The purpose of marriage sounds like a heavy-duty affair (no, not that kind of affair). As relationships and the definitions of commitment change and expand, the objective purpose of marriage, if indeed there is one, tends to get lost in a sea of modern relationship terms.
However, it can’t be denied that marriage has its place in the world. Whether it’s for emotional, financial or familial reasons; or whether you’re looking at the spiritual purpose of marriage, there’s got to be a reason (or several reasons) why thousands of people of all faiths, nationalities and genders continue to bind themselves to each other in matrimonial unions.
Sure, it’s not for everyone, and people often have solid arguments against the institution. But, nevertheless, marriage persists like a timeless piece of art, or an annoying mosquito, depending on how you look at it.
So, what is the meaning and purpose of marriage? Is there a main purpose of marriage, or is it just a piece of paper that doesn’t really mean much anymore? To gain more insight, we got a little help from clinical psychologist Adya Poojari (Masters in Clinical Psychology, registered with the Rehabilitation Council of India), for her professional take on the main purpose of marriage.
What Are The Purposes Of Marriage
According to Adya, while everyone has their own ideas about the meaning and purpose of marriage, there are some broadly common factors that influence most people’s decisions to get married. Mind you, it’s difficult to generalize in this day and age, but we’ve rounded up some deep-seated reasons and purposes that mean marriage still stands in good stead.
1. Marriage brings a semblance of emotional security
I’m a romance novel nerd, and growing up, it seemed as though all my favorite stories ended the same way – a woman in a long, white gown, walking down a church aisle toward her soulmate. It was always a man, tall and handsome, who would take care of her forever. Marriage brought certainty, a relieved realization that you didn’t need to worry anymore.
The world has changed and marriage is no longer the only way to proclaim and lock down your love. And yet, it’s hard to find an alternate institution or set of rituals that lend this much certainty. Divorce rates may be high, domestic partnerships are far more frequent, but when it comes down to it, you’re rarely as certain as you are when you’ve got a ring on your finger and whisper, ‘I do.’
“We’re conditioned to believe that marriage is the ‘aha’ moment of a romantic relationship,” says Adya. “When someone asks you to marry them, your brain automatically lights up with ‘Yes, they’re serious about me!’”
Pop culture, social circles etc. all tell us that successful marriage is like being wrapped in a cozy blanket of security and certainty. Whether it’s true or not, there’s no doubt that many of us believe in it fervently, making it a major purpose of marriage.
2. If you were raised religious, marriage is the ultimate union
“My family is deeply religious,” says Nichole. “I dated a bunch of people all through high school but I was always taught that marriage was the aim because God willed it so. Living together without marriage wasn’t an option. And I didn’t want to, either. I liked that there was such a deep, sacred and spiritual purpose of marriage, that somewhere, in the eyes of God and my family, I’d done the right thing.”
The biblical purpose of marriage includes rearing children, along with companionship and support between a husband and wife. Other spiritual purposes of marriage, whatever religion or spiritual path you’ve chosen to follow, too, counsel that marriage is the ultimate act of love, that it teaches us to care for someone deeply, other than ourselves.
Related Reading: 4 Types Of Soulmates And Deep Soul Connection Signs
“Historically, and even now, the main purpose of marriage is that two people are in love and will be able to support each other. In its deepest sense, marriage is a sign that they are ready to share their intimate lives,” Adya says.
There’s something to be said about entering a sacred, mystical union where love isn’t just about you and your spouse, but where you receive the approval and blessings of those you love best. You always thought love was divine, and marriage just confirmed it.
3. Marriage offers certain protections
Lest we forget, marriage is deeply rooted in the protection of women. Long before legal and religious ceremonies became part of it, marriage was all about ensuring a woman was safe and taken care of. Through the years, protection has taken on many forms – warding off loneliness and financial conflict, the right to property, custody of children in case of a divorce and more.
“Honestly, when I think about why I got married, the words ‘better health insurance’ come to mind,” laughs Kristy. “Don’t get me wrong, I adore my husband, but there were other considerations, too. As a single woman living alone, I was automatically vulnerable to so many things. What if there was an intruder? What if I slipped and fell in the house, and couldn’t call anybody? Plus, as much as marrying for money sounds terribly mercenary, I’m so relieved to have a two-income household.”
Since we’re talking about facts, here are some cold, hard ones. One pragmatic purpose of marriage is to alleviate loneliness and singledom, but it doesn’t hurt when it also alleviates a single bank balance and adds to it.
Maybe money isn’t the main purpose of marriage, though it can be, but financial security is a huge factor. Add to this that since marriage is a legal tie, you can have a prenuptial agreement and ensure that you and any kids you have are taken care of even if the marriage doesn’t work. Ultimately, the practical aspect of the institution could become the meaning and purpose of marriage.
4. In marriage, family matters
“I grew up in a large family home, and I couldn’t imagine anything different for myself,” says Ramon. “I had two main reasons for getting married – I wanted to stand up and proclaim my commitment to my partner in front of my family; and I wanted to raise my own large family. I didn’t want to do it with a cohabitation partner, I wanted to do it with a wife. It was that simple.”
“One of the main purposes of marriage is to have children, to pass on the family name, to have a rich inheritance, both material and immaterial, to pass down. Of course, times are changing, people are choosing not to have children, or to adopt rather than bear biological offspring. But in many cases, this remains a major factor in the purpose of marriage,” Adya says.
Family has always been seen as the primary social and emotional unit, and more often than not, marriage is at its center. One main purpose of marriage, therefore, is a sense of continuity. Through marriage, through children, you get to pass on genes, homes, family heirlooms, and hopefully a strong sense of love and belonging. It’s hard to find a more significant purpose.
5. In the eyes of the world, marriage validates your relationship
We’ve come a long way from seeing marriage as the only way to show your commitment and love. There are live-in relationships, open relationships, polyamory and a whole spectrum of feelings and definitions to express your feelings for someone. And yet, marriage remains something of a global phenomenon, something that is recognized and, let’s face it, easier to explain to most people than other forms of commitment.
“I was so incredibly happy when LGBTQ people could finally get married in my state,” says Christina. “I’d been with my partner for four years, we’d lived together for two of them. It was great, it wasn’t as though anything was missing. But, I wanted to call her my wife, and be a wife myself, and have a wedding and a party. I guess, for us, having the choice was important, and to openly proclaim our love was amazing.”
Marriage brings with it legal, religious and social validation, and even if that’s not really your thing, there’s a certain convenience to it. Marriage brings with it a host of benefits. Apartment-hunting is easier, grocery shopping is nicer and you no longer need to face raised eyebrows when you introduce someone as a ‘partner’. These are things to keep in mind when wondering, ‘is marriage worth it?’
6. In its best form, marriage gives you lifelong companionship
In the movie, ‘Shall We Dance’, Susan Sarandon’s character says, “In a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’”
I sort of believe everything Susan Sarandon says, even if it’s only a character she’s playing. But honestly, there’s a tenderness and a truth to these words that even the hardened anti-marriage activist would find difficult to deny.
Ultimately, love is about noticing your significant other as much as is humanly possible, no matter how small a detail is. And marriage just brings you a little closer to being able to do that, because, not only are you sharing living space, you vowed to be together forever. And, you know, forever is full of seemingly small moments and details that a husband or a wife would notice because that’s why they’re there.
“Marriage is all about trusting, developing respect in a relationship, making it into something beautiful and meaningful. While it’s not possible to know someone inside out even as a spouse, you do hopefully get to spend enough time together to get to know each other enough,” says Adya.
“Maybe the honeymoon phase is over, and the charm might wear off with time, but what you have left is conversation and companionship. And hopefully, you know each other’s moral and emotional selves and you know you’re happy just spending time with them and being present with each other,” she adds.
We’d like to believe that the purpose of any loving relationship is togetherness. To figure our messy selves out and see how much love we’re capable of. And perhaps the main purpose of marriage is that it gives us a socially sanctioned way of doing this.
Marriage is not accessible to everyone. Your sex, your gender, your politics, your religion, all of this could keep you from getting married in certain places. Marriage is in no way all-inclusive, and in many cases, may have nothing to do with feelings.
None of this diminishes its power or social significance, though. Marriage is too old, too deeply rooted and has too much fanfare and pageantry around it to be snuffed out by something as seemingly insubstantial as a lack of feeling.
Related Reading: 10 Bankable Reasons For Getting Married
But if done right, if done by choice and with enough kindness and fewer relatives, marriage certainly serves a purpose. Yes, it’s about finances, and about raising a traditional family and belief in a divine being who has the power to make us very unhappy if we do things outside the confines of marriage. But hey, it’s also about champagne and cake and presents and a honeymoon.
But ultimately, the main purpose of marriage, we feel, is just one of many, many ways to stand up in front of a crowd and let your soulmate know that you’ve got their back. That through thick and thin, one bank balance or two, sickness, health and health insurance, you will always have each other. Now, even my crabby, old self will agree that there’s no greater purpose than that.