Marriage is a key structure in most societies, and since it has historically been linked with different cultures, its forms in the 21st century need to be re-examined. Marriage is primarily defined as a legal contract or social union between spouses, implying a permanence of the union and traditionally based on a sexual relationship (Strong and Theodore 12). When exploring the variations of marriage in different cultures, one would realize that they are surrounded by traditions and rights particularly when choosing marriage partner. This paper focuses on the difference of marriage between cultures by examining three different types of marriage: arranged marriages, marriages after cohabitation, polygamy marriages, and open marriages.
Arranged marriages in the modern American culture are rare, and the thought of it usually sound abnormal. However, in other cultures such as among African-Americans and Asian-Americans, arranged marriages are normal. Arranged marriage is defined as the marital union where the groom and bride are selected by either their parents or family members, who act as professional matchmakers (Pande 172). Sometimes arranged marriages are considered as consensual marriages where the couples are brought together by outside parties or forced marriages where the couples are forced to marry without their choice on the matter. The most common form of arrange marriages in the modern American culture is consensual. It is estimated that about 30% of marriages among Indian-Americans are arranged and the rate of divorce among these marriages is less than 4% as opposed to 40% of marriages where in the US where couples marry freely (Pande 172). Therefore, the rate of divorce in arranged marriages is low but that does not mean the couples are always happy- it may be because their culture does not support divorces. Thus, for the White counterparts in America, arranged marriages are a foreign concept because they believe in the ability to willingly choose their spouse (Pande 172). At least when they have irreconcilable differences, they can always leave the marriage.
Cohabitation is an arrangement that involve two people who are involved in an intimate relationship and live together but not married (Kulu and Paul 879). Marriage is therefore an institution and not a prerequisite for cohabitation. However, marriage after cohabiting occurs among different cultures, and recent research analysis by the Pew Research Center shows that most individuals who cohabit marry a partner of a different ethnicity or race. For example, African Americans are more likely to cohabit with and marry Whites other than individuals from Africa, Puerto Rico and West Indies who are more likely to cohabit with and marry within their groups (Kulu and Paul 879). Of the major ethnic and racial groups, there are about 20% of African cohabiters, 24% of Hispanic cohabiters, 11% of White cohabiters and 41% of Asian cohabiters (PerelliHarris and Nora 435). Therefore, marriage after cohabiting is common and it is on the rise in the US. Research indicates that couples who marry after cohabiting have the highest chance of splitting regardless of their cultures. For couples who marry after cohabiting, the probability of the relationship ending is 49% after five years, and 33% after 10 years (PerelliHarris and Nora 440). This is because the couples do not have the drive and passion in their marriage to overcome their challenges that need to be faced in a marital framework. It is also common that after cohabiting, divorce is taken lightly which makes separation more natural. The state of California recognizes cohabiting among couples (Kulu and Paul 880); however, this form of marriage is associated with increased risk of divorce, higher forms of domestic violence, poorer marital communication, and a lower quality of marriage.
Polygamy is a marriage practice that involves having more than one spouse at a time (Mair 65). Most polygamous cultures in the US are commonly seen among Muslims immigrants, African Americans and Indians. Although the practice of polygamy is illegal in all the states in the US, most of the Americans consider it to be morally acceptable. Recent research by the Gallup survey shows that 17% of Americans find polygamy morally acceptable (Charsley and Anika 62). Polygamy is more prevalent in Muslim countries, Africa and India. However, in these societies only 10% to 30% of men are polygamous and the majority of polygamous families only have two wives (Charsley and Anika 68). Men always get involved in polygamy when they have status in the community or more economic resources. On the other hand women, enter polygamous marriages because as a sense of obligation, cultural duties or to satisfy religious needs. The divorce reform provides that divorce in the US is the highest internationally and account for about 68% of marriages. Besides, about 42% of polygamous marriages in the world always end in separations or divorce by one female partner (Charsley and Anika 77). Data on customary marriage indicates that infidelity is always the major argument of most polygamous divorces (Mair 65). This means that polygamy has high divorce rates in Muslim, Asian and African marriage system. It is therefore critical for the US government to address the social issue of polygamous marriage and be proactive in the manner in which they address it since many cultures in the US still practice polygamy.
Charsley, Katharine, and Anika Liversage. "Transforming polygamy: migration, transnationalism and multiple marriages among Muslim minorities." Global Networks 13.1 (2013): 60-78.
Kulu, Hill, and Paul J. Boyle. "Premarital cohabitation and divorce: Support for the "Trial Marriage" Theory?." Demographic Research 23 (2010): 879-904.
Mair, Lucy P. African marriage and social change. Routledge, 2013.
Pande, Raksha. "'I arranged my own marriage': arranged marriages and post-colonial feminism." Gender, Place & Culture 22.2 (2015): 172-187.
PerelliHarris, Brienna, and Nora Sanchez Gassen. "How similar are cohabitation and marriage? Legal approaches to cohabitation across Western Europe." Population and development review 38.3 (2012): 435-467.
Strong, Bryan, and Theodore F. Cohen. The marriage and family experience: Intimate relationships in a changing society. Cengage Learning, 2013.
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