Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What is Marriage?

Jacob Zuma has many wives, and others he ‘comforts’ in the night. And he is OK with this because he embraces a traditional African culture. While I, from a Westernised culture stand amazed that he is able to sustain this lifestyle. But then what is marriage?

In my younger years it seemed so simple: the Christian liturgy that was used at my wedding stated that “marriage is the life-long union in body, mind, and spirit, of one man and one woman”. A man and a woman met each other, fell in love and got married in church, before God and the family. They then moved in together, maintained sexual intimacy as exclusive to the married union, and lived together forever (well until one died!). But this was 25 years ago, and as the years have passed it has got less simple.

Very little of this understanding remains in society. In my experience as a marriage officer, most couples are sexually active before they decide to get married. In fact most couples choose to live together before they get married. Many couples are unable to sustain marriage “‘til death us do part”. And an increasing number of couples do not see marriage as a necessary option for their relationship. Some live with one partner, but sustain other relationships alongside of this. Some choose to engage in a series of relationships – what might be described as different partners for the different stages of one’s life. And these partnerships are no longer exclusively heterosexual. So do I bleat on to an ever decreasing number of people who actually believe and practice the traditional position of my youth? Or do I seek other ways of describing marriage that can speak to a new society?

And of course I too have shifted ground. I no longer believe that marriage must always be ‘forever’. There are often really good reasons to dissolve a marriage, and I would not want people to be trapped in a destructive relationship by our religious dogma. I do not believe that marriage is the exclusive preserve of ‘one man and one woman’. I have seen love and caring shown in the lives of gay couples which convinces me that they are as married as heterosexual couples: except that we Christians choose to deny them our ritualised blessing of this union. And while sexual intimacy is a powerful medium in deepening a relationship, the Christian Church has instilled far too much sexual guilt in us for me to prescribe when and how people should be intimate with one another. I believe that each relationship is unique, and so should also be honoured for its unique sexual chemistry.

So how about this: Marriage is the capacity of two people to commit to a shared life together in such as way as to support each other with joy and passion and a sense of fun.

If this is so, then I want to pay tribute to Jenny, who has brought me much joy, taught me many truths about myself, and inspires me to new adventures in my life.

But please: respond to this. I want to hear what others think. Posted by Picasa


Anonymous said...

A WOMAN is an expensive comodity to keep! (I should know as I am a woman who keeps herself. Financially anyway)
She costs her man in time, emotions, virility, patience and not least of all, money.
Virility aside, (as it has been 'screw'tanized enough lately.
My guess would be that Mr Zuma has more money than you do. Hence he has many wives and you only one!

Dassie said...

more money = more viagra = more "comfort"

Anonymous said...

I too come from an era of long ago.
I had a long held belief like you, that we must marry one person for life....but life has taught me differently.
My children (all grown up now) have expressed their sexuality very diferently to how 'we' did back then.
Because I love them, I have been open to exploring the facts and consequences and seen that maybe they have a freedom that we did not have.
It is a freedom from guilt. What was so good about having 'guilt' in our lives. It only brought us pain and sleepless nights.
I know AIDS is an issue, but do think its a seperate issue here. We must always be responsible in all that we do.
The Western culture is the only one that seems to have been so hung up with our sexuality, or rather the expression of it.
Look at the East. They are very 'clean' and health concious and yet have always been known to express a much freer expression of their sexuality. In fact the West has always expressed their sexuality freely, but just pretended they were not. If we examine history we will see plenty of debauchery going on, and quite openly too. So what happened and when?.........and why?........is it control?.......society has much of that around.

Anonymous said...

I understand your feeling uncomfortable about 'bleating on' to the minority who still live by the traditional view. Does that necessarily mean that it needs to be discarded altogether on account of society having shifted its position? Is it too melodramatic to say that the behaviour of those who continue to cherish sexual intimacy exclusively within marriage is prophetic? And swimming upstream has always been uncomfortable...

Anonymous said...

I think the marriage discussion is an important one and is to often shied away from, particularly within the church.
Too many people have been pressurised into relationships that do not and cannot go anywhere as the pressure to get married gets to them.
On the other hand to often people 'fall out of love' to easily. the intial 'honeymaon period does not and cannot last forever?
mmm this requires some more discussion.