Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

<% ballot="452257" ' Check nothing is broken broken = 0 if ballot = "" then broken = 1 end if set vt = Server.Createobject("mps.Vote") openresult = vt.Open("Vote", "sa", "") ' Created object? if IsObject(vt) = TRUE then ' Opened db? if openresult = True AND broken = 0 then ballotresult = vt.SetBallotName(ballot) ' read the vote votetotal=(vt.GetVoteCount(ballot, "yes")+vt.GetVoteCount(ballot, "no")) if votetotal <> 0 then ' there are votes in the database numberyes = vt.GetVoteCount(ballot, "yes") numberno = vt.GetVoteCount(ballot, "no") percentyes = Int((numberyes/votetotal)*100) percentno = 100 - percentyes ' fix graph so funny graph heights dont appear 'if percentyes = 0 then ' percentyes = 1 'end if 'if percentno = 0 then ' percentno = 1 'end if else ' summut went wrong frig it numberyes = 0 numberno = 0 percentyes = 50 percentno = 50 end if end if end if %> Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK

Is marriage an outdated institution?

The lifelong commitment to one another which marriage represents is the bedrock of a stable society and the best possible environment for raising healthy children
Peter Scott, UK

Marriage is purely a statement to others these days - not to your partner. One does not have to take vows or be legally joined to their partner to want to spend the rest of their lives together
Paul R, UK

Background ¦ Your reaction

The Background:

Marriage may be "for better or worse, till death us do part" in the words of the Book of Common Prayer but it seems that fewer and fewer of us believe those traditional words to hold true.

Marriage rates in the UK are at an all time low, with 4 out of 10 of those marriages expected to end in divorce. And getting a divorce is becoming easier too - with advent of "cyber divorce" a marriage can be history in the click of a mouse.

It seems the institution of marriage may be in crisis. It is a trend that is worrying church leaders, prompting the Church of England to publish its own rescue plan.

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the consumer culture has contributed to the breakdown of marriage, that people are encouraged to believe "there will always be something better, faster, shinier just around the corner".

But is marriage really the cornerstone of a stable society?

The Prince of Wales, Nelson Mandela, the person next door - divorce is everywhere. But does divorce really lead to social breakdown? Is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage "for the sake of the children"?

Is it realistic to expect two people to live together for a lifetime? Or do you think that a throwaway culture is to blame for the increasing number of marriage breakdowns?

What do you think?

Is marriage an out-dated institution?

Background ¦ Your reaction

Your Reaction:

Read the first comments we received

What is outdated is trying to get everybody to behave like everybody else. Personally, I'd like to be in a group marriage. More diversity, wisdom, and love, more adults per child, more stable should someone leave - all under one roof. I'm sure many reading this would love to impose their religion/morality on me. That is what's outdated. Our world is too diverse now to have a moral consensus that goes beyond small groups. Quite often people sitting in church next to each other can't even agree.
Steve, USA

Marriage should be opened up to same-sex couples as marriage is meant to be the celebration of a union of people. Marriage is becoming outdated because not everybody in society is allowed to access it
K Newton, UK

I am very sad to see so many anti-marriage comments and so much negativity regarding the whole subject. Marriage is an extremely fulfilling state but only if you are prepared to work at it. Of course it isn't always easy but then what is?
Carla Rotch, UK

Most of those who consider marriage to be an outdated institution ground this opinion on the idea that marriage is essentially an encroachment of tradition and religion on personal liberty. Those who have expressed themselves in the opposite sense appear to be inspired either by religion or by traditional views on family values. All these opinions are relevant and worthy of consideration and society should cater to them all, in all their diversity. Be it noted that the decision to get married -- or divorced -- may be taken for all the wrong reasons, but it is never taken lightly; even in this day and age marriages are normally intended to last a lifetime. And although those who have spoken out in favour of individual freedom and choice appear overwhelmingly to be men, it is a fact that in Western society divorce proceedings are, in the large majority of cases, initiated by women -- there are conclusions to be drawn from that fact.
Peter, Netherlands

Marriage is just one option amongst many. It should not be confined to two people, but any group of committed adults, not exclusively heterosexual. There is no biological basis for an isolated lifelong monogamous mating pair in our species; that is merely a cultural adaptation. What should be mourned is the demise of the tribe, the extended family, the community that raised children in its midst collectively. What kind of substitute is the digital, global village? We still give in to our physical heritage and seek company from many sources. Let's hope some of us can find happiness, whatever name and fancy dressing we give that sociable human desire for companionship.
Jillymac, UK

As a religious person I do believe 'that which God has joined, no man shall put asunder'. Religion or religious beliefs apart, I believe that marriage or married life is a continuous adjustment between two persons (husband and wife)each of who has his or her own defects or short-comings.
T.Philip Mathai, India

No I don't think that marriage is an outdated institution. Although I would like to point out that coming to London from Zimbabwe I was shocked to see how few people seem to value the importance of family and children within wedlock. I seem to be old fashioned at 27.
Paula van Zyl, London

I think the concept of a lifetime's commitment is outmoded, seeing as we mostly live until a very ripe old age these days. Perhaps the marriages should work on a rolling contract system - renew your vows if you wish, or get out if you wish, on say, a three-yearly basis! We all change so much during our adult years, particularly in our 20s and 30s, and thus couples often find little in common with each other any longer.
Shirley, UK

A society based upon the solid commitment of heterosexual marriage is the only stable one. Marriage is indeed the bedrock of a stable society. How can anyone be so blind as not to see the damage, heartache, pain, and trouble broken marriages have on the children within them, and society as a whole? Not too mention the effects on children who's parents have never married and have also broken up. The evidence of the adverse effects of non-marriage and broken marriages is everywhere, but selfishness is mentally blinding to the pain of others, and only preoccupied with the pleasures of ones self! Ironically, such selfishness can never bring happiness to a person! If only people could understand that the Laws of God as defined within the Bible were given for the health, happiness and welfare of humanity. To depart from these laws mean a departure from a healthy, happy and wholesome society!
Paul Didcott, UK

I'm not sure if marriage is outdated but it is certainly not necessary. If one is committed to another that is all you need. No marriage is going to make someone committed.
Brian Curtis, USA

I for one would not get married for a great deal of reasons including costs, period of time to get a divorce, it will compound my current problems and basically it's not worth the piece of paper it's written on. Life is far to fast and busy for people nowadays to consider marriage and as a result of this, we are not meeting our soul mates with whom we should be spending the rest of our lives.
Jason, UK

Having failed in one marriage, and seen the blight of the legal system on my private life, I would be tempted to say marriage is dead. However with a second sound marriage I see clearly the importance of a strong sound respectful relationship. Marriage is the result of human needs. Whatever the church or state decide, people will always make a commitment to each other in some form or other.
Gwyn Jones, France

Until divorce is made harder marriage will remain a devalued institution.
Mike Rotch, UK

I know far more people in committed relationships who have stayed together than people whose marriages have survived.
PGH, London

Marriage will become "outdated" when civilisation itself becomes outdated and man ceases to be a social and communal being. As the family goes, so goes the culture in which it grows or crumbles.
Joyce Nelson, USA

As with many developments in technology also sociological trends are shaking up the traditional way of thinking. The problem is that the political establishment cannot keep up with this pace of change. The institution of marriage is as accepted as an institution as the divorce rates show. In the end it is just a formalisation of a relationship to meet outdated standards, which are still embedded in society. The trend cannot be stopped and it is most likely a matter of a generation(s) before the whole idea of marriage disappears. Maybe the next thing in line will be "vows of caring", which binds you to take care of the children if any after the parents decide to go their own way. Who knows ???
Robert van Hamersveld, Netherlands

It's not an outdated institution, but I think people have a negative attitude towards it.
Lainie, US

Marriage will never be outdated. It is a sacred institution in which people should join their minds, bodies, and souls together under the blessing of God for a lifetime. It is no less important just because many people today tend to minimise and defile it.
Tiffany Moore, U.S.

As our civilisation crumbles, so do its institutions such as marriage. The traditional family has been under attack for a long time. As we enter into a "Brave New World" of "designer children" through genetic engineering, death determined by "quality of life scales" and a New Age belief that most of the world's human population should be exterminated, marriage is seen as an obstacle to ushering in the "New World Order."
Charlie Chance, USA

I think marriage is a great institution for those who wish to join it. I think its become something that we do because we grew up thinking that marriage was the only way to be complete and for some people that's probably true, is it outdated? I don't think so, I think there's a lot to be proud of if you can marry and keep that marriage happy for a long time.
Dave, Seattle/USA

Marriage is a religiously motivated institution and as religion is seen less and less in a favourable light because of the problems it causes around the world, so too will the whole concept of marriage which will slowly die as the years pass by....and good riddance too!!

The institution of marriage is not outdated, it is just outdated expectations of marriage that are being discarded. Marriage is a lifestyle choice that should only be for as long as it is mutually satisfactory. I feel there are enough examples to show that modern children are strong enough and aware enough to cope with their parents' choices. It is a world of diversity that we live in and thankfully we are all free to choose the lifestyle that suits us. Some may find such views too liberal. Happily no one today lives their life trying to please them.
Tom, Australia

The only public declaration of love and commitment I need to make (and have made) is to my partner and our son. We are confident, happy and secure in our relationship and do not need church or state to sanctify it. Fine for those who wish to do so, but a marriage is born of commitment, not vice-versa.
Jack H - committed and happily unmarried, UK

Marriage is God-ordained for a very good reason. Because within the commitment of marriage people learn to put others' needs before themselves, rather than the selfishness that exists in society today which is the root cause of all social ills.
Linda Baker, USA

Marriage has got a bad reputation through the high divorce rate and some high profile celebrity break ups. Happy marriage doesn't make news in the same way. Yet for every couple who divorce, there are two couples that remain happily married. We shouldn't forget that.
Rosa, UK

Marriage is an institution that forms the base for all social institutions. It is largely due to the breakdown and criticism of marriage that society is experiencing such upheaval. Marriage has not become less relevant, people have become lazier, and the taboos surrounding divorce have all but disappeared. This means that people feel that they can just bail out of marriage when pleasure is not being had or when things become even slightly difficult.
Gawain, UK

Most people do not differentiate between a 'wedding' and a 'marriage'. A ceremony (legal or religious), or the lack of it, does not necessarily imply that one is 'married' or not. 'Marriage' is an emotional and spiritual commitment which cannot be dictated by religion or law. If people spent as much time planning their 'marriages' as they do planning their 'weddings', perhaps we would have more relationships surviving the test of time.
Sangeeta, Norway/India

Yes, it is irrelevant. If people want to be together, surely they will. If a couple doesn't want to be together, why should their pain be drawn out unnecessarily by the formal bond of matrimony? Parting may be the wise solution, and should not be penalised with legal wranglings. Marriage may be a way for the authorities to keep track of people, but may not always add much to the relationship itself. That remains purely in the hearts of the (lucky) couple.
Bert, Holland

A commitment between two people to live together and share financial responsibilities, is a private affair that, perhaps, need not be formalised by state or church sanction. However, once children come into the picture, the whole scene changes. At this point, the responsibilities become greater than just two people enjoying a mutual convenience - they now have to provide a secure and nurturing environment to raise their children, and society still accepts marriage as the only practical means to accomplish that. Until we come up with something better, and something that is acceptable to the whole of society, that's the way it is.
Mark M Newdick, USA/UK

All I have to say is that if I do get married, it will because I am in love and devoted to someone, not to prove anything to anyone else. I want to prove to my partner that I am committed to him and only him.
C Jones, UK

Why should a personal relationship between two people be subject to some form of cultural regime which is insensitive to the peculiarities of individual relationships. I think these unrelenting moral dictators should refrain from prescribing life styles to the rest of us. This arrogance in my opinion is at the roots of all fascist thinking.
Riva, Netherland

If couples wish to live together then it is their choice. If they want to marry then it is their choice. If mixed race couples want to cohabit or marry it is their choice. If same sex couples want to cohabit or marry, then that should be their option.
In our modern and diverse society, all tastes and spectrums should be considered, with similar tax and pension benefits applied accordingly as long as there is a contractual agreement - which neither precludes marriage or cohabiting.
Janie K, England

As comedian Groucho Marx said: 'Marriage is a great institution. But who wants to live in an institution?'
Peter Guidi, Holland

Marriage is not outdated and shouldn't be taken so lightly. My parents divorced when I was about 1 years old. I have never lived in a stable environment because my mother has had one husband after another. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live with both mum and dad but I am sure it would have made my childhood much happier. I was tormented throughout school for not having a dad, I found it upsetting when I went to a friend's house and I saw how "normal" and stable it was. In a way I owe my parents a lot because they have made me very determined that when I have children I will be married and no matter what it takes I will stay married. I don't ever want my child to have a part time dad like I had or a mother which they don't respect because she doesn't respect herself. I do firmly believe the key to having healthy, happy and settled children is to give them a happy stable home life, with BOTH natural parents there to look after them.
Cara, England

The concept of people making commitments to each other - perhaps for life, perhaps with the intent of raising children - will never be out-dated. However, the concept of, I quote, "One man and one woman, joined in union before... 'God' " is clearly not the only path in this age. The state marriage has been, and will continue to be, used as a divisive tool by those who seek to maintain the status quo of: sexual and economic repression of women, religious and racial segregation, and most of all... the social stigmatism of those considered to be leading 'Immoral lifestyles' by the Self-appointed Guardians of "What is Proper". State rewards for choosing one lifestyle over another are offensive in a free era, and should end immediately. Yours, happily in love with my partner of 8 years.
Mark Wright, UK

I have been married to a lovely man for over 32 years now. We have our ups and downs as happens in any relationship but I still rather like him. Some might say I've been lucky - luck had nothing to do with it!! Couples walk away from their responsibilities and commitments at the drop of a hat and without thought for the consequences, sometimes for the sake of their own selfishness. What is happiness? Maybe it's about being unselfish and putting the relationship above all and trying to work out the problems. Marriage is not about a piece of paper, it's about being proud of declaring your love in front of your family and friends. It's about making a commitment to each other for life. That sort of commitment must never be allowed to become outdated in this age of selfishness and shallow relationships.
Ailsa, England

In today's western society the meaning of love and all that accompanies it, including marriage, has lost it's meaning. Selfishness and greed has replaces the traditional caring and loving environment. This has become all too apparent by the way in which "Family values", has become a favourite Election time topic for the politicians.
Kwame, UK

If people wish to marry, it will always be there for them. However, it has stood the test of ages, and since time immemorial, the statement that "this is the person that I wish to spend the rest of my life with" is an expression of love, and gives the bedrock on which our children can grow and learn. The fashion of "unfaithfulness " comes and goes. I feel that the current balance in UK is healthy.
Robert Chilvers, UK

The decline in the rate of marriage and increase in divorce rate are just from people having more options and control over their lives. Individuals will do what is best for them and what makes them happiest. Any "sacrifice" is merely conservatism; a happy marriage does not require sacrifice- it brings its own advantages. Options and control over your own life are the cornerstone of being free.
Arman, USA

People more often now are rightly not accepting to remain in unhappy relationships.
Paul Lethbridge, Germany

Marriage was designed by God, and is the cornerstone of our society. One of the largest problems with society today is the lack of family values. Husbands and wives are not prepared to work out their differences, but they choose to get divorced instead. They put their selfish interests first and do not think enough of their partner. I believe there is a place for divorce, but too many opt for this before trying to resolve their problems. Children have the right to be brought up in a stable environment with both a father and mother within the bonds of matrimony. A partnership without marriage is merely a way of each partner saying "we will live together until I find something better or I'm tired of you".
Kevin Compton, UK

Don't condemn those who tried marriage yet ended in divorce. They at least had the courage to try and the common sense to know when it wouldn't work. At the time of marriage the couple involved were absolutely convinced, certainly happy and full of hope. However in this world things change. It is often beautiful to see a relationship evolve with the times and last but that does not diminish the beauty of a relationship that lasts as long as it can but then ends.
Paul, Hong Kong

Marriage is hardly a Christian enforced issue as suggested by some since almost every religion has marriage ceremonies of one sort or another. The problem is that these days, people are unwilling to make a commitment to someone else because we're all to selfish to be willing to stick with someone should things go difficult (I am not referring to wife-beating in which case she'd be better off elsewhere). Commitment and living the rest of one's life putting someone else first is what puts people off and of course, we've all got to look after number one these days.
Richard Hodges, Wales, UK

Yes, marriage is utterly outdated, it is a throwback to the times of 'god fearing Christian's, an arrangement that we have more or less inherited from previous generations. Perhaps we need a new type of marriage contract, and get rid of this extreme 'till death do you part' rubbish ---as it's left over from a time when humans lived shorter, more finite lives than we do now in this digital revolution age.
Stephen Hitchcock, USA

Reading these coments, I see that many emphasize comitment. How about cooperation. I'v been married for 13 years, with 2 great boys. My husband has his good points, but I work just as hard as he does. I had worked outside the home in my career and paid $10,000.00 for day-care. Believe me, there are 2 full-time jobs for mothers, who work and raise children and do laundry and shop for food and cook and clean and pay bills. I see the same problem with so many men. They go to work, come home, put their feet up and watch the tube and bitch about being asked to do anything around the house. Marriage takes 2 people working together to work. Children grow up better with 2 caring parents.
Melanie, USA

No marriage is not an out-dated institution. There is nothing wrong with the institution itself just the people in it.
Jennifer Bowdern, Australia

Marriage is an arcane repressive social institution designed to curb individual freedom.
Andy, USA

This is really an enigma of unimaginable proportions to me! In the west, and especially in the US, men and women date and date and date and live together till they are finally sure they've found the right person to marry...In a few years, if not months, their hard found love and marriage crumbles...WHY? The only thing I can say, is that love is an attitude more than something to be found such as the best bargain in town or something. If you could love, you could feel for and love anyone.. of course it requires that you may not win every argument or clean more than the exact number of dishes, but you might just find LOVE.. which is not just any four-letter word!!
Navin, USA/Indian

It is outdated. You don't need a piece of paper to commit. We wouldn't sign a piece of paper for life for ANYTHING else, even a mortgage you can get with great ease. I also don't need to be someone's wife or have to behave in a certain way just because I am married.
Nyky, Australia

Yes marriage was only created in the last couple of hundred years. A product of our Victorian past. It is outmoded and has no value and was created mainly for the Christian church and adopted by the state as a legal binding contract of possession. It should have no bearing in law and should not be recognised by the state. Its purely a religious affair. There's a whole industry kept in business by this concept and a flourishing one by its downfall, lawyers fees etc.....good riddance.....
Nick Tucker, UK

Marriage is the ultimate commitment to your partner. It should never be entered into lightly. The formal act of marriage is not only a declaration to your partner, but to your friends, family and community that this is a permanent relationship. While, some marriages do not work out, people need to try harder before separating and think longer before marrying. Ultimately, marriage is a lot of work and not something to be entered into because all of your friends are doing it or your family expects it.
Kelly Knowles, Canada

The basis of our society is the formal recognition of relationships between couples. It is sad that there is a growing segment of the world that cannot bring itself to have responsibility and commitment to another soul.
Ruth-Dick Meyer, U.S.A.

Read the first comments we received

Background ¦ Your reaction

The final vote:


> >
Yes: <% =percentyes %>% No: <% =percentno %>%

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Relevant Stories

19 Sep 99 | UK
Church tackles divorce and cohabitation

Internet Links

Relate (The National Marriage Guidance Council)

The Church of England

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Live Talking Points

Did bad behaviour ruin the Ryder Cup?

Should gays be in the military?

Should Tony go on and on?

Can Indian politics be cleaned up?

Should doctors stop the body clock?

Should teachers' pay be linked to performance?

Cheaper Aids drugs for Africa?