The following is an abridged and revised excerpt from Mel’s book Stepfamilies, which the BBC recently asked her to debate on the Richard Bacon Show. In previous posts, the inference has been that unless the two people embarking on a second (or subsequent) marriage get it right, there is little chance of tackling other blended family issues, such as step-parenting.
Most marriages don’t add two people together. They subtract one from the other.
The inference behind this cynical view of marriage is that we’d all be better off unmarried; that marriage diminishes our lives in some way; and that when married, we end up becoming less of a person. Ironically, this would appear, at first sight, to be endorsed by married couples. Traditionally, they often refer to one another as ‘my other half’, or even ‘my better half’. These references, of course, are intended as light-hearted sarcasm, humor, or endearment.
However, this disparaging outlook on marriage is not universal. On the contrary, the implication in society at large is that singleness is the culprit of ‘half personhood’. Traditionalists are often of the opinion that the addition of a partner is required to make each of us ‘whole’.
DOES MARRIAGE MAKE YOU WHOLE?
The concept of marriage as a means of achieving completion, or fulfilling our potential, might be anathema to Post-feminist Woman and New Man, but it still shows itself to be prevalent in some circles. Certainly, in my experience (when I was involved in counselling), it was one of the prime reasons for much of the despair amongst the never-married. I’d even go so far as to say that in some cases, it could be cited as a possible cause of their singleness.