Marriage: Sacred or Secular

My recent blogpost about contracted infidelity has been a bit controversial. Why wouldn’t it be? I pointed out a new trend for couples who agree to a marriage where affairs are part of the contract.  This is bothersome to the traditional marriage defenders, including me, and it makes people very uncomfortable just to discuss it.   There is a lot of energy spent on defining and defending opinions about what marriage is, so I thought I would offer yet another challenging way to think about marriage.

There are two kinds of marriage, in my opinion.  There is the “sacred” marriage and the “secular” marriage.  Sacred marriages are bound by God  and tied to faith, ritual, religion and spirituality.

Secular marriages are not dependent upon a church and they are simply a contract between two people agreeing to remain committed to one another.

Is there a place in the world for both kinds?

Actually…there IS a place in the world with both kinds.  Since 1999, France has had both marriages and civil unions as a way for couples to commit to one another.  Initially created as a way for homosexual couples to acknowldege lifelong commitments to one another, civil unions have now become primarily heterosexual arrangements.

In December of last year, the New York Times reported on how the popularity of the civil union has exponentially grown over the last ten years.  It is an easy way to create a legally-recognized couple, without the weight of marriage.

I know it would likely be a rather unpopular idea, but I propose to categorize marriage into degrees of commitment. On one end of the scale would be the sacred, lifelong marriage.  On the other end would be a civil union or secular marriage contract.  Somewhere in the middle of that scale would be the marriage with the clause for infidelity (and any other type of contractual marriage that is not in line with biblical principles).

Because I’ve spent so much time, in the last eight years, figuring out how to make our sacred marriage work well, I do not plan to move, even slightly, on the scale, but I feel it is a modern trend to want to redefine and restructure what marriage is.  

I’m simply offering, in place of a singular definition upon which no one seems to agree,  a multi-leveled categorization that addresses the complex reality of modern marriage.

8 thoughts on “Marriage: Sacred or Secular

  1. I respect your oppinion, but I think we get on a slippery slope when anyone tries to define a commitmment between two people. I don’t see why what someone does in their marriage should concern me, and I don’t want a law or a legistator telling me what kind of marriage I should have or how it should be defined. Thank you for making me think today!

  2. Kathy, you make a good point. No one wants big brother to decide what the individual marriage should look like. I do feel, however, we cannot help but to want to agree upon the important common ground. When someone says, “I’m married” it should mean something. Without an agreed- upon definition for the cultural definition of marriage…it loses a lot of its importance to society. I know what my marriage means, but because of the social context in which marriage operates, I cannot help but to think a solid definition is necessary.

    Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. Marriage, and the love and commitment within it, evolves (or devolves) according to a thousand different things, both within and beyond our best intentions and conscious control.

    • True…true, Cathy. There is a lot about the marriage relationship and commitment that is out of our control, but I contend there is a lot more within our control (as individuals) that people assume they cannot take. We can decide, on a couple-by-couple basis, what it is to be married. We can decide to take conscious control of how we love, what we do, where we spend our energy. There are those factors out of our control, but until we take control of what we can, we are simply conceding to life instead of living it.
      Oh, how your writing and thoughts make me think…

  4. Wow – I hadn’t seen that post, interesting!! I honestly don’t see how it would work, but then, that’s probably why it’s not for me. Who am I to say how other people want to define their commitment? For me, though, it’s absolute – this man, for the rest of my life. That said, I am not religious (though I have great respect for those who are), so I don’t know that the sacred/secular dichotomy works for me. While my commitment is sacred in the sense of absolute, it’s not bound by
    God in my case – but by our faith in each other – it’s certainly not “just” a contract. Great, thought provoking post, my friend!!

  5. I left a comment on your She Writes blog as well. I teach and mentor a Christian marriage ministry and our goal is encourage people to have a better marriage by using God’s word. However I don’t try and force or judge anyone for how they want to live their lives. I only feel that each person should have the right to choose how they want to live. I offer God’s way as He has given it to me and my husband and I attempt to show that it works. Then its up to the couple to choose, modify or cast it out.

    • Rev. LaWaughn,
      Thanks so much for weighing in. I have no doubt you are fabulous at what you do! You are strong in your convictions but gentle in your acceptance of all points of view. There need to be more people like you in the world!!

  6. @ parenting ad absurdum…
    You bring up something I didn’t directly address, and I am so glad you did. I love that your marriage is absolute and bound by “faith in each other”. That is so paramount to a successful marriage…despite any secular contract or spiritual commitment. If you don’t have faith in each other…none of it matters. Maybe you’ve hit upon THE definition of marriage. All categories of marriage depend upon the faith in one another…sacred marriages lean on God to strengthen that faith and some secular marriages point to the contract for guidance, but it all ultimately comes down to the two people within any particular marriage. So interesting…thanks for commenting!

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