According to the well-known lawyer, Mahatma Gandhi, “Where there is love, there is life”. Marriage can thus be seen as when this ‘life-giving’ love takes on a tangible form, all through a legal document that binds two unique people together. It’s the promise of a fulfilling life, it’s the beautiful ceremony at the end of a romance movie, it’s your ‘happily ever after’… or is it? The idea of marriage has changed greatly from the traditional union between two individuals that it once was. Along with the changing times bring new challenges to marriage — and it begs the question of whether a “perfect marriage”, straight from a fairy tale, is possible in today’s context.
Marriage certainly doesn’t put a full stop on the worries and challenges of a relationship. When two unique individuals cohabit a space, there are bound to be disagreements. The list of possible issues stretches on and on; not giving the other party space, a lack of trust and communication, changing ambitions, and so forth. With these fault lines present, a marriage could erode over time. In 2018, a total of 7,344 marriages ended in a divorce or an annulment, according to Business Insider Singapore. These statistics reveal the sheer number of marriage failures, and that’s in Singapore alone!
Despite the seeming fragility of marriages, it is often related to notions of stability nonetheless. In many cultures, getting married is all about maturing, starting a family and getting ready to ‘settle down’. This need to appear stable can become an added pressure in life. Such ideas are especially common in Asian societies, such as China. Out of China’s population of 1.4 billion, there are nearly 34 million more males than females. China’s official one-child policy, in effect from 1979 to 2015, was a huge factor in creating this imbalance, as millions of couples were adamant that their child should be a son instead of a daughter. Such gender disparity results in many of China’s men being unable to find a spouse and suffering from loneliness. This fear of not being able to attain marriage has become all the more jarring in recent years, with the emergence of desperate measures such as parents putting their sons up for ‘sale’, quite literally! In Shanghai, the infamous ‘Shanghai Marriage Market’ is where parents of unmarried adults flock to over weekends to trade pictures and embellish the achievements of their children, hoping to find the right match. In this case, the essence of marriage and love is thwarted as it transforms into a commodity.
It is mildly jarring to note that the commonly associated issues with marriage, as mentioned earlier, are all to do with marriage between two humans. Inferring from that, could this mean that the picture-perfect, ideal marriage is possible without these undeniably human problems?
For some people, getting married to a non-human is a great way to slither out of marital issues, and we mean that quite literally! In India, a woman once wedded a king cobra, the world’s largest venomous snake. Snakes, particularly the king cobra, are venerated in India as religious symbols worn by Lord Shiva, the god of destruction. This is why such marriages happen: marrying a religious symbol could be done as a measure to elevate oneself to a more divine status. Hence, marriage could be used as a tool for achieving self-realisation. Though expressing and receiving love from a serpent is undoubtedly tricky, at least she won’t have to deal with any incessant snoring in bed.
To take things further, people might even choose to tie the knot with a non-living thing. In Japan, a man married the virtual character ‘Nene Anegasaki’, a video game character in the Nintendo DS game called “Love Plus.” The wedding, while not legally binding, was his avenue of expressing devotion to his avatar girlfriend. He says Nene is better than a human girlfriend: “She doesn’t get angry if I’m late in replying to her. Well, she gets angry, but she forgives me quickly.” In this way, marrying a virtual being could be a method of escape from the stress and pressure of committing to a real being and having to deal with the upkeep of a relationship.
However, don’t let this fool you into thinking that a happily-ever-after marriage can only happen through these unorthodox relationships. After all, ‘cute’ couples still exist, those couples that seemingly can’t get enough of each other, those whose trust extends beyond words, and even those that look into each other’s eyes as though they mean the world to one another. The key could be a change in perspective, the ability to recognise that each relationship would appear differently than another, and that it is best to embrace that the definition of a ‘perfect marriage’ is one that varies from couple to couple, and cannot be compared with one another. Reflection, communication and change are essential for a long-lasting marriage.
The idea of marriage is undoubtedly complex. Besides being a legally binding document, there is more to it — it’s the emotional union of two people for what could be a lifetime. Marriage serves different purposes for each individual, it could mark the start of a family, the end of having to deal with the pressure from parents and society, or even an unorthodox way of achieving fulfillment. Yet ultimately, every marriage is founded on the same values: trust and mutual respect for your partner, regardless of whether the union is one of genuine love, or practicality. So, to answer the question of whether marriage is the beginning or the end, it could be a new beginning as long as you don’t treat your dearly bewedded as a means to an end.
Low Yan Ting Kelly, 19A15
Photos (in order of appearance)