This site provides a venue for frequent discussions about the merits of marriage. Most of those who write are young to middle-aged men, and it appears that most have been married but are now divorced. They preach that marriage is evil, it has no benefit for men, it exists solely for the benefit of women, and it otherwise is a source of ills and afflictions that any idiot should want to avoid. They also claim, quite zealously, that marriage is an outdated institution and that forward thinking men should certainly see that which is "obvious."
First, let's define the concept. "Marriage" does not refer exclusively to the relationship between people who obtained a marriage license at a courthouse. For this discussion, I will define "marriage" as an agreement between a man and a woman (if you object to my definition and want to talk about same-sex marriages, feel free to write your own myTake on that subject.) The two agree to enter into a long term relationship which they anticipate will generally include living together, sharing financial obligations and benefits, sharing a marital bed, having children (if they are of child bearing age,) and inheritance rights. (Not every marriage includes all of those elements, but most marriages contain most of those elements.)
Marriage may come about as a result of a government-issued marriage license, a ceremony and blessing by a religious organization, or by mutual agreement in areas which recognize common law marriage. Marriages may be arranged solely by the parties themselves, by parents, by contract, or by religious organizations.
The existence of marriage relationships predates recorded history. The earliest physical evidence of marriage ceremonies uniting one woman and one man dates from around 2,350 B.C. in Mesopotamia. Marriage, in various forms, exists in every society and culture on the planet. Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and other religions also recognize marriage as a sacred institution.
Early marriages were often polygamous for the benefit of the man only, but by around the ninth century, the Catholic church's insistence on monogamy prevailed and it became the standard in Western cultures. The rules for marriage have changed over the years; e.g., the minimum age required to marry, the requirements to establish a valid marriage, and the subjugation of a wife to her husband have certainly been dramatically transformed. Otherwise, the concept of husband and wife has not changed much over the centuries.
With several millennia of marriage as a worldwide practice, it is probably premature to say that marriage has outlived its usefulness. Its detractors point to rising divorce rates in support of their claim, but they ignore the actual data:
"Divorce in America has been falling fast in recent years, and it just hit a record low in 2019. For every 1,000 marriages in the last year, only 14.9 ended in divorce, according to the newly released American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau. This is the lowest rate we have seen in 50 years. It is even slightly lower than 1970, when 15 marriages ended in divorce per 1,000 marriages.
A lower divorce rate means longer marriages. According to the new Census data, the median duration of current marriages in the U.S. has increased almost one year in the recent decade, from 19 years in 2010 to 19.8 years in 2019."
Nonetheless, when a marriage fails, the pain can be protracted and consuming.
Why do couples divorce? They don't divorce because they awaken one day and "realize" that marriage is a failed institution. They divorce for specific reasons, usually relating to financial matters, lack of sexual satisfaction, infidelity, substance abuse and addiction, domestic violence, or unremitting arguments and squabbles. However, many marriages that survive for decades have faced these same problems, overcome them, and remained intact. I invite you to comment with your opinions about why marriages fail, but I present here my observations
1. Many couples marry because they are "in love" and they believe that getting married is what you are supposed to do when you are in love. Marriage requires more than love to survive. Good long term relationships require love, lust, trust, and respect; good marriages require all of that plus a mutual commitment to make the marriage successful.
2. Many couples marry too soon. Regardless of how well you think you know someone, or how strongly you think you love them, you do not know them very well after four months, or six months. It is impossible to know, with certainty, whether someone will be a good partner for you for the rest of your life after you have been dating for even two years. Of course, if you are going to get married at any point in your life, there will always be some degree of uncertainty, but how can you possibly decide if someone is right for you after only six months?
3. Many couples have fantasy expectations for marriage. If you find the right partner, they assume, you will never argue, fight, or have substantial disagreements. I know very few couples who NEVER argue or fight, and for those few marriages, I always assume that one of the partners is extremely submissive to the other partner's wishes. I don't recommend being that submissive. You should ASSUME that you will have disagreements and fights in your marriage, and the test of your relationship is not whether they happen, but how you handle them when they do arise.
4. If you have these erroneous expectations, then the existence of conflict is interpreted as evidence that you have made a poor choice for your partner, and you should not have married them.
5. Some couples get married and soon switch to auto-pilot mode. However, a marriage does not sustain itself. It requires the efforts and attention of both partners. Simply drifting along and reacting to whatever happens is NOT a good strategy for any relationship.
6. Some people are simply not well suited for marriage but they still get married, quite often as a result of family or peer pressure.
7. Some people have a throwaway mentality. In the 1950's and 1960's, if an appliance stopped working, you repaired it yourself or you took it to a repair shop. Occasionally, something would be deemed to be beyond repair, but that was the exception, not the rule. In 2021, if an appliance or electronic equipment stops working properly, you usually just replace it. And some things get replaced even if they are working properly, like cell phones, laptops, tablets, and PCs.
When one of these problems arises, people head for court to get divorced. And then they tell their family, friends, and whoever else will listen, that marriage is a failed institution.
Why do they say "marriage is a failed institution?" Because it is easier to blame the "institution" than to blame themselves, and a large part of contemporary culture seems to encourage people to do whatever they want without accepting the consequences of their actions, and many of us always look for someone, or something else, to blame.
Did the institution of marriage "make" people get married? No.
Did the institution of marriage "make" people get married too soon or too young? No.
Did the institution of marriage "make" people get married to the wrong partner? No.
Did the institution of marriage "make" people argue and blame rather than discuss and resolve issues? No.
Did the institution of marriage "make" people neglect their marriage? No.
Did the institution of marriage "make" people have a throwaway mentality? No.
Did the institution of marriage "make" people drive to the courthouse to file their divorce? No.
Marriage did not fail all of these people. No, these people failed themselves . . . and they failed their partners. And if they blame "the institution of marriage" instead of accepting responsibility for their failures, what are the odds that they will be motivated to learn from their mistakes? If they don't address their mistakes, then perhaps they should remain single so maybe it's okay for them to be in this blame mindset, but that doesn't mean that you must believe it when the butthurt and lonely proclaim that marriage is dead.