Marriage – An Outdated Institution? – Part 1

I do not recall a time when the institution of marriage faced such danger, or when the forces arrayed against it were more formidable or determined.

Let’s agree for a minute with some who say that the institution of marriage is an outdated concept, however I am yet to see another institution which can replace it or when it functions as intended promises the same win-win situation for everyone; men, women, children, the community, the nation and for the world. A comedian named Groucho Marx once said: ‘Marriage is a great institution. But who wants to live in an institution?’ Here are some of the comments made by a few people in a survey conducted by the BBC recently.

  • Marriage is not an outdated institution. There is nothing wrong with the institution itself, just the people in it.
  • Marriage is an arcane repressive social institution designed to curb individual freedom
  • Marriage was only created in the last couple of hundred years, a product of our Victorian past. It is outmoded and has no value and was created mainly for the Christian church and adopted by the state as a legal binding contract of possession.
  • Marriage is just one option amongst many. It should not be confined to two people, but any group of committed adults, not exclusively heterosexual.
  • Not sure if marriage is outdated but it is certainly not necessary. If one is committed to another, that is all you need.
  • Until divorce is made harder, marriage will remain a devalued institution.
  • Marriage will become ‘outdated’ when civilisation itself becomes outdated and man ceases to be a social and communal being.
  • There’s a whole industry kept in business by this concept and a flourishing one by its downfall, lawyer fees etc.

I must admit that I am very sad to read so many anti-marriage comments and observe so many anti-marriage behaviour in our generation. There is so much negativity regarding the whole subject in our day. I guess it is time for us to dig deeper in order to be able to evaluate whether all of these people are right or whether or not only a few of them are.

The legal dictionary defines marriage as the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a legal, consensual, and contractual relationship recognized and sanctioned by and dissolvable only by law. The World English Dictionary defines it as the state or relationship of being husband and wife or the legal union or contract made by a man and woman to live as husband and wife. Without referring to the bible, could we as humans be satisfied with the above definitions or our freedom to choose how we live has rendered their meanings null? However permit me to state that marriage as an institution was established by God for the health, happiness and welfare of humanity and to depart from this means a departure from a healthy, happy and wholesome society. I am sure most readers of this journal would agree but I bet that there are some who may disagree and for their benefit therefore, we have to delve into this further.

So why is the concept of marriage not outdated and why do some think that it is? Dr. Gary Chapman, a leading relationship expert concludes that marriage is not a contract but a covenant. Perhaps this may be God’s original intention for marriage until the invention of our legal system. Marriage may be “for better or worse, till death do us part” in the words of the Book of Common Prayer but it seems that fewer and fewer of us believe those traditional words to hold true. According to a survey, marriage rates in the UK are at an all time low, with 4 out of 10 of those marriages expected to end in divorce. And getting a divorce is becoming easier as a marriage can become history with the click of a mouse. It seems the institution of marriage is in crisis and if so what do we do? Is the Archbishop of Canterbury right in saying that the consumer culture of our day has contributed to the breakdown of marriage, that people are encouraged to believe there will always be something better, faster, shinier just around the corner?

I am sure you are wondering why I am asking you all these rhetoric questions when I am supposed to be telling you what I think. The issue is that this topic is something that hounds me also and I am determined to find answers that will expose the strengths of this institution as well as opportunities that they present. Would you be kind enough to come on this journey with me and I promise you won’t regret it especially if you are married or hope to be sometime in the future. After all, how many of us would go into a school being another institution without knowing why you are there or whether it will get you to where you ought to get to in your future.

“Marriage is the means by which the human race is propagated, and the means by which spiritual teaching is passed down through the generations. Research consistently shows that heterosexual married adults do better in virtually every measure of emotional and physical health than people who are divorced or never married. They live longer and have happier lives” (Dr. James Dobson). I don’t think it is a case of forcing people to marry outside of their wish or forcing them to stay together against their wish or when there is abuse involved. However research has discovered it to be true that when marriage functions as it should do, everyone gains. It is an institution that forms the base for all social institutions. Someone puts it this way that; “ it is largely due to the breakdown and criticism of marriage that society is experiencing such upheaval. Marriage has not become less relevant, people have become lazier, and the taboos surrounding breakdowns have all but disappeared. This means that people feel that they can just bail out of marriage when they have lost the in-love feeling or when things become even slightly difficult.

Another person says that marriage has got a bad reputation through the high divorce rate and some high profile celebrity break ups. Happy marriages don’t make the news in the same way. Yet for every couple that divorces, there are two couples that remain happily married. I know from experience that people have different motives for entering into marriage. Some legitimate and some illegitimate. However, along with this idea of marriage being romanticized is the desire to simply have a wedding. First a wedding is a beautiful thing. The pageantry, the pomp, and the beauty of it all results in it being majestic. To support this notion, more than 24m viewers in the UK watched the royal wedding on the BBC and ITV, industry body Barb estimates. Another 23m viewers were estimated to have watched it in the USA. Everyone wants to be a Cinderella or Prince Charming for a night. This is not uncommon thinking. Nevertheless, if marriage is so outdated, how come a lot of people are still praying and hoping that one day they would find their soul mate. What makes the likes of Prince William consign themselves to an institution believed to be outdated by some? To be continued…

References:        Marriage under fire by Dr. James Dobson.

                              The BBC

                             The New King James Bible.