The critical connection between love and marriage
Fire leaves behind ashes, rain leaves behind stains, and wind leaves behind fallen leaves, but what does love leave in its wake? Some love affairs culminate in marriage, some marriages culminate in love. Heartbreak leaves behind bruised souls forever licking their wounds. Many marriages survive loss of love, when conjugal life is merely driven by inertia not emotions. Love outside wedlock is scandalous, but infidelity has been as old as marriage.
Most marriages today are bereft of emotions. Married couples wake up in the morning like lodgers sharing the same bed. Then husbands head for work and most wives go to kitchen, or take children to school. In many cases both go to work; in fewer cases husbands stay home. Between rapidly dwindling number of housewives and slowly rising number of househusbands, the institution of marriage is losing its steam.
If truth is the first casualty of war, love is the first casualty of almost all marriages. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt lived together for almost a decade but their love withered within two years of marriage. Many other star couples have announced divorces from their respective partners in the first nine months of this year. It's said that in 2016 love has been dead in Hollywood.
If love doesn't guarantee marriage, marriage doesn't guarantee love either. Tom Mullen says that a happy marriage begins when one marries the person one loves, and it blossoms when one loves the person one marries. If love is a flower that turns into fruit at good marriage, it wilts when the heat turns up in bad marriage.
The New York Times reported in 2014 that the divorce rate in the United States was declining, one reason being that fewer people were getting married. Fewer marriages are going wrong because fewer people are making that choice. It's certain by now that marriage rates are sinking globally.
Only about half of Americans are married now, down from 72 percent in 1960. In northern Europe, marriage rates are even lower and cohabitation rates are even higher than they are in the US; South Asia and China are exceptions. Having near-universal marriage with 98 percent of men and women tying the knot, these countries have little or no co-habitation.
Elsewhere the numbers are falling despite more choices. Matrimony was once confined to a legal contract between men and women. Now same-sex marriages in a growing number of countries allow man to accept man, or woman to accept woman as spouse. But knocking down the walls has narrowed down the space. It seems too many choices have been bad for the business of marriage.
Japan has been in the news lately for having an astonishing number of single people. According to the Japan Times, a new survey of Japanese people aged 18 to 34 found that 70 percent of unmarried men and 60 percent of unmarried women are not in a relationship. It gets worse: Around 42 percent of men and 44.2 percent of women admitted that they were virgins.
A booming industry surrounds Japan's growing condition of loneliness, which includes child-rearing course for men called ikumen. Desperate Japanese bachelors looking for love can now learn child-rearing skills to boost their chances of finding a partner. In various parts of the developed world, economic uncertainty is reshaping the way millennials and other young people conceive of their sex lives and marital choices.
For a number of reasons, marriage is now a boulder jarred loose from its rock solid foundation. Wedlock is no longer a compulsory but a subsidiary business of life. A couple doesn't have to stay married till death do them part. The nuptial bliss can be short-lived, its duration spanning from a few days to a few years.
The stigma of divorce or remarriage gone, marriage is now a supermarket selling refundable vows. Getting a new partner is more desirable than living with the flawed one, hoping he or she will get fixed soon. Suchitra Sen has no patience today to nurse Uttam Kumar until he gets his sight back (Sagarika). Uttar Kumar is in no mood to wait until Suchitra Sen regains her memory (Alo Amar Alo).
Lost in that compression of passion is love, which is the grease that turns the wheels. It's also the analgesic that relieves the pain. In earlier days, women miserably suffered in the hands of abusive men to save their marriages. Parents are now free to exercise options, but victims are mostly children.
People still find partners, and they still get married. Marriages don't last, because any relationship without love is a conflict zone. Fulfilled love leaves behind happiness, unrequited love or infatuation leaves behind resentment. But neglected love is the worst, which strikes back with vengeance. It leaves behind hatred, when erstwhile lovers are aggressively consumed by isolation and loneliness.
The writer is editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: [email protected].