Do marriages really matter?

I’ve just celebrated my 22nd birthday on the 24th of March.  I’m eligible to marry someone if I want, although I have no intentions whatsoever of marrying someone, certainly not in the next four years or so.  This reminds me of G.B. Shaw, yes the person who penned the book Cashel Byron’s Profession. Shaw once said ‘Perhaps the greatest service that can be rendered to this country and to mankind is to bring up a family’. Well, we need to agree to the fact that bringing up a family helps to strengthen the society because in this way parents pass on their values to their children and the cycle continues.

However, since the beginning of the complex process of modernization, the number of marriages and the consequent number of families have gone down. Quiet a lot of people seem to have nurtured this belief that marriages aren’t relevant in today’s society; however marriages are still pretty much relevant for emotional, social and financial needs of a person at large.

Some of you may say that marriages aren’t relevant in today’s world just because they hinder a person’s career. Women in the modern society have quite a lot of avenues to propel their careers, so there seems to be a less of a need to marry. I get a feeling that marriages and relationships are being renegotiated in the light of the demand for role equity.

Women have gained certain strong attributes like financial independence and social status and acceptance. They form nearly half of the world’s total workforce today. The education of women has resulted in more women in the workforce, delay of marriage and consequently a lower birth rate. This is also exacerbated by the advent of birth control. Therefore, with a family, married women may not be able to climb up the corporate ladder. Bosses might just discriminate them just because they don’t stay in office for long hours, thinking they didn’t contribute to the company.

This is just a single side of the coin. Many governments across the globe are coming up with policies to help working women cope with both work and family. For instance, in Singapore, we a have programme called “The Back to Work Programme”. The programme was launched in 1996 with an aim to encourage housewives and retirees to return to the workforce.  The idea of marriages isn’t obsolete but for marriages to work, there should a balance between work and family. The governments are doing their bit. We, on our part, need to understand that marriages are still very much relevant in today’s society.

In any country, developed or developing, if both the parents work, financial security as there is more income and pooling of resources. Let us just forget the financial benefits for a while. The obvious problem with this argument is that it has nothing to do with marriage, If you cannot afford 10 lacs worth of student loans then send to a cheaper school, if you can’t afford a mortgage then don’t buy a house and please if you cannot afford a 50 lacs worth of a wedding then don’t waste your money on the party, save your money for the lifetime.

If anything getting married in most cases means that you will add an additional income to your household and therefore the expenses will be easier to handle. In fact every piece of research I have ever found shows that being married makes you less likely to raise children in poverty.

This argument is not about why marriage fails. My parents bought a house with things growing in the bathtub and cleaned it up and fixed it themselves to get into their first house. I would bet that most people know at least one person who grew up in a one or two bedroom house with 5 people living in it.  Previous generations did not have easier finances in marriages they had less selfish and whiny participants who understood that the sacrifices they made as young adults and new parents are the price of admission for a comfortable life filled with the love and joy that only a family will bring.

To draw the curtains,  I just want to say we have all heard it said that the most important decision you will make in your life is who you marry. This lesson is sinking in because people are getting married later and later in life waiting for the perfect spouse from the romantic comedy. The problem is that the theory is wrong, the most important decision in your life is not who you marry (although this is obviously a very important choice) the most important decision of your life should be who you divorce.

That should be the decision that takes years to make and that you constantly second guess.  Marriage is work. It is the richest most important relationship you will develop in your life and it doesn’t come free. It is called a union for a reason, you have to lose part of yourself to it in order to do it right. You have to choose to grow together and you have to choose to love each other and you have to choose to make your marriage a priority.

Marriages are very much relevant, but if you cannot see yourself putting someone else first and making sacrifices to develop the life you want then you are not ready to be married and it wont matter if the person at the end of the aisle is prince charming or the toad you will end up at the same place, signing divorce papers.

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