Love Many – Never Marry!
Marriage is in no greater crisis now than it was fifty, thirty, or even ten years ago. Large numbers of couples still courageously walk up the aisle, or into the registry office, despite the know-ledge that almost one in three marriages (one in two in big cities) ends in divorce.
The fact that we are surrounded by love – and the failure of love – has never cooled our enthusiasm and our esteem for love. But would it not be better to do without marriage altogether?
Almost one in three marriages in Germany ends in divorce and the rate is increasing. Only once in the last thirty years did it drop, namely in the fever of the reunification years, 1989 to 1992. Half of all divorced marriages involve children under the age of eighteen. But while the birth rate is lower than the death rate, the number of people getting married is still higher than the number of people getting divorced. Although the number of marriages has remained at a relatively constant low level for years, the number of divorces continues to increase; it will not be long before there is parity in the figures. In 1950, 750,452 couples got married – a record in post-war Germany. In 2003, just over half this amount (382,911) tied the knot. In the same year, 214,000 marriages were dissolved in court. For centuries, men have not tired of telling other men that marriage is a battlefield, a vile curse, an exercise in pretence, and a mental illness. Robert Louis Stevenson, Theodor Fontane and Friedrich Nietzsche all said so in their time. Men have always known it and women have recently found it out. While women used to be encouraged to marry as young and as well as possible, men were advised to put off getting married for as long as they could. Oscar Wilde summed up the matter beautifully when he said that all women should be married, and no men. To put it another way, the traditional view of things is that marriage is more suited to the female than the male character. That said, men do better by marriage than women. There will come a day when single men will not be allowed to take out life or health insurance, the reason being that married men live longer, are more healthy, tend less to mental instability, earn more, and are less at risk of committing crimes (unless, that is, adultery is considered a crime) than their unmarried counterparts. Not only that, but married men are happier than bachelors. It has been proven that marriage is so extremely beneficial for men that some sociologists even claim it is possible to determine the overall state of a society simply by looking at the number of married men: the higher the number, the happier the society. This is also illustrated by the fact that men who have once experienced the delights of the married state do everything in their power to enter it a second or even a third time. Some 80% of all divorced and widowed men marry again. That being the case, it is safe to assume that men who cast aspersions on marriage do so either to hide their mental dependence on it or because they never found a woman they wanted to marry.
Upon meeting a man for the first time, modern women should not ask themselves whether he is the right man to father her children. If she is realistic she will ask herself whether this is the man she would one day like her children to spend their weekends with. So how did this state of affairs come about?
For centuries, marriage was securely established as an economic and social alliance of convenience. But then love descended upon us in the form of romantic literature, and ever since, chaos has reigned supreme. While mothers once told their daughters that they would learn to love their husbands in the fullness of time – regardless of how improbable that might have seemed at the start – an increasing number of women were now looking for evidence of this possibility before the wedding. The candidate now had to prove his love to her before slipping a ring on her finger. As soon as women earned the right to reject a proposal of marriage, men began to lose control. Ever since, the rules of romance continue to follow the traditional pattern: two people meet, fall in love, get engaged, get married, have children, and stay together ‘until death us do part’. In two-thirds of all cases, however, it is no longer death that parts spouses, but everyday life, another women (or another man), careers, boredom, the dream of self-fulfilment, jealousy, inadequacy, or quite simply irreconcilable incompatibility. Love is nature’s attempt to do away with reason; marriages that are entered into for love are frequently an attempt to deal with problems as a couple that one would never have had on one’s own.
Of course, it is very un-PC to say anything against marriage, especially as married couples and families are virtually considered endangered species in this ageing country of ours whose population is shrinking and whose inhabitants are incapable of sustaining relationships. Yet nothing poses a greater risk for couples than a marriage certificate. After all, if you don’t get married, you can’t get divorced. But as everyone knows, the most beautiful dreams of freedom are dreamed by those in captivity. This is also why most people are willing to try it again even if it didn’t work the first time around. One could even say that it is obviously much easier to get married a second, third, or fourth time than it is to get married the first time – Joschka Fischer, Liz Taylor, Princess Stephanie of Monaco and Frank Sinatra all being fine examples of this theory.
Every marriage is, of course, different. Then again, they are not. If one takes a closer look at marriage, it becomes apparent that there are certain different types.
Lovenberg: Love many - never marry! (pdf, 202 KB)
Felicitas von Lovenberg, born in 1974, is a literary editor for the features section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She has been married once. She has written a book on love and marriage entitled Verliebe dich oft, verlobe dich selten, heirate nie? Die Sehnsucht nach der romantischen Liebe. (Fall in Love Often, Rarely Get Engaged, Never Marry? The Yearning for Romantic Love) published by Droemer Verlag, Munich 2005.
Translation: Aingeal Flanagan
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Fikrun wa Fann