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Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship.

It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found. Such a union, often formalized via a wedding ceremony, may also be called matrimony. People marry for many reasons, including one or more of the following: legal, social, emotional, economical, spiritual, and religious. These might include arranged marriages, family obligations, the legal establishment of a nuclear family unit, the legal protection of children and public declaration of commitment.[1][2] The act of marriage usually creates normative or legal obligations between the individuals involved. In some societies these obligations also extend to certain family members of the married persons. In cultures that allow the dissolution of a marriage this is known as divorce. Marriage is usually recognized by the state, a religious authority, or both. It is often viewed as a contract. Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage as a governmental institution irrespective of religious affiliation, in accordance with marriage laws of the jurisdiction.

31/07/2010 00:00:00

by Mtshumayeli Ndebele

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THE circumstances of the world and our society are continuously changing, and so do the opinions of people. That which may be thought right and found convenient in one age, may be thought wrong and found inconvenient in another. The institution of marriage has been evolving over the years as a result of the changes of circumstances in our society. In the past, marriage was something people thought one was supposed to do, a part of the natural cycle of life, but one wonders whether it is still relevant in our society or it is just a sinking Titanic.

Groom missing, but wedding goes ahead

Everyone wants to meet the one, get married and live "happily ever after", but is it really attainable in this day and age? In reality, how often are you able to accurately predict who your one is? Perhaps this concept of finding the one has become mere wishful thinking. There are several reasons why marriage as an institution has been weakened and is in crisis. Just look at the divorce rate and failed relationships in todays society. Decades ago, marriage was a necessity. It was about stability, upward mobility, and continuing the family name. It was a way of controlling procreation and ensuring, as much as possible, that the children would be raised in a stable, two-parent family that would pass along the knowledge and social principles of the society. Women were not as independent as they are today, they needed to be provided for and marriage presented them with a bread winner. In societies of past generations (African or Western), marriage was very much a vessel for stability as depicted in several literary works, think Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights. But Western civilisation has continued to move toward a more individualistic culture and marriage is seen as too restrictive and oppressive and limiting the freedom of individuals to express themselves. For starters, our lives have become so complex and dynamic that it is increasingly becoming difficult for two peoples lives to be compatible and for them to commit to living together for the rest of their lives. The family structure as our fore-fathers knew it also changed dramatically in the last half of the 20th century. The traditional nuclear family with Dad, Mom and Kids has been largely replaced by new configurations, including blended families, single parents and unmarried couples with children. The connection between marriage and children has long since been broken. People routinely marry with no intention of having children, and have children with no intention of marrying. People are not judged for raising a child on their own and there are many single parents who are making it on their own.

Of course, it is healthier and ideal for children to be raised in a stable two-parent home, but it is a fact that todays social circumstances are making this more difficult. Almost all of us know at list half a dozen (relatives or friends) people whose relationships did not work and are raising their kids as single parents. The status of women in society has changed dramatically as they have been emancipated; they are independent and capable of surviving without any male figure in their lives and in some cases they do better than their male counterparts. They dont ne ed a man as a provider like in the past, they need to be themselves and dont have to behave in a certain way just because they ar e married.

We are living in a time of societal freedom where womens careers are not frowned upon. While it was regarded as a curse for a woman not to find a man to marry in the past, today quite a significant percentage of highly successful women are not married. This is most likely because their careers are making it difficult for them to fulfill the traditional role expected of every wife. In the past, sex was a prerogative of married couples only and heavily attached to procreation but in todays world it is no longer viewed in that way. Sex has become to be acceptable outside marriage and a source of entertainment. Two adults can easily have an arrangement to occasionally engage in sexual activities without any emotional connection. These arrangements are not only limited to sex workers. Many professionals (both women and men) who are busy with their careers and not ready to start a family make such arrangements with a member of the opposite sex for sexual fulfillment. These relationships with no strings attached are viewed as better than the relationships where one has to be committed and care about the other person. With scientists so close to the HIV/AIDS vaccine, such arrangements are likely to be a permanent feature in the lives of future generations. There are a lot of career women who do not need a man in their lives except for casual sex and these days with all these sex toys like vibrators, who knows, men might no longer be required at all. Men on the other hand who in the past depended on their wives when it comes to cooking, washing and other house chores now have access to restaurants and fast food chains for nourishment while cleaning staff take care of the house chores. The point? Partnerships are less necessary than they were 60 years ago. Too often, marriage is an attempt to possess another. When humans love someone, they are afraid to let them go. People are afraid of loss and what better way to secure someone than marriage? It provides a false sense of security. It definitely makes ending the relationship more difficult, and this is why the number of people choosing cohabiting is increasing. Cohabiting allows greater freedom, offering the sexual and emotional closeness of marriage while retaining the autonomy of singleness. The partners in a cohabiting arrangement are independent individuals who enjoy freedom from the gender roles inherent in the husband/wife relationship. Cohabitation is thought to enable couples to live with each other in a way that is free from the restrictions imposed by outdated marriage vows. An essential aim of cohabitation is that each partner should achieve self-fulfillment. Moreover, it is easy, convenient, and socially accepted by modern society. When one or both partners are no longer satisfied by the relationship, they are free to seek selffulfillment elsewhere. The traditional marriage certificate in the next generations is most likely to be replaced by another form of certificate that will not be as binding as the current one. Maybe the next thing in line will be "vows of caring", which binds you to take care of the children, if any, after the parents decide to go their separate ways. Although marriage is not facing imminent extinction (it is most likely a matter of generations before the whole idea of marriage disappears), the bottom line is that the trends of the future are leaning more towards cohabitation than marriage, and as a result the institution of marriage will continue to weaken. Whether or not it dies out completely remains to be seen, but there are not a lot of prospects for an increase in marriages; it is very unlikely. If one had predicted in the days of Mambo, Mzilikazi or Lobengula that in decades to come social circumstances would dictate that men only marry one wife, that individual could have been seen as a lunatic because in those days men married up to ten wives. Today polygamy has died a natural death, although it remains in small pockets in Southern Africa. The divorce rates in todays society point to the fact that the marriage institution is following in the footsteps of polygamy. May all the married couples soldier on and ensure that they achieve their happily ever after goal and not be discouraged by my opinions. Lets continue to love and respect our significant others. To all other brothers and sisters out there who have not been so lucky in finding a perfect partner, or those whose relationships have not worked, do not despair, do not think that there is anything wrong with you, it is merely because marriage is slowly being naturally phased out by societal systems as it is no longer compatible with todays way of life. Marriage is now an outdated and over-romanticised practice. I admire all those who have realised that marriage is not for them. I admire them because at least they have acknowledged that because of todays social circumstances they would not make the idea l husband or wife and have refrained from marriage so as not to hurt somebody else.

An ever increasing number of high profile marriages are failing, and like society of nothing but Peeping Toms, we press our faces to the glass and watch. Does marriage have a place in our culture, or should we just toss it out with yesterday's trash? I don't think people take marriage seriously anymore. I know there are valid reasons for divorce, but I don't think it should be so easy to obtain one. If it were more difficult to dissolve a marriage, people would be more cautious before getting married. When a marriage breaks up it doesn't happen in a vaccum, it affects every aspect of life. The personal cost is often overwhelming, not to mention the affect on children. Housing, medical care, retail spending, property taxes, education, on and on... everything is disrupted. Is it time to reorder society around the individual instead of the family unit? Would society benefit or suffer further?

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but it is because people are marrying for the wrong reasons ( lust, money, convenience) that people lose faith in it. Marry for love, thats the way it was meant to be. It's not marriage that is outdated, it our misunderstanding of the this wonderful institution that causes us to avoid it like a plague. Rodney Lew, RSA I am divorced. The laws on divorce are, quite frankly, so biased in favour of the wife that she can if so minded behave badly and still receive everything. If people knew how awful divorce was they would think much more carefully before committing themselves. Moreover, the institution of marriage, which is the best and most natural way to bring up children, should be defended by the State especially when the collapse of marriage causes so much expense in Child Support and Legal Aid areas alone. I feel that a subsidy through taxation to those prepared to commit themselves to each other is right plus some form of legal protection to those in the marriage from the assaults of third parties. William, Ukraine Marriage is an outdated institution and it is becoming more and more evident by the day that divorce is proof of that. Oh, yes, there are some happy marriages but they are few and far between. The role of the male has been destroyed and a man cannot support a family like he used to be able to. The two most important aspects to marriage are sex and money. Women want babies and then for the husband to pay for them. After that, the men have served their purpose. The old-fashioned values that kept society stable have been replaced by materialism and sexuality. People regard marriage as a place to walk out of if they cannot get along. And, since couples are divided over such things as money and who should control that, marriage is a 'flop'. Dave Adams, USA

Rene Chamorre, United Kingdom Let's all make divorce much harder - then maybe people won't be pushed into such an outdated concept as marriage at all. Commitment comes from within not from a scrap of paper! DF, UK Children would grow up to respect marriage more if they were taught that marriage is a sacred institution which deserves respect. If they grow up seeing the system being abused, then we cannot expect children to have a serious attitude and understanding of this institution. Teach your children to understand the nature and reason for marriage and they will grow up to respect it. Katie Cooper, UK The sad fact is that in this day and age marriage is an outdated institution, and is not vital for raising healthy well-balanced children. Staying single is a much better option as people have realised and it is ridiculous to think that you can spend your life with someone when there are so many other people out there for you. There is no such thing as one person for everyone, for life. Joanna Fisher, Ireland Marriage is nothing more than an ancient ritual whereby the participants promise to be faithful to each other. What's wrong with that? Divorce is just as ancient as marriage, giving people a way of getting out without breaking their promise. The trouble is because divorce has been condemned for the past hundred

or so years and there have been so many painful marriage endured longer than necessary, marriage now has a bad press. Martin Redden, UK Marriage is not outdated. It may have several valid alternatives in modern society but is still relevant. It doesn't need to be religious in nature, my marriage was a civil ceremony by choice. However, I feel that too many people get married because it seems to be the "correct thing" to do and then when they find out it was a mistake, have to go through divorce proceedings. Perhaps if there was a requirement to live together for two or three years beforehand, there would be less divorces because basically incompatible people would not last the two years, or would at least know that marriage was not right for them. David H, UK Marriage is definitely not out dated. People say that it is just a piece of paper. It is more than that it is a partnership that takes a lot of hard work and effort on both parties to keep it going. By getting married you say that you are committing yourself to that person to the rest of your life and this should not be taken lightly. Living together is a cop out you can leave if it doesn't work out. Marriage it isn't so easy. I think that today people want the easy option. Commitment isn't a word that you hear much of. Aem, USA Marriage is obviously NOT the 'cornerstone of society' in THIS society. But that is NOT to say that 'the institution of marriage is dead'. Society evolves - or, if 'evolves' implies 'improves' - at least it changes. if society changes one way, there's absolutely nothing to stop it changing the other way. I'd like to see individual people: couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, and other groups of adults (perhaps trios, perhaps larger groups) deciding whether or not to make a public commitment each to the other(s) just because they WANT to, and NOT because the media, or their families, or 'society' says they should or they should not. Individual people make choices, and it is the mark of a mature society that we (as a whole) do not feel threatened by any of these individual choices. Milind, Scotland Marriage is the basis for a stable society. Whilst by no means perfect - nothing and I mean nothing that exists in its place has been shown to be superior to this commitment both for husband and wife themselves and more importantly for the secure upbringing of the children. Tony O'Sullivan, Ireland Responsible commitment is absolutely essential to society, not only in raising children, but in all aspects of life. The promise to faithfully love and support a spouse regardless of the trials we go through can never be outdated. If we view that fundamental promise to those we most love as outdated then we can't expect anyone to keep any promise. Joseph Klewicki, United States of America Marriage as a commitment is not out-dated, but marriage as an 'institution' is. People are always going to commit to each other as life-long partners - that's just marriage but without all the palaver. As an institution it has traditionally been a raw deal for women - in fact Jo Brand once said "they say marriage is an institution. Well, so is Borstal". Wendy, UK These days, judging by the statistics, it doesn't seem to add a great deal of stability, but I'd still advocate getting married. It feels to me like more of a "family contract". We got hitched privately and told our friends and family later. I'd ban the hoohaa and make it private and administrative. Who needs all the pomp? Marriage isn't an event, it's a life choice. Too many end up as quick fixes in today's fast-food society. Hamish Thompson, UK Marriage originates from Biblical times and Jesus himself in Matthew 19 stresses its importance, v6, '..what God has joined together, let man not separate'; these familiar words from the marriage service

were actually said by Jesus. Many people think that what Jesus said has little relevance for today, but that again is a symptom of the times. We have a choice to either hold to moral values that originate from God or reject them, and Him. Its as simple as that. Stephen Trew, UK Not according to my girlfriend it's not. Mac, UK Marriage, and the fierce social pressure to marry, created an institution whereby men and women were "stuck" with partners who were alcoholic, or drug addicts, or who "disappeared" for months on end leaving their families in poverty. Contemporary attitudes about co-habitation, single parenthood, etc. have given men and women recourse to righting what has gone wrong in their marriages. Men can fight and win custody of their children. Women work outside the home and can be financially self-sufficient. None of this invalidates the institution of marriage, but it makes it only 1 choice out of many possible choices for contemporary men & women. Mary Alix, USA Marriage should be preserved. There are too many people jumping onto the bandwagon and saying it is outmoded etc. It should be treasured and taken seriously, especially in this unstable world we all live in. RL, England Marriage is outdated because it is presented as the only alternative to being single. A civilised society would offer options to suit the temperaments of individuals who neither wish to stay single nor commit to only one person for the rest of their lives. The various sorts of polygamy or serial relationships offer this alternative. They are not ideal for everyone - but neither is monogamous marriage. Until society accepts them as just as valid as lifelong coupledom, they will remain the exclusive preserve of those who are prepared to live outside the narrow range of valid relationship options that most people force themselves to live with. Richard Lyon, UK Marriage has its problems, but is still far more stable than the alternatives. Pete Cook, UK Marriage in law must be distinguished from marriage in religion. In law, marriage provides a financial incentive for the poorer partner to marry and divorce the richer. Any law which positively encourages partners to separate in this way is immoral. Equally, any law which dictates the following of a particular religion is immoral. I see no place for marriage outside of religious beliefs, and would therefore abolish the legal institution, leaving only the religious practice. Michael Bryant, England Having been married for just 8 weeks, I can safely say that I believe marriage is not outdated. I see it as the ultimate commitment a couple can make to each other and I treat the vows with much respect even though I am not particularly religious. Emma H, England I believe that if we do away with the traditional values of marriage our children will suffer. Couples need to be educated on how to get along with one another and compromise. Premarital courses should be mandatory and courses should be accessible through all churches to improve relationships before it is too late. Without teaching people about commitment our children will grow up callous. The impact will leave us one step away from being predators of the wild. Neil Goodson, U.S.A. No it is not outdated; the need for it is greater than ever these days, when so many children lack a stable, reliable and loving home life. It is sad that the Church of England and many other so called Christian

denominations have rejected God's Word and His commandments in so many ways (eg. homosexuality, divorce, Sabbath breaking, denying the Virgin birth, the Resurrection etc). Small wonder that they are not listened to on any matter, if they don't believe what they are supposed to believe. If they return to God and the Word of God fully, then they will speak with authority. Philip Hare, England I just got engaged and I think it's the most important step in my life. I feel so happy and satisfied about it, that I'm sure that it is not an out-dated institution! Jaap van Reijendam, USA My partner and I (both aged 21) married just 2 months ago. We certainly intend to be together forever, and to work as a team to ensure that this happens. Our wedding day was the best day of my life! Sarah, England A stable, loving relationship is, obviously, something that most people aspire to. Not only does this provide, comfort, companionship, sex, etc., but it provides the ideal environment for raising children. The commitment to such a relationship is marriage, whether religious or secular, and I wholeheartedly support this. The pressures for divorce come from two main areas: successive governments reducing the legal status of marriage; and the, continuing, pressure from employers for individuals to put their jobs before all else. Barry Midgley, UK Marriage was fine in a world of housewives, children and a social community. Now with modern nation's suicidal work ethic people don't have enough time for themselves, yet alone to commit to a loved one, especially when they are working just as hard. Sad but true. Geoffs, UK The question is wrongheaded. The real issue is can a man and a woman stay together for life which is the marriage ideal. Perhaps our society's insistence on seeking individual self-satisfaction as the ultimate achievement and objective in life should be shown up for the lie that it is and destroyed for the sake of healthy life long monogamous relationships. Warren, Sweden The effort by Church and politicians to pressure people into of marriage is social bullying. What about the rights of those who don't profit by the financial, social and legal privileges of marriage? It is a homophobic, coercive institution propounded by those who fear that only a marriage certificate will keep them together with their partner. Dr Booth, Britain I am still single, but I feel the only difference between the couple life of animal and human life is marriage. Marriage helps us to organise our lives with a high ideal of morality to build up a stable family. Saifur, Japan Marriage is not outdated, it's about getting expectations right. In the past people married for life, sticking together either when they hated each other or were bored to tears. There was a terrific (and I do mean terrifying!) sense of duty and compromise. But in a way the expectations were realistic - the fantastic sex and passion was not going to last forever. Nowadays, our definition of happiness is having lots of sex, having that 'loved-up' feeling permanently, and not having any problems juggling career, debts, children, love life blah blah blah. Maybe we should be more French about it and chuck in the odd affair to spice things up! WS, UK

Marriage is purely a statement to others these days- not to your partner. One does not have to take vows or be legally joined to their partner to want to spend the rest of their lives together. Paul R, UK The trend toward a lack of commitment and easy solutions has become a sign of the times. People no longer are willing to strive to overcome their obstacles. Generally speaking, today's culture (world-wide) particularly in so-called industrial, developed nations has become so self-centred that individuals put themselves above all others and are unwilling to sacrifice. The individual has elevated himself/herself to a god-like position and they worship themselves above all else . . . above their children, their neighbour, their countrymen, and their spouse. Europe and America are in a state of moral decline and decay and infidelity are merely symptoms of a larger problem. Keith Crosby, USA Marriage is not an outdated institution. Although there is a growing trend to avoid responsibilities and commitment, marriage, as an institution will always survive. Those who prefer to live a "carefree" lifestyle will, in due course come to regret doing so, once they reach their 40's. Marriage provides sanctuary and security and provides the ideal surrounds and environment in which to raise children. It is a shame that those who should be setting examples are too selfish to commit themselves and share the responsibility of raising the next generation. The governments shy away from the entire issue and by reducing tax incentives such as married couples allowances etc, are only helping to destroy the concept of marriage, a cornerstone of a healthy and civilised society. Mohammed, UK Marriage is not something that we can throw away. It has proved to be stable in the past and we cannot afford to make it disposable, like everything else is the world. Marriage is sacred, it needs to be protected. Divorce laws need to be tightened so it is not so easy to just walk out of a marriage. People need to realise the value in committment and working through things, not just running at the first bump. I admire and agree with the church for taking a public stance on this matter. People need to sit up and take notice of what is going on in our nation concerning such an important issue. Amy Devlin, Britain Marriage is till an important institution, but as society changes, the details of what marriage means may change also. Today, there is still an advantage in making some kind of commitment to each other before raising children, for example. However, a woman is no longer merely an adjunct to a man; she can exist independently and on her own terms. What is definitely outmoded, however, is the concept of having to live our lives according to a set of values based upon ancient religious principles. It is the church which is the out-moded institution. Rik G, UK The problem now is that young people do not want to get married because they have seen their parents marriages either end in divorce or stick together for the sake of the children . We don't have good examples in our lives of stable happy marriages so most of my generation do not want to get married. Most of my friends and myself only consider marriage necessary when you start to seriously consider children (I'm 24ish). WE do not want to put our kids through their parents divorcing so we are choosing not to have kids so we are not going to get married either !! JG , Scotland I got married last year after being with my partner for 9 years. The ceremony (civil) and whole day was just great fun. Being married doesn't make any difference to the relationship, but does seem to make a statement of intent, or commitment, a commitment that would have been there anyway without a public declaration. Religious vows and all that pomp don't have any effect on the longevity of a relationship. Getting married is just a fun day out, a mature attitude to ones relationship is the only thing that counts. Graeme, England

Marriage gives an overwhelming sense of security and support - something, that an 'open' relationship just can't match. I have personally found that it also predetermines a kind of 'respect' from third parties. I'm looking forward to growing old with my husband and, when I listen to my single friends' worries and troubles about their latest relationship, am so glad I'm no longer on the dating scene! P. Dobree-Carey, Switzerland No, marriage is not an outdated institution, but the modern environment and lifestyle in which we live is both stressful on relationships and does not actively support marriage as 'the thing to do'. In the 90's it's all about pleasing yourself, being hedonistic - all of the responsibility and commitment of family life is not desired by people any more. A stable marriage is key to bringing up children in a secure and environment. Yes single parents can cope, but at the end of the day, nature says we all have a mother and a father to bring us up. David, UK Marriage is as outdated as society wants it to be. I cannot believe that there is no link between the selfish society in which we live today, where values and attitudes are so superficial, and the failure of people to commit time and energy to building lasting and committed relationships in marriage. People who spend time on their relationships and work when things appear to go wrong contribute far more to society than those who only seek to get what they want from life. Marriage is an institution that has stood the test of time and generations. Don't knock it just because it's unfashionable. This government which seeks to destroy so much of our heritage should do more to support marriage father than withdraw support. All this considered, it is perfectly right for there to be a get-out when things have gone so wrong it is the only reasonable solution. Oliver Crispin, England I don't blame anyone for not getting married. The whole thing is a sham, from the beginning with the church routine full of relatives you don't want to see, to the wife giving up work to live off my money. It's a trap and people are beginning to realise it. David Taylor, England Those who choose to marry, and make promises in front of God, should honour those promises unless their spouse dishonours their part of the promise. I believe that most people in this country play a full part in a selfish throwaway culture, and that will not change. The government, royal family, Hollywood, pop stars, in fact most in authority give the impression that immoral things are normal, if not right (everyone else is doing it, so why can't I?). Frustratingly, I do not believe that the Church of England will be able to change the way things are as many see it (and Christianity) as irrelevant, whether it is or not (I believe it is highly relevant) - it can speak to its members with authority, but who else will listen? Pete Bowman, UK I believe that it is still a case of choice, in that some couples do not feel that their bond is complete until they are married. This is not a problem, but I do believe that there should be an equivalent social standing for couples who simply chose to live together, including more flexibility in benefit situations and separation. Ilya A Wilbraham, England I am a divorcee myself, but I still say "No". It's a matter of finding the right person, your perfect match. It's difficult enough, but I believe it's possible. Psychology and sociology should concentrate more on "compatibility " - as it were - of different kinds of personalities and make the relevant findings a public knowledge. Tatyana Mychelova, France The traditional role of marriage as a family bond has increasingly given place to a legal agreement that most of the times forces people to keep living together for fear of getting into the divorce mess. People that want to be together can nowadays live together and grow together without the need of any kind of

official binding. Marriage just doesn't have to be an issue if real love is the motive. George Voutsadakis, Greece From the time the Bible was written until the early years of this century people married young and died young. The average marriage was not expected to last fifty years. Moreover aspects such as mutual care within traditional gender roles and bringing up children as a form of old-age insurance had huge practical importance and were much more important than romantic love. In such a setting the rule that marriage was necessarily a contract terminated only by the death of one of the spouses was not only moral but socially necessary. Nowadays of course, with state-organised social security, people are no longer dependent on their families in the same way. Family life and gender roles have changed, women in particular being much less house-bound and dependent than they used to be. Marriages are nowadays generally contracted on purely affectionate grounds, and the fulfilment of emotional needs has gained importance. In such a situation "sequential monogamy" is the best many people can hope for, and it is a wonder that more than half of all marriages survive. And this is a reality all legal systems and all churches will need to adjust to. Peter, Netherlands The government does little to encourage marriage with punitive taxes and little financial help/incentives for two people committed to a relationship. It seems that single mothers get a better deal. Liane Ward, UK Marriage represents the only way couples can co-exist together in a civilised society. Far from being outdated, it shows children the true meaning of love and stability, if of course couples remain true to their marriage vows. Rev. Austin Spreadbury, UK My children are growing up in a secure family, with married parents, and two sets of married grandparents. How rare, and what a privilege! They are reaping the benefit of hard work and determination to keep marriage working. Of course things don't always work out. But we should be encouraging married partners to work through the hard times rather than making it easier for them to get out. Marriage is perhaps more important in our society now than ever before




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Why Is Marriage Important To Society?

Marriage has been a permanent fixture in Western society for millennia. While the institution of marriage has changed throughout the years, still it is a constant presence in our world. Marriage has been important to society for a variety of reasons. Many people believe that the so-called nuclear family, consisting of a father, a mother, and children, are the basic building blocks of society. It is in the family that children learn to become citizens; it is in the family that children learn about relationships; it is in the family that children learn about what is expected of them in society, how to act and how to be. Central to the nuclear family is the traditional idea of marriage, consisting of one man and one woman in a monogamous and permanent relationship. No one in the modern age would suggest that a single-parent family is not a family. With a large number of people growing up in single-parent households, it would not be right, fair, or proper to suggest that a one-parent family cannot function and achieve the same things that a two-parent family can. However, studies do suggest that children who are raised with both a mother and a father do have certain circumstantial advantages over children raised in one-parent households. In earlier times, marriage helped to stabilize the economics of a rural agricultural society. By having one man and one woman together with their children, a regular workforce for the farm was grown at home. In industrial society, this emphasis changed from children who contribute to the family economy to a view in which the family serves as the training ground and shelter for children, preparing them for life in the adult world. In the modern world, marriage is no longer a situation of bondage or slavery for women, as it was in medieval times. Both men and women benefit financially as well as emotionally and spiritually from the arrangement of marriage. Some studies even suggest a link between better health and marriage. In addition, marriage is an important institution to many religions who, even though marriage is licensed by the state, nevertheless sanction marriages and perform marriage ceremonies.

Is marriage an outdated institution?

The lifelong commitment to one another which marriage represents is the bedrock of a stable society and the best possible environment for raising healthy children Peter Scott, UK Marriage is purely a statement to others these days - not to your partner. One does not have to take vows or be legally joined to their partner to want to spend the rest of their lives together Paul R, UK Background Your reaction

The Background:
Marriage may be "for better or worse, till death us do 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. 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 too - with advent of "cyber divorce" a marriage can be history in the click of a mouse. It seems the institution of marriage may be in crisis. It is a trend that is worrying church leaders, prompting the Church of England to publish its own rescue plan. The Archbishop of Canterbury says the consumer culture 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". But is marriage really the cornerstone of a stable society? The Prince of Wales, Nelson Mandela, the person next door - divorce is everywhere. But does divorce really lead to social breakdown? Is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage "for the sake of the children"? Is it realistic to expect two people to live together for a lifetime? Or do you think that a throwaway culture is to blame for the increasing number of marriage breakdowns? What do you think?