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On the way to the altar?

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My perception of marriage as being a sacred and God ordained institution has been subjected to an increasingly cynical scrutiny due to my sudden comprehension as to its trivialization in the jet age.  The latest trends in the world of celebrity marriages and break-ups, two minute Las Vegas ceremonies decided under the influence of alcohol, and the spiralling rate of divorce has created a world where marriage vows spoken in the presence of a religious minister or the law courts now carry very little or no weight.

Historically, divorce was viewed with disdain and stigmatized the family that dared to venture into it.  However, the last three decades have seen the rate of divorce rise steadily, whilst the past decade has seen it escalate alarmingly.

Whilst the subject of the reasons for the breakdown of relationships is relevant, the crux of the matter remains that people are no longer held bound by their vows and do not hesitate to completely sever the union when faced with challenges.  More exasperating is the life span of marriages as some do not exceed the first two years before making it to the divorce courts.  The fact that they are so short lived has culminated in the contention by majority of mediators that individuals are no longer willing or able to endure minor challenges, or to work hard at their marriages to make them work.

We live in a world where celebrities are idolized so it is trite to say that they are the role models in terms of lifestyle, and trends.  The rate of divorce amongst celebrities is even more alarming, although it has become commonplace to read about even the most glamorous and loved up couple divorcing at the drop of a hat.  The Royal family has also had its fair share of scandalous divorces from Prince Charles and late Princess Diana to Prince Andrew and the Duchess Fergie.  With the royal family setting such an example coupled with the somewhat glamorous divorce of celebrities, it is not surprising that divorce rates are spiralling at an alarming rate.

No doubt, it is ignorance to assert that marriages were devoid of challenges in the 20th century, it is however the case that the challenges posed by the trends of modern living surpasses those in existence four decades ago.

Looking at the fusion of roles between men and women which has been birthed by the propagation of the dogma of the emancipation of women and the continuing growth of the “independent woman”, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assign roles in the relationship.  The confusion arises from somewhat trivial matters as allocation of income and spending, where the woman works as hard, and brings home as much income as the man and is expected to take the back seat when it comes to decision making as to how the money is spent.

In addition to working in full time employment, she is also expected to discharge her “Susie home maker” obligations as the wife and mother.  The New Age Man, rather than relish the assistance, accepts it as the norm and eventually relinquishes more of his obligations in the home, with the woman taking on more each day until she wakes up to the realisation that she is not being cared for as much as she would like to be.  She then starts to feel that she is being taken for granted.

A vast number of men attribute the failure of their marriages to the inability of their wives to respect them, and argue that the struggle for emancipation of the modern woman interferes with her biblical obligation to submit to her husband.  On the other hand, the woman asserts that the relationship is a partnership, and nonetheless, her efforts to submit to her husband are usually thwarted by the fact that he feels intimidated by her which causes him to act up.

The projection of sex by the media as a glamorous and uninhibited activity has made its mark on the marriage institution as the effect of this is that individuals find it increasingly difficult to remain in monogamous relationships.  The influence exerted by the media is so severe that women are no longer accorded respect for their chastity, but for their physical beauty and sexuality.  Where previously the product of an extra marital relationship was tagged “illegitimate child”, this term has now completely fizzled out of use.

Ironically, divorce rates are higher in Christianity inclined western countries than in third world and Islamic communities in spite of the biblical sacrilege attached to it.  Most Muslim communities are governed by Sharia law which prohibits women from initiating divorce, whilst also permitting polygamous marriages.  This trend buttresses the aforementioned argument that the increasing divorce rate may be an effect of liberalization of women.  As women in Muslim and third world communities are oftentimes unable to assert their independence, they remain married albeit unhappily.

No doubt the bitter ending of a marriage is sad and traumatic, however one cannot out rule the thought that given the opportunity, a lot of women in third world and Muslim communities would gladly trade their marriages for an opportunity to exert some control over their lives.  The enactment of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which came into force on 5 December 2005 shows evidence that Parliament and the Judiciary now recognise same sex couples as being on a par with married couples on a wide range of legal issues.

I am constrained to ponder at the potential effects on the marriage institution.  The question arises as to whether the future of the institution will be strengthened or weakened by the new law.  The veil will no doubt be uplifted with the passage of time.

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