Over the years, the word marriage has been challenged from its current definition as listed in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as an act of marrying or being married between a man and a woman. Marriage can also be defined in the Oxford Dictionary as the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife. The word marriage becomes a special type of bond between two people that share the same desire to become the other person’s life partner. Marriage can be challenging between two people based on their current government state laws, in their religious and cultural beliefs as well as challenging to the word to be defined as living with each other without going through legal and ceremonial traditions (Slater). The word marriage has evolved over the centuries by law. As stated by Hymowitz, marriage is a contract, regulated by the laws and ultimately enforceable by the state, that spells out property relations between the spouses as well as their inheritance rights and those of their children (33). With this understanding, the challenges of marriage between couples are being seen as merely as a legal right rather than the relationship itself.
It wasn’t until the late eighteenth century when the emphasis of marriage was built more towards a loving relationship rather than an agreement of property (Hymowitz, 34). Marriage began to further change over the centuries and soon became more accepting as people spent more years of living together rather than going through the legal state of marriage. With this in mind, marriage can also become a challenge based on the couple’s religious and cultural beliefs. Marriage is also limited to the means and ways a woman and a man are brought together to be married by their religion and or cultural beliefs. As mentioned by Hymowitz, there are many cultures that define the term marriage as one that is arranged, some that allow only monogamous marriages and others that accept polygamy (31). Marriage can be defined as a religious sacrament that is accepted by a couple in front of relatives, friends and religious congregants showing their commitment to one another (Cherlin, 138).
Wedding ceremonies are often held in a variety of religious chapels for the couple based on their belief. On the other hand, many relationships are accepting a new common trend as couples are now living together, as if they are indeed married but without a legal certificate nor have gone through any ceremonial traditions. According to Robinson, couples prefer to simply live together without ceremony or state license. Robinson also includes this type of relationship between couples are also referred to as “common-law marriage.” Today, it is common to find more couples living together as if they are married. Since 2001, the number of couples living together without the traditional ceremonial traditions by law has risen throughout the states (Slater). This type of marriage can become challenging because the commitment to one another is tested in more ways than one.
Robinson explains how this type of marriage is also one that is “…an informal arrangement which may be temporary or permanent.” Marriage used to come before purchasing a house or having children however theses life changing moments are becoming the foundation of a marriage (Cherlin, 139). In doing so, couples living together and supporting one another as if they are indeed married in front of friends and family, has become a more common practice in relationships. In conclusion, as defined in the Oxford Dictionary marriage is known as the common union between a man and a woman which in many ways are challenged by the current government laws, by the person’s religious and cultural beliefs as well as challenged by the way couples are living together without the ceremonial traditions. With these everyday challenges, for the most part does not define the meaning of the word marriage. As mentioned by Hymowitz, marriage based on individual choice would promote trust and equality that could then be projected into public life (35-36). It only becomes the common union between couples with an understanding of their current relationship.
Cherlin, Andrew J. The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today. New York: Knopf, 2009. Print. Hymowitz, Kay S. Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age. Chicago: Dee, 2006. Print. “marriage, n.” Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. 2003. Print. “marriage, n.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2013. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 30 Apr, 2007. Web. 16 Feb, 2013. Robinson, B.A. “Marriage: Changes, including re-definitions, of marriage since before biblical times.” Ontario Consultants of Religious Tolerance. 12 Nov, 2012. Web. 10 Feb, 2013. Slater,
Lydia. “Does living together before marriage make you more likely to divorce?” MailOnline. Associated Newspaper Ltd, 10 Jun, 2012. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.