The Significance of Present-Day Changes in the Institution of Marriage:
Today, it is a fact that more and more marriages are becoming impermanent and less long lasting than they ever have been before. What is the cause for this phenomenon? Levi-Strauss maintain that today, there is an equal division of labor, and as a direct consequence, what happens is that the rights and responsibilities between both the partners of opposite sexes becomes equalized, and as a result, there is less dependence of one partner on the other. Perhaps the so called 'woman's movement' may have also contributed to this type of occurrence, and various other changes in society, including a considerable lessening of housework, and also the sexual revolution that took place during the sixties may also have contributed to the upsetting of the balance of the equation between men and women. Consider housework, for example, today. (Nazzari, pp: 333- 335)
In the modern times, a man no longer has to actually 'marry' a woman in order to look after his house and make his meals for him; all he has to do is to acquire paid help, which would achieve the purpose, except maybe in the provision of personal care for his children. Today, almost areas of household work have become mechanized or phased out, or are provided by the service industry, like for example, when clothes need to be ironed, then there are dry cleaners or presses that provide the service, which one can avail of any time. Sewing and darning need not even be done any more, what with the availability of cheaper clothing, which can be disposed of after they have been worn.
In the same way, the deep freezer serves the purpose of enabling an individual to prepare and stock semi-cooked or fully cooked meals, which one can simply thaw out and consume, and one also has the potion of buying food from fast food restaurants and other similar places, and, in fact, a study conducted in America in 1980 has shown that half the meals eaten would be eaten outside the home. All this lessens the burden on the housewife to a considerable extent, and although this means that a wife would now be bale to spend time outside her home working, it also means that a man can easily dispense with a wife, as he would be very well able to manage living alone, as there are services available for money that he can use. This is a change from the beginning of the century, when a self-respecting man would have to have a woman to take care of his needs, while today, a man can live all alone, and very happily so. (Nazzari, pp: 333- 335)
However, the one area in which a wife is necessary is in the area of generational reproduction, since this is a service that only a wife can provide, not only to her husband, but also to herself, and to the society as a whole. The husband on the other hand, would only be able to appreciate the value of these services if the emotional bond that he shares with his wife is strong; otherwise, he may start to feel that his family is indeed a burden on him. There was a time when common law maintained that a father was entitled to the services of his children in return for the services that he had provided them with, but those times have now changed. Today, although the duty of providing maintenance for the children still rests on the father, the return favors or material rewards do not exist any more; Jessie Bernard has found in a study that this is perhaps one of the reasons that men are today avoiding marriage, and the responsibilities that he would have to face with his children.
Today, children are only an emotional reward, and most men feel that they can do very well without such rewards. After a divorce, therefore, it is the wife who maintains the rewards as well as the burden of children. The sexual revolution, where women especially started to rebel against the norms of society wherein conforming or withdrawing form marriage would bring appropriate rewards or punishments, was also a major cause for the breaking up of marriage as an institution. Today, one need not wait for marriage in order to obtain sexual gratification; today there are all kinds of lifestyles, and society does not frown upon such different people any more. Cohabitation is the most popular trend today, and there is the Marvin case of a woman who sued her companion for maintenance when there had been no marriage between them. The court treated the woman as if she had been married to the man, and awarded maintenance. This decision in itself shows the changing trends of society regarding marriage and cohabitation. The anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski has stated that in general, a male will always refuse to take the responsibility for his own offspring, unless society compels him to do so. (Nazzari, pp: 333- 335)
2. Marriage Breakdown:
Why is marriage breaking down today, and what are the important causes? When one considers environmental factors, one can simply say that girls and boys today are not being taught the basic and necessary skills that are needed to manage a home. Girls, one hand, are being increasingly encouraged to seek jobs outside their homes, and they find it difficult to perform the balancing act needed to keep things together, and boys are being encouraged to indulge themselves when they can, and they find it difficult to adjust to married and home life. This causes resentment and irritation with each other, and this becomes the main cause for the breakdown of marriage in the early years. Another important issue is whether there is more happiness within a marriage if the partners are similar, or if they are dissimilar. While on the one hand, too much similarity may cause the onset of boredom, too much dissimilarity may cause volatile situations that may eventually explode. (Coughlan, pp: 336-340)
The economic status of the couple, the social status that they enjoy, their educational qualifications, may all contribute to the similarities and differences between two people, and feelings such as superiority, snobbishness, and so on may well arise between them if there is a wide disparity. Perhaps, it is indeed better for the man to be better in wisdom and in status than his wife, as long as he does not dominate, or treat his wife with contempt as he does so. However, it is an indisputable fact that as women seeks to better their positions and seek an equal status with men; more and more marriages are breaking up. As the woman becomes more empowered, she becomes less tolerant of her husband's various vagaries and discrepancies in behavior, and she therefore cannot endure physical and mental cruelties that many women of the past used to accept as being part of a broken marriage.
There are certain major forces that must be brought into a marriage if it were to survive against adversity, and therefore, one must understand the fact that today, most marriages have become 'syncratic', or democratic, and this means that today, both the partners require many more skills and capabilities and maturity than their forefathers to enter into a marriage, and when these qualities are not present, in today's threatening environment, and not the nurturing environment of past years, then the marriage must inevitably break down finally. There are more provisions for the dissolution of a marriage today than before, and maybe this is one of the reasons that people seek out the courts that encourage the break ups. (Coughlan, pp: 336-340)
3. Putting Asunder:
When one peruses the sixteenth century divorce doctrines one does get the impression that they laid more emphasis on marriage rather than on divorce as such. Within the divorce documents there were provisions made for the supervision of marriages, and this meant that conflicts and disputes between spouses could be dealt with before they escalated beyond control, and even when the couple would petition for divorce, the legal mechanisms would attempt to minimize the possibility of divorce and would try to save the marriage. It was only when such measures failed that divorce would be granted, at which point attempts would be made to try for a new marriage. All this meant that the main concern was to save an existing marriage and preserve its basic integrity. While the Catholic Church would take upon itself the right to separate spouses for reasons of adultery and so on, and leave the partners in a sort of ambiguous state where they would neither be married nor would they be divorced, the Reformers stated that they were not able to tolerate this state of neither here nor there, and also said that this was dangerous to society. They felt that marriage was indeed a weapon that one could use against 'evil', where one could…