My wife and I celebrated our 20th anniversary this week. I suppose we are as shocked as anyone that not only did we make it, but we feel more in love than ever. At this rather momentous moment I began to think about the benefits of being married. Why marriage instead of simply living together? We hear people say that it’s just a piece of paper, they want to defy tradition or don’t want to fall into the marriage trap or they don’t want those ties that bind. People worry about losing money; they scramble to get a pre-nup together. So, then what’s the point?
Sure, I am a psychotherapist with a Ph.D. in psychology and I did manage to write a successful book on the subject of relationships, but at home I am just a guy like everyone else. My wife is an attorney and had little knowledge of psychology when I first met her, and I had never really managed to pull off a successful relationship. It was one of the reasons I wrote a book on relationships – I knew it was going to be challenging and I wanted to know how to make it work. But, we started out as true beginners. Now as we look back at it we are very happy we made the choice to get married.
Mind-Bending Benefit #1: There is a security in knowing that the level of commitment is far greater than it would be in a living situation. We are bound by a larger family that we have stood in front of and made a promise to be good to each other. Interestingly, all these strings actually helped bind our relationship together. But, in the end nothing keeps people together if they don’t know how to get along.
Mind-Bending Benefit #2: Marriage made us into better people. It created a mindset where it’s in both of our best interests to create harmony. After all we are in it together, we might as well do our best to make it fun. Being kind, helpful, listening hard and doing what we say we are going to do is what our marriage is made of. My wife and I decided that we wanted a marriage where there was no yelling, blaming, name calling, swearing, contempt, sarcasm or meanness. We have kept that promise.
Mind-Bending Benefit #3: What made the greatest difference for me was that marriage actually offered me a safe place to express and develop not only my true self but my loving feelings. It took quite a while, I must admit, because my past was a big deterrent to being open. Because my wife felt secure with me, she was able to lead the way to an emotional place where we could both stand or even lay together.
Mind-Bending Benefit #4: The most cherished aspect of my marriage is that I get feedback from someone who has my back. She offers me a mirror that I can look through and see myself in a way that I cannot. It’s not always pretty, but I am (like most of us) blind to myself and blind to my blindness. Those insights allow me to become better at everything I do.
Mind-Bending Benefit #5: I think marriage builds a new sense of family that you may never have experienced before. It allows you to write your own code, to make decisions together. Money, difficulty, worries and joys are mutually shared in a way that builds true intimacy. The most mind-bending aspect of marriage is not only can it last but flourish. This knowledge allows you to be there for each other without kicking the back door open. It’s a melding, even melting into one another by opening your hearts and through the commitment of marriage gently closing the exits. At that point the only real and true option is love.