!

      • No, the “soul mate” types won’t even watch porn. Like that awkward couple from the movie Bridesmaids — the type of couple that like to finish each others sentences? I know people like that –gag! Pick any topic and my opinion is guaranteed to be the exact opposite of these folks — that’s what I meant

  4. Happy Anniversary! Our 4th is coming up soon. I think you found the right angle in asking the question to yourself, because that’s the only way it really matters. I happen to feel much the same way you do about it, minus the daughter part (we are childless).

    However, back to the original question, it’s hard to look at a nearly 50% divorce rate (last time I heard, anyway) and argue that our society, as a whole, doesn’t regard it as bullshit. I mean, you can get an annulment just HOURS after you say the vows! Interesting that so many people care so passionately about gay marriage (I’ll leave my personal opinion out of it), yet the divorce statistics seem to suggest that heterosexual marriage is a joke to a lot of people in our country.

    • You hit the nail right on the head with that last point/statement! Marriage does not mean the same as it used to for heteros, yet many people are threatened by the idea of “redefining” marriage to allow homosexuals to wed. So apparently, it’s okay to get married and then cheat or get divorced…as long as you’re a hetero couple.

  5. Yeah, I think that’s the point – in the here and now it’s a ‘suit yourself’ kind of ethos, and that extends to marriage. Which means it’s as acceptable to opt out of it as it is to opt in. Congrats on your three years 🙂

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