Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Marriage v Cohabitation



The events of the past couple of months have emphasised my own mortality.  Possibly quite normal for someone in their 60s younger people will think, but few of us feel 'old'.  Of course there are things we suddenly realise we have difficulty doing or just can't do but I doubt if many people dwell on such matters.

Therefore, it was with more pleasure than usual I heard this weekend that the daughter of one of my longest-standing friends is to be married in the summer.  She's a lovely girl who has shown a talent for music all her life, but once she met a science teacher at secondary school, biology was promoted to first on her list and she has worked her way up that competitive career ladder.

That aside, there was something her mother said during our conversation which made me think just how much our society has changed in the past 30 years.  Her mother has three children and this is her younger daughter.  Her son and elder daughter married in recent years after living with their respective partners for some time.  In fact her son already had a daughter with his partner before they married.  Nothing unusual there in this day and age and, according to his mother, all are content.

What my friend said was she was upset by a comment from an acquaintance who had expressed surprise at discovering - let's call the young woman Rachel - Rachael had never lived with any partner. 'Best they try before they buy' was said to her.  Now, my friend is a well travelled, broad minded, intelligent person, but she felt the remark reflected unkindly on her daughter.  I can understand why because the home, the new furniture and even the children seem far more important than the ultimate commitment of marriage.

Over the years I've heard every excuse as to why some people, who have children together, haven't married.  Often it's the cost of the wedding and when I say a touching ceremony can be had for less than £100 in most registry offices, you would think I'd suggested they eat broken glass.

Some men (and women) aren't interested in marriage. Some think a 25 year mortgage is binding enough.  In 1991 almost a third of babies had unmarried parents.  When the Office of National Statistics releases new figures later this year, it seems likely that half the UK's children will be born to couple who are unmarried.

In this article one woman substantiates her reason for not marrying the father of her children as: "You hear of people who've been together for ages, then they get married and the relationship falls apart".  Does cohabitation keep each partner more on their toes than marriage?  Does marriage mean anything in these modern times?  Our divorce statistics remain static, yet the incidence of family breakdown has increased disturbingly according to Harry Benson, author of Let's Stick Together.

"Making divorce more difficult is not the issue here. The bigger and braver deal is accepting the unequivocal truth that marriage is quantitatively better than cohabitation".

I can't change my opinion that couples should marry before they have children.  That may well come from a presbyterian upbringing but I firmly believe children deserve the additional security which married parents can provide.

Rachael is traditional, very traditional and certainly not old-fashioned. During our chat her mother realised she was being slightly too sensitive about criticism of her children and we laughingly agreed that children really are for life even though husbands or partners come and go.

Now I have a few months to haunt the shops and find that elusive outfit which must be accompanied by one of these wonderful fascinators.  The adventure starts next week.

20 comments:

John said...

Both of my daughters said that the way to a partnership was through a ring. If they were good enough to bed, they were good enough to commit to. Not our doing but they sustained those beliefs despite then living and socialising in the capital city of the chavs.

Jockdownsouth said...

I agree with your sentiments SR, but it's difficult to generalise. My sister and her partner recently celebrated 40 years of "cohabitation". They have 3 adult children who are all doing fine. As you say, attitudes have changed; my parents weren't happy at the time. They did, however, approve of my marriage which paradoxically ended in divorce after 5 years. it takes all sorts!

Oldrightie said...

Facts hold out the truth that marriage leads to a happier old age "together". My wife and myself committed after my first marriage, (shotgun),was ended from a rocky start. Regardless of my unhappy first marriage the joy of having kids was special and enhanced by the married state. Now, also in my sixties, the joy has never gone of being married to my best friend!

Derek said...

So THAT'S a 'fascinator'!

I LIKE fascinators!

Marriage, hmmm. A commitment can be bliss, or bars. And whether married or partnered, a union needs work. Some folk tire as habits and circumstances change. Others find a bond strengthen when under pressure, some weaken. So many variables. Largely it comes down to faith, either of both to a higher diety, or simply to each other - diety or no. Devotion to one another I would put above either religious or legal ceremony. With that, and a jump of the broomstick, whatever will be, will be what you make it.

Derek said...

PS. Can we see your 'fascinator' once purchased?

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

A thousand 'right' doesn't make one wrong, nor a thousand wrongs one 'right.'

I go for the term Soul Mates, above all others.

subrosa said...

Well done them John. It's difficult for parents too these days because the change has been quick.

subrosa said...

Jock, I'm sure when I was young there were plenty couples living around me who weren't married but it was never mentioned. Anyway in those days didn't a bidey-in become a wife after living together for a year and a day? Something like that if I remember.

subrosa said...

Lovely story OR and yes, I too think marriage brings something extra to a relationship.

subrosa said...

It is Derek. :) Mind you, that one is perhaps a little OTT. I'd never get in the car.

subrosa said...

I'll think about it Derek. :)

subrosa said...

Nobody's right or wrong in this RA, but in generations to come children will never be able to trace their ancestors as records will be too confusing.

English Pensioner said...

I'm a bellringer at our local parish church and have watched all sorts of weddings, but one thing they have in common is that probably nine out of ten must have cost a fortune. There is also the very occasional simple wedding which has no choir, bells or even organist and I'm sure that such a wedding is just as likely to last as some of these extravaganzas. So I'm not surprised that people claim they can't afford to get married, they've been invited to their friends' weddings and they feel that they are expected to put on a similar show.

Both of our daughters had left home and had their own places before they married, and we deliberately avoided knowing too much about their lifestyle, it was more peaceful that way. When they got married, I promised them each a fixed amount towards the cost and left it up to them to decide what they wanted and if the wanted to add to the amount. My elder daughter went well over the amount whilst my younger daughter, who to my mind, probably had a better, if not so posh, reception, managed within the budget just by being sensible.

lazaruszine said...

Against marriage, because it's a financial rather than a romantic agreement, though I understand people's arguments and the desire for a large ceremony. I don't feel the state's right to infringe on my romantic life in such a way though. That said, I would never agitate against others marrying, I think there are far more damaging things out there, and marriage is not necessarily the sexist institution that some decry.

On the subject of divorce, however, I find it sickening that the government have moved to make divorce all but impossible for the poor in their austerity assault on the people.
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2011/01/women-children-tax-welfare
While marriage can make for happier children, the plodding religious guilt of staying together does not make for happier homes than a divorced couple can provide.

subrosa said...

Weddings seem to be a competitive things EP. 'Stracy's wedding was £8000 so mine must be dearer' kind of mentality.

So many forget the marriage side of it.

subrosa said...

lazaruszine, marriage ceremonies don't have to have a religious connection. I've been to a couple without any and one in particular was rather lovely.

Again, in this day and age, I only hear of Catholics mentioning religion if their marriage has problems. Not many people stay for religious reasons but many may make that the excuse.

The unfortunate thing is that in many divorces the children eventually have to take sides or lose touch with the absent parent. All the legislation thrown at this hasn't made an ounce of difference - in fact possibly it's done far more harm than good.

Sobers said...

No man with assets, and a brain, should marry under the current divorce laws.

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

No man with assets, and a brain, should marry under the current divorce laws.

I, sadly, have to agree with this statement.

If people knew how badly the matrimonial laws have deteriorated over the last decade or so (e.g. White vs. White 2000) and how divisive and parasitical the solicitors are in continuing the misery for their own profit, you would never get married today.

Young people today have no idea what happens when a marriage fails, but when it does, boy, are they in for a big wakeup call!

subrosa said...

Or woman Sobers but I agree with you.

subrosa said...

Aye BGG, they have changed radically as I know to my cost. Let's not think about divorce lawyers either. I could bore you to Christmas with tales about these parasites.

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