Marriage is the human institution that provides the legal foundation for the creation of the family. In most family situations, the husband is treated as the father of the offspring. I say most because there are some preliterate human groupings, where the connection between the father and sex and pregnancy has not been made. In some societies, the father has a greater emotional connection to his sister’s children, but that would be the subject of a whole other column. In most societies, people do understand the purpose of sex, and the husband is considered the father of his children and the relationships of husband and wife, father and mother, and parent and child are grounded in the law and in the religion.
However, in today’s world, marriage in all its’ facets, as an institution, is weakening considerably. More and more young people are choosing not to get married. If they have a significant other, many choose just to live with him or her. And many don’t see not being married as a reason for not having children. Although more and more married couples choose not to have children at all.
There has been a growing presence and acceptance of same-sex couples, and same-sex couples don’t get married as often as opposite-sex couples. There is also a growing presence and acceptance of polyamory or group relationships. In addition, there has been a growth in bisexuality and gender fluidity, both of which would tend to mitigate against legally based commitments to just one person.
All of these social phenomena are pulling people away from solid monogamous legally-based relationships. But what is causing these deviations to grow so much? First of all, there just aren’t enough traditional natural environments filled with flowing blendable continual organic stimuli to act as good templates for strong deep bonded relationships, the kind that can be very helpful for a good marriage. Instead, people are using intimate relationships to shock themselves out of their numbness rather than using them for the traditional purpose to give people emotional grounding. And even many of those people who do get married choose differently when it comes to looking for a partner. They look for someone who can give them a lot of abrasive stimulation, someone with whom they really don’t fit in an organic way. Such a person creates the basis for a lot of quarrels in the relationship, which can ultimately result in the couple getting divorced. But before the divorce, the discord can keep the couple alive. For many people today, this pattern of spousal selection leads to frequent marriages and frequent divorces. In other words, serial monogamy. And any children who result from one or more of these relationships are obviously not going to have the emotional security of those children who come from secure committed grounded monogamous marriages. And over and above the numbing effects of living in the same experiential vacuum that their parents are living in, these children of quarreling parents learn to accept the tension-pocket form of relating that they are observing daily as the norm for how parents should and do relate to one another. And so, when the time comes for the now grownup children to select a mate, they frequently just follow the patterns of their parents. Or else, having seen how dysfunctional and painful marriage was for their parents, even as, at the same time, it also served the, for them, positive purpose of shocking them to life, it may lead the children to decide not to get married at all, not ever.
Of course, as a result of the improvements in different forms of birth control over the last half century, young people are able to enjoy one of the major benefits of traditional marriage, without having to take on one of its major responsibilities. One of the major reasons people used to want to get married was to have sex. And if, in the process of having sex, the woman got pregnant, well that was all part of the business of marriage. Having children was what grounded the married couple within the marriage. It was also a way of preserving a traditional imprint of the couple in the external world.
Nowadays, much of the time, sex is not done as a process of grounding. Rather, it is a process of kicks with different partners to shock a person out of his numbness. Most couples today are not so much interested in preserving imprints on one another through exclusivity and through having children. Rather, they are much more interested in constantly making fresh imprints through diversity of contacts.
Which of course brings us back to the main concern of this paper: the gradual breakdown of the institution of marriage in modern technological society. If as I have assumed, external world living environments are playing a major role in this breakdown of marriage – the lack of organic grounding, the lack of organic templates – then somehow people have to find a way of finding old traditional environments or else creating new ones. Perhaps, a sense of grounding is what is driving some Americans to move to these small towns in Italy that have been dying out and where people can pick up a house for a few dollars. A lot of Italians aren’t getting married and having babies anymore, and, in particular, a lot of these small-town Italians have moved to other European countries for work. That’s quite a price to pay in order to economically survive.