Polish vs. American Marriage
Some people may wonder if there is a difference between marriage in Poland and marriage in the United States. The answer is complex although one might think it ought to be simple since marriage should, by definition, be the same regardless of the geographic location. Still, social life and cultural expectations play a considerable role in everything, even the seemingly obvious things.
Marriage institution in Poland differs from the same institution in the U.S in a few basic concepts. First, marriage in Poland is rooted in the country's religious notion of Catholicism. People get married with the assumption that their union is to last until death. While this is a presumption of marriage and a praiseworthy aim for everyone married to strive for, some marriages live through a lot of disgrace and suffering inflicted on each other by one or both spouses. This may be a result of the wrong reasons to get married in the first place. Somehow, the three main goals of marriage: love and companionship, mutual help, and procreation, are present only in theory. In practice, financial, career, or social factors seem to be more important. In the United States, the religious meaning of marriage is not that obvious. Due to the multitude of different religions and ideologies, marriage is considered more of a constitutional right than anything else. From the recent discussions about same-sex marriage, it seems that marriage in the U.S. is not even a union between a man and a woman, instead it simply is a union of two people willing to live under the same roof; and the union lasts as long as those people are comfortable with it.
Next, in Poland, people get married based largely on traditional values and social expectations. Reaching a certain age, one is expected to get married and start his/her own family. When being over, say, 25 and still unmarried, Polish women are labeled "old maids" and Polish men - "confirmed bachelors" and considered weirdoes or losers. In the U.S., one the other hand, there are some cultural pressures within minority communities, like Latinos, African Americans, and others; still, the perception on marriage of white American majority is more in terms that the institution has been designed for economic benefits and as an expression of personal freedom than anything else. Thus, if one wants to get married, he/she can do so as soon as one reaches legal age of typically 18 in most states, but there is not upper social boundary of the right age to get married. In fact, in the recent years, it is common for people to start the family life when they are close to 30. This way, they have enough time to "have fun" and get education before their real home obligations start.
Moreover, Polish men and women are often taught that marriage is largely based on duties and obligations to the spouse, to their parents, children, community, Church, country, etc. It carries a lot of pressure and heavy balance to perceive marriage as huge package of responsibilities. Therefore, the natural impression is that after getting married Polish girls and boys have to give up their youth for good and start their hard adulthood. There is no such assumption accompanying American marriages. There, people marry to enjoy life together and share whatever life brings upon them. It certainly does not guarantee long-lasting marriages, but it doesn't prove that marriages based on that principle couldn't be lifelong either.
If anyone still wonders if Polish marriage is different from American marriage, the response obviously is yes. There are certain implications of the discussed characteristics of Polish versus American marriage, which have not been discussed. Also, the above discussion is not meant to speculate whether marriage in Poland produces happiness or marriage in the U.S. does so. People who get married for the right reasons and have moderate expectations from the union can build happy and lasing marriages regardless of the social pressures, cultural assumptions, or geographic location.