Failed Institutions of 21st Century: Marriage


Comedian Chris Rock famously said in his 2005 comedy album Never Scared,

“Marriage is so tough, Nelson Mandela got a divorce. Nelson Mandela got a fucking divorce! Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in a South African prison—got beaten and tortured every day for 27 years and did it with no fucking problem. Made to do hard labor in hundred degree South African heat for 27 years and did it with no problem. He got out of jail after 27 years of torture, spent six months with his wife and said, ‘I can’t take this shit no more!’”

The Telegraph reported, in 2010, there were 119,589 divorces in England and Wales, an increase of 5 percent from the previous year. Between 1985 and 2000, the divorce rate among Japanese couples married for 20 years doubled, some ABC News reported in 2006.  In 2011, the BBC reported that China’s state-run post-office had begun offering couples a service where love letters they wrote to each other at the time would be sent seven years into their marriages. With the country’s divorce rate on the rise, the thought was that the love notes would stave off splits, reminding potentially divorcing couples why they got together in the first place.

Infidelity, lost love and fading romance is seen reported by every other married couple worldwide.

The basic reason for this sad state of affairs is that marriage was not designed to bear the burdens now being asked of it.  It is an institution that evolved over centuries to meet some very specific functional needs of a nonindustrial society. Marriage was not designed as a mechanism for providing friendship, erotic experience, romantic love, personal fulfillment, continuous lay psychotherapy, or recreation. It was rather something designed to propel our civilization and hold the society together.
Since the purpose of marriage and characteristics of a modern family have changed, it is futile to cling on to the moribund structure of marriage.

Consider the case of a modern day couple, let me give some random names to the characters, Bill and Hilary (Totally random, I swear!). They study let’s say law, in the same university and are intellectual, smart and ambitious. They become fond of each other and fall in love. At the end of their graduation, they both land big offers in different firms but manage to get them in same city. With their future stable and secure, they decide to get married. Things are pretty good until both of them receive promotions and have to relocate to different places.It’s a very uncomfortable situation as both of them are career driven and progressive and no one is ready to pass this opportunity. The relationship is bound to become tense and unstable.

Such a thing would have worked fine in earlier times when men were considered the head of family and the sole bread earner and women  were supposed to sit in house and take care of the family. But things don’t work like that nowadays, do they?

Some would argue saying long distance relationships work fine if you still love your better half and trust each other. I would rather allow Dr. Sheldon Cooper to answer them on my behalf.

The failure of long distance relationships is not because of lack of trust or love. It is just human nature, that you feel attracted and drawn towards people whom you see and interact with on a day to day basis.
Lets say Bill and Hilary decide to give long distance relationship a shot. Bill’s in a new town with new people. He feels alone and develops a good rapport with one of his female colleague, lets say Monica (Again, totally random. Aai shappath!). They begin to spend a lot of time with each other. One night over drinks, emotions, alcohol and hormones get better of Bill’s senses and things just happen. You cannot blame trust or love then, you can just blame the situation. Thing like that can happen with Hilary too.

Another low point is that when children and family come into the scene you’ll be afraid to take risks. Giving away a stable job for a new one or starting an enterprise of your own won’t be easy even though you know the potential for growth they have.

So what’s the solution to this? The only solutions is that the paradigms of marriage have to change in one or the other way. You should  “‘settle down” when you are actually ready to settle down, that is, you are at an age and place where you are comfortable with what you have and what you are and you are happy to stay that way. 26, is no longer the age to settle down, because that is the age when you have just started blooming.

An alternate viewpoint comes from Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan who, when asked what is the key to a successful marriage says that ”  For two people to share a great bond after marriage, it is very essential to give space to one another. In the beginning, the issue of space won’t seem that important because you haven’t had enough of one another. But after a point, you will understand that human beings aren’t wired to spend their entire life with one person. But the kind of society we live in opposes this thought. If you ask me, I would respect a marriage where the man and woman have the freedom to sleep with anyone. There is no bondage.”

You might find his viewpoint pretty bold, but he goes on further to justify ” Why do you get married? Because society says the only way you can be physically close to someone is through marriage. You can’t call that love. It’s society’s need that is fulfilled here, not the soul’s calling. I think a sanctified marriage is when you have an option to sleep with 10 people, but you are still choosing that one person to live with.”

The criticism of marriage isn’t something new. In 380 BC, Plato criticized marriage in the Republic. He stated that the idea of marriage was a “natural enemy” of the “commonwealth,” aiming for its own higher unity.

Notable German writer Franz Kafka wrote a journal entry titled Summary of all the arguments for and against my marriage and argued that “I must be alone a great deal. What I accomplished was only the result of being alone.” According to him, the man we talk about who is successful because there is a woman behind him could have been much more enterprising being alone.

I would sum it up with the witty take Robert Frost had on marriage.