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Changing face of Institution of Marriage.


Marriage, probably one of the oldest Institutions, has always been regarded as the most sacred of all relationships between a man and a woman.

In the context of Indian Hindu marriage, the importance of ‘Saat Pheras’ as the seven rounds along the holy fire has been considered the union for seven births of a husband and his wife. The ingredients of love, understanding, faith and adjustments had kept this bond unchanged for ages.

Let us understand some basics of marriage. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged. In almost all societies and religions, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity.

The system of marriage was conceived in a totally different environment compared to the one seen today! Man was the breadwinner of the family who would go out of the house engage himself in agriculture, or any other trade prevalent that time and the woman would remain indoors taking care of cooking and all other household chores and take care of the off-springs, etc. The roles were well defined and there was no chance of a gender mix outside the marriage. Communication and transport systems were practically zero. Lifestyles were simple and stress free. Therefore there were practically no complexities with regard to marriages. Not only a particular joint family, even all inhabitants of a village lived like a joint family in harmony with each other.

Adjustments between a couple were simple and easy, as both husband and wife married at young age. The differences and minor quarrels between the two partners were settled amicably, by the elders of the joint families. ’ Also, when both partners were going for work, the other issues like cooking, other household chores, looking after the couple’s kids, etc. were taken care by elders and other members of the joint family.


The twentieth century brought enormous changes in the family system. Not only traditional family system, but also the ‘saat phera’ (sacred marriage for seven births of a couple) is steadily on the decline, especially from the urban scene. There is absolutely no chance of reversal of this trend.

Huge and diversified job opportunities for both men and women, Communications, Transportation, Industrialization, Science & Technology, Life expectancy, Liberalisation of societies, has been unbelievably rapid in twentieth century onwards compared to those existing for thousands of years earlier.

Higher education and diverse job opportunities have prompted men and women to migrate from their native places to metros and even abroad, The improvement in financial status coupled with relatively new found relationships on social media have further fuelled the younger generation to abandon the joint family and stay separately. However, it has brought new problems along.

Unlike in the past, women today are working in practically every profession, viz. Scientists, Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Politicians, Bureaucrats, Commercial Pilots and taxi/metro drivers, shop floors, even Armed Forces and so on and on.

There is a total gender mix at educational institutes, workplaces, public places, fantasies created by colleagues at work place, cinema, social media, etc. about alternatives/ remedies to a couple’s relationship issues, pleasures of extra-marital sex, etc. Women now give more emphasis on career, late marriages, not willing to produce and raise children, for fear of a break in their professional career path, etc.

That is why the complexities in marriages are more profound than ever before.

Young couples now have to encounter issues which were non- issues earlier! Result…. Small differences lead to bigger differences and misunderstandings which further lead to communication breakdown, suffocated relationships at times leading to physical violence and finally separation/ divorce !!

As per some estimates, there’s been a 100% increase in divorce rates in the past five years alone in India. Family courts in the prosperous southern State of Kerala saw just over five divorces every hour in 2014 . Totally about 50,000 divorce cases were filed in Kerela in 2014. About half that number i-e narly 25000 divorce cases in Maharashtra during the same year. One can extrapolate and would reach a figure of no less than half a million divorce cases in India annually, though there is no official divorce rate figure available for India at present.

Majority of the divorce cases come up in the first one or two years of the marriage.

One of my very close relative had a so called love marriage as she knew the boy for several years being class mates in school. The marriage was solemnized very lavishly and with the participation of more than 500 guests . However, the couple separated within three days of marriage and were legally divorced in about one year !!

Daughter of our close friend and neighbor had an arranged marriage through a matrimonial site on the net about two years back. However, both of them were staying under the same roof but in different rooms from day one (or more appropriate to say from night one ) They are now legally divorced !

So what is going wrong?

I guess there are multiple reasons namely…breakdown of joint family, reduced tolerance and lack of willingness to adjust, lack of acceptance of expectations and reality, both partners want “space”, career is given more priority over the family life, both partners demand more, trust less, ; mostly both partners are working but still the man expects his partner to be a good cook and do all the household chores which a housewife does, expects her to be back home in time irrespective of the official challenges etc. and on the other hand although the wife is working but she uses her husband as an ATM , and wishes to keep her money only with herself and expects all the expenses to be met by husband’s income. She invariably wants him to stay separately from his (husband’s) old parents and does not want any ‘interference’ from them, etc.

Faithful marital sex for procreation and raising children were the two most important ingredients which any young couple used to look forward to and were the essence of a successful marriage.

However, the same is not true anymore, as the virtual world along with the social/ electronic media , TV, priority to professional career, stressful lifestyle, hours of travel time to and fro the workplace are some of the contributing factors for the reduced interest in marital sex which has always been considered essential for a happy married life.

Pursuing ambitious growth in professional careers has taken priority over producing a child/children which always brought cheer in the past to the couple and the larger family and strengthen the marital bond between the two partners.

Exponential Increase in premarital sex, extra-marital sex, homosexuality, serial marriages (second or even third marriage after legal separation of the first),   live-in relationships have all contributed to the changing face of sacred relationship called “Marriage”.

And I firmly believe that it is only the beginning of the change. So where are we heading ? Live-in relationships with Legal Contracts in place specifying every detail clause by clause…..or temporary/ trial marriages?? Only TIME will unfold where it is heading…

I am sure we have to increase our vocabulary to accommodate all these new terminologies to keep pace with the fast changing “world of relationships” as an alternative to age old conventional marriage


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