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Is Marriage Just a Piece of Paper? Or Is It Something More?

Is Marriage Just a Piece of Paper or Is It Something More

It appears a lot of women are waiting for their man to propose. They have been a couple for a while, and she finds herself wondering where their relationship is going. Is what they have enough? Their dating relationship, which started as an exhilarating sprint, has turned into a 100K marathon, one where the finish line never appears.

Many men today are simply not getting down on that knee (or however you envision it) and asking the all-important question: “Will you marry me?” While I watch the single women around me who are dating and wondering about their future, I know this extends far outside of the world in which I reside. Further evidence comes from this very website, Grit and Grace. “If Your Man Didn’t Propose (But Should Have)” has been in our top 10 most searched and read articles for three years running. This challenge is everywhere!

It’s More Than a Piece of Paper

So, why is this so important to women? Marriage is just a piece of paper, right? That’s what they tell us. But I cannot state this more emphatically—it is so much more than a piece of paper. We see this innate understanding that marriage brings a higher level of commitment in the gay community’s push for the right to do so. So why is the heterosexual community leaving it behind?

I believe that part of the reason this change has occurred is the universal understanding that marriage often fails. As a result, many couples find living together to be a more reasonable option. But marriage is different than living together. It is a stronger commit­ment that is more difficult to dissolve, and it is harder to walk away from. It requires a legal contract in the form of a marriage license between two individuals.

It’s More Than Living Together

This trend of moving in together does not appear to be the answer to maintaining a long-term relationship even if the couple does eventually marry. Statistics show those who cohabit before marriage have a 33% higher divorce rate on average than those who don’t. (Read more statistics on this topic here.)

There is a difference between beginning a relationship with the intention of marriage, whether cohabitating or just dating. Relationship security, or lack of, always hinges on a real commitment from the very start.

While it is correct that a marriage license is just a piece of paper filed at the local county clerk’s office, it is what that piece of paper represents, and what the signatories agree to, that is significant. It’s a commitment to one another that is not easily or quickly dissolved, a willingness to sign your name with the intention that the only thing that will divide is “death do us part.” No other agreement, spoken or written, has that same impact or holds the same promise.

It’s More Than a Commitment

But marriage is more than a contract or even a commitment; it is an attitude, an emotion that we desire from the man we love. We aren’t content with perpetual dating or even a placating proposal. We want more than a permanent boyfriend or to obtain the status of the fiancée. Here’s why. We want to be cherished, and the marriage commitment proves we are.

The traditional wedding vows still hold up, and with slight variations are the ones most used in marriage ceremonies today. “I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and to that, I pledge myself to you.”

Contemplate the phrase “wedding vow.” A vow is a promise, an oath, a declaration, a guarantee that those words hold significance in the state of your relationship. To have and to hold in every part of life, the good, the challenging, the painful. You are stating on that day in that vow that you are in it together.

I take thee to love. Love is often such a misused word, that the vows take it further—to cherish. If you cherish, you treat tenderly, with care and concern. You protect it; you treasure it. The value you place upon this person is far above all others.

Finally, I pledge myself to you; two people can truly become one on that day. By the surrender of self, you join something greater. The union creates an entity that is stronger and more powerful than what you have experienced in your relationship thus far.

In All Ways, Marriage Matters

There is nothing wrong with desiring marriage. There is nothing wrong with being single. What becomes entirely wrong and where many find themselves is remaining in the middle. Don’t apologize for desiring this commitment. Be willing to walk away when you realize the one you are with doesn’t want it as you do.

You see, the piece of paper so flippantly dismissed does mean something. It’s an agreement that says you are all in. Not a toe in the water or even wading waist-deep. You are swimming the Atlantic together, sincere in your vow that when one tires, the other will keep paddling for both of you.

So next time you find yourself wondering what to do when he doesn’t propose, move on! If he has the character for a long-term commitment within him, he will find a way to move where you need him to be. Know what you want, be firm in what you expect, and make sure in no uncertain terms that the man in your life knows it too.


For more articles on marriage and relationship advice for women, start here:

If Your Man Didn’t Propose (But Should Have) Read This
Why You Should Just Have That Hard Conversation (And How to Do It)
Ask Dr. Zoe – He Asked Me to Marry Him Now He Won’t Set a Date
How Breaking Up Made Me a Stronger Woman
He Brings Me Flowers, but Is That Enough?

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Darlene, President of The Grit and Grace Project, is crazy enough to jump in the deep end then realize she may not have a clue where she’s landed. She has spent her adult life juggling careers in the music business, been an author, a video producer, and also cared for her family ... some days drowning, other days believing she’s capable of synchronized swimming.

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