Marriage is a tricky subject. The institution of marriage in modern times has been filled with the hope that couples stay with each other through thick and thin, better or worse and in all eventualities. There are, of course, exceptions. The law in Ireland allows couples to separate due to mental illness and not only separate but completely erase or annul what has happened. So is it really for better or worse? Not in this instance it seems! It's only for better and if one of you gets mentally ill then an entire 20 year marriage can be erased - children or no children!
In Brehon laws in Ireland, couples had more rights than the institution of marriage allows for today in its modern Catholic form. Brehon laws stated that each couple re-new their vows to each other yearly and this was afforded to both men and women. It was the right to choose to stay together as a partnership. The trappings of modern day marriage does not allow for this. While we yearn for social contact and have soulmates, marriage and its institution feels like trappings of a modern institution that doesn't allow for the freedom of choice or to choose to be with that person each and every single day. Perhaps we all go through some days or years that are challenging and perhaps one gets ill and a marriage ensures that the partner says with you through this battle but wouldn't it be better if they choose to stay with them rather than be obliged to stay due to a piece of paper binding them to do so?
In today's institution you can go to what is known as modern day Las Vegas in Europe and get married within minutes in Denmark. The ceremony is small and it is done within a legally binding contract. The contract is done there but it cannot be undone there. You are tied to each other but cannot untie once the contract is signed. It is legally binding and that is that.
I quite like the idea of a small and intimate ceremony without the pressures of throwing a gigantic party that happens to be the case in Ireland with guests usually in or around 200. The celebrations are usually three days and the pressure to 'keep going' is there (first the night before, then the day of and usually all night and continuing to the morning followed by entertainment that afternoon). I do love going to a wedding - don't get me wrong - but for me the pressure of expectations and engaging in what might be the most expensive party you will throw in your life can cause some anxiety that I don't particularly want in my life.
Perhaps Brehon laws had it right, they reviewed their partnerships on a yearly basis and decided to be with each other each and every year. However, was it the case that someone fell got ill and they'd leave. Was marriage invented as a way to prevent this from happening? Is it that people are immature and need more empathy and understanding that people can, in fact, separate quite often?
People are complex characters and relationships are challenging as you navigate the ways of the world around you as a partnership. External influences guide thinking and persuade another to do something that the other may not like. The likelihood that the other partner is also going to do something that the other doesn't like is high - however, are we lacking in empathy then or are we? Is marriage set up to protect empathy and understanding? I know I would prefer if someone choose to be with me as a partner each and everyday rather than be trapped by the institution of marriage, however, is it a case that we need to cultivate empathy more when it comes to mental illness as this is an exception in the rules of marriage?
We all do things people do not like, we fall into the trappings of a toxic environment and in some cases become the toxic person. This envelopes us. This can happen to use like an infection. A healthy apple is put beside a rotten apple and the entire basket is then rotten within days. The infiltration of mindsets from different environments can be toxic. Are we to remain in a marriage with someone who's mindset can waver at its environment and be disappointed that they didn't choose you because they are influenced by someone else? The more we explore the world the more external impacts we might engage in, simply put, our external environment has more to do with impacting our relationships than we give it credit. Whether we choose to see this or not is another story.
It seems it is impossible to have fun together when one of you is depressed or stressed. Is is then that the stressful nature of a situation removes our right to choose to be with that person? Is it that we need to cultivate more empathy in this instance to ensure that there is an understanding on a deep level that the other person might be going through something that is painful? Can grief be handled in a marriage?
I know someone who was married and the person became verbally and mentally abusive the week after they were married and their partner then ignored the person for the rest of their marriage. Does contempt and abuse constitute a mental illness? Is it possible to have empathy for someone who is abusive? After reading the act of forgiveness - see post below - perhaps forgiveness is a way of understanding but also saying no, you cannot do this to me again. You have the right to choose who to be with - whether they treat you well or not and the institution of marriage, oftentimes, ties us to this person for a long time and if abusive you may need to get a restraining order against them.
At the end I would prefer someone to choose to be with me each and everyday, to explore and go on adventures together, to travel together, to go hiking and enjoy each other's company, to be kind to each other, be patient and have fun together. I would prefer someone else's right to choose to support me in times that are challenging, to challenge me when I am swallowed up by some toxic or victim mindset (as we are all guilty of falling into at times when our ego is battered and our self-esteem is low) and tell me to 'cop on now, you're worth more than that', to stand up to me and tell me that I am worthy when I am feeling unworthy and to push me to engage with my dreams and desires more than any other.
Again, perhaps love and the way we treat each other has more to do with the poem I posed in the post 'soulmates' than it does marriage. Marriage is the commitment to each other to last 'until death do us part' and have an adventure together as separate entities - separate lives but meeting in the middle every so often - having the space to blossom and enjoy every aspect of life. Whether the constitution of marriage itself needs to be addressed or not is another thing - I prefer the Brehon law's way of working. A good sit down once a year to make each other chat about what can be improved and the decision to be with each other for another year is a great idea. Perhaps its a case of managing both and allowing the person a freedom of choice to be with you or not - marriage or not. Then the next question is the right of the child without marriage... that is another blog post for another time! Perhaps the Claddagh ring is right in saying that it is a a case of love, friendship and loyalty.
Some interesting reads: