An Inquiry Into The Utility Of Traditional Marriage

There’s a reason we used to get married in large ceremonies with hundreds of witnesses, ‘in the eyes of God’, as opposed to a casual ceremony on a beach in Bali with a couple of friends watching on. It’s because we were serious about the premise of marriage. It’s because we knew that other than being born and dying, the legal binding of two individuals was the single most important event of our life and it’s more than merely an excuse to get drunk off cheap sparkling and Crown lagers. The virtues of traditional marriage matter now more than ever.

Although Australia fairs slightly better in divorce rates than other Western countries, the current rates state that one-third of all marriages end in divorce. Armed with this information, any reasonable person would be suspicious of the institution of traditional marriage, and rightfully so. Divorces can tear apart families, cause irreparable financial damage, and emotionally scar all parties involved for life. Yet, this should not deter us in the pursuit of a happy, wholesome traditional marriage. It’s time to recall the value we once placed on marriage while simultaneously understanding where and how it can all go so terribly wrong – and then, with this knowledge in tow – proceed to do it anyway.

Why We Got Married

Marriage has been a persistent feature of the majority of cultures throughout civilised history. Although there are exceptions – such as Soviet Russia and many polygamous Middle Eastern societies – monogamous pair-bonding has been and is maintained as the norm. The functions of the institution were simple and included:

  • Birthing and raising children.
  • Maintaining property rites.
  • Political and social alliances between families.

The moral addition of religion also widely sanctioned the act of traditional marriage, as well as reinforcing concepts of monogamy. The concept of getting married for love was an afterthought before events such as the Rennaissance and the Enlightenment, and was popularised by cultural commentators such as Shakespeare. Marriage was a social necessity and a religious requirement. By saying those eternal words, ’til death do us part’, couples were taking sacred vows in the company of their closest family and – most importantly at the time – God. Breaking this sacred oath was risking eternal damnation; not a risk worth taking.

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Traditional Marriage And Modernity

However, we as a society have raced away from the ideals of traditional marriage under the sanction of the Church. In 1902, 96.5% of all Australian marriages were conducted by a minister of faith, as opposed to just 23.6% in 2016. For those of us who aren’t particularly zealous in our faith, this won’t be of concern. However, by marrying with the belief that what you are doing is sanctioned by a sacred, all-powerful being, then you’re going to take the ceremony a tad more serious. Moreover, without the fallback of no-fault divorce, deciding on who it is you’ll marry is especially crucial. And herein lies my criticism of the modern state of marriage – it’s far too casual by its nature, and therefore the true intention to remain in matrimony forever may be but a fleeting afterthought.

With this social expectation dead and gone, as well as a record number of us selecting ‘no religion’ on the census, marriage rates have continually declined in the West. Of course, lax de facto laws and the soaring price of wedding ceremonies also owe to this decline. Although it may be tempting to get in on the trend, arguments in favour of traditional marriage still exist.

Look no further than happiness and contentment. In the wake of third-wave feminism, many critics of the institution have argued against the utility of traditional marriage in all-around life happiness. However, various scientific studies have confirmed that a well-functioning marriage based on respect, communication, and understanding can greatly benefit both parties. Furthermore, it’s also about moving past one of the greatest causes of depression – loneliness. 

In order to attain this happiness, how ‘hot’ your potential partner is should not determine their worth as a wife. Indeed, if the bride-to-be has physically experienced a wealth of other prospective husbands before you, then she’s less likely to be happy in her marriage. According to a study by the National Marriage Project, 53% of women who had only ever slept with their husbands were happy in their marriages compared to just 22% of women who had 11 or more sexual partners before marrying. With ‘no-fault’ divorces being one of the main reasons couples split, unhappiness can be a massive detriment to the success of any marriage.

Although times have changed exponentially since the Middle Ages, the right reasons to get married are strikingly similar. Apart from the pursuit of happiness, traditional marriage is an opportunity to build something larger than yourself. Financially speaking, you can potentially immediately double your income – while only slightly increasing your expenditure. This is due to a rise in female participation and thriving in the modern workforce, as well as the forgotten archetype of the male breadwinner. This obviously increases the chance of owning a house, which has become near-impossible with the flailing Australian housing market.

Finally, there exists no better foundation for raising children. Despite some lacklustre anecdotal evidence from casual bloggers and overly-optimistic single mothers, most children are raised far better in a home that constitutes of two biological parents – one of whom is a supportive father. Like all scientific studies, there are obvious exceptions, and situations where a child having no contact with their biological father is more beneficial – or there is an equally supportive step-parent in the picture. But as the standard rule of thumb, kids need loving parents and kids certainly need dads. A marriage bound by love and trust can supply the building blocks of a wholesome and emotionally rich family.

Divorce And The Case Against Traditional Marriage

A movement has steadily grown in the annals of the internet, dubbed the ‘men going their own way’ movement, or MGTOW for short. I’ve already written extensively on their movement and their open critique of modern marriage. Their advice? If you’re getting married, you better be sure, and you better be prepared to work especially hard to prioritise your relationship. The possibility of divorce when entering into matrimony is simply undeniable, no matter how madly in love you believe yourself to be. And very rarely do couples get a divorce simply because they ‘feel like it.’ If you take marriage seriously – as you should – then you’d also seriously consider never dropping the knee.

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According to a slew of scientific studies, it has been concluded the main culprits for divorce are infidelity, conflict, and abuse (often with the inclusion of drugs or alcohol). The first of these is the most capital form of betrayal, a psychological phenomenon that many don’t recover from. A scientific study in the Behaviour Research and Therapy Journal found that:

‘The effects of betrayal include shock, loss and grief, morbid pre-occupation, damaged self-esteem, self-doubting, anger. Not infrequently they produce life-altering changes.’ – S. Rachman.

Furthermore, beyond the potential for emotional devastation, is the reality of financial disruption. Consider Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ recent divorce, which could strip him of his ‘richest man alive’ title. If divorce can financially cripple the world’s richest and smartest, then it has the potential to destroy you.

I’ve already discussed the importance of traditional marriage to healthy kids. But a dramatic, disastrous divorce has the potential to ruin your hypothetical child’s early life. And while it is essential to let kids experience struggle and loss in their formative years, witnessing the tearing apart of the fabric of the family structure can be psychologically and irreversibly damaging:

 ‘Significant numbers of children suffer for many years from psychological and social difficulties associated with continuing and/or new stresses within the postdivorce family and experience heightened anxiety in forming enduring attachments at later developmental stages including young adulthood.’ – Judith S. Wallerstein, Ph.D.

Why You Should Still Get Married

The purpose of this piece has not been to convince you to never get married. On the contrary, you should actively seek it, and appreciate the importance of traditional marriage. The purpose of this piece has been to convince you of the potential negative effects should you approach marriage casually and with neglect.

A wedding is not another opportunity for a piss-up, nor is it an excuse for a casual getaway. A wedding should be the most formative ceremony of your entire life. And, if you play your cards right, it should only happen once. That’s why we spend 20% of our yearly income on a wedding ring. That’s why we suffer through the awkwardness and strife of meeting the in-laws. That’s why we suit up, walk down the aisle, and formally commit to a lifetime of wedded matrimony, in the company of our closest family and friends, and in service of the highest ideal (formally known as God). If you aren’t prepared to make these sacrifices, then don’t get married.

For a worrying look into the alternative option, see ‘The Fascinating World Of Pickup Artists.’


Jay is a writer and content producer for The Versatile Gent.