Marriage and Schmarriage

Marriage and Schmarriage


I’m inventing a new word: schmarriage.

Every day I am reading about newfangled ideas around this word that used to be clear and obvious to everyone: marriage.

The word delineated a publicly declared monogamous bond of a man and a woman for life. This institution was recognized as integral to a society, the norm and ideal context for bringing forth and rearing new members of the human race. (Studies continue to bear out that this is still the optimal situation for a child’s well-being; he or she has a natural right to the loving care of her mother and father.)

In a Christian understanding marriage is a covenant made before and with God. As a covenant it is an exchange of persons; it is an oath, a bond for life.

“Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen 2:24)

It is part of his plan for humanity (cf. Gen 2:18-25) and in the celebration of matrimony we recognize this with deep reverence, asking him to bless our union.

What a profound change in our culture’s “understanding" of marriage! 

I read an article today about a couple in Quebec who have decided to make their “marriage” a series of terminating contracts. They agreed to cohabitate and share goods for 3 months, then 6, then committed to a contract for a year.

Says the woman in the equation, “It’s working out pretty well — so far so good. We’re still together, we’re still in love and everything is fine.”

But she proposes that marriages should have a natural dissolution after 4 years, unless the couple decided to renew it.

It’s kind of like a mortgage, but with less commitment.

Do you see why I think we need a new word? This situation is really antithetical to what marriage is. Marriage as a covenant is an exchange of persons. It is not a cheap, renewable (or discardable) contract. 

Yet there seems to be such a desire to win over and redefine the word. Why is that? For those who are proponents of other types of relationships, why do you insist on seizing this word? What value does it have to you if it’s entire meaning has been robbed?

We have dictionaries because the meaning of words is very important. Without a definition a word is just sounds; it means nothing and is of no use to us. I worry that if we lose an understanding of the meaning of this word we will lose our understanding of its importance in society.

So I am creating two mental categories. One is for what marriage  has always meant, and the other is for all of those things vying for the title "marriage". So we now have marriage, and schmarriage.  

Marriage is a series of terminating contracts? Marriage is a committed same-sex couple? Marriage is a person choosing to love herself to the exclusion of all others?  In an Orwellian sense, maybe, but in reality we’re not talking about the same thing.

Marriage is marriage. This is schmarriage.


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