Why is Marriage Considered to be Such a Great Thing?
Marriage is an interesting theme to explore in a written exposition. This writer estimates that on average, people spend around half of their life searching for a suitable mate, and usually the rest of their life living with the mate and/or their offspring. The whole world is obsessed with marriage, and why should it not be? After all, marriage provides so many benefits that it has the potential to be the best thing one can do in one's life.
All over the world, marriage is added to the birth-death duality as a natural step in a human life. It is not inevitable for all living beings, unlike birth and death. Marriage is probably an indicator of hope for beginning the reproduction phase of life in the cross-culturally pervasive descriptive triad (viz. birth, marriage, and death) –reproduction being what makes the circle of life complete.
Life is full of endless possibilities. To be able to breathe, to see, to hear, to think, to touch, to talk, to feel, to create –all these things are possible only when the doer is alive. Most of these experiences are pleasurable. So it may be said that life gives most of us the chance to experience pleasures. Death is the end of all possibilities. Nobody knows what lies beyond. So death may be described as an event which ends all possibility of future opportunities to experience pleasures.
Celebrating pleasure or celebrating the creation of the possibility to create virtually endless opportunities to experience pleasures (since we all hope and believe that we will live forever) is a natural thing. Since birth is the creation of life, and hence the creation of possibilities, it is to be celebrated. Additionally, reproduction follows the most sensually pleasurable act in human life, so it is inevitable that getting a license to reproduce should be celebrated as a license to enjoy. Another reason to celebrate is the appearance of the prospect of the birth of future generations. This is why births and marriages are celebrated. To mourn the end of a pleasurable era is also natural –which explains why most deaths are mourned (except when a death marks the end of an oppression).
Marriage and Family as a Support System
Marriage is something which is considered almost essential for the creation and support of a family unit, which keeps growing and shrinking as new members are born and old ones die. A family is a great social construct for taking care of young individuals of the species when they are too young to fend for themselves. These young ones grow up and at a later stage care for their original carers when the carers are too old to care for themselves.
People who are situated outside family structures face great difficulties in life. Orphans encounter immense social and economic barriers in their quest to reach a reasonable position in life, or even just to survive. They have a very short life expectancy, and tales of their mental, physical and sexual abuse are legion. It is also observed that childless couples are often reduced to helplessness and penury in old age, and it is sometimes heard that a similarly placed person died in their house with nobody around who could call an ambulance.
Cases of such people being murdered or robbed are also very common. They are also vulnerable to mental torture because the torturer knows that he/she is likely to get away with it. In Indian law, if and when a person commits suicide due to harassment by another person or group of persons, the police does not register a case against such persons unless and until there is a written complaint from the relatives of the suicide. If a person has no relatives, then how can his relatives make a written complaint? It is logical that written complaints by friends of the deceased should be accepted as the basis for an FIR; but in the 21st century –when often even people with wives and children feel that they are friendless– what chance of having friends does an orphan have?
Similarly, children whose parents get divorced are invariably traumatised by the break-up, and encounter great difficulties in developing a healthy personality with a strong sense of self and the ability to take the knocks of life successfully. Similar life-experiences are reported by those children who lose one of their parents in early life OR children who live in dysfunctional families with an alcoholic or excessively irritable parent. Many such individuals end their lives themselves, as can be seen from empirical studies conducted by experts in the fields of sociology, psychology, and psychiatry.
Marriage: The Best Type of Social Security
Families created by marriages are the bedrock of society. Property earned by parents is usually kept within the family, and children are encouraged to follow the family profession, with support from their parents. This is particularly true of the son or daughter who is expected to support the parents in their old age, depending upon whether the family is located in a patriarchal or a matriarchal culture inter alia.
The money earned by the parents using the family as a support structure comes in useful for the children's upbringing, in terms of providing education and the facilities of modern life to them. In their turn, the children support the parents in their old age, and the family money is used to care for their healthcare and hospitalisation in times of need. Thus the family unit continues to support the generations as they make their appearance. This social security has historically been provided in a more robust way by the family unit than any other social structure ever invented by man. Stable family units –multiplied by thousands or even millions– constitute society as a whole; a stable, prosperous society.
A Means for the Growth of the Individual and Society
A prominent clergyman in America named Cardinal Nolan recently said that strong societies are founded upon strong marriages. Identical sentiments have been expressed by many prominent persons globally –over the past century and this one. Indeed, society cannot grow if individuals and legitimate social groupings cannot grow. An overwhelming majority of successful and healthy individuals in society are the products of happy marriages. Due to the large size of the global population, and due to differing definitions of success, there can only be anecdotal evidence in support of this observation; but the number of people who corroborate such a conclusion is exceedingly large, and much much larger than the number of people who hold the opposing view.
Stable and happy marriages provide a source of members for the workforce of any nation. The well-adjusted and happy children who are born in such families do well in schools and colleges, and become law abiding and productive citizens. Scientists, doctors, engineers, you name them, most of them are products of stable marriages.
In societies with large percentages of broken marriages, illegitimate social group-types and social structures tend to grow to puissance. Gambling rings, criminal gangs, prostitution rackets, and the like thrive in such societies. The calming and stabilising influence of family groupings, circles of relatives, satsangs / church groups, schools, colleges, benign government et al is diminished.
Health Benefits of Strong Marriages
Regular and loving sex –without the risk of catching any infection– is a tonic and ego reinforcement like no other. A healthy ego is the sine qua non of mental health. To always have somebody who is ready to praise you, support you, and to stand by you in difficult times gives great mental strength and peace. All the positive energies are stimulated in the happily married individual.
These provide a strong foundation for a healthy physique and psyche. Sexual satisfaction stops a person from looking for harmful addictions, and a supportive partner ensures further protection from suchlike. Great incentive for physical fitness is provided by the boost to mental health due to the presence of loved ones who cheer every success of their family members.
The happy neurotransmitters like serotonin (happiness/satisfaction) and dopamine (pleasure) and hormones like oxytocin (trust and love) and epinephrine (ability to face tough situations and stress) are secreted by the various glands due to great sex and companionship. Endorphins (happiness) are also released in great amounts during lovemaking. Cholesterol levels go down in happy individuals, and blood pressure is more likely to be stable in a happy person than a sad one.
Neuropsychiatric conditions are rare in happy marriages. Alcoholism does not rear its head very often in such marriages. There is practically no incentive for ulcers to grow in the body of a stress-free person. Cancers of the lungs, throat, kidney, and oesophagus don't occur at a high rate if people do not smoke or consume harmful substances. Other cancers are also less common in stress-free individuals. A stress-free life makes the appearance of diabetes and related complications improbable.
Healthy parents produce healthy children. There is quicker development of the individual to maturity if he is in a happy place. The next generation is produced earlier, and its appearance is surer –as is its success in replicating itself and its own success. The continuity of the line is almost guaranteed. The whole species benefits from the presence of happy families.