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Marriage is a social institution where two people unite to make up a family. It is a union where interpersonal associations usually sexual are accepted in various ways depending on the culture of the people involved. Sometimes a marriage is referred to as matrimony and could be formalized through a ceremony normally known as a wedding. People usually get married for various reasons ranging from economical, social, emotional, spiritual or even religious. Marriage generally develops legal and social obligations between the people involved with clear cut guidelines that specify the responsibilities of each. In certain cases or cultures, these responsibilities may be extended to other specific members of the families of the married people such as parents. Marriage is generally acknowledged by the state or a religious entity and in most cases both. Civil marriage is the lawful idea of marriage as a legislative institution irrespective of the religious association of the two concerned people. In some societies, dissolution of marriage is allowed under what could be referred as annulment or divorce.
The institution of marriage has been there for as long as the human race was there. What was and still is different is the setup, approaches and procedures which continue to change as time moves (Popenoe & Barbara, 368). The way to conduct a marriage together with its rules and regulations continues to revolutionize depending on the social backgrounds as well as demographic of the moment. Different cultures have different theories that explain the foundation of marriage. For instance, the foundation of marriage may be in the man’s necessity for assertion as to the paternity of his offspring. He could therefore willingly pay the required bride price in addition to providing for the woman in order to get exclusive sexual access to her. In some societies women work hard since they are the bread winners, loose their sexual freedom and seem to benefit very little from the unions. Men in such cultures do nothing apart from charting with their friends while their wives shoulder the whole burden of making sure that the family is fed, stays in a good place and the children are taught good manners. Women are given very little choices as far as marriage is concerned since they don’t decide who to get married to and when. In most cultures, getting a woman was institutionalized in various specific ways to ensure that the intensity of the competition in get her is moderated. In most cultures, men solely carried the responsibility of providing for the family while women took care of the home and the children. Other cultures especially in the olden times allowed a man to marry several women and in fact as many as one wanted which is referred to as polygamy. The freedom was however not granted to the woman to do the same since she was considered a property of her husband, although it was known to happen in some societies. This kind of union is known as polyandry. Most cultures have various restrictions based on age, religion or other social groups of the involved people.
The institution of marriage has however changed in a great way with time. Parents and children relied on well formed and structured customs for instance on when and how to discipline a child (Cherlin, 402). Under the liberalized society, this has little or no occurrence at all. A woman is no longer considered a property of the man irrespective of her social standings. Whenever a woman is getting married, she is aware of her position in the relationship and is free to change her mind if she feels she is being mistreated. The responsibilities are shared on mutual agreement between the two parties and each is expected to play his/her role towards the successof the union. Major decisions are made with an agreement between both of them in contrast to the earlier times where men made virtually all important decisions. At the start of the marriage in the contemporary society, each partner has a choice of either keeping his/her portion of property separately or putting it together with his/her spouse’s. The modern customs also allow a joint liability for the debts the family may have. This contradicts the earlier setup where the husband had the duty of providing for the family solely. Another change that is so imminent in the institution of marriage is the breakup chances. In the earlier times, divorces or annulments were very rare. The society worked hard to ensure that the marriage worked. This was done by the elderly people, relatives or even parents who left nothing to chance whenever disagreements threatened to break up a union. The two involved people owed the success of the marriage to the society and therefore they would separate under rare circumstances. Temporally marriages have also come into being where a couple enters in to marriage for a set period of time. Examples of such include the practice of hand fasting as well as fixed term marriages in the Islamic society. The emergence of same sex marriage is another item that shows how marriage practices have changed over time. Men can marry other men while women can marry other women in a number of states in the US. Such unions were unheard of in the early times and could be considered taboos in the society.
This however is no longer the case in the contemporary society. Things are not done as they used to due to various things that have come up in the recent times. One of the causes of these changes is civilization and liberalized education systems. The coming of civilization enabled the society in America to change their way of thinking and expectations from marriage. The availability of information and knowledge from various sources such as books, magazines, newspapers, the internet, television and radio has given the society a liberalized thinking and perspective towards marriage. Women have been given the same access to knowledge with men and therefore enlightening them. Various legislations have also been passed that has guaranteed each party in marriage of their rights about their feelings or affiliations. Gay and lesbian marriages have been allowed due to the arguments of individuals about sex affiliations in regard to their rights. This has made it necessary for various states to put in place legislations that accommodate such unions. Another reason that has brought about the changes is the entry of women in to the salaried labor force (Cherlin, 849). This means that a woman is no longer confined in the house as a homemaker but can now go out and competitively seek jobs together with men. This has left little choice to men who have had to take up responsibilities in the house which previously were considered feminine. This therefore means that a couple has to workout the modalities of sharing the household chores without clear cut guidelines that specify which role is meant for any one of them in particular. Many children are also being born out of wedlock due to women preference on staying on their own. Since they are working and earning good salaries they some may feel that they can be able to bring up their children on their own comfortably. They are hence able to send them to school, feed and clothe them without any assistance from a man. This has led to numerous children being brought up by single mothers even when their fathers are still alive. These occurrences were very rare in the old times since most women depended on men for survival and therefore could not leave their matrimonial homes.
All these factors have come to destabilize the marriage innstitution in a significant way. According to Patz, one in every two marriages ends up in divorce (421) in the US. This paints a very gloomy picture of the destiny of most marriages in the society today. It shows how many marriages start with lusts and love but over time, these two traits go dwindling and finally they end up in separation and divorce. Patz argues that many divorces are as a result of interactive problems such as recurrent expressions of aggression, lack of respect for the other person’s ideas and similar interrelation issues. She points out that couples whose marriage starts with blissful romance are vulnerable to divorce since they find it difficult to maintain the intensity of their feelings over time. Marriages that do not exhibit the high levels of passion and affection at the beginning are able to withstand the test of time and have a promising future.
An interview with people of two different age groups reveals the same. The two age groups are between 70 - 85 years and 50-60 years. The older generation feels that the marriage institution is in the process of dying to factors that can be dealt with. These factors apart from what we have discussed above include the fact that cohabitation has become acceptable as a substitute to marriage (Chelrin, 851). According to them, cohabitation allows the couple to disregard the importance of formalizing their union thus being content with it. They point out that during their time, such instances could not exist since everyone knew that they could not stay with another person of the opposite sex unless they are married. They point out that cohabitation starts as a test of the relationship between the couple. It further progresses to stage two where it is accepted as an alternative to marriage after which it gets to the third stage where it is not distinguishable from the contemporary marriage. The group also notes that from the beginning, most couples are usually not decided as far as cohabitation or marriage is concerned.
On the other hand the age group between 50-60 years has a little different feeling as to why marriages are failing. The group feels that what happens in the initial years do not guarantee a successful marriage since it is full of love hype (Patz, 421) that does not survive for long. They also feel that most people are failing to sustain their marriages due to the demanding economic environment that they find themselves in. They are also shying away from commitment due to the changing societal structures. These structures manifest a preference in staying uncommitted in a relationship by many people. Most of them prefer to remain single so that they can interact with anyone. They can also be able to travel to different parts for the world without limitations that come with family commitment. For instance, if one wanted to travel for business or work related reasons, they can easily do that without much consideration on their commitments.
In conclusion, family ties have been weakening over time due to various factors. These factors include lack of commitment, changing economic and social environments as well as civilization. The emergence of various social traits such as same sex marriage, cohabitation and confusion between love and lust have changed people’s perspective towards marriage. The fact that many women have joined the employment search just like men has pushed men to doing various household chores that have previously been considered feminine. Such factors have led to many people preferring to remain single or to divorce. All these aspects show that even though the marriage institution forms the basis of human procreation, it is facing a serious threat and something must be done to save it.