Saturday, 10 November 2012

What Does Marriage Actually Mean in Today’s Society?


‘Getting married is like permanently grafting your hand to the cookie jar. No matter how sweet those cookies may taste, you can't help but wonder what would have happened if you'd chosen some other dessert--brownies, for instance ... or frozen yogurt ... or maybe chocolate strudel.’

-         JEROME P. CRABB

‘I always compare marriage to communism. They're both institutions that don't conform to human nature, so you're going to end up with lying and hypocrisy.’

                                        -         BILL MAHER, Rolling Stone, Aug. 24, 2006

by Lucy Cole

I, like the vast majority of people all over the world, have known from a young age the direction in which my life would lead me. I have known subconsciously for as long as I can remember that I would go to school, get a job, get married and have children who would then give me grandchildren etcetera etcetera. This is the way it is. If a man or woman decides to be a single parent, society frowns upon them. If they choose to skip the expected step of having children, society frowns upon them. If a couple choose to have children before getting married or even not to get married at all, society frowns upon them. This is the way it goes. Period.

So this leads me to a question: do we get married because we have found the person with whom we wish to spend the rest of our lives or because society deems it unacceptable to be thirty-five and single? In a time when, for the majority, going to church every Sunday is a thing of the past, why is it that, when we get married, we still feel the need to have the ceremony conducted in a church? The answer is: tradition. Marriage has been an expectation of society for as long as we can remember and thus we can’t imagine anything different. 

But has the meaning of marriage changed? Undeniably, in the past, the idea of marriage was to unite two people in order to create a family. Love was not always involved and it was often conducted for one side to gain an advantage, whether monetary or social; for example, Juliet and Paris in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In many cultures, marriage is still dominated by religious tradition and the couple entering into matrimony have often been paired since birth. However, this is not the case for the majority of people in Britain, who have moved away from the monetary or religious values of marriage, and rather regard it as a promise of fidelity and a demonstration of our love. How romantic.

But is it?
Divorce rates are higher than ever, with one in three couples splitting after having vowed to love one another forever. We are constantly bombarded with news of celebrity couples desperately in love and getting married one second, and the next fighting over their divorce settlement. Perhaps this is the problem; in placing the basis of marriage on love we are setting up to fail, because, ultimately, very rarely does love last forever. For the most part it comes and goes, lasting a few months or years, but inevitably as we grow and develop, it fades.

Despite how it might now appear, I’m not a cynic, I do believe in true love. However, I don’t understand the general expectation that we will find ‘the one’ within the 10 mile radius within which we exist. This is highly unlikely, if not impossible.

So, if it is a life-long commitment we are looking for, without the need for love and passion, then perhaps marriage would be the best option. It is clear to see from past examples (such as the marriages of many  kings and queens) that two people can happily co-exist, with the development of the affection that time brings, and last much longer than those who have formed their union on the intense yet passing passions of love. But if it is passion and love that you are searching for, then maybe marriage is not such a brilliant idea after all. Maybe it would be better to accept the likelihood of its decline and just enjoy it while it lasts and, when it is gone, you can part as friends, without the messy divorce. Unless, of course, you are prepared to accept that it will not last forever and, inevitably your relationship will come to be formed on foundations of mutual affection, monetary stability and, of course, children.

But what do I know. I’m only 17.

Read also:
Charlie Albuery calculates the probability of finding a girlfriend.

George Hope and Daniel Rollins argue for and against gay marriage.

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