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One of the things that really annoys me about modern society is how it devalues marriage by putting it on the same footing as any number of other types of relationships.

When I was in university, especially in the sociology department, it was especially acute. People knew I was married, yet they insisted on asking, “how is your partner doing at medical school?”. If the department was having a social, they would say, “you’re welcome to bring your partner.”

I so wanted to say, “he’s not my partner, he’s my husband,” but I didn’t. These were my professors, after all. But I stood in front of a minister and all my friends and family and before God and pledged to love him and be faithful to him for the rest of my life. Doesn’t that somehow distinguish our relationship from one where two people are just living together?

I know all that stuff about how “a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything”, but the statistics don’t bear that out. If you live together, you’re far more likely to split up. And if you life together before you’re married, your marriage is far less likely to succeed, too. I think it’s due to two factors:

1. When you live together, the relationship is under scrutiny. You’re always asking: is this the one for me? Is he/she making me happy? It’s hard to turn that voice in your head off when you get married.

2. Our threshold for choosing someone to live with is lower than it is for choosing someone to marry. So we may start living with someone, be with them for several years, and then fall into marriage because it’s easy and it’s the next logical step. But if we hadn’t lived together, we likely wouldn’t have chosen this person to marry.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t understand this. They think that the best way to prepare for marriage, a lifelong commitment, is by having numerous relationships in which one commits and then breaks off. It makes no sense!

Marriage is unique. On university campuses and when we worked in downtown Toronto the culture was such that it wasn’t polite to even acknowledge that people were married, so we were always talking about “partners”. In the small town I live in now, it is mostly marriage. But every now and then I come across someone who still says partner. Now I could understand it if they were homosexual, or if they were living with someone. But often it’s married people. I had someone introduce themselves to me as “such-and-such’s partner” recently. They’re married! And they know I’m married! So there’s no possible offense to be caused anywhere. But even married people have adopted the language, and I think in so doing we’re denigrating the institution.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I’d love to know what you think!