Marriage obsolete

By Madeleine Somerville

We’ve all heard of women marrying for money. Platinum blonde golddiggers prancing around in faux Manolo Blahniks, doused in cheap perfume, pledging their love to an 89-year-old man with a bad cough. If you ask some sociologists though, they might tell you the very concepts of marriage and monogamy were originally motivated by economics.

Before societies became agriculturally based, the ideas of monogamy and of people belonging to other people (e.g. "your" wife, "your" child) simply didn’t exist, according to the theory. The village raised children indiscriminately, it simply didn’t matter who the child’s parents were.

The development of agriculture changed that. People settled in one place instead of living nomadically and they were able to construct permanent houses.

Suddenly, there were surpluses of food as agriculture enabled individuals to produce more than was required for them to survive. The hunter-gatherer ideals diminished and it became important to know which children were yours in order to pass on surpluses of food as well as the property itself.

The theory is women gave in to the ideals of monogamy in order to establish and protect the inheritance rights of their children. Marriage provided financial security and women had a partner to provide for them and offer protection. In the past, this meant forever, but with the growing frequency of divorce, even when a marriage doesn’t last a lifetime, women are provided for by alimony payments and divorce settlements.

Now, thousands of years after the idea of marriage first evolved, the basic structure has changed very little. Marriage is the norm and men are generally less willing to care for a child they didn’t sire than a child they did. Hence, paternity is such an important issue and good ole Maury Povich can still make a living producing daytime talk shows with topics like "I am sure one of these eight men is my baby’s daddy."

However, the winds of change may be a-blowin’.

There has been an influx of smart, powerful women into the corporate world and they are not only working for big name companies—they are running them. Women hold crucial governmental positions, are the brains behind brilliant internet ventures like EBay, and are breaking the wage barrier, earning as much in some cases, if not more, than men. With all these changes, does the modern woman even need to be married?

If it’s feasible, and for the most part socially acceptable, to cohabit with a partner, share a bed, create children and carry on a life with all the trappings of marriage but without the actual ceremony and piece of paper, the question is no longer why some women choose to forgo marriage, but why so many aren’t? Why do so many young women get married when odds are 55 per cent of them will fall apart?

The motives for most aren’t financial anymore and, despite the number of weddings still taking place in religious venues, many couples aren’t practising a faith of any kind, ruling out religious reasons for marriage. Perhaps they think they’ve found "the one" and want to make sure they stick around. But surely everyone knows that you can go on TV and find the soulmate you’ve been searching whole life for within weeks?

Perhaps marriage is yet another social ritual that has lost its meaning, yet for some reason still retains its role in society. Many of us don’t know why we walk down the aisle, it’s just what’s done. As a result, there are countless loveless marriages held feebly together by a wish to protect the children, avoid costly divorce proceedings or keep up appearances.

Wouldn’t it be better for all involved if individuals entered relationships upheld not by law, but by love and a genuine desire to spend the rest of their lives together?


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