By training and habit, we moderns think of marriage as a mere and adventitious arrangement of pre-existent and utterly independent entities. We think of it therefore as merely conventional, and so as subsistent completely in the continued agreement of its constituent members, the husband and wife, and so by either of them ever and completely severable, this eliminable, without appreciable rupture or wound to the goodness inherent in the causal order. We think of it as a deal, and nothing more – as if deals were nothing. We think of marriage, that is to say, as not truly real. We think of it as a social and legal fiction.
In this, we err. It is not so. For, deals are real. And they really impose themselves upon us, so shaping our acts. They *oblige* us. Who has not felt this?
As wholes are ontologically prior to their parts, so is a marriage ontologically prior to the husband and wife who together constitute it. It is a thing, as concrete as any stone, aye moreso; for unlike a stone, it acts in ways that superordain, and so constrain, its members, whom those acts effect as such – for, the marriage makes a man a husband, a woman a wife, and not vice versa. A stone does nothing apart from the acts of its members. But marriages do. Viz., they can effect households, and children, and families, which their members taken as individuals cannot do. Insofar as they are solemnized – publicly pronounced and admitted, and by the circumambient community recognized and agreed – they are new beings, nowise beforehand present in their spousal members.
The spouses do not make the marriage then, but vice versa. The espousal is not a creation of a new thing ex nihilo, but a recognition of a reality, to which the spouses find themselves compelled to recognize and agree.
The spouses are minsters of the marriage, but not its creators. They are, rather, its servants, its heirs and vassals. Their loyalty then, their fealty, is not so much to each other (although it is at least that) as to a new being, greater than either of them, and so ennobling them both in some larger purpose to which neither of them alone could be adequate, or adequately undertake; to which either of them alone would in the end be alien, and strange.
So: never kill a marriage. It is to kill a being, with a mind, a heart, a spirit and a life. It is to murder.