Salman Khan, that staunch bachelor, set the old debate in motion yet again with his recent quote: “I don't believe in marriage. I think it's a dying institution. I don't believe in it. Companionship? Yes.”
He is not alone in thinking so. There has been much blather about the supposed death of the institution. It’s true that there are more single people than ever before. It’s true that equality in the workplace has negated the financial need for women to find husbands.
It’s true that the stigma of being single has gone way down since the ’60s. Yet the vast majority of people eventually get married — just at a different pace than before.
“Any institution, which is ‘dying’ will have more people abandoning it than adhering to it. As far as marriage in India is concerned, majority of the people choose to get married,” states psychiatrist Dr Chinmay Kulkarni.
Even sections who would not have a second marriage historically, like those divorced and widowed, are now choosing to marry again due to changing social norms.
The number of marriages among the LGBT community is also increasing internationally. “Although divorces have become much more common than what they used to be, marriage is still a thriving institution,” maintains Dr Kulkarni.
India has the lowest rates of divorce in the world, less than 1% while the US has the highest with rates around 46%. However, marriage rates are also declining year on year and at the same time we see a steady rise in the number of divorces.
“The reasons for a rise in divorce could be more awareness of personal needs not being met (independence, sexual needs, respect, and equality) as opposed to conceding to the partner, the rising number of cheating and extramarital affairs, among other reasons,” avers psychiatrist Dr Anjai Chhabria.
Earlier getting a divorce was looked upon as a taboo and usually done quietly. Today, with exposure, increase in knowledge and a higher need to break a certain stereotype in society, people have started to talk about divorce more openly.
Indians are also becoming more individualistic. Their choices and rights have become very prominent over the past few years. Hence, individualism has become a direct challenge to the traditionally closely-knit family structure.
It is believed that parents’ separation tends to have a negative impact on the mindset of children and their belief systems. Salman himself just could be affected by the divorce cases in his immediate environment, including that of his brother Arbaaz and Malaika Arora.
“I don’t think it necessarily has a negative impact on children as long as they have happy and healthy environments to grow up in—even if that’s two homes. I think sometimes a household with two fighting parents can be more toxic than a split home,” protests, lawyer Vinita Banthia.
However, it’s important to work on the relationship and see if you can make it work. “If parents are able to keep aside their personal experiences with marriage and instil a neutral view in children, there are higher chances of them growing up to develop an independent view towards marriage,” affirms Dr Anjali.
Even though the live-in relationship is slowly becoming an acceptable form of formalising a relationship without legalising it, it might take another decade for people to be ready for a world where a man and a woman no more ‘live in sin’.
India prides itself rather fiercely on its traditional and cultural base. “With increase in education level, exposure to a world outside our cultural inheritance, young couples are now moving away from the traditional views of how a man and woman ‘should be’ and moving towards choosing other ways to be happy together.
Live-in isn’t as prominent yet, however it is not unheard of,” specifies, Dr Anjali. “As the trend becomes common, people's attitudes will also change. Even in the western countries, the change from 'closely knit family structure' to '46% divorces' has happened in the course of many decades, points out Dr Kulkarni.
Why stay single?
The decreasing popularity of a patriarchal concept of society and increasing number of strong, educated and independent women in India and around the world is adding to the preference of millennials not opting for marriage. “But in India, that number is quite small.
As far as western countries are concerned, the numbers are pretty large,” clears Dr Kulkarni. One of the important reasons is, since the past few decades in the western world women are doing much better than men as far as higher education is concerned.
“Although many patriarchal norms are contested, still majority of women want to marry a man who is either equal to or preferably better than them as far as education and financial conditions are concerned,” he further adds.
This is creating a discrepancy, as the number of highly qualified women is more than the number of highly qualified men in many parts of the world and therefore, they don’t get an appropriate match.
Marriage as an institute works and functions on the efforts of two people involved in the relationship, so much can be done about mending the relationships. It involves hard work, and willingness to compromise and accommodate.
“Family members should also be accommodative of new member’s wishes, desires, ambitions, and career choices,” specifies Dr Kulkarni. Like any other relationship, in order to make the marriage work, open and transparent communication, honesty and mutual respect are a must.
“In case of difficulties and before calling it quits, intermediary measures could be seeking professional help (marital and pre-marital counselling) in order to help fix the issue,” explains Dr Anjali.
“Marriage is an arrangement that demands dedication every single day, anything less and it will fall apart,” expresses entrepreneur, Maanvardhan Baid. He concludes, “I would make that extra effort for marriage to last rather than go in with the notion that it will end soon.”Something to chew on there, Mr Khan.