I've often read such contemptuous opinions of the institution of marriage. In a lot of the books I have read, in many articles and often in movies (but not the rom-coms), it is assumed that believing in lifelong marriage is something only naive, clueless, very protected, or maybe brainwashed people believe. To be modern thinking, one must eschew this patriarchal, outdated institution.
"Why keep sex for marriage? If you love someone, go for it. After all, marriage is just a piece of paper."
"What changes before or after you sign a piece of paper? You are the same two people with the same relationship."
"We're getting married for the family."
But you know what? I know where they're coming from. They've probably seen terrible examples of marriage, and they KNOW this is not what it's about.
When girls are forced into marriage, just because they've crossed a certain age, when a wife and mother is seen as nothing but a household slave, when a marriage is about keeping up appearances, when emotional or physical abuse is seen as normal, when dowry or age dominate the conversation about marriage, when marriage is to prevent 'what people might say', when marriage is nothing but a legal agreement that can be ended... what's the point? Better keep yourself free, right? Makes sense.
But then why do I think marriage is such a big deal?
Because marriage is supposed to be primarily about love.
"Love?" you say. "Ah ha, this is about love marriages versus arranged marriages, right?"
Because "Love is not merely a feeling, it is an ACT OF WILL that consists in preferring in a constant manner the good of the other over the good of oneself." Said Pope Saint John Paul II. So love could exist in so called 'love marriages' or 'arranged marriages'. Or neither.
So why sex for marriage? Why marriage at all?
Because marriage in its truest form is COMMITMENT. It is a safe environment to give yourself away* (And the best place and way to raise children). You don't have to keep trying to protect yourself, because as you give yourself to someone, he gives himself to you- Totally. Freely. Faithfully. And fruitfully.
Marriage isn't a piece of paper. It's two people freely choosing to make a promise to be there no matter what. If either party enters the marriage without that understanding, or willingness for forever, then yeah, marriage is pretty pointless.
If you're too scared to tie yourself to one person forever, then maybe you're scared to love at all. You are never freer when you live out your calling to love. We Catholics believe in lifelong marriage, because we believe our vows count for something, that when you promise to love and honour each other all the days of your lives, you mean it, and God joins you together in an bond that no human can break. Even when one or both totally mess up.
And sex? Why do we archaic Christians keep telling kids to save sex for marriage? Because why would you give yourself so intimately to someone who is not sure whether he or she wants to stick around? Sex is SO awesome that you want to do it right. With the right person, in the right context, at the right time.
There is nothing more beautiful than the witness of an older married couple, even more beautiful than the glow and the promise of a young couple earnestly promising forever on their wedding day. Marriage is worth promoting, worth sacrificing for, worth believing in, because COMMITTED LOVE is worth promoting, worth sacrificing for and worth believing in.
'The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.' G.K. Chesterton
* Although there is always an element of vulnerability when you give yourself away- there are no guarantees that the other person will not change or stop believing what you both started off believing. And still it is worth it.