a. Definition of marriage
- Marriage is a binding legal union between a man and a woman who agree to have a lasting relationship as husband / wife.
- Marriage partners choose each other. In some cases, senior member of the family and church influence the choice of a marriage partner. When marrying partners agree to marry, they are joined in church and they become husband and wife.
- Marriage is thus a covenant in which the partners give themselves to one another.
- Marriage involves other members of the community hence it is a social and community affair.
- Marriage is a permanent union, it is a community requirement in which everyone in the community participates. Each person is expected to undergo marriage because it is a rite of passage.
- Marriage gives a person, a high social status and prestige in the community.
- Marriage is also a covenant between a man and a woman that should not be broken. Two people are joined in marriage in order to procreate and perpetuate the community. Once married, a couple is allowed to have sexual relationship, and companionship.
- Marriage is an expression of and fulfillment of mutual love and comfort. It enhance unity; social prestige, and respect in society.
- Purpose of marriage is sexual fulfillment; cultural and social requirement; obligation to build a family; and procreation although children are a gift from God.
Forms of marriages
- There are many forms of marriages. There is a marriage ceremony organised as a symbol or mark of the union between a man and a woman. These marriages ceremonies are either civil, or religious.
- The main religious ceremonies are Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Sikh among others. We also have African customary ceremonies many of which are polygamous. Christianity does not allow polygamous marriage.
Secular approaches to marriage
- In the modern world, some people choose not to marry for personal reasons. Some people have children without getting married while others opt to have a marriage without children. Husband and wife are equal. Monogamy is practiced for economic reasons.
- In some families’ women are the heads of the family. Choosing a partner is an individual act and not communal.
- In marriage traditional qualities of a good wife such as industrious, honesty, and hospitality are not considered. The modern society values external beauty, financial status and social status. As a result, there is a high rate of marriage, separation, and divorce.
- At times young people fail to be married in church. There is no formalization of marriages. These marriages are called “Come-we-stay” arrangements. Gender issues in marriage. The wife is subordinate to the husband but had rights. Marriage did not end with death of the husband. The wife was inherited by one of her husband’s brother. This is widow inheritance / Levirate marriage. She could also refuse to be inherited but remained married to that man even in death. The wife could not marry outside the family because of dowry. There was dowry payment to parents.
- If a wife died, the man would marry the sister of his dead wife. This is surrogate marriage. Those who did not marry were considered lesser humans”. Young people were prepared for marriage during initiation, which was witnessed in a public ceremony. During marriage, couples makes vows to each other. The ancestors are invoked to bless the marriage.
Factors that lead to a stable, healthy and successful marriage
Here am giving you a few suggestions. Discuss with your study companions and come up with other suggestions.
- One important factor is mutual responsibility by the couple. This occurs if there is mutual consultation with each other in decision-making.
- Two is forgiveness of each other.
- Three is good treatment of each other especially with equal respect.
- Four is sharing scriptures together.
- Five is giving love and respecting each other.
- Six is having a faithful sexual relationship and lastly being open and honest.
- Seven is African traditional qualities of a good wife who is described as: hardworking, fertile, morally upright, generous, kind, obedient, humble, clean, beautiful, polite, warm hearted and hospitable.
- Eight are the qualities of a good husband, which are described as: being able to provide good leadership in the family. Other qualities are being aggressive, wise, brave, courageous, responsible and good property manager.
b. Christian Teaching about Marriage
- Christians teach that marriage is sacred and that it is a divine institution, which is ordained God.
- God started it when he created Adam and Eve. Marriage should therefore be monogamous and permanent as God protects marriages.
- The woman should submit to the husband who is told to love the wife as Christ loved the church. Church teaches respect of each other.
- Marriage is complete even without children as it is between a male and a female.
- Marriage is not obligatory and it ends when one partner dies.
- Christian’s preparation and approach to marriage Christians organise youth seminars, and rallies to teach the youth how to choose marriage partners and how to treat wife / husbands; care for the children; behave towards in laws; acquire wealth (men); and head a family. Youth are taught to avoid sexual intimacy before marriage. Those intending to marry are encouraged to go for pre marital counselling. During counselling, they are informed that love is the most important bond of unity in marriage.
- Church encourages partners to go for HIV /AIDs test before marriage.
- Marriage ceremony is conducted in church Choice of a marriage partner There are many ways of identifying a marriage partner. One is arrangement by parents. If not one can make an individual decision and choose a wife or husband. Two is through an intermediary or third party.
- In African traditional polygamous marriages, the first wife identified a wife for her husband. Girls would be given out to a chief as a gift
c. Courtship in African Traditional society (A.T.S)
- Courtship varied from community to community.
- Courtship is the period between engagement and wedding ceremony. During courtship premarital sex is forbidden. Girls and boys dressed with bracelets and rings.
- Courtship was important in A.T.S. This was because the man and woman who were girls and boys got to know each other better before marriage. It was a period when girls/boys were instructed in family life education. It was also a period for linking the two marrying families.
- The couple had time to learn about one another’s character, and know their families. It is a symbol (sign) of the girl’s presence in her home (maternal home). She continues to live with her own people.
- The families and clan had an opportunity to check if the marrying couple was related and if their clans were acceptable to the parents. Courtship gives time to the two families to negotiate and pay the bridewealth or dowry.
- Bridal Wealth, dowry, bride price are all expressions of partnership. The family of the man pays dowry to the family of the woman. Some churches disregard bride wealth, while others encourage it. Dowry is paid in different forms. The girl’s family decides what it wants. Will it be livestock (poultry, pigs, camels, cows, goats, sheep), beer, grain, jewellery and clothes among others.
- It acts as a compensation for the girls labour and seals the marriage covenant.
- It is a public expression of appreciation for the coming of a new wife/mother into the man’s family.
- It promotes friendship and cements relationship between families.
- It shows commitment and seriousness of the future husband. After dowry payment, the woman belongs to her husband. A ceremony is carried out depending on the community. Bride price payment is accompanied by marriage ceremonies.
- Lastly dowry helps in maintaining peace Traditional African approaches to marriage preparation.
- Polygamy is one husband, married to many wives.
- Polygamy is allowed by the African traditional religion because it occurs if the first wife is barren; ensures that all women have husbands; prevents infertility; provides extra labour in farms.
- A polygamous man has a higher status because many wives symbolize wealth.
- Children are important in a marriage because they promote social status of their parents.
- They cement a bond of unity between husband / wife.
- They are a source of labour, and wealth.
- They are heirs to the family wealth
- They provide security to the family.
- Divorce is legal dissolution of marriage.
- Christians allow divorce because of specific grounds.
- Divorce was rare in African traditional societies.
- Divorce is granted under circumstances of: adultery, witchcraft, laziness, cruelty and disrespect of wife.
- In the contemporary society, divorce is sought after or allowed because of: unfaithfulness in marriage or adultery; domestic violence; misuse of family resources; childlessness, in-law interference and alcohol abuse
- According to the laws of Kenya, divorce is allowed under the following reasons;
- adultery; if a man deserts his wife for more than 3 years;
- if a partner becomes insane;
- and domestic violence for example, physical, and psychological torture.
- Christians discourage divorce because marriage is a permanent status. There is no room for divorce.
- Church discourages divorce because of its adverse effects. Some denominations allow divorce if there is adultery.
- God hates divorce. Married couples should remain faithful to each other
- strained relationships, children suffering psychologically, and experiences of rejection.
- A divorcee faces social stigma, rejection, and isolation. If parents separate, they create single parent families. These families suffer from economic hardships and feelings of failure and inadequacy.
e. Celibacy as an alternative to marriage
- Celibacy is a Latin word “Coelebes” meaning bachelor.
- There are many reasons. Some of these are to pursue education leading to delayed marriage; and career demands (workaholic).
- Other people are discouraged by examples of failed marriages.
- Other reasons maybe economic independence, poor health, HIV /AIDS, mental illness; parental interference and disappointment from past failed relationships.
- This happens if parents do not approve a partner.