What does marriage have to do with love? I know that as an institution, marriage may not have anything to do with love, that it is a way for the systems of society to control how people relate to one another and that at worst it can be a means for people to control each other. For a long time I did not want to get married, I did not know many married people among my peers and it is only recently that I have begun to be invited to the weddings of my friends. It seems now is as good a time as any to reevaluate this coupling off and creation of legal connections between people. 

At best, when couples decide to be monogamous, to commit themselves to each other, to love one another and ensure that they act responsibly so as not to hurt one another (or anyone else for that matter) something beautiful happens. Their love does not close them off to the world, but rather enables them to act more fully in it. They support each other in being the best individuals they can be and in creating a better world around them. For this to happen however, it does not mean that they need to get married. 

And yet, there is something that I do find romantic about getting married. Maybe it is the statement of the above intention. The fact that those getting married are willing, confident and courageous enough to commit their lives to something greater than themselves. For this to be the case though, there must be an acknowledgment that the union is not solely about the couple, but about their families, communities, those that they love and serve and the world as a whole. 

Too often marriage can become a narcissistic act. A spectacle of "love" that is not really about commitment and genuine emotion, but about property and ownership over one's partner and the family that they may create. I do not think that any of the people I know and care about are doing this. I would hope not, but I feel that this is often what is presented in reality tv shows, sitcom marriages, many celebrity couplings and relationships where people pair off because it is what is expected of them and they didn't have the imagination to consider any alternatives.

If I ever do get married it will be because I have found someone that I can grow with, someone who is willing to change and let me change, who understands the connection between our own love and the love we each hold for the rest of the world. It will be something that deepens my connection to nature, other people and myself. Recently I attended a friend's wedding and the part of the vows that hit me as being a really important part of any relationship was something like - I promise to take care of myself so that I have the health necessary to love and care for you. It reminds me of one of the things that I learned very quickly when beginning to work with youth and in community. If I am not taking care of myself then I am not going to do my students or my community any good, but if I do take care of me, I have the ability to care for so much more than myself. It is the same with love, if we love ourselves, if we find a partner that we love, it intensifies and strengthens our love for everything else.

Marriage can be a radical act because love is a radical act. Love based on mutual respect and on respect for others and the world is incredible. In order to find it though, one has to open one's heart and risk the possible pain of hurt and joy, be willing to care for and heal one's hurts and find a partner that is doing the same.