The institution of marriage

What is marriage?

Marriage, also known as wedlock or matrimony, is the state between people, which means that they will be partners. In a legal sense, it places both rights and obligations on the people who are married. Although marriage between two people is the norm, certain cultures allow for polygamy or marriage between an individual and several partners. For many centuries, marriage was only allowed between adults – although the definition of what constituted an adult varied – who were of opposite sexes. Nowadays, many countries around the world allow for legal unions between same-sex couples as well as transgender people. It has many religious connotations although marriage is a legal status, usually sanctioned by the state.

 Where did marriage start?

 As soon as humankind developed into primitive societies, there needed to be a way of bonding clans together to avoid war and to strengthen the unity of diverse groups. The answer was the matrimony of two individuals, usually with the aim of creating a common heir. As such, some form of marriage is likely to have begun in the stone age. It has long been mentioned in the oldest texts around, including the Bible, as the way unions are legitimised. As societies became more settled, especially in the Middle East, wedding ceremonies were likely to have become more and more lavish with greater emphasis on the sort of rites we would still recognise today.

How does marriage change you?

Put simply, being married means you have entered into a legally binding contract. Although it is possible to get out of such a contract by divorce proceedings, this is a change as significant as entering into a business partnership, for instance. At a personal level, whether marriage impacts your personality or behaviour would very much depend on the individuals involved. In the past, women were married to their husbands and passed from being the chattel of their father to their groom, which could mean a significant change. However, modern property laws have altered this unfair status to a more equitable in nearly every advanced society in the world, so the change is less pronounced today.

Can a marriage work after a separation?

It is certainly possible that a marriage can be put right after a separation, either caused by work commitments overseas or from a relationship breakdown, for instance. In the past, when marriage was seen by many as the primary form of union between couples, significant social pressure would have been placed to try and make things work. Given that this pressure is less significant nowadays, more marriages end in divorce than what used to be the case. However, there is no reason to say that a marriage cannot work following a period apart.

Why do marriages fail?

Marriages fail for the same reasons that any relationships do. The primary ones are arguments, infidelity or simply growing apart. In this regard, marriage breakups are no different from partnership breakdowns among unmarried couples.

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