It has been a bad few weeks for marriage. The film Gone Girl, I am told, does as much for marriage as Silence of the Lambs did for fava beans and bottles of chianti.
On Woman’s Hour they have declared ‘war’ in the family home over chores. Pre-nuptial agreements are on the increase, driven by high earning women wanting to protect their earnings should the ‘inevitable’ happen. If that were not bad enough, many spouses keep in touch with their ‘back up plan’ should the ‘current’ marriage go down the pan. This is made all the easier due to social media.
“One study from a research agency shows that half of married women stay in contact with what they call “back-up husbands,” an escape option if and when their marriage begins to struggle. Among men, the problem is even worse; they are twice as likely to have “back-burners.” Goodness, building the lifeboat before the ship has even hit the iceberg.
It seems many people now view marriage as a coming together of two individuals to pool expenses and accommodation, with extra benefits, but ultimately to remain independent from each other.
The Woman’s Hour Chore War series brought this idea into sharp relief. A sociologist advocated that women should never leave the workforce (ever – even when children are small) because chances are you could get divorced and Mum is left holding the baby and husband gets the earnings.
This view overlooks two important aspects of marital breakdown. First the rate of marital break-up is declining, and it is much lower than break-ups for cohabitees.
Secondly, English law will protect a wife who has sacrificed her career for the ‘good of the family’ as stated by Lady Hale (only female Supreme Court judge who happily protects women’s efforts in the private sphere, through her role in the public sphere – fellow feminists please note).
Ultimately however, I find it very depressing, very depressing indeed, that women are encouraged to remain in the workforce against their own preferences, perhaps doing very long hours, with very small children, to the detriment of the family as a whole.
It is one thing to continue working because you really enjoy your job, and/or the family needs the money, and/or in the long run it is in the interests of the family to do so because the benefits are so good etc. But it is another to continue working the same pattern for fear the marriage can end. Arguably, this becomes self-fulfilling because working patterns are so demanding the stress generated can cause a split.
If you view marriage as a neat way to pool resources and expenses but each spouse must remain financially independent from the each other in case of divorce, you might want to pause before shelling out £20,000 on the wedding.
If you view marriage as quite nice at the moment but intend to remain emotionally independent from your spouse and keep the “back-plan hubby or wife” going, I would not bother trying to match the flower pattern to the invites – you have bigger issues to deal with.
Traditionally, the Christian view of marriage is as a coming together of two individuals to make one unit. Maybe everything is split down the middle; perhaps you have more traditional roles, but each works for the benefit of the family, not the individual. Interdependence is the ideal.
This can be challenging – so challenging, in fact, early Christians shunned marriage as they believed a life-long union with one other was too difficult to maintain. But it is a challenge worth taking.