Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marriage and Cohabitation

Historically, marriage was meant to be a permanent institution only dissolved in extreme situations, by death of one of the spouses. Cohabitation was not a common practice because society viewed it as unacceptable behavior. That was the expectation for individuals who lived decades ago. Back then, marriage may have provided some sort of emotional and financial stability especially for women who were not allowed to articulate themselves so easily because they were expected to do house chores and were committed to taking care of the family. The down side of that is that as a married woman they were completely dependent on the husband for their needs.

Also the number of people who risked living together before marriage was infinitely smaller compared to today’s standards. People were literally locked in the idea that marriage was something meant for life and they would be less likely to cohabitate as it carried a negative label which would harm their reputation and compromise the ability of finding a good marriage eventually if such relationship did not work out. Even though marriage was viewed as the ideal scenario in the eyes of society, it always has had its shortcomings; especially during the early days. For the most part, women had to conform to the idea that men were in charge. They were the ones who made important decisions and the wives did not have many options in the relationship.

The husband was the breadwinner and provided for the whole family and the wife’s main role was to bear and raise children, teach them certain principles, and take care of the house. However, they were not entirely happy with such routine and at some point they decided to get organized and break away from the cycle of dependence and take more responsibility outside the home environment.

As a society, we have been through constant behavioral change and women’s liberation is just one example of it. One important event in the history of this country was women becoming engaged in industrial work in order to cover for the lack of available male workers during World War I.

 A large number of men were absent as a result of leaving this country to fight the war. During the feminist movement in the late sixties, women made a series of claims which eventually caused a variety of social and cultural changes. Such changes put women in a very privileged position.

It impacted family relations, religion, the place of women in society, the relationships between men and women and gendered language. Those were very positive developments which transcended all expectations they had in previous years.

After such developments women finally came out of seclusion and took a more active and responsible role in society. Soon they executed jobs which once were only held by male workers. They were also more engaged socially and felt they could do whatever men did. They became more liberal with regard to sex, went to bars and drank and smoked in public places with friends all without the fear of being tagged negatively. Suddenly men and women were seen as equal.
Or at least in the sense that women were doing the things which once were attributes of men only. They were equal in the sense that women suddenly had opportunities which they never imagined could be possible. They became educated, grew financially and contributed enormously to the family budget and society growth. Roles changed and suddenly women realized they could exercise the same rights men did despite the fact that they
were still considered a minority group.

Back in the sixties and seventies the instances of cohabitation were not as significant because it ruined women’s image if they lived with some guy who may or may not eventually marry them. That was not a desirable position to be in and certainly not the position a parent would like to see their daughter in.

Today people may still be uneasy about it but, in the eyes of society, it has become tremendously more acceptable because women have developed themselves and become more independent. They are professionals, have jobs and make their own money. They are capable of carrying on with their social obligations without the interaction of men in their lives if they so desire.

There may be women college students who may not be financially independent but will seek to split the costs of living while they have the benefit of sharing an intimate life. Cohabitation is a form of trial marriage in which people will have a taste of what married life is like without the prospect of staying in the situation forced by a legal document.

The number of people cohabiting has soared over the past few decades; however, so have the number of divorces and statistically, people who have cohabited before marriage have a higher likelihood of filing for divorce than people who have never cohabitated.

Trends of divorce and cohabitation relationships are inversely proportional to the rate of marriages. The number of people getting married is significantly lower compared to the number of those filing for divorce and those who cohabitate. People are definitely becoming more conservative when it comes to getting married.

Maybe one concern people have faced with the idea of marriage is that if things do not work out right they will have to spend substantial amount of money with legal fees in order to undue the marriage formality. Or maybe another concern is that they will have to split their capital and that may limit their position of power. In short, living in a complex society such as this, we are constantly bombarded with information and we face all sorts of challenges and decisions.

We are put to the test every single day and sometimes the pressure is too great to bear. We change our moods, may become off centered and that may affect our partners and subsequently our marriages. Big problems may cause serious disagreements in the life of a married couple and potentially lead to divorce. It seems that some people are not too optimistic and anticipate high odds of a marriage ending in divorce. It is sad that more do not grasp the romantic view that marriage is something which can last their entire life.

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