The notion that one should marry for love is a recent invention. Only about 200 years old even in the West, where it originated. Younger still in other parts of the world where it is still catching on.
Of course. men and women have fallen in love with each other through-out history. But only recently has it become predominant in some cultures to marry for love. Two hundred years is so recent in historical terms that we can consider the notion as still in its trial stages, still very much an experiment.
Despite marrying for love still very much being an experimental thing, all sorts of myths have grown up around it. I believe one of the most damaging of those myths is that you should only marry for love, and not for anything else. If you do, things might still work out for you, but I think the odds of that are less than if you also take other things into consideration.
I think one of the most important “other things” you should take into consideration is how your anticipated partner in marriage feels about your being true to yourself.
Being true to oneself is, in my opinion, crucial to a happy, meaningful life, despite that it’s so difficult to accomplish that almost all of us only accomplish it imperfectly. Lucky for us, we don’t need to be perfect at it; we just need to achieve it to a significant degree. But that is especially hard to do if our partner disapproves of who we are, and perhaps even actively opposes our efforts to be true to ourselves. So I’m of the opinion that we should be very sure our anticipated partners will accept, support, and affirm who we are.
Of course, if someone is genuinely in love with you then it should be pretty much a given that they accept, support, and affirm you as you are — but unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Indeed, there are a number of reasons someone who loves you — or at least seems to — might not accept you. Perhaps the single most important reason is a wee bit difficult to explain, so please bear with me.
So far as I can see, there is more than just one kind of love. In fact, I believe there are at least four that can occur between sexual partners. And three of those — the three most common — can at times be problematic when it comes to accepting others as they are. I call those three: Erotic love, romantic love, and attached love.
Erotic love is basically sexual attraction. It’s quite common — and I think a cultural prejudice in the West — to dismiss erotic love as “not true love”, but I prefer to acknowledge it. When we love someone in this manner alone, we tend to ignore everything about them that has little or nothing to do with sex. Because of that, there can be a great deal about the person that we do not accept, but which we are unaware of not accepting. I suspect most of us who love merely in this way alone are wise enough to soon realize the fact, and avoid marrying someone solely out of erotic love of them.
Romantic love is more problematic. When we romantically love someone, we are almost guaranteed to idealize them, to put them on a pedestal, and not quite clearly see any incompatibilities they might have with us. Romantic love tends to last a few weeks to a couple years or so, and people who get married while it still dominates their view of each other can sometimes discover after romantic love wears off that there are actually quite a few fundamental things about each other that they do not accept.
Attached love is, in my opinion, the most problematic of the three. It comes about as a profoundly deep bond that forms between couples who’ve been together for awhile. Unfortunately, that bond can — and often enough does — form between people who fail to fundamentally accept each other. They may be intensely in love with each other, but they do not fundamentally accept each other.
There are a number of other reasons someone who loves you might not accept you as you fundamentally are, but I believe the fact each kind of love can cause its own kind of trouble to be among the most important reasons. It therefore seems to me wise to be very careful to marry someone who accepts, supports, and affirms your authentic self. I will tell you that, in my experience, there is no loneliness on earth greater than the loneliness of a person whose bed is made with a man or woman that rejects their fundamental self. It is a dozen times better to live alone, than to experience that kind of loneliness.
But what happens if you do manage to marry someone who loves you — the real you?
Well, if you love them in return then congratulations! You’ve won the lottery! Not just the marriage lottery, but the at least equally important being-true-to-yourself lottery. Perhaps there’s no better word for what can happen next than “magic”.
A mutual love like that can bring not only happiness but inspiration. I think most of us are unaware of just how suppressed we are. We are so accustomed to being suppressed that we scarcely notice in our hourly lives how frequently we censor, repress, and inhibit ourselves. This quite often takes the dual forms of (1) our trying to be someone we are not, and (2) our trying to hide who we really are, in order to fulfill the expectations of those around us.
Trying to be what we are not, and hide what we are, emotionally deadens us. But because we are so accustomed to carrying around that dead weight, it astounds us if and when it is ever lifted from us. A mutual love based on accepting each other as he or she is can — and very frequently does — ease that weight at least a bit (and sometimes quite a bit!). When that occurs, we not only become happier with our lives and ourselves, but magic can happen.
We can suddenly be inspired to fulfill ourselves by turning a talent we before didn’t even recognize that we had into a new skill. Or we can find it remarkably easier than ever before to express a positive character trait, such as kindness. Life problems that once nagged us can become surmountable or even insignificant. Almost needless to say, our confidence and self-esteem can take flight and soar. The full list of potential benefits is a long one. Sometimes these things are fleeting and transient — but sometimes they turn into lasting changes. Even when transient, they are worthwhile to experience.
Being true to yourself — or being authentic — is a difficult thing to accomplish. Very few of us accomplish it perfectly, but both our happiness and sense of purpose or meaning in life can crucially depend on the extent to which we do indeed accomplish it. Authenticity can be made extraordinarily more difficult to realize by a partner who opposes our basic nature. But that’s not the only reason one should be careful to chose a partner who accepts, supports, and affirms who we fundamentally are. Another — perhaps even more important reason — is to reap the benefits of loving someone for themselves who loves us for ourselves. Those benefits, even when fleeting, are perhaps among the most powerfully life enhancing and life affirming experiences we are capable as humans of having.