We have all heard about the high rates of divorce in the West and we have also heard about how people are increasingly shunning marriage in the UK and US, opting instead for living together or singledom. Are soaring divorce rates indicative of an out-of-date institution that is totally irrelevant in modern times? They are definitely indicative of the fact that people are not prepared to continue a marriage and want out!

For most humans physical attraction is natural. Wanting to get together with someone is very natural. But then is marriage a natural follow on? Natural in this context means in accordance with nature, for example a natural development. It is natural for humans to wish to mate but the state of marriage is not automatically natural.

Marriage is an institution mandated by the major religions. We seem to have two major models. The Judeo-Christian model which is one man and one woman to the exclusion of others, while the Muslim religion permits one man and up to four wives, provided those wives are treated equally and earlier wives give their consent for the subsequent wives.

The institution of marriage developed when women were more unable to support themselves and when a man could not be sure if the children were his. Marriage therefore gave the possibillity of greater financial security to women and gave greater certainty to a man that these were indeed his children.

Thus arguably marriage is not natural when we put it at the level of an institution, because an institution has all types of rules and regulations to sustain it and control it. For example, a traditional marriage is intended to be for life. This does not always accord with reality as people change and the two parties to the marriage do not always change in the same way. Values, goals and aims change and two people do not always grow and develop in the same direction. Yet traditional societal values frown upon separation and divorce. In that sense, marriage can be artificially sustained when in reality there is no true marriage any more.

Definitely marriage is a social institution, but is it a natural institution, making marriage a natural state for the majority of people? Is it God made or manmade? If it is God made then it is natural but you can only believe that if you believe that the creation of the world was by God and you believe in the story of Adam and Eve. If it is manmade then it is not really natural and man can modify it, as millions are doing around the world. There is an interplay of natural and unnatural, however. For example, a family unit is the most natural way to bring up children. For most children, this is the best up-bringing.

Perhaps natural and unnatural are not the best criteria upon which to judge or assess marriage. In the West, marriage has become a lifestyle option and even if the first marriage fails, many want to try again. Thus mating is natural for most, but the institution of marriage and how it has developed in various cultures may not be.

Author's Bio: 

Susan McKenzie is a London-trained lawyer and English teacher. Read articles written by Susan at www.abetoday.com. Susan McKenzie teaches at Linguaphone in Singapore. For enquiries about the courses Tel: 8455 8534, Email: enquiry.linguaphoneschool@gmail.com