When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other.

~ Chinese Proverb ~

The Trouble With Marriage By the Book

June 21st, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 51 secs

What do you think about doing marriage by the book?

You know what’s so silly about talking about marriage by the book? Simply that there isn’t one!  True, there are many areas common to all relationships that can be covered. But marriage by the book? Ridiculous!

Actually, it’s worse than ridiculous. It strikes me as a concept of marriage as a shut down, rule-based arrangement, where people surrender their originality at the altar in exchange for drab duty and obligation. That doesn’t sound like a love story, does it? To me, marriage by the book seems more like a tour of duty.

Please understand: I love being married. But I love my sweetheart girl infinitely more. We got married thirty years ago because of our love for each other and the desire to share our lives together. So why do people need this marriage by the book nonsense?

I suspect some people feel marriage is about rules; an extension of their legalism. The kind of, “You cut the grass, I mop the floor, and that’s who we are” stuff. Then, if everybody obeys and does their bit, everything will go well. I don’t know about you, but it sounds more like the lines from a hostage drama than a happy relationship. Where’s the joy and freedom? No wonder people feel trapped and dream of escaping so much. If it’s marriage by the rules or you die, I don’t like the odds.

I expect I’ve stepped on somebody’s toes by now and they’re feeling a rising sense of indignation. Actually, I don’t mean to be vexatious. Just that this subtle shaping of loving relationships to fit an additional chapter of some mythical rulebook is so wrong. Marriage by the book assumes that there is one way to do it, that it has been thoroughly documented (“…with circles and arrows, and a paragraph on each one.”), and that every successful couple has to be shoehorned into fitting the whole scenario. Phew!

Are people really that concrete? Sadly, I think so. It makes me want to shake some people (Then they can shake me. Then we can shake each other, give each other a pat on the back, maybe have a milkshake together, do a few hippy hippy shakes, and then sit and chat for a while.). But think about this: if you have even the slightest dash of uniqueness to you, then marriage by the book must trigger the rigid thinking alarm. If marriage were like that, I wouldn’t do it.

So, ranting aside, what’s the alternative to marriage by the book and a life of unmitigated boredom (mind, I have no bias showing)? Well, when two people commit to each other, the next step is for them to design their life together. To be the authors of their own personal love story and discover themselves in the process is far more fulfilling. Yes, I know marriage has its obligations. But you don’t want to marry for those. A life lived in keeping with your values is unquestionably better than a life burdened by utter obligation.

And, yes, a marriage must ride through tough times. The Hollywood/Bollywood version is so fancy-schmanzy and lovey-dovey that it’s hard to get a handle on what the true course of love should be. Maybe that’s where the marriage by the book mindset comes from: a desire to lock it down to something measurable. Hmm… How much better instead to live as two different people together, respecting and appreciating each other, in a deeply committed affair that lasts your whole life long? If a couple works on it, marriage can become fight proof, accepting, inspiring, and encouraging. Oh, and if you tick the optional box you can have kids too. But for it to be a beautiful love story you can forget about marriage by the book. Just live in love through all the trivia and trials, using your values and shared dreams to carry you through.

Marriage by the book? Toss it out.


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