Marriage: the goal of romantic relationships?

Miscellaneous Apr 20, 2024

Love is love, it is a true feeling and a state of mind. Love doesn't matter with whom you are with, it doesn't matter with how you express it. It doesn't need a definition. Nor do people need to argue about what is love. As long as it feels right, and has consent, it is love.

Two weeks ago, I was at a communion in a Chinese church, having an interesting debate as the counterclaim about whether the goal of romantic relationships should be marriage (談戀愛應不應該以結婚為目的). The time was very limited and I didn't elaborate it well. And that is the reason why I wrote this post. This post specifically discussed love in a heterosexual relationship but there is something we could learn even in other forms of relationship.

Matrilineal human kinship

Early human kinship was matrilineal, in which the inheritance was traced through the mother's side of the family. Eventually, as society became complex and women's power was reduced due to agricultural practices, patriarchy started to form, in which men held the power and dominated all, at this time, the system of marriage emerged, and it became a way for the family to be bounded together, ensuring the child was born legitimately, in the other hand, controlling a women's reproductive rights. It solidifies the patriarchal societies and reinforces the power structure and the gender roles, women were even been seen as a form of property to be exchanged between families (which is even seen in some societies today).

What marriage carries

So, what benefits does marriage bring, and what is the meaning of marriage? Since marriage was derived from the patriarchy, it is inherently patriarchal, making it largely unproportional when speaking to the benefit of marriage between man and woman, even in the modern-day context.

Marriage is a contract, it is a legal binding between two people to form a partnership and to abide by the marriage laws and regulations. In addition, marriage is often associated with the social norms and expectations that the couples are expected to follow and might face criticism, judgement or accusations from society if they deviate. Therefore, marriage has consequences, and it largely depends on the context of law and norms in society.

Marriage is a kidnapper

Although marriage is a commitment, it is not the only one and the ultimate one. Since the reality of marriage is cruel, in today's context, marriage kidnaps love. People have to pretend they still love each other, and they cannot easily leave even if there is no love. So, how come marriage becomes the goal of a romantic relationship?

Over the decades, we have used a filter when considering marriage. We think marriage is beautiful, sacred, and romantic. However, it is romantic only when love is inside. It is not and can't be when love is not in there. Not only the motion for love is kidnapped, but the concept of love is kidnapped as well.

We all want certainties, and we are trying to use marriage to seal the uncertainties of love, even when we don't figure out whether it is the right person or not. we are too impatient to get that certainty, but marriage is not the silver bullet, it has its problems to be solved as well.

The essence of a romantic relationship

A romantic relationship, in the beginning, starts with the chemical in mind, giving the passion of wanting to connect. We cannot help to fall in love, and then we dive into love, seeking for deeper connection. However, as time went by and the influence of chemistry faded, we began to use more of our rationale. We started determining whether we truly loved the person or not.

When a relationship starts, it doesn't need a reason, nor does it need an ultimate goal. Relationships are pure exploring, a voyage, a connection between souls. It contains happiness, and bitterness and is unexpected. Relationships don't need assumptions, it simply is the willingness of wanting to spend time with others and wish all the best to happen to others. Relationships are all about whether it feels right.

Now, talking about the consequence of having marriage as the ultimate goal of a romantic relationship, we gave a prophecy, and even if it is achieved, it is self-proven. We are strangled by this prophecy. We compromise, we hide, not able to display our personalities. We try to avoid conflicts, but eventually, it will re-emerge. We planted a timed bomb, and more time was "wasted" when trying to find the right person.

Set love free and let love be love

Love should be free because we always want the best to happen to the one we love. And what is more valuable than freedom? Love should have the freedom to enter or quit when it is best in everyone's interest. Because every lover deserves to have the best love in the world.

Love is selfless and love sometimes is giving up, because we are all independent individuals in the middle of our life journey. Love is openness and honesty, we should address each other when love is moving apart. Love is among the highest. And it should never be kidnapped by anyone's interest.

Love is compromise, but this compromise should never involve compromising love itself. And love is colourful, love doesn't matter about gender, orientation or race. Every form of love should be affirmed, as long as it is consented between two able-to-make-decision individuals.

Please, let love be love!

Extensive reading: Bible verses about marriage

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5:22–24)

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him (Genesis 2:18).

Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers (1 Peter 3:7).

In those bible verses, we got this submissive wife and protective husband stereotype, and women were degraded as a belonging, a property, limiting their autonomy and agency, as well as undermining their equality in a partnership. Reinforcing the gender roles and limiting the ability (we know those were limited by the historical background, with a very patriarchal system and most of the authors were male).

However, what cannot be denied is that many men still hold the same belief (as of the writer's experience), regardless of whether they consciously or unconsciously realize, which should be alerted.