When we become more isolated, it is often said that we see marriage as an intimate, interdependent relationship rather than a vehicle for personal fulfilment. We are more likely to join organisations (even just those which have us forming part of something like a casino rewards vip club), have several close friends we trust and see marriage as a lifelong partnership. Intimacy is important, and if today’s young adults “imaginations are any indication, Americans value traditional romantic love more than ideals in their relationships, including the ideal of a lifelong marriage.
Stable marriages foster a culture in which people assume responsibility for each other, in which families pay attention to their own and protect each other from social ills. In short, marriage is a long-term issue: as a group of people in a family, we review each other’s behaviour and look after each other; marriage helps to keep our social house in order.
In recent decades, family life in America has become more stable and a majority of the American population agrees that marriage offers value to individuals and society. According to a recent Pew report, about half of American adults believe that people in a society have different priorities than marriage and children. Opinions on the subject vary according to age, with younger adults more likely to say so than older adults.
As Sarkisian and Gerstel emphasize, modern marriage goes hand in hand with a cultural presumption of self-sufficiency. This is reflected in the United States by young adults who tend to postpone marriage until they can afford to live with family or roommates, and in the assumption that a married life is a state of total financial independence. It is also reflected in the weddings themselves, which tend to emphasize that the individual marries with the larger community to which he or she belongs.
In other cultures, strict rules govern how groups of partners are selected, and when selecting spouses, the couple often goes through a courtship selection process before marriage is arranged by the couple’s parents, an outside party, or a dating agent. Pierre Bourdieu notes that very few marriages follow these rules and when they do it is often for practical reasons of kinship such as the preservation of family property and not for official kinship ideology.
Regular marriages, which follow prescribed rules, occur when lineages are connected to fixed relationships and these relationships form political alliances in kinship-dominated societies. Pragmatically arranged marriages are facilitated by formal procedures, family groups, and politics.
One cannot ignore the fact that for many young women and girls in this position, the lack of divorce is a sign that they have no choice but to fall into the trap. If you look at arranged marriages over a long period of time, you will find that women have no choice. This is especially true if people are given more influence to have a say in their own arranged marriages.
As with pruning, one of the main arguments in favour of marriage is that it is a good environment for raising children. In relationships of different sexes, in which children are involved, the work of help falls on women. In marriage, care and support are redistributed through a network of extended families, neighbours and friends.