Falling in love, courtship, nuptials, bridal parades, guests, gifts, illuminations, dowries, honeymoons and consummations are still lined up. There is motion and speed in today's marriage, but the momentum gives away as quickly as it picks up. Sooner or later, a large number of marriages run out of steam, because men and women who are eager to take the vow do not have patience till death do them part.
In 1891, a Cornell University professor had predicted that if divorce continued to rise at the existing rate, then within the next hundred years more marriages were bound to end in divorce than in death. The prediction has been stunningly accurate. Divorce is now a menace to marriage.
Start with the United States, which has the highest divorce rate in the world. It is twice as high as the next highest country Sweden and 50 times higher than some low incidence countries. China's divorce rate has soared more than 700 percent since 1980. Between 1999 and 2003, the number of marriages became almost half in Chile. In countries like Italy, Singapore and Japan, a much larger percentage of women avoid marriage and childbearing altogether. Even in predominantly Catholic Ireland, one out of three children is born out of wedlock.
Divorce rate has also shot up in countries where it was previously discouraged through legal, religious or cultural means. These countries include Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Mexico and South Africa. The billow of that wave has also reached our shores. The available statistics may not be adequate, but a growing percentage of marriages even in this country are going kaput.
So, what is happening to marriage? It is definitely shrinking as people live longer, marry later, exit more quickly and choose to live together before and after marriage, between marriages and as alternative to marriage. Among young men and women, social confidence in marriage is wavering. They do not show the same strong commitment to marriage as their parents. By and large, married people are less happy today compared to their ancestors.
Historically, marriage has transformed from time to time. Between ancient times and the Renaissance period, love had nothing to do with marriage, because politics and money trumped emotions. In ancient Greece love was honored, especially between men. Wife-swapping as a career move was common in Rome. French scholar Montaigne reflected the spirit of his time. Any man in love with his wife must be so dull that no one else could love him, he wrote.
From the 16th century to the Victorian era love started taking lead in marriage, although people still turned to family, lovers and friends for intimacy and passion. It was not considered polite if couples openly showed attachment or used endearing nicknames to call each other. It was in the mid-19th century that the tradition of honeymoon was introduced to replace the old custom when a newly-wed couple was required to visit those relatives who could not attend the wedding.
But the 20th century concentrated on love. Intimacy shrank to encompass just the lovers and love took the center stage in marriage. In the 1920s, Saturday night started in the USA as a dating craze spread across the country. Marriage flourished as the ultimate expression of love and emerged as a mandatory thing.
The irony is that just when love was recognized as the foundation of marriage, marriage started to wobble. It can be explained from many angles. Young men and women do not have enough patience. They are more impulsive in love than committed to it. Then there are the financial burdens, social pressures and family compulsions. Marriages may still be made in heaven, but married people are going through hell.
We are pleased to inform our readers that this week First News completes 350 issues and seven years of publication. As we enter the eighth year, we would like to express our heartiest congratulations and sincere appreciation to our directors, colleagues, readers, contributors, patrons and well-wishers for their continued support and cooperation.