Modern vs olden days’ marriage – reasons for increased divorce.

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By Ehi Ekhator

In the past, marriage was all about satisfying and fulfilling the ego and pride of families. Men were allowed to marry more than one wife as long as they were capable of taking care of them. Polygamy was a way of telling your friends that you were better and wealthier than them and the women completely took it as a responsibility not to fail, a pride to belong to someone without the thought of love.


According to history, marriage was never based on love. In fact it was considered too serious to marry for love as both were too fragile to merge in a serious institution like marriage.

As the world changed, so were the people. In 17th, 18th centuries, it was considered to marry for love as expert started coming out to condemn the idea of marrying for wealth and fame instead of love. Despite the new system, people still considered it a serious institution.

The greater part of the world was still involved in arranged marriage. It was expected that if love is later discovered during living together, that was an added advantage to the journey.

“If love could grow out of marriage, that was wonderful,” said Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History.

What has changed? Why staying married is no longer relevant to the new generation compared to the older generation despite the absence of love in the latter?

Those days, marriage was based on agreement between a partner and his or her family. The same system is still practiced in Sri Lanka till date.

When a child is ready to settle down, parents advertise the information on newspapers and any interested person would contact for a get together. Usually, the father, mother and the child involved would visit the other family who will then give the individuals concerned, a chance to have a brief chat. If they are okay with what they see and their discussion reached an agreement, a marriage date is fixed. Love is expected to grow as the parties live together.

In the 16th, 17 centuries the following were important:

  1. Personalities
  2. Industriousness
  3. Family Background
  4. Tolerance

In the 21st centuries, the following are important:

  1. Appearance
  2. Money
  3. Love
  4. Pride
  5. Intolerance

According to Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage (Adams Media) “Younger people are quite unrealistic about relationships and what they are all about. Those who grow up in divorced families have no model of the give and take marriage requires.  Because of these unrealistic dreams, they get terribly disappointed when relationships turn out to need work.  They learn as they get older, and have some experiences with relationships.  Older people are more realistic and understand that relationship is about partnership, not about looks, or other traits.  It's much easier to live with someone who is cooperative than to worry about minor personality traits that are different.  You need shared core values and good communication, which you can't find out about a prospective partner from just a few dates.

More men and women are delaying marriage because women see marriage as gaining a family and a partner, but most men see it as a loss of freedom.  Women are delaying marriage for career, but men delay it because they don't want to settle down.

There are also many military marriages, and the separation due to deployment or being reassigned at work leads to several issues. The spouse at home feels that all the responsibilities of home, work and family have landed on him or her.  The away spouse feels disconnected and alienated.  Jealousy issues can arise also.  Then, there's the worry one spouse feels for another.

Whether you live together before marriage or not doesn't determine the success of your marriage. Neither does it matter if you were married before.  Some people learn what they need to know from a failed marriage, some just repeat their mistakes. What really counts is knowing the "technology" of relationships and what it takes to keep a marriage strong, happy and rewarding for both partners.”

Marriage changed gradually in the 20th century when law and custom and subordination of wife to husband were enforced.

The law gradually gave the women more power, wives slowly began to insist on equal rights at home unlike in the olden days when the woman knew her roles as taking care of the house, cooking for the husband and children while the husbands provides. Wives slowly began to request for the position of their husbands, equality instead of men’s properties.

The moment women were given the say, decisions like how many children to have, or not to have kids at all, and they could divorce if they feel unrecognized, unhappy and slighted came to light.

The government began to interfere into matrimonies. Wife could call the police, asks the man to move out, demand for a ransom during divorce.

“Marriage law had become gender-neutral in Western democracy. At the same time, the rise of effective contraception fundamentally transformed marriage” said Marilyn Yalom, author of a History of the Wife.

Since marriage became a personal contract between people seeking love, stability and happiness, the primary importance in the search for a life partner gradually changed.

According to theweek magazine, “In the 17th and 18th centuries, enlightenment thinkers pioneered the idea that life was about the pursuit of happiness. They advocated marrying for love rather than wealth or status. This trend was augmented by Industrial Revolution and the growth of the middle class in the 19th century, which enabled young men to select a spouse and pay for a wedding, regardless of parental approval. As people took more control of their love lives, they began to demand the right to end unhappy unions. Divorce became much more commonplace”.

The liberty to freewill and pursuit for happiness led to the free entry and free exit of a sacred union like marriage.

In the olden days, women were more interested in the marriage life than the wedding. The ceremony was a mere gathering for recognition of the union which was introduced in 1215, marriage was declared one of the church's seven sacraments, alongside rites like baptism and penance. But it was only in the 16th century that the church decreed that wedding be performed in public, by a priest and before witnesses

Nowadays women are more interested in the wedding than the lifelong marriage itself. Some women do the ceremony to put shame in the faces of those who thought they couldn’t find partners to walk them on the aisle.

Many of these women already know that the partners they are about to begin their lives with aren’t what they need but the pride and “my dream finally came through” stop them from seeing the bigger picture.

Sex satisfaction wasn’t important. The reason for sexual intercourse was to produce children and women didn’t have a say to what they wanted.

In the recent time, sex which was sacred in the past has no value. In the past, it was difficult to have sex with someone you were not emotionally connected to. It meant something to both parties so it was hard to freestyle a one night for a stranger.

Lately cheating has been the top of the chat for the increased divorce. However, recent couples are now living with the fact that cheating is inevitable, many partners have concluded that “men are dogs” while some men believe that “women cannot be trusted, they are flirts”, and these general recognition have also made them to be able to live with partners  they know could be cheating on them.

In the past, people were more family conscious. However, the new generation is self centered, ego maniac, illusionist who wants “happily ever after” probably deceived by the movie “Cinderella”.


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