Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Is Marriage Outdated?


Is marriage a 'thing of the past'?

Has it lost it's meaning?

Is a lifelong commitment in sickness and health, the good and the bad taken seriously anymore?

Is there a 'need' for marriage in today's society?

As sad as these questions are, the skepticism around marriage exists.

In order to understand how and why society's views on marriage have changed in this generation, I've decided to interview both my Nana and my mum, to see what the social norms were around the time that they were married.

Nana (71 years old, baby boomer)

Every ones life followed a cycle; you courted a boy or girl, started a relationship, became engaged and planned your wedding. People rarely moved in together before they were married, as that was looked down upon. Children were only 'allowed' during marriage. Having children outside of wedlock bought shame to your family. I remember one girl from my town who fell pregnant to a married man. She was whisked off to Adelaide to deliver the baby and forced to give up her child for adoption. Upon her return, no one ever talked about it.

Mum (49 years old, gen x)

Getting married was something that you 'just did'; no one questioned it. Many people married younger because there wasn't a push for women to have a career. It was only after I had been married for 10-20 years that I started hearing people referring to marriage as 'just a piece of paper.' Having children outside of wedlock was a definite no no. Many people also didn't live together until they were married.

So what has changed in today's society that has bought marriage into question, in just  one short generation?

After talking with both my Nana and Mum, it stood out to me just how much of a shift there has been in our thinking, expectations towards the progression of an intimate relationship, and what is now 'socially acceptable' behaviour.

It is now more then ever, socially acceptable to have children outside of wedlock. You would rarely hear of a woman being whisked away and forced to adopt their child these days, if she happened to fall pregnant outside of marriage. In fact, forced adoption is now looked down upon.

People no longer have to be married in order to have children by social standards. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 'marriage as the traditional social institution for family formation is declining'.

There is no longer 'one right way;' to life; somewhere along the line chapters have been skipped and skimmed over. New books, with changing formats are emerging, and what was once acceptable and the 'must read and obey' is now being bought into question, and all in the time space of a generation. 

People are now left wondering what, if any, is the 'right way' to go about life. This grey area of expectation can be a case for anxiety and stress for a lot of people, particularly when different generations expectations upon them are different.

Couples are buying houses and moving out from their parents before they walk down the aisle,  and that is okay, if not even expected these days. In fact, if you are a 30 + year old, dating man or woman still living at home with your parents then people would question your motives, credibility and sanity (very tongue in cheek).

But seriously, now, if you don't live together before you are married, it is almost frowned upon. Many would think that you should live together before you married, just to make sure that you can live together before making a major commitment.

You get the picture; times have drastically changed our perceptions, social norms and opinions; but has that change transferred over to the idea of marriage?

Is there a need to be married anymore?

Why would you want to marry someone when you can 'do all of the things' that were once only accepted if you were a man and wife?

Does this new found 'freedom' to breed, live and love under the same roof before marriage, under value the reason for choosing to marry someone in the first place?

All of a sudden there is less urgency to get married to 'take the next step' and move in with your partner, because chances are you are already living together, and therefore, getting married is just an 'unnecessary cost and waste of money that you couldn't afford anyway.'

So why bother about marriage if everything in the past that it stood for, is now being accepted outside of this commitment?

I think we need to open our minds even wider to understand that marriage is more than just a set of rules, expectations and acceptable behaviour within it.

Marriage is taking the next step in the level of commitment that you promise to make to another human being.

It's about making the decision to share your life with another person, who you love unconditionally. It's about devoting your actions, feelings and thoughts towards the future you picture with your beloved, while respecting each others needs to achieve their own dreams and desires.

Marriage is about putting what you want, second to what your partner wants and needs, but still sticking to your core values.

The commitment means that you are not willing to 'give up' when the road gets bumpy. Instead, it means that you want to be there to smooth the ride.

To me, marriage means that you will share the same last name as the children that you create together out of love.

To be honest, I think it is sad, that society now questions marriage due to the perceived affordability, alikening it to 'just a piece of paper' and using excuses like 'we're practically married anyway'.
Let's face it, there's a difference between a marriage and a wedding. For starters, a wedding is one day in your life, marriage should be FOR life. Marriage does not put you out of pocket, nor is it always full of glitz and glamour. 

Marriage doesn't make life any harder, nor any more 'expensive' (although some would say that a happy life is a happy wife and therefore money is concerned), and it certainly doesn't just include a commitment on paper, in fact, many married couples probably wouldn't even know where that 'bit of paper is!' 

And, if marriage is 'outdated' then why are gay couples continuing to fight for this right?

If we take a step back, and take away the bells and whistles of a wedding, the idea that every marriage ends in divorce, and the negativity towards people 'giving up too easily', then I think you could agree that marriage certainly isn't outdated.

Yes there are changing pressures on a marriage. Yes, every marriage is different. But from my experience with close friends and family who have married, every single one of those people without a doubt have entered into marriage 110%, and certainly not thinking about their 'next husband' or how they'll do things differently at their future wedding.

No, these people still believe in marriage, respect the vowels that they promise to their partner, and see the value in marriage; the security, the love, the commitment to another, and the pure joy of starting a new chapter in their life as man and wife, just as someone who was married 100 years ago did.

What do you think? (I'm aware that this is only my opinion, and I'd definitely love to hear yours!!!)

****By the way, I thought that I should add here that I definitely don't 'judge anyone' who chooses not to marry, or who have children outside of wedlock; each to their own, and in today's society, we can make that choice and it is still supported by society.

Do you think marriage is out dated?

Why do you think views have changed so much?

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxxx

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