• Frank Klaus Jordan

open beds - why did you marry and why did you not


While strolling through Valencia's historical city, on our way to "Museo de la Almoina", an exhibition with the name "open beds - why did you marry or why did you not" caught my attention. Since these questions have bothered me for quite some time now, I was curious whether I would find my answers here.


The exhibition was held rather simple, showing a number of videos in which people explained why they got married and what happened to them. The seemingly intimate reasons and exclusions that lead each person to subscribe, or not, this planetary convention called marriage, was the mattress of this "open beds" exhibition. The picture is showing a patchwork blanket made out of these beds, that was the centerpiece of the exhibition. But the interesting part was the conclusion out of these interviews, made by the exhibitors. It goes like this:


"The patriarchal cultures, in which men have primacy over women, tend to regulate love behaviours to ensure reproductive fidelity, loyalty and support, through a contractual relationship, marriage. Because they acquire exclusive use of the sexual property of their partner and ensure descendants from the same ancestor. In patrilocal cultures, where women are forced to leave their maternal family to be fully integrated into the family of their husbands, this right of body ownership is even more evident and might be even proscribed by the law. Marriage is the only possible amatory game, induced by sexual love or desire, that structurally perpetuates social status. Its ritual, ethical, aesthetic and administrative glorification makes it difficult, if not impossible, to escape it. To get married in front of a governmental official, to grant changes in marital status, is a performative act that creates contractual realities.


People do not really know why they start thinking about getting married. Regulatory mechanisms of this anthropological desire are strictly cultural and respond to clearly defined strategies around a property transfer. Therefore it is not easy to hear in public critical voices on the subject of marriage and processes of accumulation of material based on a compensation system."


"…through a contractual relationship… acquire exclusive use of the sexual property of their partner… ensure descendants from the same ancestor… right of body ownership… amatory game… property transfer… compensation system"


If these are the reasons why we get married, then I might have misunderstood something. That would mean that marriage is nothing else than an institution. A contractual relationship that has a business case. That would make it explainable why many people consider it a successful "project" to get married to somebody who is wealthy, has a status in the society or at least has the potential to become someone like this. In return they become the "sexual property" of the other "contractual partner" and make sure that the line of descendants is secured? They don't even have to bother with parenting the children because they "subcontract" their "contractual obligations" to nannies, even if they have the time to take care of their children themselves. All they have to do is to present the happy family picture to the outside and follow the "project execution plan".


I'm resident in a country where many people are willing to sign up for such "contract terms" and I had my share on personal experience until I decided to cross the Rubicon. But past is past and I wonder what are the real foundations of marriage. It cannot be all that bad.


For me, LOVE and TRUST are the foundations of marriage. Being married doesn't mean that every moment is exciting and full of romance. But reaching out to each other as a friend and lover and being the companion the other one needs, is the true magic and beauty of two people living together. It is commitment, dedication and loyalty to one another without giving up your individual freedom. It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives. It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family, including the children. It is doing things for each other in the spirit of joy. It is cultivating respect, patience, understanding and a sense of humour and it is the common quest for the good and the beautiful. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal. It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.


For me marriage is not a contract. It is a promise of Love.