Marriage has been on my mind a lot because everyone and their mother (including mine) is trying to set me up. “He’s single, you’re single: It’s a match!” No one has actually said that to me, but that’s the impression I get based on who people are trying to set me up with. Now, I realize a single person writing about marriage is like a virgin writing about sex, but here I am anyway, fumbling about.
An aspect that I don’t hear discussed often about marriage is its ability to enhance spiritual growth. Usually, marriage is couched in terms of companionship, of having someone to start a family with, and just generally a partner in life that you love. Something else that seems to creep in from my outside perspective is this idea that someone else is responsible for a person’s feelings. That someone else is responsible for our happiness.
I have a big problem with that way of thinking, because as was so aptly pointed out in a New York Times piece called “The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give,” there will be times where a person will look at his or her spouse and feel only rage. Nobody else is responsible for my happiness and putting them in charge of it is only asking for trouble. I can speak from experience here because I used to make certain people my cocaine and that resulted in some of the most painful experiences of my life.
I often quote Marianne Williamson who says, “Romantic relationships are like getting a PhD in spirituality.” What does that mean exactly? It means other people don’t exist to make me feel good; it means every person and every relationship is a teacher. All of them provide opportunities to bring me closer to the divine. Marriage then becomes about living my life in a “new way with a special type of responsibility,” as my spiritual teacher would say.
In fact, the marriage oaths of my spiritual practices are that the person takes upon themselves the responsibility for their spouse’s food, clothes, education, medical care, etc. That the spouse will be vigilant to safeguard the other’s mental peace and ensure their mental progress, as well safeguarding the other’s spiritual progress. These oaths to me mean sincerely taking care of another person’s all-around welfare and growth. That marriage is about taking into account not only another person’s needs, but trying to help them along the spiritual path. The emphasis is not on the self, but on another.
Does that sound dry and kind of clinical? It’s not meant to be – there’s something special about romantic love, something almost magical, and mystical and that, too, is an important part of marriage. I’m not discounting pleasure or love here, I’m just saying there’s more to marriage than just love, at least from a spiritual perspective.
I guess what I’m doing here is trying to assuage my single self, to provide some comfort because it’s clear there’s no way I could be satisfied with any single guy who walked through my door, because whoever I marry needs to be someone that can ensure I am progressing mentally and spiritually. That marriage for me is not about having someone warm my bed or keep me from feeling lonely on a permanent basis. Love is important, but I’m looking for love plus something else.
I dream of a world where we all take a different view of marriage. A world where we revere love, but we also add something more to the mix. A world where we think about marriage in terms of aiding another in the form of the divine.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.