16 September 2021

In 2021, is marriage still a relevant institution?

| Zoya Patel
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Wedding party prep

It’s a great excuse for an awesome party, but does marriage have a tangible impact on a relationship’s validity? Photo: Danielle Cleary Events.

When I was growing up in an Indian-Muslim household, marriage was a foregone conclusion for my future.

Of course I would get married, and ideally, it would be to a fellow Indian Muslim, so our shared culture could form the foundation for our relationship.

Today, I am an out-and-proud atheist and have been ‘living in sin’ for the past decade with my non-Indian partner, and my views on marriage have been defined more by what it doesn’t mean to me than by any belief in its value.

I can’t see what impact marriage would have on my relationship in terms of either signifying its validity or formalising our financial obligations to each other. We already own property together, share a bank account for our expenses, and have every intention of being together for the foreseeable future. Like all relationships, we can’t predict what the future will hold, but if we were to break up, we’d have to detangle our enmeshed lives much like a married couple would (though perhaps without the stigma of divorce).

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So as far as I can see, there’s not a measurable difference between our unmarried status and that of our married friends (other than, in almost every case, that we’ve been together for longer).

But the difference lies, it appears, in how people perceive our relationship. Over the past few years, as we enter our 30s, more and more of our friends are getting married. These are people who are fairly unconventional in their social and political views, but the tradition of marriage has remained relevant to them despite most other conventions being discarded early on.

As a cohort, we all espoused anti-establishment views about marriage when we were younger – ‘it’s a patriarchal institution! It symbolised the transfer of ownership of a woman from father to husband! Until marriage equality is a reality for LGBTQIA+ people, I would never get married!’

But one by one, most of my peers have capitulated and gone for the ring as the next milestone on our journey into adulthood.

I love a good wedding celebration, so I’m wholeheartedly excited for my friends when they get married and enjoy coming together to celebrate their relationship with their loved ones. But I don’t know that I see the institution as being about much more than the party. What’s the point, really, beyond having the fun night out and getting dressed up? Does marriage have a tangible impact on a relationship’s validity?

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Based on my experiences, it certainly does when it comes to perceptions.

Recently, in a conversation about my future plans, my father started a sentence with, “I don’t know how serious your relationship is, but …”

This jab is definitely targeted at the fact that I remain unmarried, and it’s obviously largely influenced by our cultural expectations in my family. But it echoed the general vibe we get these days as one of the only unmarried or not-engaged couples in our circles. Personally, I’m ambivalent about whether marriage lies in our future (and my primary hesitation is based on stinginess and not wanting to spend the money on the wedding). However, I find it interesting that it still holds weight in terms of social acceptance of a couple’s relationship.

Why is this? How does a marriage certificate signify a stronger commitment than the internal one we make when we wake up every day and keep choosing to be with our partner? Does it really make a difference in how you think about your relationship once married versus just being in a de facto partnership? I’m genuinely curious – if you’re married, why? And if not, why not?

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Good on you! I personally believe that we need to live our lives as we choose and Islamic marriage should be respected for those of us who desire it. I’m distressed by the threat to Islam’s image in Australia by the hypocrisy of certain Australian Muslim men and their use of Islam to play around with marriage. I’ve known a few who do this and they tarnish the image of the rest of us, thinking nothing of abandoning the legal wife and marrying a second, third or fourth in a Muslim ceremony while still legally married to the first. I see outspoken types prominently promoting Islamic values in the Australian media while privately behaving like someone out of The Arabian Nights. This behaviour threatens the rest of us Muslims with judgment and discrimination from an already suspicious non-Muslim public. How do we address it? Do ethical, assimilated Muslims have to abandon Islam to avoid being lumped in with troglodytes and the associated disdain and disgust of other Australians when inevitable scandal hits?One bad apple spoils the bunch. The media tiptoes around this, terrified of being accused of stereotypes but it is a legitimate threat to the image of Australian Muslims who are not living with 7th century values.

Won’t be fooled again9:04 am 20 Sep 21

Good article Zoya and good on you for taking your own path. You’re asking the right questions and that is a hell of lot better in this polarised world than pretending one knows all the answers. (Although I’m happily married.)

” “I don’t know how serious your relationship is, but …”. This jab is definitely targeted…”
Continuing harassment is certainly a contributor to some marriage events, perhaps quite a few. Don’t bother though. Even one’s parents can be educated. 😉
If you want to marry, throw a party, get married between drinks, then forget about it. Spend saved money on something actually useful. Who knows your ceremonial status without being improperly inquisitive, and why should they care?

“Personally, I’m ambivalent about whether marriage lies in our future (and my primary hesitation is based on stinginess and not wanting to spend the money on the wedding). ” I too am repulsed by the obscene amounts of money spent on turning weddings into stage managed performances and spectacles designed to impress others with displays of wealth and Kardashianism rather than love. The best type of weddings should be simple gatherings without extravagence where a loving couple exchange vows to commit to each other in front of family and friends. Keep it simple and it will be beautiful. Spend the money you save on the wedding upon a house.

Yes well relevant or not, it’s the one of the few times Uncles can get together.


Capital Retro11:11 am 16 Sep 21

As one who did not vote for same-sex marriage the institution of marriage is still a vey relevant institution for me.

Given that the vast majority of Canberrans voted in favour of SSM I conclude that majority no longer values it.

What an awfully condescending conclusion to draw.

Capital Retro6:05 pm 16 Sep 21

Twenty years ago I would have said “sorry you feel that way about it” but I won’t now as all I get is abuse for expressing my opinion about something that is repugnant about SSM.

At least you were civil in rejecting my opinion.

Yes condescending and patronising. But hey nobody gives a rats about his opinion.

Surely its no longer relevant, given it doesn’t reflect what ever lala lands your beliefs were originally made up in?

Capital Retro9:57 am 17 Sep 21

I hope you re-visit your comments when you are old, in poor health and have no one to love and care for you.

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