The Future of Matrimony – Sociology Research Paper
“…to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us part’….” Wedding bells are ringing. The big day is finally here. As the soon-to-be husband and wife, bound together by love, prepare to walk
down the aisle, they truly believe that this would be their first and only wedding. The two couples are bounded together by love, hope, expectations, and dreams that inspire almost all marriages. Lovers that enter marriage envision dreams of what their new life will bring them. The thought of marriage not working, never crossed their mind. They both believed marriage would be “till death do us part” and that their significant other will be there for one another through thick and thin. Unfortunately, for many young lovers who got married early, this does not hold true.
Back in the 1950s, women had no choice but to marry. Women were forced to wed in order to achieve some form of economic stability – while simultaneously embarking on a lifetime of subservient bondage. Because women were viewed as inferior to men, they were to always remain at home. A woman’s main function was to produce offspring and manage household chores while their husbands tended to public affairs. This made marriage not so different from slavery and prostitution. In those days, wives were expected to be subservient to their husbands, leaving little room for romance and love to develop, even simple acts of affection was not necessary. Instead, the husbands would turn to prostitutes and concubines to satisfy their sexual needs, while the sole purpose of having sex at home was to just produce babies. Men wanted to create a legacy. At its most fundamental level, marriage was created for the purpose of raising children. Today, many of these pragmatic motivations no longer apply. A man no longer expects a wife to devote herself full-time to his care and upkeep, and a woman no longer needs a man to pay her way.
By the twentieth century, when capitalism firmly took hold and people no longer had to marry to secure their financial future, marriage changed. Divorce rates largely rose alongside the rise of capitalism, as growth and opportunity gave individuals the ability to survive financially outside the household economy. By 1924, one in seven marriages ended in a divorce. Divorce, something that was once unheard of, was now hailed as fresh alternative for the troubled women who were financially dependent and trapped. For battered women, and for the loveless couples, divorce was considered to be a healthy, rejuvenating response to marriages that were often viewed as “sick, lifeless or dead.” Divorce was believed to set them free, and finally make them happy again. It was “okay” to divorce, to be free, to listen to your heart and do what you need to for the sake of your own personal happiness because you deserve it.
With the widespread introduction of the Pill, the sexual revolution, the feminist movements, plus the freedoms celebrated by the “Me Generation”, it demonstrated to women in their twenties that they did not have to marry, that is, marriage was unnecessary for a life of a happiness. Although the average age of women entering marriage has not significantly changed over the past one hundred years, what have changed though, are the attitudes surrounding marriage. In 1890 women had few options, they were forced to enter into marriage in their twenties, but today, with the benefits formed by the women’s movement and with the economy advancing, women now not only have the choice to marry but also not to nonetheless. Modern day women now have the freedom to want whatever it is they choose to want because it is their God-given right as opposed to being forced. For both sexes even, men and women today marry because they can and want – not because they must.
A 1977 New York magazine “Early to Wed,” explains why young women and men today overwhelmingly believe in marriage and in marrying relatively young. One popular theory suggested that we are witnessing a search for stability in an era of instability (Sarah Bernard, “Early to Wed,” New York, 16 June 1997, P.38). “In the United States, the twenties are the picture-perfect decade for saying I do. The farther you stray from that magic era, the more freakish you start to feel. An article in a 1998 issue of the Journal of Family Issues confirms that being unmarried in your thirties can be bad for you state of mind because you feel like an outcast.”(Megan Fitzmorris McCafferty, “When Should You Marry,” Cosmopolitan, August 1999, p.238) But the younger you marry, the more likely you are to divorce. People are getting divorced as quickly as they are getting married. A 2001 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five first-marriage divorces occur within the first five years (Matthew D. Bramlett and William D. Mosher, “First Marriage Dissolution, Divorce and Remarriage: United States,” advance data, 31 May 2001, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).