As a nineties child I was brought up on a healthy diet of multi coloured leggings, trips to the local park (swimming on Sundays) and Disney (the VHS collection of course). I didn’t really like Disney that much, even at the tender age of 7 I found the happy singing nature of it all irritatingly optimistic, the overly humanistic appearances and personas of the flora and fauna uncomfortably unnatural. One thing that I did like though was the ‘happily ever after’ ending, where the hero and the heroine, after sharing an innocent kiss and overcoming whatever obstacles came their way, finally wedded and lived happily ever after. No pre-marital relations, no teenage single mums, no STDs, no pre-nups being signed or elements of reality that exist today.
Should we be teaching children this message? Would it be better to perhaps show them what’s really out there; show Snow White having a DNA test on the Jeremy Kyle Show with the seven dwarves instead of being kissed by the prince? An extreme example perhaps but the underlying point is still there: are we growing up expecting relationships to be effortlessly perfect?
The old customs of courtship and approval have been replaced with a newer more mechanical process: screw around for as long as you can and avoid producing semi-parented children along the way. Or if you are more respectable you might have a series of longer relationships ranging from 3 – 10 years until you finally settle, sometimes creating a disjointed family of ‘half’ siblings in the process. Even those in very long-term cohabiting relationships are sidestepping marriage and going straight to having children, the concept of ‘bastard’ no longer being a taboo or even recognised being in modern society.
I find it strange that people are prepared to create a permanent reminder(s) of their relationship with their current partner but when it comes to the official seal of commitment, one which can be broken if required, they avoid it at all costs. This reluctance on the surface appears to counteract the other steps they have taken to become closer such as living together for 10 years, buying a house having children etc. On closer inspection however you realise that the physical act of creating a child requires a lot less dedication and effort then holding a marriage, the cynic in me feels that often the child is not intentional and merely a byproduct, or is there to satiate a need to be a parent before it gets too late.
As somebody who is soon to be wedded I am tired of the another-one-bites-the-dust attitude and bullshit reasons people greet me with instead of the expected congratulative comments, reasons that include having to change your surname and weight gain.
Is selfishness really the root of people’s negative attitude to marriage? Whilst singletons are more self-centered I for one do not buy vanity as being the true underlying reason for not settling down, particularly when work pressures, education, aging and other unavoidable forces cause people to sacrifice the less important elements of their life. Nor do I think the average person is so miserly they wouldn’t fork out £100 to get married, which is the baseline cost without the unnecessary trimmings of a honeymoon in the Maldives etc. Furthermore it doesn’t hold true for couples who have stayed committed to each other for a long period of time, who have seemingly learned the art of compromise.
Maybe it’s the religious factor that puts people off. An atheistic line of argument that I’ve come across is that marriage is defunct in today’s society, a tool used by the Church in the dark ages to control the masses which just seems overly conspiracy theoryish to me as well as uninformed. Marriage is not a christian construct; forms of marriage have existed for thousands of years in many ancient tribes and civilisations. It is true that society as a whole is developing and moving away from religion, but that does not mean religious teachings no longer have their merits. What’s more there are many non religious couples tying the knot and a significant number of studies showing the benefits of marriage, in particular the rippling cohesive effects it has on families and society as a whole.
Admittedly the exclusivity religion has placed on marriage hasn’t helped. The general prohibition of homosexuality in the monotheistic faiths is problematic to same sex couples who are equally devoted to their partner and their religion, and off-putting to some who are heterosexual, but given recent changes in the law and the increasingly liberalised view of same-sex marriage within religion this no longer counts as a valid reason. Feminists have discredited religious marriage for a multitude of reasons rom the duties wives are expected to carry out to the traditional colour of the wedding dress (which was set by Queen Victoria) but this is a mute point as marriage does not have to be religious.
I believe the reason why people do not like marriage is economical in the sense that it is seen as an official contract where the final goods are not guaranteed. In the face of uncertainty people always prefer to be safe than to be sorry and therefore abstain from carrying out an action. For example you can buy a radio alarm clock from Argos and return it if it is faulty, with marriage there is no returns policy. Yes one can annul the marriage or get divorced but it doesn’t recover the time, effort, other resources that went into building it with or without the pre-nuptial agreements. On top of this there are further added costs to endure such as the stigma of being labelled ‘divorcee’, which is not only hard to bear given the association of failure but makes it harder to forget the past.
So to put it simply people view see the possible costs of marriage as being far larger than the benefits gained so they choose not to do it, which is just being overly pessimistic (even for by my standards), as well as being illogical:commitment issues occur regardless of marital status the only difference between ‘breaking up’ and ‘divorce’ is the terminology used as both can be financially messy.
That’s not to say marriage is for everyone. If you are the type who thinks stag and hen doos with strippers and sleazy one-off nightclub indiscretions are justifiable because ‘it’s your last night as a single man/woman’ then you are obviously not ready for it. The fact that you are still considering yourself to be single even though you are in a committed relationship that is set to become more committed shows the level of maturity you have reached in your relationship. If you are marrying somebody due to an unplanned pregnancy to ‘do the right thing’ or eliminate any social shame associated with having a child out of wedlock then it is not for you. If you are the type who ‘falls’ for people quickly and mistakes infatuation and whirlwind romance for ‘love’ then it is not for you. Unfortunately lots of the people currently getting married fall into the types outlined above which has led to people becoming afraid of marriage because of the possibility of divorce. If this only thing stopping you is a fear of divorce that has bthen marriage is probably for you as there is no gamble involved.