What Is The Meaning Of Marriage?
The meaning of marriage differs from one person to another, and from one time to another. In ancient times, for example, a marriage meant a condition in which a woman was given to a man almost as property, and often as part of a political, social, or business arrangement of some sort. For much of human history, marriage has been a permanent institution that, once entered into, cannot be dissolved except by the death of one of the spouses. In the modern world, however, marriage is a vastly different thing. On the up side, marriage is today more of a gathering of equals, rather than the subjugation of one to the other. On the down side, marriage often becomes much more temporary than it has been in years past.
The meaning of marriage can be looked at from a legal perspective. Legally, marriage is a binding contract between the two parties that joins together their possessions, income, and lives. Marriage is recognized by the state, and the dissolving of the contract can only happen through the legal process of divorce.
But, for most people, marriage has meaning beyond the legal sense. Marriage is also an agreement between the man and woman. Husband and wife take certain vows, to love one another, to cherish one another, and to stay together through sickness and health, for better and for worse. In most cases, this agreement includes sexual faithfulness, and a promise that each person will do what they can to make the other one happy. For some people, this agreement between man and woman takes the form of a covenant between not only the couple, but God as well. Thus, many marriages are performed within the rites of various churches and religious institutions.
The meaning of marriage should be looked at from a sociological perspective as well. A marriage is the conduit by which children are born; a marriage provides both a mother and a father for the children. The family unit, the relationship between parents and child, are all based on the marriage relationship.
Certainly, in the modern world, the meaning of marriage is becoming more complicated. In some areas, same-sex couples are pursuing the right to be married. Certainly, a legal recognition of this does not create or eliminate the agreements that couples make between themselves, but these couples desire that legal recognition. In addition, high divorce rates mean that many children will not be raised in a traditional family unit. Here again, the fact that the parents are not married does not mean that they are not a family, but it is changing the way that families are arranged.
As it always has, the meaning of marriage is changing as the times change. As society changes, the institution of marriage changes. These changes may or may not be a good thing; in the end, they are probably a little of both. The meaning of marriage, in the modern world, is in a bit of flux; when people do get married, they should make sure that they agree up front on what they mean by marriage.