Marriage is as relevant today as the horse drawn carriage.
The biggest problem with the institution of marriage likely has very little to do with what we're doing wrong with marriage as opposed to marriage itself. If you're having marital problems, you may want to consider the fact that marriage is fairly antiquated. In this post, I will cover the remaining five of the top ten issues with the popular concept of marriage and why they are now a recurring cause of failure in marital relationships as our societies continue to evolve.
05. Growing incompatibility between the sexes
Statistics show that since the liberation of the modern woman, most university graduates are women. These days, in any given relationship, it is almost certain that the woman has a more advanced degree. While women still earn less than men in the work place (even with similar qualifications), the gap between their earnings is narrowing dramatically. This is especially true since more women are starting their own businesses. Women have become employers.
So what does this mean for men? Well that depends on who you ask. It is not very uncommon these days to find more and more relationships where the woman earns more than the man. A lot of these men in turn feel a sense of inadequacy that they usually try to drown in the loins of another woman with whom they don't feel the same sense of competition. When did it start to become a competition you ask? From the moment she brought home a bigger pay check.
Should this be a problem for modern men? It shouldn't, but it does become a problem. Women who are more successful than the men they get involved with can expect him to cheat if this is an insecurity he harbours. Few men don't consider a more successful woman to be a threat. Some men will even declare their pride in their super wives from the top of mountains, but it is not because he is genuinely proud. He is just trying to drown out the pains of his aching ego.
It's a little prick at the back of his mind slowly driving him mad.
One should also expect to hear from the odd male who says that they are proud to be stay at home dads. But it would require a male with an unusually higher level of oestrogen in his blood for that to be a genuine expression of pride. More often than not, even these men can prove to be fatally unfaithful to their wives — with other men. Don't act surprised. It happens.
The thing is that men have ruled the world for as long as humans have been the dominant species on this planet. A woman who commands more respect than himself is going to sting somewhere. It's inevitable. Men are not drawn to women who remind them of other men, even if she's wearing a short skirt, high heeled boots and she smells like vagina ripe for the picking.
Even very successful men will not put up with a woman who has too much of a mind of her own. It is a testament to the sheer gargantuan size of their consolidated egos. Even if that is not an issue, there is the issue of highly successful women in their mid to late twenties who are not able to find any men with whom they could possibly share more than their genitals.
While a sufficiently smooth male courter can still woo any female to his delight irrespective of her level of education, such alpha males are few and far between, and they have no interest in marriage. For the rest of the lot, these new breed of women can smell their fear from a mile off. The one thing a woman cannot stand the smell of, is fear coming from a man. They hate it.
Don't take my word for it. Go ask them yourselves.
Once you weed all of these men out of the playing field, what remains is often aptly described as scrub. They are men with no ambition, no class, no sense of self worth and have no qualms about letting it all hang out. However, because they are men, their libidos are still in check. So they still pursue these super females anyway—usually in the most crass, most despicable way possible, simultaneously exposing their ineligibility while padding her ego. It is a mixed bag.
What is even sadder, is that across the Americas (and I'm referring to North, Central, South America and the wider Caribbean), there is a disturbing number of black men who fall into this grade of scrub. It's already a disturbing reality that your standard issue drug dealer is likely to either be black or latino (more likely the former than the latter). But that's besides the point. The point is that the numbers of successful black women are constantly on the rise, and they have no suitable black men to woo them. Sadly, they would not consider a white male instead.
In other parts of the world, people don't want to get into relationships at all due to a similarly growing mismatch between perceived male and female expectations. This is probably most pronounced in more developed Asian countries like Japan, parts of China like Shanghai and in north western European countries. The liberated female has become such a staple of modern society that their hapless, emasculated male counterparts don't seem to know what to do with (or about) them. Either way, one thing is for certain: they're definitely not marrying them.
04. Redundancy of the Standard Model
|The wedding of an African American couple in the 1950s. (Source).|
The standard model of marriage is man and woman living together in the same house raising children. This model was useful during the primitive days of human societies when survival was highly contingent on the cohesiveness of the family unit, or at least, the family's tribe. This model had a very clear system of role play, where the man has a distinct role (as the hunter/gatherer/warrior) and the woman another (as the child bearer and family nurturer).
The family unit provided protection for its members when there was an impending threat. It also provided the needed health care for its members. It became an incubator for young ones entering into the harsher world outside. It provided a reference point for those who shared the same blood to be each other's consul and comfort—a tribe within a tribe, if you will. Finally, the strength of the family unit rest in its patriarch and to a much lesser extent, the tribal elder.
While the family unit is still very effective in the modern world, modern societies have evolved these tribe specific functions to become nationalized social services. For example: Modern societies now feature a relatively ubiquitous law enforcement element that protects not only the family unit, but its commercial interests as well. Health care is equally ubiquitous. Support groups have become so specialized, that families now turn to them instead of the local family matriarch, and tribal leadership now exists on several layers of administrative representation.
The tribal elder is now a congressional (or district) representative (i.e. government). There are places thriving with matriarchs who care for the sick and the helpless (i.e. hospitals). There are places thriving with warriors whose sole duty is to serve and protect (i.e. police and armies). There are places designed especially for the incubation of the young (i.e. schools).
I could go on, but I'm sure that you can see my point. The family unit, while still useful on a microscopic level, is macroscopically redundant. That's a good thing. For if the family fails (and the probability of this is exponentially higher now that we have 7 billion people on the planet), then the social construct, or the "super tribe" that we call society often acts as a safety buffer. While this safety buffer is by no means perfect, the lives of many would be worse without it.
It is this social safety buffer that has consequently facilitated the macroscopic redundancy of marriage as a necessary function for an effective family. The function of marriage now largely thrives on cognitive dissonance, because the people entering it consider it an emotional investment that is worth defending. It no longer thrives on the perceived necessity for survival. This is why people hold wedding vows with scant regard today and why the wealthy wantonly and indiscriminately get married and divorced without any sense of moral obligation.
Furthermore, marriages from previous generations were based on the codependency model where the male became the backbone of the female, who in turn provided support as the nurturer of the home. This standard model only works where the male is the sole bread winner while the female becomes a career housewife. The female would greet her husband when he returned home while preparing a meal for the entire family to consume at day's end.
Those marriages proved to be the longest on record. They were based on a much simpler paradigm where women were socialized to be much humbler and more submissive than they are now. In fact, the social conditioning of women in those days would be considered sexist by today's standards, and yet, in those days, divorce rates were much lower. But that's not the only thing. They were based on true love, as evidenced by this couple that passed recently.
Modern marriages however usually involve two people who are both working. As such the female is already preoccupied with her own daily interests and so has no need to court her husband and live vicariously through his work day. Modern marriages feature two highly independent people with very few codependent needs (if any), and so the marriage exists primarily for the sake of comfort. This modern arrangement is obviously easier to break, as evidenced by the extremely high divorce rate. There is less patience on both sides these days.
The end result is that a lot of divorces happen due to "irreconcilable differences", which is just legalese for "we can't stand living with each other". More and more people are finding clever alternatives to this problem by either remaining life long partners and never getting married, or if they do get married, continue to live separate lives, in separate homes, only seeing each other when the desire arises. These are called "unconventional marriages". They tend to have a lower rate of failure (by their nature) and are best suited for certain types of personalities.
03. Misrepresentation in the Media
|For ages, Hollywood has repeatedly told us that the wedding day is the end of the story.|
Every year, Hollywood churns out the standard trope of chick flicks based on exactly the same rehashed plot lines that repeatedly bludgeon the masses with the idea that marriage is a happy ending to any story. This Fairy Tale garbage has been around since the 15th century, when marriage was a happy ending. Why? Because in those days, women weren't socially conditioned to be independent. They were conditioned to believe that being married is a gift.
As a result, this model rarely ever failed simply because men, for the most part, were marrying female robots. Fast forward 600 years and this becomes far from the truth. It is no surprise that Drew Barrymore (who stars in the film still above from the Wedding Planner) is divorced. Her co star, Adam Sandler, however is very much married, (quite happily too) with children!
It appears that Drew drank the Hollywood Kool-Aid like many of the other women who gorge themselves on such emotion baiting tropes of fiction. As a result, a lot of younger people (particularly women), dive into marriage feet first, expecting a whirlwind of perpetual marital bliss. What they find, they are grossly unprepared for. There's absolutely no surprise there. That's probably why studies show women are twice more likely than men to file for divorce.
The truth is that marriage is really the beginning of the story, not the end. This is why so many women live for the wedding day, but not the marriage that follows. They go into marriage with this fairy tale idea that it is the ultimate consummation of their womanhood, only to realize that marriage is actually very hard work. The Hollywood fairytale ends before this occurs. It is no small wonder then that so many women are so misinformed about what marriage really is.
02. Escalating Population Concentration
Up until about 300 years ago, the world population was at a relatively sustainable level. Then we discovered antibiotics, and our population exploded. That is both a good and a bad thing. Here's the problem: Because there are more of us around, those of us with DNA that would make us less socially soluble lived longer, keeping their DNA in the pool, and thus increased the improbable likelihood that personalities unsuitable for marriage could become married.
Back in the day, those types of personalities were far less likely to be romantically involved (and thus produce progeny). This was largely due to their inability to successfully integrate into societies. Thus, their DNA would have been eliminated by virtue of exclusion. However, as more people abound, the personalities unsuitable for marriage became more commonplace.
Secondly, because there are more people in the world, there is a propagation of many more ideas that factor into social development. This increases the complexity of society without a corresponding evolution of a construct like marriage. Social change is directly proportional to population growth. The more people there are, the faster and more regularly society changes.
In fact, right at that turning point some 300 years ago, the cognitive evolution of our society progressed in leaps and bounds, changing in 300 years around the world what previously would have taken over a thousand years to change before then. Why? Because we have more people now. If you plot the frequency of social change against population growth over the last 300 years, you will notice a J-curve, where social and population change remained stagnant until the 1800s. There it spiked dramatically with the advent of modern medicine.
You can observe this phenomenon in the modern world by reviewing the social simplicity of small town America and compare them with major cities in America with far higher population densities like New York, Miami or Los Angeles. Small town America tends to be highly religious, maintaining traditional, conservative (if not outdated) social standards, such as the standard model of marriage. These older social standards thrive in the modesty of smaller communities.
Big cities are far more liberal, adopting more modern social changes (women and minorities in leadership positions, gay marriage, etc.) than their small down counter parts. The difference in population density between both directly correspond with both their levels of social maturity. In fact, when a small town grows into a city, it tends to shed its conservative views, simply because there are more minds simultaneously at work shaping and evolving the community.
Similarly, the woman who started the women's liberation movement would probably not have had as many minds in which to sew her seeds of discontent had she been born just a century earlier. In fact, her motivations are nothing new. Many women have pioneered her cause before her (and that includes queens and matriarchs). However societies were much smaller (and thus, more conservative) then, than they are now. So earlier efforts failed to take root.
For this reason, the conservative nature of marriage is finding it considerably harder to survive in a larger, more complex, liberalized society. For example: despite the efforts of Christian communities to engender principles such as abstinence prior to marriage in young teens, the entire plan backfired when the teens turned to other forms of sexual activity. Abstinence works best in a world where there is no Cable TV or internet. Such a world no longer exists.
01. Marriage has become obsolete
|This is what marriage looks like in today's world. (Source: Librado Romero / New York Times)|
With that said, the ultimate reason marriage fails regularly (or simply never happens) in this modern world is simply that: The world is modern and marriage is not. Marriage is as relevant today as the horse drawn carriage. It is a remnant of an old age gone by where wives were considered their husbands' asset. That's consequently why it is traditionally accepted that the wife takes her husbands last name. It was a sign of the man's ownership of the woman as his wife couldn't claim any of his property on his death. I bet many of you didn't even know that.
The evolution of one half of the ingredients to the marriage pie without a corresponding upgrade of the marriage paradigm is the equivalent of using a turbo charged 700 horse power V-8 engine to replace the horse in a horse drawn a carriage. Technically, the engine will still work. It's just that switching it on would rip the wood and metal chassis of the carriage to pieces. That's the real reason why so many marriages are failing today. We've upgraded the engine, without switching to a carbon fibre chassis. The institution needs a serious upgrade.
Today our collective consciousnesses have been raised about how we perceive women. We consider them to be even more attractive as independent souls, as opposed to 2nd class codependents. 21st century men would never pander to the thought of "owning" a woman (unless one is of the religious sort). That's why some of us modern men don't mind our women double-barrelling their last names, or never changing it at all if we ever decide to get married.
Now, I'm no feminist, but I lean more to the latter.
This is not to say that marriage won't ever work. Rather, as the world grows bigger, marriage becomes suitable for a decreasing percentage of us, unless we also evolve the principles of marriage to match. Some of us are slowly becoming wiser about this, ultimately realizing that marriage vows have no legal precedence whatsoever. Marriage vows are not a legally binding. It is actually an empty ritual that we use to sentimentalize the occasion — for better or worse.
The actual legal contract in marriage is really the document that is signed after exchanging the ritualistic "I do's". Technically, (from a legal stand point) you can be married by just showing up at your local city hall (or government registrar) and signing the document in front of two witnesses. Everything else from the wedding dress, the catering, the production design, the bridal procession, and the $200,000 price tag for your wedding planner, is most egregiously unnecessary. We do these things because we love empty rituals. It is part of our humanity.
Until this is universally understood, it will take a while for us to realize that marriage no longer applies for the majority of us (in more or less the same way it took us a while to realize that the sun doesn't orbit the earth). Either we have become too modern, too smart, too intelligent for the simplicity of marriage, or we have evolved so quickly, that we have omitted to update the institution in the process. Either way, our laws have ultimately made marriage redundant.
In the distant 21st century (or the early 22nd century), our collective consciousnesses will be raised once again. This time, it is when we finally make the separation between marriage and religion (consequently, rendering marriage redundant) and come to the realization that it is not that love is dying, but rather that we don't actually need marriage to celebrate our love.
All of the future grandparents and great grand parents my age and younger who would have normally snubbed our noses at such "immorality", will be long dead. There will be no one to tell our grand and great grand children about why one "should" get married, attaching all kinds of spurious mythologically spawned morality tales to our justification. The marriage meme will die with our children's generation. It may not survive intact into the 22nd century.
Despite the resounding sound of marriage's early adopters who found it less compelling on the inside of the institution than outside, I realize that the only people complaining about marriage are the ones who had the wrong idea about how it was supposed to work. Most of the people who get divorced didn't really think clearly about what they were doing when they exchanged vows. Some even number among the types of people who should not get married.
However, cultural irrelevance aside, there is a lot of good in marriage (so long as it is done right). Assuming that the marriage is successful, married couples live longer, more fulfilling lives (even though this also turns out to be true for unmarried couples who are committed to each other for life). There is the joy of raising children within an institution protected under the law, (even though the law protects children whether or not they live inside a marital home).
Wait, I'm grasping at straws here. There is no intrinsic benefit to being married except for the legal benefits handed down by the state. Some of those benefits do not necessarily apply in every country. So there's that. Therefore marriage really has more economic value than it does sentimental ones. The social status that is afforded married couples is certainly a thing worth bragging about. Then again, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's idyllic "power couple" and economic status are unprecedented, and they aren't married. Yes. I do appear to be grasping at straws.
Before you lose all hope, have a gander at this sweet video:
Doesn't that just warm you up inside? Doesn't it make you want to find that someone, fall in love, make an epic, memorable proposal as you declare your love in public and get married? Isn't it supposed to be fun to be married to that one person you want to share the rest of your life with? I know this is my emotion talking, but isn't this ritual perhaps worth trying for?
I know that we can't escape the inevitability of marriage's extinction. However, maybe the extinction is not of marriage itself, but of our existing concept of marriage. As we are biological creatures, the one thing we do best is evolve. Maybe we are at that point in human history where we realize that we're doing it wrong and we need to evolve. Then marriage will evolve.
But that is not likely.
Evolution not only applies to biology, but to human culture as well. Religion by its very nature is static. It cannot evolve. That's why it's dying. Now while marriage is rooted in religion, it is not as inflexible. Thus it has a fair chance of survival, but not for long. Marriage has remained relatively unchanged for the last 4,000 years. Humanity has changed many times since then.
Therefore it stands to reason that human evolution will eventually outpace its own culture (as it has done many times in the past), which is consequently why constructs like marriage will one day be left behind. Human evolution will occur whether marriage evolves or not. Surely if marriage can't evolve, it will die. Those are the rules of survival and there are no exceptions.
The sad truth is that marriage will probably not be able to keep up with the pace of human evolution forever. It is already lagging behind dramatically as people find more ways to enjoy their love without bogging it down under the weight of marriage. As the world becomes more modern, the necessity for the benefits both legal and economic that were once exclusive to marriage have become so universal, that they have unwittingly rendered marriage redundant.
In the not too distant future, people will no longer need to be married to obtain the benefits of being a family unit. Right now, it is primarily the wealthy who reap these benefits. But this will not remain the same for all the same reasons why owning a car or a television is no longer exclusive to the rich and famous. As societies get more modern, we get wealthier. As we get wealthier, the less we will need the economic benefits that seem to be exclusive to marriage.
It is then that marriage will evaporate from our societies completely like a watering hole drying up on the hot savannah. People will still remember it with fondness, but not with enthusiasm. However the extinction of marriage doesn't equate to an extinction of love. Nothing can render love extinct. It is so a powerful biological need that it supersedes everything — even marriage.
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