What has happened to marriage?
LONDON—They say it’s lovelier the second time around; I don’t think so. But, even at my age, I fancy letting a little romance into my life and feel as if I were meeting someone I loved, from whom I had been separated for a long time. I would ask him to marry me and say, with faith and conviction, I do.
In the these days, I will be one of only 21 women out of a thousand to get married. My intended will be one of only 23 men. Figures show that marriage rates have fallen to their lowest level since records began 150 years ago.
The institution of marriage is not only on life support, in some places it’s already in rigor mortis.
The is not unique in this, for in many developed countries, marriage has been in decline for years. The reasons for this are many and sundry. We have split the atom and fathomed the mysteries of DNA, but we’ve become colossal cynics, suffering from excessive expectations.
Because there are no longer rigid laws of conduct, we have become hugely selfish and self-absorbed. There are fiscal disincentives for marriage, and we’ve made it far too easy to jump into and out of relationships. We no longer stay the endurance course that successful marriages demand.
No sooner are we married than divorce rears its ugly head. The seven-year-itch, says Nobel laureate for economics Prof. , is now too long. Couples barely make it to five years before becoming dissatisfied with their partners and disillusioned with marriage.
Only married couples can quite so egregiously ignore each other. As said: “The surest way to be alone is to get married.”
Marriage gets such bad press but all the best jokes. Comedian John Dowie cracks: “I saw my future wife in a club. Our eyes met and I said to myself, this is the woman who’s going to divorce me in 5 years’ time.”
Time hurtles by, and once you have given each other the best years of your thighs and the fires of passion have been doused, married life can die so quickly from lack of consideration and humor, bad hygiene, snoring, poor table manners, dearth of ambition and lack of money.
No longer the norm
According to a recent survey here, married couples are no longer seen as the norm. A wedding is merely an excuse for a party rather than a declaration of commitment to each other.
While we still acknowledge that a happy marriage is better than the alternatives, the survey says that the vast majority believes there’s no longer any difference between being married and just cohabiting, and a stigma is no longer attached to serial relationships or divorce.
In some parts of the world, we extol the virtues of LAT, or living apart together—of married couples who live in separate homes or separate continents, meeting up once in a while and communicating by phone and e-mail.
Largely absent is what described as the “shared language of grunt and touch” between married couples who go to bed and wake up together, day in and day out. Perhaps it takes all kinds of covenants to make a marriage these days, especially as no one hands out gold medals for staying married!
“People who marry today may be the kind with the beliefs that would keep them in a marriage, or the skills to stay in a relationship,” said Penny Mansfield of 1+1. But, just to make sure we give couples the necessary armament for the long haul, to ensure they’re not just blinded by love and dispossessed of good judgment, the has now waded in, promoting marriage as a “process of discovery” and offering couples a marriage test to help them decide if they’re sexually, emotionally and financially compatible before tying the knot.
“Attitudes to money, sex and children can make or break a marriage. Relationships need check-ups. Couples should be honest about their finances, faith, intentions to have children and sexually transmitted diseases they might have from past lovers, if they want their marriage to have any hope of survival,” said Rev. Body, who wrote “Growing Together,” which he gives to couples planning to exchange vows.
Where is love in all this, the bric-a-brac of a loving relationship? I’ve been fed enough corn to stuff a swine and I know it’s not one big Hallmark card, but marriage needs sharp PR operators to quash the killer negatives and promote it.
In the eternal verities of life, it’s still the best institution for weathering life’s squalls together, for committing to the beloved and raising children who, within the loving confines of a stable family life, kids tend to be healthier and less likely to turn to drink, drugs or crime. Even scientists aver that a reasonably happy marriage is good for our cardiovascular functions, state of mind and longevity.
It’s not perfect and it would excite but small claim on our romantic imagination, but marriage is moral rearmament and the audacity of hope, the glue that binds society so that it can perpetuate itself, a public avowal of our commitment to the one we love, and to society.
In the middle of my life’s journey, the arbitrariness of life and death still shocks me. My husband has been dead 11 years. I no longer wag an angry fist at God and I still wear my wedding ring.
It takes but a smell, a glimpse of something remembered to bring him back. “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to come,” he said, hamming it up and quoting , when he proposed 26 years ago.
I have but few talents and marriage is one of them. I miss him—the well-danced choreography that is married life and the untroubled certainty of someone’s love, which gives us strength to carry on regardless of what life throws at us.
My heart is held down by rusting pinions, but I believe in love and marriage. You could say I’m longing for a past that’s still very much in the future. I do.