What's the point of marriage anyway?
It's almost impossible these days to log on social media and not see a photo of a hand with a beautiful, sparkling engagement ring with the caption #isaidyes or #shesaidyes. The wedding industry seems to be doing better than ever, so clearly people are getting married. Even so, it appears that the number of couples getting married is reducing as the years go by. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) 18,835 couples got married in 2013 down from 22,476 10 years before. On the other hand, the divorce rate seems to be going up, as in 2003, STATIN reported 1,600 divorces, while in 2013 it went up to 2,410. With a quick glance at these numbers, one can deduce a few things: the current society is not the right environment for a successful marriage; more persons are choosing to remain single; or marriage has lost its significance in our society.
Let's start by looking at the history of marriage. In the early days, marriage was an alliance formed between families to strengthen their financial status in the community. In those days, the couple had no say at all in who they marry. In some cases they didn't meet until their wedding day, and the process was managed completely by their fathers. If we look at marriage in the Bible, polygamy was preferred by with significant figures like Jacob, King David, and King Solomon having from two to thousands of wives. Having multiple wives was a sign of elevated status in the community, so wealthier men tend to have many wives.
One main objective of marriage in those days was to bear children. In some cultures, a man could leave his wife if she was found to be 'barren' or infertile. In the 21st century, while there are cultures that still practice arranged marriages, in Jamaica, couples get to choose their partners and decide how they will live their lives with little interference from their parents.
In Jamaica, most couples enjoy common-law relationships and have opted not to make their union official by getting legally married. However, the law recognises common-law marriage after a couple has been together, living in the same household for at least five years. This takes me back to my first question: How relevant is marriage in today's society? With fewer persons making their way to the altar, and even more people getting divorced, one can deduce that the age old institution is losing its relevance.
One of the main reasons for marriage is to create a secure environment for child-rearing, but the most popular family unit in Jamaica is the single parent family since most of our children are being born out of wedlock. My Christian colleagues still believe in the institution and still insist that their members get married before engaging in any sexual activity.
Nowadays, it seems the only people who are trying to get married are in the homosexual community. They have achieved marriage equality in the US and several other countries around the world. But most countries that align themselves with a religion - including Jamaica who identifies as a Christian nation - are not about to join that bandwagon anytime soon, and still define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
FEELING OF BELONGING
Ultimately, there are still people who look forward to their wedding day and all the trappings of marriage. It gives the feeling of belonging and security knowing that they are a part of a significant, legal union and a family. As far as I can see, it seems there is so much more emphasis and preparation when it comes to the wedding, but most couples just kind of make it up as they go along for the marriage. In my opinion, more needs to be done to prepare couples for some of the issues they will face when they get married.