So yesterday I touched on a few things that marrige is. Today I'd like to touch on a few things that marriage isn't, especially in regards to our culture today. Very often, the trouble that people run into with their marriages is due to a fundamental misunderstanding about what marriage is not (at least from a Biblical perspective.) Likewise, many of the debates we have in society about marriage have the same problem. So let's see a few of the (many) things that marriage isn't.
Marriage isn't love. Sure, spouses are supposed to love each other - but we're supposed to love our enemies and neighbors too, and those relationships aren't marriage. Cultures over time have preferred arranged marriages that have worked quite well - and there is certainly no Biblical mandate to marry someone with whom you've fallen in love. Now of course love can exist, and ideally does exist, within a marriage: but it isn't a prerequisite. This is especially true when we're talking about romantic love. Passion cools, at times, which tempts people to bail on their marriages thinking they're no longer in love. In reality, the love that keeps people in marriage is a chosen love; "I choose to love you" and remain married to you, even if it's hard work. When this commitment is missed, people mistake a lack of passionate love for a lack of a marriage, and seek to disolve the relationship.
Marriage isn't a ceremony, or a set of legal rights or privileges. Adam and Eve had no legal rights and privileges, and didn't undergo any ceremony (of which we know) - yet they were married as much as my wife and I are married. In today's world, people want the protections and benefits of marriage - but marriage isn't a means to the ends of legal anything. Society encourages marriage by offering some form of incentive to marry, but marriage itself isn't the benefits. If society didn't offer the benefits, marriage would still exist. Focusing on what society gives you because you are married is missing the boat. This is what's led to our current debate on gay marriage - the idea that marriage is about rights and privileged. It's not.
Finally, marriage isn't something to "test drive" a time or two before doing the "'til death do us part" thing. There's been a recent interest in "starter marriages." As I mentioned yesterday, marriage is for life. Society today does not take marriage seriously, and for this it's easy to blame the Hollywood image in which celebrities marry and divorce with regularity. (I'm sure there are Hollywood couples who have long-lasting marriages - but their marriages aren't celebrated to the same extent that failed marriages are splashed everywhere.) I'm not sure how much of an influence the media has on this, but our culture definitely does not promote the serious nature, commitment and responsibility of marriage. You can't become one with your spouse and casually discard the relationship without pain. God took marriage seriously enough to institute it the moment Adam and Eve were first together. We should too.
I'm sure there are other misconceptions about marriage in our culture, but I've already pushed the limits of verbosity in this post. Let me know if you have more, or if you disagree with those I've posted.