Why Do People Get Married?

I watched a number of movies over the holidays. Upon reflection it surprized me that everyone of them was about relationship. My favourite was “SHALL WE DANCE” with Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez.

In a conversation between Sarandon and a private investigator she’s hired to find out if her husband is having an affair, Sarandon asked the investigator “Why do people get married?” He says “passion” to which she responds: “No, because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet. I mean what does any one life really mean, but 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 the time. Every day you’re saying your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it, your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.”

I hadn’t heard this answer before. I thought about it throughout the remainder of the movie and for a few days afterward. The idea that marriage is about a promise to care about everything, and to witness the life of another is quite an intimate thing when you think about it. That someone else will be a witness to your life, will have an account of it, and that your life will be etched in their memory, weaved throughout their accounting of their own life, it’s quite fascinating really.

Now, apply this thinking about marriage to one of the other movies I watched “AWAY FROM HER”. In this touching account of one couples experience with Alzhiemers disease, the rapid decline of the wife clearly illustrates, among other things, the importance of the witness and his account of his wife’s life. It was terribly sad to realize that even though his wife had promised to “care about all of it, all the time” and did, had promised to notice and did, her witness account of her husbands life (and her own) was ravaged by her illness – off limits for both of them.

Sometimes when we are “working on our relationship” it can feel hopeless, like things will never get better. We can feel powerless, like there’s nothing else we can do. The promise to care about everything, to notice your partner’s life and to be a witness to his/her experience, is a valuable step that will if nothing else make you more “present” in the relationship.

When you promise to care, to notice, to witness you become more connected, even if it is a silent, unacknowledged action – a promise you make to yourself.

Why do people get married? This would be a good discussion to have with your partner as you begin this new year and continue the relationship journey.

As always your comments and questions are most welcomed

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