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How Relevant Is Marriage in Today's Society?

By dhnicks Mar 15, 2013 1510 Words
Try Googling “Marriage”. Instead of getting links to sites that promote this sacrosanct ceremony and share “I do” moments, you’d find hotlines to Divorce Lawyers and shout-outs done by cynic writers. All this just begs the question; What does a Marriage mean to us? The scope of marriage is in itself, a broad one. For simplicity’s sake, we’d focus on newly-weds and keep Religion and Politics out of the picture.

In our society, marriage is the structure people use to create a stable family unit. Marriage is about commitment. It is about staying in love and staying together for a lifetime despite the fact that both partners are individuals who change over time. Marriage itself is easy. Two people can get married any time they want. The challenge of marriage is making it work for a lifetime.

The Marriage Machine: The Current Attitude
According to Time, nearly 40 percent of us think marriage is archaic. "This doesn't mean, though, that we're pessimistic about the future of the family; we have more faith in the family than we do in the nation's education system or its economy. We're just more flexible about how family gets defined." In other words, we're more comfortable with the idea of single mothers and fathers, or unmarried people who equally share parenting duties, and all sorts of other alternative familial relationships. Having both parents that remain in the working world is a step-over issue, no longer are we fazed by leaving our child at home unattended by either, and leave the parenting task to our own parents or more commonly, a domestic helper. We no longer question our ideals. We’re so focused on personal wealth that we forsake food for the soul. Who needs love anyway? The closest act of commitment is shacking up with someone else, or in a more proper term; Co-habiting.

Co-habiting: “Maybe you’ll do” versus “We do”
Co-habitors often have different, unspoken — even unconscious — agendas. Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage. One thing men and women do agree on, however, is that their standards for a live-in partner are lower than they are for a spouse. This only serves to put the nail in the Commitment Coffin, where couples feel that they would be locked in with a single person and that they would have to give up a great deal of freedom. Why marry when you can co-habit? You’d still reap the same benefits of a married couple; your earning power is doubled, your bills are split and you share the expenses. And the best part is that you’re not tied down to anything or anyone. This however, is a philosophical double-edged sword. Not being committed to anyone lets you fulfil your creative desires. It’s in Man’s best interest that things keep changing. Times get boring and we get driven away the moment it does. That’s why most people fear marriage, because the moment things start getting dull, we have no choice but to bear with it. But what happens when we’ve come to the point where we’re over the hill? Or when you’re so sickly? Friends are great. But friends aren’t permanent. Not all friends would sit up all night and try and comfort you while you’re in discomfort. Marriage is a bedrock, an anchor for you when times are bad. It’s something permanent and it prevents you from losing yourself in this ever-changing landscape. It gives you comfort in the knowledge that someone will always be there for you. Someone that wants you. Someone that loves you. It’s this solidity of the relationship that people congratulate couples have or will have in the near future. It is very reassuring to know that there is a person who loves you and only you, no matter what and who lives to be with you. That sort of commitment can give you a tremendous comfort and confidence.

When “I do” becomes “I don’t”
The Romans had an interesting view towards marriage - 'matrimonia debent esse libera' or 'marriages ought to be free'. This meant that either spouse could opt out of the marriage if things weren't working out for them. Centuries later, Victorian England had a vastly different view. People got married and stayed together for better or for worse. Society frowned on divorce and divorced people were likely to find themselves social pariahs. 

In the present century, both these views prevail. It depends on which part of the planet you live in and in what kind of culture. Divorce rates are higher in American countries, where individual freedom is given higher stress, than in, say, Asian ones, where familial and social opinions cause higher stress. With globalization, of course, the 'backward' countries are catching up. Women, especially, with access to higher education and higher salaries, are less willing to put up with traditional roles and expectations. Social and cultural moralists are having a field day, predicting dire consequences in the 'social fabric'. It all really depends upon the kind of relationship you have. Some relationships are worth working on, some aren't.  There are many different and complex causes and reasons for divorce, each of them specific to that particular couple's marital relationship, their individual experiences and personal problems. None of them may seem 'common' to the people going through a divorce, of course, but many of the reasons recur enough to warrant the term.

Lack of communication: Lack of effective communication between couples can be a major reason for break up. A marriage is on the rocks when the lines of communication fail. Many expect their partners to guess what they want or what their problem is without communicating. Because of this sometimes even small misunderstandings end up in divorce. Communication isn’t just about talking to each other. Communication is about understanding each other clearly and learning more about each other. Most couples talk, but don’t communicate. Marriage requires complete and open communication, to survive all the rough rides. A relationship without good communication is a headed for the end of the line.

Unrealistic expectations of each other: For many, marriage is the next step in the great way of life. But that’s not the case for everyone. When two lovers get married, they have expectations from each other and the relationship, and most couples these days expect perfection. Every moment should be bliss. Divorces often happen because people rarely discuss their expectations in detail prior to marriage and are less willing to work on their marriages afterwards and would like quick solutions rather than having to resolve issues. The trick is when things aren’t so great, you don’t junk the whole thing. It’s okay to have a disagreement, to have an argument. It’s all part of being close to someone. Romanticising: Many people have the tendency to romanticize marriage. They have very high and mighty expectations from the institution. As such, when reality strikes, they cannot handle it. Such people live in a honeymoon bubble of marriage until they are actually faced with difficulties. They hurry into matrimony, as they are "so in love" with each other. One needs to figure out the "reasons why I love you" before agreeing to say "I do".  And within these reasons, one can’t be superficial. One has to base their love on values that are more inherent, something more permanent. Marriage is a commitment, not for society, but for oneself. When saying that you will take a person in holy matrimony till death parts you, work at it.

The fruits of thy labour: the things Marriage brings
Marriage motivates you. Just like becoming a parent makes you want to be better for the sake of your child, getting married makes you want to be a stronger more present person in your relationship. You share a life and beliefs with your spouse, the achievements and the consequences, and knowing that your failures are theirs as well makes you want to succeed for the both of you. It is a test that one would want to take. It tests your inner will and your devotion to yourself and another human being. It's also a test of your honour and commitment when life is most unkind. It keeps your life real.

When everything else in your world seems confusing and out of place, if you've chosen to spend the rest of your life with the right person, they will be there to help you put it all into perspective, even if you don't particularly like what they have to say. Like it or not, you're going to need that type of raw honesty at some point in your life. When they commit to you, they commit to a lifetime of openness and honesty with you. Marriage is a gift. Enjoy it.

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