December 27, 2013

I already know if your marriage will work out

Men and women are different no matter the socio-economic level, in whatever culture you happen to be living in. However, my experience suggests that the further you move away from rich countries with all the creature comforts (not sleeping on the floor, clean air, decent nutrition), the more women want marriage.

In the US, marriage is declining. Under age 35, people see marriage as a scam. They see the rate of divorce over 50% and don't see the point outside of utilitarian purposes. I've seen employees of mine get married and have kids to increase the checks they receive from the government. They hide paychecks and bank accounts and live in big groups to game the system of entitlements. This is the way under 35's are using marriage. The others simply aren't getting married. They see how much better life is in non-married relationships where partners need to put forth effort to keep the relationship together. The tension of lack of permanence is the greatest motivator. In marriage, you're stuck so the incentive to not be selfish or moody is less obvious.

In Japan, which is a step ahead of the rest of the world in almost every way. They go to massive extremes in debasing their currency, were the first to popularize hostess bars, but with men as escorts instead of women, and now, they have given up on man-woman relationships as a whole. The new trend in Japan is to have virtual boy and girlfriends. They are programmed to respond to your emotional needs, to tease you, and to keep you on your toes to make sure you don't get too complacent.

In the third world however, marriage is still the goal... and it's done right. The traditional roles still exist. Often men will go abroad to work and women will have small businesses selling snacks door to door while the kids are at school. Sometimes Mom will live in one city while Grandma or a neighbor will take care of the kids.

This may not sound like the marriage or the nuclear family from the first world, but the sanctity of marriage is still intact. All over Asia and Africa, affairs are discrete and provide little risk to the marriage. Massage parlor sex in Asia, or extracurricular sexual activities in Africa are not talked about within the family unit, but all parties know it exists.

In the third world, it is no secret that marriages are about moving up economically. Love is always discussed openly but underneath the surface, it is clearly secondary. In India, husbands and wives who don't choose each other understand that they must learn to love each other. The second/third world Philippines has a mix of direct, say-what-you-feel communication, with an Asian-flavored indirect word choice. Like in the West, couples argue and drama is pervasive. However, unlike the West, fights don't result in divorce.

In first-second world East Asian cultures with more indirect communication (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam), many couples simply don't talk to each other, but they do stay together once married.

What I've decided is that in the first world, people have the option culturally to choose not to marry. In poorer nations, marriage is an economic convention rather than a social one. Everyone has their personal views, but it is the economics of your home country that will determine how you view the sanctity of marriage.


  1. There are three purposes of marriage: economic, cultural and personal.

    The economic purpose is to increase the availability of goods and services to the partners. This may be in the form of a second income, or other services (e.g., child rearing, culinary, sexual and companionship). In marriages based solely on economics, communication is likely to be utilitarian, and focused on matters relating to money and services provided by either spouse to the other or to the household. Procreation may be a low priority. If either spouse loses his or her source of income or if the services become less desirable than those that can be obtained from another source, the marriage is vulnerable.

    The cultural purpose is to perpetuate the culture if both spouses share the same religious or ethnic culture. Marriage perpetuates a religious or ethnic culture by providing a context in which children are taught the religious and ethnic norms of their parents. The spouses share fundamental values, and procreation is a high priority, but even if the couple does not have children, there is a high resistance to divorce, because the marriage reflects the investment of the couple in their religious or ethnic group. The religious or ethnic group is likely to approve of the marriage and disapprove of a divorce, and the couple are likely to be involved in religious or cultural activities which will provide a basis for common interest and purpose.

    The personal purpose is to provide personal gratification to the spouses. This gratification can take the form of companionship, sexual gratification and ego gratification, both from the affirmation of the other spouse, from the affirmation of the community and from the sense of self-gratification associated with the fact that the partners feel chosen or loved by another. The spouses may behave in an affectionate manner toward each other at times or even often, but social acceptance may often be the more powerful factor motivating the continuation of the marriage.

    Set against these purposes is the desire for independence, which is strong among members of the millennial generation in the first world. It remains to be seen whether this desire for independence will persist as millennials get older and may become susceptible to feelings of loneliness and desires for integration into the existing fabric of the societies where they live.

  2. Great analysis! In the developed world, millennials are in an economic and cultural no man's land in the developed world.

    Economic: Underemployment of millennials has led to living in groups or in what they deem to be temporary residence until they land on their feet. Also, without clarity in terms of a partner's future job prospects, putting a permanent mark on a relationship through marriage is risky.

    Cultural: The erosion of culture through ease of culture-hopping and the rise of the internet has decreased the percentage of people with a permanent culture. This weakens the identification with one group that will support the marriage and disapprove of divorce. The support system of having an identifiable religious or ethnic clan or tribe is less likely to be there.

    Personal: I think you're spot on here. Affirmation will continue to be a major cause of marriage, but the desire for independence will be make people think twice. I suspect that lower marriage rates in millennials may lead to a lower percentage of divorce.

    The picture of an ideal life w/ a picked fenced house and a 2.3 kids has lost its luster. The real estate crash has hurt the reputation of owning a house, and with increased job-hopping, being stuck in one place is a burden. The mortgage interest deduction is at risk, and I expect that the US government will raise property taxes in an effort to balance the books.

    Compared to Americans, Europeans have a much more clan-based society with tighter ties to one location due to its long history. Being closer to the socialist side of the spectrum is a stabilizing factor which is compatible with the institution of marriage.

    The developing world is growing richer, and the incentives for marriage will change there over time. That's another blog post altogether.

  3. In the Philippines, we are pressured to get married and for me and friends like me who remain single, we always have to endure the question why--why don't we marry? Why don't we have children? I would love to get married, but definitely not to just anybody. I would rather remain single than settle.

    Anonymous is right though. Maybe it's just our age. Maybe when my friends and I get older we will regret not marrying. In any case, it doesn't matter. No regrets, our life is full.