Every Christian wedding has a common vow ingrained — “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do you part”. But at the same time, these words do not mean a lot in the ensuing marriage as divorce rates peak at nearly 50%. This has often been berated as degradation of familial culture and has been blamed nearly for all social ills that befall the American society. So how do you rescue a “culture in decline”? Pass legislation. A covenant marriage, a legally binding contract available in some southern states (Arkansas, Arizona, and Louisiana) commits a couple to counseling before any separation and limits divorce to a handful of grounds, like adultery or abuse.
“Under the covenant, the couples express their intention to remain married for life and agree to premarital counseling from a counselor or member of the clergy, and to seek further counseling before filing for divorce. Also, they are restricted to a handful of legal grounds for divorce; adultery, felony conviction, one year of abandonment, sexual or physical abuse and separation of at least two years.”
Dissatisfaction in your married life, or incompatibility; emotional, physical, or otherwise, is no longer considered solid grounds for divorce. India on the other hand is moving in the opposite direction. If not legally, where a judge still “expects the wife to give company to her husband in the evenings and night” even if the wife is working during those hours, the social thought in at least the Indian cities have experienced change.
One of my friends recently went through a divorce purely on incompatibility grounds and was given a waiting period of more than a year, wherein she was expected to sort out matters, if possible. But she had no such inclination and wanted out immediately. Thankfully her parents supported her decision wholeheartedly. The law argues that it prevents impulsive decision making regarding a
serious institution of marriage and even requires parental approval in
some cases. But at the same time, it respects an adult individual’s right completely if you want to get married, even if in matters that involve eloping and going against your parent’s wishes.
Of course, marriage is a serious thing and should not be tossed aside for flimsy reasons. I do not see any bad in seeking counseling before divorce. I, however do not understand the state’s concern in legislating personal matters. Gov. Mike Huckabee, Arkansas remarried his wife under the new covenant marriage edict in a much-publicized ceremony to give a fillip to the totally voluntary option. But statistics show that it hasn’t found many takers; less than 1-2% of couples. People are not voluntarily likely to get into any contract that makes them difficult to get out of, especially if it for life.
But in India they do; everyday; in thousands. These states should take a lesson or two from India where it works much better when social and societal constraints make it almost impossible to come out of a marriage in spite of deep differences. Heck, a wife will let herself be beaten by a drunken husband, taunted by sarcastic in-laws, or even burnt to death than “dishonor” her family. Cheers to such commitment, eh? Who needs covenant marriages in India when we already have our society that protects our moral fiber? Things seem to be changing.
“An India Today cover story titled ‘Divorce goes young’ (Feb 28, 2005) notes that 70% of divorces now involve couples below 35 years of age, driven apart by stressful lifestyles and intolerance” (via Youth Curry).
Marriage in a metropolitan life — is an interesting subject. I’ll write more later.