If you are happily married and you believe you will forever be happily married kindly move onto another article. Thanks for logging in. Goodbye.
The idea of marriage does not fill me with orgasm inducing thoughts. In fact I think the entire institution is usually an elaborate waste of the paper that is used to print the marriage certificates/contracts. In 2014 we should save trees and delay or dismiss the urge to be wed.
Unfortunately this is, for some, a sensitive issue. Perhaps your God decrees marriage and thus this article is blasphemous or your parents are pretending to be happily married and you buy it. If this is the case you may continue reading or alternatively see the recommendation in paragraph one. The view that marriage sucks is usually met with annoyance or disbelief. This is due to the dominant social script we (are expected to) follow in life: Birth-School-Work-Marriage-Retirement-Death. Needless to say there are people who deviate from the set path. For example some people do not complete schooling, similarly others never retire or die (certain politicians come to mind). That, however, does not change the dominant idea of what people (including significant persons, such as your family) expect you to do with ‘your’ life. Marriage is part of the expected life path and while there is absolutely nothing, inherently, wrong with not getting married we expect people to marry. Each time I ask friends to give me three good reasons for marriage they first look at me with a look that says “How dare you even ask that”? Such is the strength of this social script.
To the devoted marriagees (people who believe in marriage), the country with the lowest divorce rate (0.04% of those who say “I do” end up saying “I cannot wait for death”) is Afghanistan. Feel free to relocate at your earliest convenience. According to the 2011 Census 43.7% of South Africans aged 20 or older have never married. The Justice Department’s 2012-13 annual report reported a 28% increase in divorce rates from 39 573 to 50 517 cases. Working together (or perhaps apart) we can do more! The numbers do not paint marriage in the best of light but they are not very useful because the complex picture of people who re-marry, those who soldier on in hazardous marriages et cetera, are not appropriately accounted for.
Socially ascribed oppression
Have you ever heard of the notion of “S/he changed after we got married”? This notion suggests that there is something about marriage… I propose that the institution is essentially designed to nourish oppression as much as marriagees believe that marriage is a love cocoon. Marriage is a curious institution. It is presented, at least in the mainstream, as the joining of two people and making them one. Now Africans reading this will tell you that it is much more realistic to construct this thing institution as the joining of two families. Thus not only is it oppressive to the two people who sign the contract but their offspring, and other family members, are in the proverbial firing line.
Nguni women who are married will be familiar with the following phrase: mtanami kunzima emendweni; kuyabekezelwa emendweni. It can be translated to say my child one must be understanding/patient/conforming in marriage because marriage is difficult. Why you would leave your family to go and make do in an institution that comes with a disclaimer is beyond me. This should not be alluring!
If you are not married but you are with a partner and s/he cheats on you, with someone who does not even look half as good as the person in your bathroom mirror, you can end things and move onto the next one. In the context of marriage, you can leave but it is not quite the same. You now have to think about the implications for the jointly acquired/held assets (and liabilities). You also have to consider what the families will say, you friends etc. Unfortunately divorcee is not a cool term (but we can work on increasing its street credibility). You may also consider staying with the cheating (or abusive or lacklustre) partner for the sake of the kids. We will return to this notion in a short while.
Now you might argue that if a person is a bad person an unsuitable partner they will be unsuitable in/out of wedlock. You are partially correct. Yes there are people in abusive relationships who are not married. However, legally they can walk away without any consequence. Not the married lot. I know of at least one South African case, documented in an academic journal, where a husband raped his wife and successfully argued in court for a reduced sentence because he had paid Lobola. All the ills of patriarchy are neatly massaged and nourished by marriage. Back to the purported altruism of the supposedly valiant marriagees who do it for the kids. It is utter nonsense! Sometimes it makes financial sense, thus an unemployed housewife with no economic prospects may stay with an economically secure (but abusive) man out of financial dependence. This is not doing it for the kids; it is doing it for the money. The notion that a wife (or a husband) must hold on to a broken marriage because it is better for a child to grow up having two parents is misguided, false and dangerous. It has no rational basis. In fact psychological research, if you are into Attachment theory, argues that a child needs a secure base to develop healthy attachment (and subsequent social behaviour) patterns. This can be provided by a mom, dad or a grandmother. If the child gets it from two parents that is great but you do not suffer psychological damage because your dad or mom was not around. Those who are around are capable of offering you the required affection, somewhat similar to how some people are rocking on with one kidney.
The related argument of marriage providing stability is worth noting. In cases where the marriage ‘is working’ then it is good. That said you probably know of unmarried couples who are in, what you would define as being, healthy/‘working’ relationships. Some may go on to get married. Hopefully some will not. I am of the opinion that being in a healthy relationship, composed of mutual love and affection, without abuse of any form, keeps you on your toes. You work on keeping things in that state. Why mess up a perfectly good relationship with this thing institution called marriage? If you do decide to alter things at least come to me and we will draft a pre-nuptial agreement.
Now back to reality. Unfortunately having read this will change nothing. Your views are already firmly established and the social pressures run too deep. You may critique this blog for being unbalanced, why do I say nothing about marriage’s positive qualities? Initially I made an effort to find marriage’s redeeming qualities. I did not come across any. I subsequently decided to stop searching for the evasive because the dominant view of marriage as a ‘natural’ and positive institution is so pervasive that a critique of this view need not even give reason for deriding this institution. Should I ever get married, to my future wife, I was listening to some really bad Kwaito music when I drafted this. It was the music and not me dictating this vitriol.
Marry at your own(and relevant others) risk!
I like this Anonymous person, s/he always has wise words!