I’m getting married today. In my remaining few hours as an engaged person, I’m engaging in my favorite way to reflect on a complex, complicated concept – a metaphor dissection.
What are the metaphors we use for marriage?
Our talk of love is full of metaphors. One of the most well-known in cognitive linguistics is that love is a journey: relationships can be on the rocks, take a turn for the worst, or cruising along. We also like to talk about love as a rock: a stabilizing, timeless force in our lives. Last night while watching a 30 Rock rerun, I learned that love can also be like an onion: “you peel away layer after stinky layer until you’re just. . . weeping over the sink.”
Maybe we can use a lot of the same metaphors we use for love to talk about marriage as well. But while marriages might involve figurative journeys, rocks, and onions, marriage is also something distinct from love. Since it’s a complex and abstract topic, it seems natural that we’d invoke metaphors to talk about it, but as I started trying to come up with them, I had some trouble. Thus, I called on Google.
These Google results are a nice mix of clever (marriage is like a garden because you reap what you sow) and discouraging (like a deck of cards?!). But metaphors are often more hidden than this search would allow me to uncover – we don’t often say that “love is like a journey,” but instead just whip out journey-related phrases when talking about love. Here’s my second attempt at uncovering marriage metaphors through Google:
After this search, I decided Google wasn’t the way to go. I thought about phrases I’ve heard about marriage. We’re tying the knot. What knot is this? Do I really want to be tied to another person? Similarly, we’re getting hitched. Hitched to what? Last I checked the only things we really hitch are trailers to trucks. These metaphors are pretty uninformative and don’t paint the greatest picture of marriage.
Then what are the metaphors we should use to talk about marriage?
I don’t know first-hand what marriage is like yet, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about my expectations of it. I expect that it’ll require effort. The effort might be planning long-distance Skype dates, remembering birthdays, and biting my tongue when the toothpaste isn’t squeezed the way I like it to be. It’ll require compromises, sacrifices, and honesty. But when we both put in that effort and maybe some warmth, what we’ll get out of it will be much greater than what we could have otherwise. It should be pleasant, satisfying, and fulfilling. It should make us smile, and when we share it with others, it should make them smile too.
By this definition, marriage is not much different from an oven. You have some raw ingredients, you mix a little of some with a lot of some others, and then you immerse them in warmth to bake. You have to be patient for a while, but then you end up with a batch of fresh-baked cookies. They’re warm, sweet, and satisfying, especially if you take a moment to savor them. And you can share them with other people, give them a taste of one of life’s simplest pleasures. All thanks to the oven. I hope we can have an oven-like marriage. We’ll have to invest in quality ingredients and put in effort to them together in the right proportions. We’ll have to be patient. We’ll savor what we get out, and we’ll share what we can with others in our life.
Since an oven is not a very sexy metaphor for marriage, I look forward to coming up with new and better ones as we learn more about what marriage is like for us. In the meantime, we’re going to tie the knot, get hitched (to what? I’m still not sure) and get working on the first of many batches of cookies.