The Institution of Marriage: A Sociological Perspective
According to Webster, marriage is defined as the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family. That sounds simple enough however, it was not always so. During the seventeenth century arranged marriages were commonplace. The primary purpose of marriage was to bring together family and property. In the colonial period couples married for friendship. Not until the 1800s did love and romance become central to marriage. Now marriage is seen as the merging of individuals instead of families. Since then the words love and marriage have gone hand in hand.
Christianity defines marriage as a holy union under god. Couples accept one another for better or for worse until death do they part. The church frowns upon the mere mention of divorce and although the values surrounding marriage have evolved, forsaking the sacrament of marriage is a sin in the eyes of a Christian god. Values such as activity and work, humanitarianism, religiosity and romantic love define the ideal Christian model although, real culture differs somewhat. External influences create variables that affect change in how individuals prioritize their values creating the real culture that more closely resembles modern society. Americans place high value on
achievement and success, an area that is augmented through education and gauged by the accumulation of material wealth. Individualism is a symptom of the economics of capitalism. The individuals goals and chances for success are enhanced by efficiency and practicality, which is in turn enhanced by technological progress. As the costs of living increase marriage has become a convenient solution to affording better quality of life. Herein lies a paradox. A pair unites to combine financial resources yet continue to strive for individual successes. Ironically a large number of couple site financial issues as a cause of divorce. Many of the values listed above are attributed to the real culture and are applicable to the therapeutic attitude by emphasizing individuality and self-improvement.
The evangelical Christian model is closely associated with symbolic interactionalism. The symbols of husband, wife, family and community are all relevant to the Christian model. Couples declare their vows to one another under the auspices of a priest and the eyes of God after which they are declared husband and wife. A new identity that is recognized by the community as a notable achievement. The therapeutic model of marriage is a functional union whereby two individuals combine tangible, emotional and spiritual resources. Couples work systematically to advance their careers and develop their families. Together the family is able to handle many different functions of everyday life and ensure their continued success. Values such as efficiency, practicality and progress are relevant factors to the therapeutic model. These values may potentially aid in the success of the union, however as technologies continually advance it becomes increasingly difficult to remain efficient and progressive.
Future shock is a term used to label the inability of a society to comprehend technology as fast as new technologies are introduced. Consider the fact that many of us still have difficulty programming the clocks on a VCR. Compound that issue with the introduction of the DVD player. How can we begin to understand digital video when we are still learning how to operate an analog device. Technology may very well assist some marriages; on the other hand it can also have less than favorable effects.
Most of us want to have a loving and successful marriage. However, accomplishing this task is harder than it may seem. Much time and energy must be devoted to a marriage in order to make it last. There are many characteristics that have been found to be predictors of good marriages, but with so many variables to consider, what makes a good marriage? The answer may continue to elude us for years to come.