Q: Do you think marriage is restrictive? Does it have boundaries? If at all then what should determine them? Social constructs or emotional bonds?
The meaning of marriage, thankfully, has changed over a period of time. In most known and recorded cultures, in the beginning of the institution of marriage, it was an undertaking during which two men (the father or elder brother of the girl and the would-be-husband) exchanged property, which sadly included the girl as well. Compare the words for a man who owns a lot of money – crorepati with the word pati, which is Hindi for husband.
Consent and love had very little to do with the whole institute of marriage. In fact, too much love between husband and wife was looked at as a possible destabilizing force to patriarchy. There is a reason why the child had outside the marriage was called the ‘love’ child.
Today on the other hand, marriage is considered an undertaking between two (sometimes more than two) individuals who are legally autonomous entities. We still have a lot of ethical boundaries surviving today, which draw their strengths from no reasonable source but past cultural habits. Today more than ever in the history of marriage, couples have the rights to decide their own rules of engagement. It may not have a legal sanction, but a lot of couples decide whether to keep their marriage monogamous or have a consensual non monogamy (CNM), also known as an open marriage. Increasingly, a number of developed and developing countries in the world are changing their attitude towards same-sex marriages and marital rights of the trans-gender communities.
More than the social and legal aspect of it, marriages survive or not, because of the personal dynamics that the individuals in the marriage have between each other. As humans, we all have boundaries, but not all of the boundaries are the same. So we have to constantly negotiate to find a mutually agreeable common ground. All in all, I think both: social support system and personal respect and love contribute to a successful marriage, but the latter plays a bigger role than ever before.