Apparently marriage is on the way out.  I heard this on Monday, on a BBC Radio 4 programme called, “What is a wife?”.

It was a thought-provoking programme, but I also found it mildly infuriating.  The idea of ‘wifeliness’ was looked at, and I have to say it’s not an attractive term and it has little relevance – and few examples- in today’s world for women in the UK.  It has such connotations of domestic subservience, and I can’t find a positive way in which to view it.  However, the actual reality of women in the UK getting married in the first place is itself in decline.  They reckon that by 2011 less than half of the adult population will be married. 

It was interesting to hear women who had, with the rise of feminism in the late 60s and 70s, taken the view that to become married was to tie themself unequally to a man, to take a position of second place that suggested a trade-off.  “You give me money and security and I’ll give you a nice home and food on the table (whilst giving up my right to independent thought and living)”.  To them feminism meant that marriage was out of the question as an aspiration, and irrelevant to the new ideals of modern womanhood. 

I struggled to recognise how they painted marriage though.  I have always assumed that marriage is a statement of faith in and commitment to each other, as opposed to a simple definition of roles.  “Husband” does not, for me, mean provider and dominant decision-maker.  It just means the man I love and have committed to share a life with.  “Wife” similarly does not mean home-maker or dominant child-rearer.  It means I am sharing a life with the man I love.

But for many people today marriage is viewed as simply unnecessary.  There is now no shame in a couple living together in our society.  There is no longer a stigma attached to children ‘born out of wed-lock” (how long since anyone spoke about that?!).  But I have to say I still believe in marriage.  I love being so committed to this one man, and I value the security that I get from knowing we have made vows of equal and equally significant commitment to each other.

These days those few people who do choose to get married (I have friends who are wedding photographers, and don’t get the impression that they have a shortage of business, so maybe ‘few’ is not quite right) face the added likelihood that their marriage may not last.  Marriage rates are falling and divorce rates are rising. 

But this weekend my parents are celebrating their 4oth wedding anniversary.  My dad was actually married once before, but this marriage, the one I was born into is the one he has spent most of his adult life in.  That’s some achievement.  So I’d like to celebrate marriage, celebrate commitment and celebrate the wonderful thing it can be to share a life with someone.

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