The Meaning of Marriage, by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Is marriage passe? After all, over sixty percent of them in the United States alone end in divorce?

I think not. Despite the discouraging statistics in these modern times, couples continue to marry and remarry, trying again and again to get it right. But what goes wrong?

It seems there has been an evolution in marriage that has taken place and most people don't have a clue that it has happened. They are busy trying to carry on in modalities that no longer work and the world crashes down around them.

Perhaps the key to a successful marriage lies in understanding the metaphysics of it, along with its evolution and a keener understanding of what commitment truly is.

We have moved from a time when marriage was important just for our sheer survival. The first evolution of marriage was meant to aid in continuing our species in a somewhat safer environment from that of a lone woman being impregnated by a passerby, then left to give birth by herself in a nest of leaves under a bush somewhere. Both the woman and child were in extreme danger, vulnerable to whatever came along, be it weather, beast or another human. Meanwhile, the lone passerby who impregnated the woman may have met his demise as well, by running into another, stronger human.

Together, marriage gave couples back then a better chance of making it through at least to their children's independence. Together they found shelter, fire, food and water - and defense against others.

From there we moved into marriages of convenience. These were arranged marriages, from the poorest of society to the highest bred. The poor married not only to combine together whatever meager ownings they had, but also to connect with whomever was most convenient geographically. The highest bred arranged marriages to combine wealth, landholdings and armies.

Love in these marriages was not even considered. Oh, it was an asset some thought in the wealthy set, while most others thought it a hinderence to accidently fall in love with one's wife. There were mistresses for that sort of thing. Here and there in history one finds an arranged marriage where love successfully existed, such as that which developed between King George III and his German wife. But such marrieages were novelties of sorts, rare enough to become fodder for romantic novels.

The solid idea of love between married couples began creeping, albeit hesitantly, into the mind of society along about the mid-1800's. With it came a hollow restlessness, an emptiness and yearning for something more. Could it have been the underpinnings of the women's suffragette movement, I wonder?

After World War II, and after the metaphysical energy of the earth shifted from Europe to the United States (another Perceptions article to be sure), divorce began a continual rise until today it is pandemic.

How do we get divorce to cease from happening when we know we want marriage? We must. Remember, we keep trying for the brass ring of marriage over and over. I cannot tell you how many times in my practice I have heard something that would not have been uttered in the 1600's, 1700's and for most of the 1800's: "The romance went out of my marriage."

What is romance? It is the spiritual side of marriage. It is the one thousand volts of electricity that give you the ecstatic "high", versus the 110 volts of electricity it takes to run the vacuum cleaner after the marriage in order to clean up after one another. Romance is the Divine Presence within each of us that reaches out to the other within a committed environment. Romance spawns spiritual ecstacy. Spiritual ecstacy allows us to touch the face of God.

As marriage has evolved, we have evolved as well. We have, for the most part, not yet discovered that marriage has moved out of the realm of the physical and into the realm of a spiritual partnership.

Women are self sufficient now. They no longer need a man around to gather fire and food for them. They are educated enough to provide for a family without the man's wealth. But it seems not to be enough. Once again, as in the 1800's, when we women began to reach outward to fill the empty hole, we did so in the male world, only to find it emptier still. Filling it up with a marriage that goes sour in a few years is not the answer either. So what is? Perhaps the answer lies within the context of a spiritual marriage.

There are two purposes to a marriage today:

1) To heal the wounded child that exists within each of us

2) To touch the face of God

Very little is sacred any more. But marriage is something that must be held sacred and spiritual if it is to survive. There is no other way in the progress and evolution of mankind thus far. Marriage must become a sacred healing ground as you set upon your earth walk together. Marriage will be used by either the ego, or the holy spirit. True marriage becomes a spiritual rite of passage.

This spiritual rite of passage between two people becomes a pact, a "heart pact", and it must be made and kept sacred in order for romance and ecstacy to survive within the marriage. This heart pact is called commitment.

When two people really understand that a commitment within a spiritual marriage must be made in order for the marriage to survive, there is hope for a successful marriage to occur. Without the dynamic of commitment you cannot serve one another in the growth of the soul. Marriage then becomes a conscious journey into one's own spirit. First by healing the wounded child, second by touching the face of God.

There are four stages to a marriage.

Stage one is what I called the fantasy stage. This stage goes something like this: "Oh, we have found each other and it is so grand, so ecstatic! We can live together forever as one. Whatever happens, we can handle it, together."

Here is the stage where the wounded child living within each of the marriage partners cries out, "oh, goody, I have found my safe haven and I shall never have pain, especially of a kind that wounded me in my childhood." Yes, you touch ecstasy in stage one of marriage, but the ecstacy wanes as you ebb into the second stage of a marriage.

Stage two of a marriage is what I call the counterdependent stage. This is the stage where suddenly you cannot tolerate the way he squeezes the toothpaste in the middle of the tube, or burps when he pushes his chair away from the table (signaling his meal is finished and you get the honor of cleaning up after him). Or, he cannot believe this shrew yelling at him as he walks away is the same sweet little thing who just a few months prior couldn't wait to show him what a great cook, wife, and everything else he ever wanted her to be. She doesn't even come close to offering to rub his back every night anymore!

There is a need for stage two. Here is the stage where we must circle around ourselves to recapture our own identity. Especially if we are ever to move into stage three and stage four, as you shall see.

Unfortunately, 97% of all marriages end in stage two. Ignorant of the metaphysics of a spiritual marriage and of marriage's divine stages, the couple only sees disintegration of goals and dreams, and a fast disolving of romance and ecstacy.

Here is the stage where the fire breathing dragon comes out of each of you, to scorch that little wounded child with all the fury of a warring monster.

"God, she's just like my mother," I hear. "I swore I did everything I could to avoid getting hooked up with one like that. I guess I'm just safest not being married at all, not ever (and oh, what a hole that statement leaves within the heart)." Or, "Geez, he's as bossy as my father and just as loud. He's always telling me what to do." Or, "I have no freedom and I have to go out on my own and find myself. Never again..."

Something is going to happen in this, the second stage of a marriage. It will. It is inevitable. Either you go your separate ways, or you MAKE A COMMITMENT TO WORK IT OUT. The moment you make a spiritual commitment that no one is going anywhere, that somehow, some way, you WILL work it out, you automatically move into stage three of your marriage. Here is the stage where you can rediscover your love for one another - it doesn't happen in stage two, not when you are counter dependent.

Commitment is the ONLY WAY you can move to stage three and ultimately to stage four. Here is where any infidelity ceases (infidelity can only take place in stage two, by the way). Here is where marriage counselling, if it is to take place, will show solid success. Here is where compromise and negotiation take place (and compromise means just that - EACH of you has to give up something in order to meet in the middle). Here is where the wounded child is healed. Here is where you begin to move from a wounded, flattened one dimensional marriage back into the ecstacy and romance you found during stage one.

When a true commitment has been made to honor the soul's growth, individually and together, within the marriage, interdependence takes place. When all negotiation and compromise has been complete and the wounded child is healed, you then move into stage four of the marriage.

Ah, stage four. This is the stage you unwittingly got married for in the first place. Is it worth all the effort of having to work through the other stages? You bet. Here is the stage of autonomy, of independence. Here is where one achieves what is called marital bliss.

Marital bliss is the stage of relationship within the spiritual marriage where no one is going anywhere. The wounded child is healed. The marriage is comfortable, honorable, and allows the individual to maintain his or her own identity, while at the same time bringing to the marriage gifts of the spirit: humor, creativity, sensitivity, tenderness, understanding, and the gratifying sense of individuation. Here is where each person can enjoy a safe arena in which he and she can reach out and stretch to their full potential, individually and as a couple.

In the fourth stage of marriage ecstacy returns.

In the fourth stage of marriage you are free to touch the face of God.