Is true happiness to be found in marriage and family? Is that how the human being is designed? As the human condition evolves can this design change as well?
Traditional, agrarian family life was not just about what went on under the roof of a home, like the dinners, diaper changes, and laundry. Families of old usually had every family member involved in the family business. Apple farmers were out in the orchard with their children picking apples. Dairymen were often right alongside their children and sons-in-law milking and haying. The old fashioned wife was not just cooking and cleaning. She was an industrious woman making her own candles, soap and yarn. Everyone who qualified as able-bodied had to do their fair share. That was the economy of the old-time agrarian family.
What about when everyone gathered under the roof? Were they cheerful? Were they happy? Did they breeze in for dinner then go their own way? The farmhouse was not just a waystation where everyone stopped what they were doing to head home for a meal, a bath or go to bed. The home was also the hospital, the school house and, when needed, the funeral home. Anyone who was anyone was part of just such a household. Bachelors and spinsters were considered with suspicion. No, if you wanted to be accepted as “normal”, you had to be part of the family group dynamic.
Have things actually changed that much? Traveling through time from the 1800’s to, say, about 1950, single adults were still looked upon with curious scrutiny. Advice might have gone something like this, “If you don’t get married soon, everyone will think there is something wrong with you.” These pearls of wisdom could be delivered to a single gal or guy as young as twenty-years-old.
My, how things have changed, at least in most Western societies where living the carefree life is encouraged well into a person’s thirties. It is only recently the term “man-child” has begun to be used when referring to grown men who continue to live at home with their parents enjoying all life has to offer in a responsibility free, single lifestyle. With divorce rates as high as they are in Western culture, who can blame them?
In a world where so much value is placed on family, even among Westerners, it is truly ironic that among this group of people divorce rates are the highest and living single well into adulthood is encouraged. Even if a young Westerner engages in a committed relationship, it is completely acceptable to cohabitate rather than marry. Is this good? Is this healthy? Are these people happier unmarried than if they had married? Will there be certain things lacking in the life of an unmarried couple who decide to have children? Will there still be family vacations? Will they be called “family” vacations? Does the legal marriage certificate or lack thereof, have any determining factor on legitimizing a “family”? In some countries, no. In other countries, yes.
Even if one wants to argue over the point that a legal document has nothing to do with whether or not a group of people “feels” like “family” or not, there are other important family matters that do revolve around whether or not there is a legal document declaring a valid marriage relationship. You see, if your partner suddenly gets knocked in the head and enters a coma or becomes hospitalized with a severe illness to such a degree they are unable to make sound decisions, the doctor’s first question to loved ones is going to be, “Who is the next of kin?”
If you are not legally married, you better hope to high heaven that you are on good terms with your significant other’s parents, children, and siblings. Otherwise, that may be the last day you see the man or woman you love. And that, dear reader, most definitely, will not lead to happiness.
So, what is the final word in all of this? Marriage may not necessarily lead to happiness, but marriage can protect and preserve your right to continue to pursue happiness with the one you love.