Anybody who has several sexual partners in a year is committing spiritual suicide. He or she is ripping the veil from all that is private and delicate in oneself, and pulverizing it in an assembly line of selfish sensations.
But marriage is the opposite. Marriage joins two people in a sacred bond. It demands that they make an exclusive commitment to each other and thereby takes two discrete individuals and turns them into kin.
But marriage is the opposite. Marriage joins two people in a sacred bond. It demands that they make an exclusive commitment to each other and thereby takes two discrete individuals and turns them into kin…
Today marriage is in crisis. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Worse, in some circles, marriage is not even expected. Men and women shack up for a while, produce children and then float off to shack up with someone else.
Clearly, the writer–a David Brooks (poor benighted creature)–is talking about Christian marriage. As though it is the only good kind around. And, clearly, he is talking about sex during marriage. Not before, not after. And Mr. Brooks concludes that the breakdown of the institution of marriage in American society today is due largely to repeated sexual infidelity of one or both partners. If, and I say if, he is making an accurate observation, then I pity the Americans. Because it is like saying that there is nothing much more to marriages in America but a commitment to sexual fidelity. That is really, really shallow. But whether or not Mr. Brooks’ summation is correct, I pity him for his myopic perceptions.
Sex is only one aspect of marriage.Making a marriage work is not as simplistic as observing sexual fidelity. Making a marriage work is a commitment, a belief in that commitment and a willingness to renew the commitment in accordance with the changing wisdom, needs and capacities of one or both partners. And since the level of commitment that each individual is capable of giving varies from one person to the next, whether or not a marriage works is a matter of perception too. An arrangement that makes one couple happy may not hold true for another.
Just look back at history. Did the institution of marriage suffer when, prior to the Civil War in America, landowners were impregnating slaves? Marriages during the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines didn’t suffer much when wives and daughters were taken advantage of by their confessors. In fact, from my readings, sexual infidelities like those–and the children resulting from them–were the best kept family secrets, not grounds for divorce.
In the final analysis, during those times when wives were socially and financially dependent on their husbands, divorces and annulments were rare. Scandalous, in fact. Like washing dirty linen in public. Marriages survived because most women had no choice. The ones who dared to get divorced were the ones who were financially capable of supporting themselves, or who had enough goodies on their wayward husbands to ensure comfortable financial support.
Sexual infidelity is not some recent phenomenon. It is as old as man. It is not the destroyer of marriage. Marriage–traditional marriage–is dying because it has outlived its usefulness. We are entering an age when there is a serious need to review the institution of marriage so that it will evolve into something more responsive to the needs of the times.
Mr. Brooks states :
Marriage is in crisis because marriage, which relies on a culture of fidelity, is now asked to survive in a culture of contingency. Today, individual choice is held up as the highest value: choice of lifestyles, choice of identities, choice of cellphone rate plans. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but the culture of contingency means that the marriage bond, which is supposed to be a sacred vow till death do us part, is now more likely to be seen as an easily canceled contract.
Marrige is a choice of lifestyle. By two individuals. The decision to marry is an exercise of that freedom that he calls a wonderful thing.
We simply cannot live in the past. If marriage is to survive this dizzying pace of cultural and social changes that we are experiencing, it has to evolve. As we all do. After all, marriage is not an abstract but a relationship. And relationships, including the perception of relationships, change too as people do.
Finally, even assuming that marriage originated from standards of morality (which it did not since marriage–or “shacking up” in primitive societies were based on the need to build a bedrock of society), even moral standards change. Otherwise, civilized nations would still be practicing drawing, hanging and quartering.