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NO LAUGHING MATTER: Till death do us part?

Mac Fingall

NO LAUGHING MATTER: Till death do us part?

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A few years ago I wrote a song called De Review which dealt with marriage to suit the times we now live in. This came about as a result of an extraordinarily high number of divorces, separations, marital disputes and cases of domestic violence.
My general observations and reading of related articles caused me to wonder if the increases in these marital problems were due to any specific change in the sexes.
The most glaring change was the educational development of the woman. No longer was she the typical housewife. She was now a career woman. Actually, the women outnumbered the men in many professions. It now meant that the modern-day woman did not have the fear of financial insecurity which would have caused the wives of earlier time to endure many an unpleasant happening.
So hence the song De Review, which called for a licence for three years after which there would be a review to determine if the marriage is working well. If it were to be assessed that the union was not satisfactory to one or both of the parties, the marriage would then simply come to end – licence would have expired. No divorce proceedings. No stress. Done. Move on.
If, however, after those three years both parties were pleased with the experience, there would be an extension for another three years or even more – if they felt that good about the relationship.
Some priests criticized the song, saying it was sacrilegious. How could it be such when no vows were made? No “till death do us part”, no “trust and obey”, and no major promises.
There would have been no mouthings to burden the individuals thereby burdening the relationship. Let them trust each other. Why does it have to be made public? Why does a marriage have to have the pressure of society?
Shortly after the release of the song, while browsing the Internet, I noticed an article about a female member of the German parliament calling for the same type of licence but for seven years. I suddenly felt not so alone. Someone somewhere in this large world was thinking the same thing. I smiled.
But I wondered why seven years! I then found out that there was something called “the seven-year itch”, which evolved when researchers, psychologists and therapists all concluded that a marriage really only lasts seven years. They philosophized that after seven years, the thrill is gone – the excitement is no more – and that most people who go past that time are really unhappy and miserable.
I have cause to believe that marriage means more to women than it does to men. Yet men are the ones who traditionally ask the women to marry. They even sometimes do it suppliantly, going down on their knees. This paradox confuses me.
Women seem to have an innate quest to get married. Amidst all the development, achievements and financial security which they now have, some want to get married although in some cases all the “red flags” suggest they should not. Why is this so?
Some say it is to please society. Some say it makes the woman feel complete. Others say the woman views her life to be a failure if she doesn’t ever get married. So, it seems like ‘marry no matter the consequences’.
One thing that is evident is that relationships appear to work better before marriage and even after marriage than they do during marriage. What happens to the euphoria and the elation and the ecstasy?
Psychologist Ted Hutson’s studies show that “couples whose marriages begin in romantic bliss are particularly prone to early divorce because such activity is too hard to maintain”. He claims that “spouses in lacklustre marriages have relatively long-lasting relationships and are less prone to divorce because there is no significant erosion of such things as romance, passion, expectations, dreams or ideals”.
Ted further opined, “Lovers initially behave in an idealized state of courtship. After they tie the knot, the submerged aspects of their real personalities emerge. This disillusionment can soon destroy a marriage. To save the marriage, a couple needs to understand that all that glitters is not gold.”
Where do you fit?
Here is how an anthropologist compared Indian “arranged” marriages to our Western marriages. “Western couples marry when the fire is in flames, the pot is hot and water is boiling. After marriage, the fire dies down and the pot soon begins to get cold.
“Eastern couples go out to collect the wood after they are married. Then they light the fire and start warming the pot. By the time the water comes to the boiling point and starts cooling, life is almost over.”
Which practice do you prefer?
• Mac Fingall is an entertainer and retired secondary school teacher.