My marriage is in trouble.
And so is yours. And so will the marriage of everyone who signs that dotted line that says, ‘till death do us part.’
That marriage is under attack is an understatement. Some attacks are external- like men opting to marry trees in Argentina. Some attacks are internal- like the inability of any institution to ban the Kardashians from going into marriage of any kind. But the most damaging attack on marriages is the self-inflicted blows.
Man first conceptualized marriage just to claim ownership of women. Those days when women were simply properties of men have long gone. But the fraud called marriage continues to be perpetuated without any update. Before the advent of gay marriage, the last update was the transition from polygamy into monogamy. Despite centuries of practice and forced immersion, that transition has not gone well. In today’s world of me-me-me, of doing what feels good for me and me alone, marriages are burdened from East to West and from North to South.
In the Western world, statistics show that almost one in every two marriages will end in divorce. It is like saying that one in every two flights that left Lagos for London will end in Khartoum or Baghdad or Warsaw. How many of us will take such a flight? And knowing that reality, will you call up a friend to wait for you at Heathrow airport? But that is what thousands sign on to every day across the globe.
In most third world countries the divorce figure is still less than one in four. But from Mexico to Morocco, divorce rate is only growing. It’s following the trend in the West for the same reasons.
With women’s empowerment, advancement and the universal acceptance of the core principles of feminism, the shackles holding women back will keep breaking all over the world. With each chain break comes the erosion of unfair privileges that men have enjoyed for ages. It instantly demands role redefinition. In this unsettled transition period the ancient parameter of marriage is shaking. No society can wish it away or stuff back the genie that has left the box. Even the Republic of Ireland had to bow years ago to the reality that some marriages must end in divorce. Prayers could not cure that ailment.
The reasons why marriages fail vary and depend on the environment where the couple lives. A study of what happens in African communities in the West is a good indication of what is coming to Okitipupa, Eldoret, Soweto or any other small town near you. Culture shock is the primary cause of African marriage failure in the West. The distortion and in some cases, reversal of the lifestyle that Africans grew up with requires readjustments in the West. The skills needed to adjust and maneuver are often missing in these Africans. The pressure of role distortion, often brings out the worst in people. Simply put, not all men who grew up seeing women serve men food while knelling down can be expected to feed their babies with pumped-out breast milk stored in a feeding bottle.
Nothing prepares the African for the challenges of the new environment. For example, so many African marriages abroad have failed because of something unthinkable in Africa: what to do with the woman’s income. For the most part, it has never been a matter of concern to the African man in Africa. But in America or other parts of the West, it is a new front in the battle of the sexes.
Beyond the mundane matter of finance and role play, the primary challenge marriages continue to face is the original one: are man and woman chemically and physiologically composed to be together ’till death do them part’? It is an age-long question that men and women of every race face. Statistics of infidelity show that it is not just a man’s problem. It’s also a problem for women, though theirs is not as pronounced and publicized as those of men.
Every establishment in any society has somehow gotten involved in the business of marriage- the state, religious organizations and cultural formations. They each have embraced marriage as originally conceived by man for relevance and self-preservation. The failure to revise and update the concept of marriage is becoming a source of its doom. And when marriage goes down, it will drag with it, the institutions that administer it. That quagmire has been the source of resistance to changes within the institution. But as it is with most things, the only way for marriage to remain the same is to change.
In light of this never-ending and ever-expanding challenge, I dare propose a radical alternative. Instead of entering into marriage with the understanding that it is ‘till death do us part’, maybe we should make marriage license renewable every few years- just like other licenses.
The idea of renewing licenses does several things at once. It states in clear terms the privileges that come with receiving a license while outlining the expectations. When the expectations are not met, the license is not renewed. When it expires and it is time for renewal, that privilege could be denied. On the part of the license holder, those who want to retain their licenses will do everything to earn a renewal.
Using an example of driving license in most parts of the world, one could have his or her license suspended or revoked depending on the infraction. Tickets are also issued for driving violations. But for the most part, the state that issues the license gets the chance once every ten years, as is the case in America, to decide whether to renew a license or not. On the expiration date, license holder is expected to appear before the state and renew the license. It entails sometimes re-doing eye examination, paying outstanding fees and getting updates on driving regulations. Those who fall short of the requirements end up not having their license renewed.
A similar process goes for professional licenses like medical license, business license and others. There are several ways that renewal of license keeps people in line. A dead beat dad, for example, risks losing his license to practice law. A lawyer who wants to continue practicing law will therefore make sure he pays his child support. The same way a nurse convicted of malpractice won’t have her nursing license renewed when the time comes. The threat of non-renewal of license keeps a lot of professionals in line.
If the same protocol is in place for marriages, couples will be aware that every few years the marriage will be reviewed and if it is not working out for everyone it won’t be renewed. That will make each of them to sit up. Just like the driving license process, ‘fees’ incurred from infractions will be settled before renewal. Those who let their guards down because marriage is supposed to be “till death do us part” will always strive to get their acts together. Instead of accumulating infractions until it morphs into “irreconcilable differences,” there is an opportunity to empty the cup every five or ten years and start all over again.
This could be helpful in matters low and high. Roles in relationships could be renegotiated at renewal time to account for changes in time and space. A woman who married a man because he was promising only to discover a few years down the road that the man was a lazy bum who could not keep his eyes off her income would have an opportunity to renegotiate.
On matters small, men who let themselves go, like those who allow their bellies to protrude, may worry that it may be a deal breaker at renewal time. The same with women who cooked before marriage but soon after become allergic to the kitchen. They will know that it may be a matter of discussion at renewal time.
Marriage license that does not expire is like Lagos driving license that people obtain without a driving test. It makes mockery of the responsibilities associated with holding the license. And without consequences, all that is left, as possible corrective action is an accident. The manner of driving one sees in Lagos is as a result of that reality.
It has been said that when you marry one person, you are actually marrying three persons at once- the person you think they are; the person they really are and; the person they will become because you married them. With expiration date and a renewal process the difference between the three will be minimized. And so will the pressure that has been crushing marriage all over the world.
Most importantly, for those who decide not to renew their marriage license, they will do so without feeling guilty or harboring any resentment. In the process it will smoothen the most devastating aspect of marriage – the scourge of the after marriage.
Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.