Monday 21 October 2002 Maybe I do: marriage and commitment in singleton society
Marriage as an institution has been in decline for decades, but even unmarried cohabitation now seems to be on the wane. Is the 'singleton society' simply a result of greater freedom? Jennie Bristow argues that the reluctance to commit indicate a deeper malaise.
AUTHOR: Jennie Bristow
In the Academy of Ideas’ new Conversation in Print, Jennie Bristow, commissioning editor of spiked argues that:
The decline in marriage, and the discussion about this trend, does not only reflect its contemporary irrelevance as a traditional institution. It also indicates a broader ambivalence about intimate relationships, contemporary attitudes to long-term commitment, and what we expect from each other and ourselves.
Further, Bristow argues against official efforts to support relationships:
There is no room in intimate relationships for agony-aunts, policy-makers or any other third party. This is what terrifies all those who want to reduce the supposed risks of love. But if they want to avoid poisoning this most human of experiences, they need to back off. When it comes to romance, the last thing people need is realism; when it comes to sex, the last thing people need is three-in-a-bed. And when it comes to private, personal relationships, the last thing people should be encouraged to do is to ‘talk about it’.
Jennie Bristow’s essay is published along with responses from
Fay Weldon: novelist
Yvonne Roberts: author
Ed Straw: Relate
Barb Jungr: chansonnier
Eddie Gibb: Demos
Mary Kenny: author
Helen Wilkinson: Genderquake
Piers Benn: philosopher
Bel Mooney: author
Dolan Cummings: Academy of Ideas
Marriage is not, I’m afraid, for now. Say it’s because of feminism, if you like, but I don’t think so. Say rather that the dynamics of change converged, and brought about a profound and sudden alteration in the way we in the West live.
The inner and external conflict being experienced by individuals and couples today - when it comes to giving in to passion and commitment - is the creative energy from which marriage will once again become ‘hot’ in a climate that appears lukewarm or cool to the idea of marriage and commitment.
There are more choices out there than ever before, and yes, that can be daunting, for now we can choose who we sleep with and when, whether or not to marry but most importantly, whether to love or not. But don’t despair, the rot may not have completely set in, and love may triumph yet.
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