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The Changing Face Of Marriage

July 16th, 2010

We do not need to look for statistics to prove that the rate of marriage breakdowns is growing. Many of us have many have experienced it ourselves or have close family and friends who have and those of us with children will know that a significant proportion of their classmates come from ‘broken homes’. Some of those classmates will come from ‘single parent’ families where a marriage was never entered into in the first place but may have been a co-habitation or ‘break-up before marriage’ scenarios.

Marraige- Wedding NightThe politicians, particularly in the UK, would have us believe that this core family breakdown is the root cause of some of the worst social problems. Those who spout ‘family values’ harp back to the good old days of life-long monogamous partnerships. Why don’t they harp back to the life-long partnerships of polygamous marriages, both polygyny (man has more than one wife) or polyandry (a woman has more than one husband), which existed prior to, most probably religiously instigated, monogamy?

I am a believer in evolution not only in the biological sense but in the social context as well. I am always pointing out to particularly my poor long suffering children, some reason why some ‘backward’ behaviour has roots in the distant past which improved the survival odds of the society that practised it. For example, there was, at some point in history, a matriarchal kingdom on the English mainland where society was run by the females for the same reason that a tribe in Eastern Africa practised within strict behaviour guidelines what basically can be called group marriage – simply because the men were war-mongers and kept getting killed!

Marriage has evolved from the caveman kidnapping a mate with a club over the head, through various polygamous iterations in different parts of the world to the predominately monogamous relationships of the recent past. Even today in societies where other forms of marriage are acceptable, the logistics and resource requirements of maintaining two or more families usually results in a fairly monogamous society.

What the ‘family values’ people forget that we are a society hell bent on being happy. Whilst past generations held onto relationships that were basically dead, we have no such inclination. After all, which one of us is entitled to be happy and which one of us is not? Which one of us gets to ‘get ahead’ and which one of us has to remain in the shadows? Which one of us gets to have the dream career and uproot the family to the other side of the world? Which one of us must continue to take mental or physical abuse for the sake of the kids?

Why is it that we expect someone we married 20, 10 or 5 years ago to be just as compatible with the changes that you have undergone in those years? Why do we expect that what you want now is what your partner will want for the rest of their life? We no longer regard acceptance of the status-quo as an acceptable compromise to achieve contentment.

The ‘family values’ goody two shoes with their tax breaks for families and stories and statistics about the relatively longevity of married people and the happiness that children will bring hold us back. They hold us back from working out an acceptable social framework so that those families facing break-up can look to their future knowing that all parties can find contentment if they so choose and avoid any further unhappiness.

This post in no way is intended to condone break-up but nor is it intended to discourage it. If you happen to be in a relationship, it is you and you alone who can decide whether it is good for you, your spouse and any children involved.

May you find the balance.

[First published on my Talking2Myself blog on specified date]