institution of marriage has undergone great stresses in the Western society. High divorce
rate and the trend of living together has resulted in broken families and troubled
children. The human society developed and refined the institution of marriage over a long
period of time. Although scientific achievements have provided the World with all kinds of
amenities, the human beings have not changed at a basic level. The human instincts such as
joy, jealousy, love, hate, fear, pride and prejudice have not changed over the
millenniums. The people still need stable family environments and friends to share life
experiences. Being a first generation immigrant, I am always amazed when I read about the
divorce rate in the USA. Looking within the South Asian community here, I find the divorce
rate negligible. This diametrically opposite situation has prompted me to analyze the
roots of a successful marriage. These statistics have led me to believe that unsuccessful
marriage is a unique American phenomenon. This problem has started to manifest in the
second generation of immigrants who are born and brought up in this country. Since this
causes a major disruption in the lives of children who are the future custodians of this
great nation, it is worthwhile to study the factors that contribute to a stable family and
The successful marriages require support systems, common values, and shared aspirations in
addition to love and mutual understanding. These aspects are discussed in detail in this
General observation shows that the couples in a successful marriage belong to a similar
cultural group. By cultural group in American context refers to refers to Italian, Cuban,
Mexican and Irish American groups. The other groups include Chinese, West European and
Hispanic American. The culture is a broad term that includes language, music and
literature among other things. These divisions may not mean much to European immigrants
but they are in fact considered important in India and Pakistan. A cursory look at ethnic
newspapers reveals that people or parents are looking within the same group for marriage
The first generation immigrants generally marry within their cultural background and most
of them have stable marriages. It is not suggested here that people should only marry
within their own ethnic group. The successful marriages between people of diverse
backgrounds require broad vision, maturity and freedom from all kinds of prejudices. As
the marriages between diverse cultural groups have started to occur in the second
generation of immigrants, so have the divorce rates started to approach American norms. In
the USA, marriages are intermixed among people from European origins. There are no
considerations for family or cultural background. The differences start to manifest soon
after the honeymoon.
A better communication between people of similar background could be the reason for fewer
instances of misunderstanding. The people of similar cultural background instinctively
understand the likes and dislikes of their partners. For example, some people love dogs or
other pets because they always had a dog or cat in their homes while growing up. There are
other people who consider dogs and cats as a nuisance that must be avoided at all costs.
Some people like to congregate in-groups while others are brought up alone in a calm and
quiet home. The differences are obvious if a person goes from England or Sweden to any
place close to the Mediterranean Sea.
Role of Religion
It has been observed that religious people have successful marriages. This refers to both
partners. If one of partner is religious and other does not share same ideas, it becomes a
difficult relationship. The immigrants are more religious than their counterparts in the
native country. The people back home in India, Pakistan and Mid East believe that if a
person lives in America then he or she must be modern and liberal in outlook. A lot of
marriages fail because of this particular misconception. The humanity in various parts of
the World developed marriage as an institution and religion sanctified the relationship.
The religion provides a code of ethics and standards of behavior that need to be followed.
For example, the religious edict saying, " Thou shall not commit adultery" lays
the foundation of relationship in marriage for both partners. This factor alone can reduce
strain in a relationship as it gives certain level of assurance of commitment to the
Recognition of mistakes
It is never easy to accept and own the mistakes and saying sorry. The ego gets hurt and
people tend to think that after saying sorry the other partner will gain an upper hand.
Just by simply acknowledging the error or a mistake can resolve fifty percent of the
conflicts. Most of the people who have a stable and successful marriage are very up-front
in their relationship and never hesitate to say sorry.
On the contrary, small misunderstandings can resultin irreconcilable differences. The
common response is to find equal and similar fault in the partner and reminding that he or
she is even a bigger culprit. The preeminent reason in many of such instances is that both
partners are not giving up any ground and differences continue to grow. This approach if
avoided can result in a harmonious relationship. Forgiving and accepting apology leads to
Better economic conditions do not mean that only rich people can have a stable marriage.
The people should spend only what they can afford. This is one of the major causes of
strain in marriages at all income levels. Some people at a lower income level have much
better marriages as compared to the rich and wealthy people. The key is to keep the
expenses within limits for both partners. In the USA, the temptations are unlimited.
Everyday, people are targeted with advertisements for new cars, better gadgets, and
idyllic vacations. The message comes across as if all these things do not cost anything.
There are promises of no payment for a number of months. The human beings are psyched up
to buy the things that do not need and vacation that they can not afford. After few weeks
of bliss, the reality dawns when the payments have to be made and there is hardly any
money available for essentials needs. At this point in time the blame game starts. In
Europe and Asia, people buy the merchandize whenever there is a need. In the USA, the need
is created. There are countless examples. A simple one that comes to mind is the cellular
phone. Some people need wireless communication for business or personal reasons. However,
the marketing of wireless equipment make us believe that nobody can live in the next
millennium without it. All of these small things add up. A large segment of population can
not afford all of these modern inventions. The inevitable result is the strain on all
relationships. The misunderstanding reaches the peak when the primary bread -winner in the
family loses the job. On the other hand, the cost of food, clothing and housing is much
cheaper in the USA as compared to Western Europe, Middle East and Asia. The people can
live comfortably by controlling expenses and by staying married.
The availability of a support system is a great contributor to stable marriages. The
support system is a network of friends and relatives that can be relied upon in case of
any misunderstanding. Both partners can discuss the problem with their respective friends.
By discussing the problem alone can put it in a proper perspective. In North America,
there is a great emphasis on individual growth and independence. This factor alone
prohibits sharing of concerns and aspirations with friends. In the Eastern society, the
extended family and friends provide a network that keeps marriages on track. The lack of
this support system has started to manifest in the second generation of immigrants. The
Americans can at least go to a psychiatrist to identify the problems. The immigrants lose
the support system that was readily available in home country. They also abhor to seek in
any kind of psychological help and thus face a double jeopardy. I have personally known a
number of marriages in stress in the USA, while similar relationship would have been very
cordial in their own country.
The solution is to develop a new network and also keep the old network alive by
communication. The revolution in communication has brought the whole World very close. Now
it has become possible to reach out to anyone at anytime. In the USA, one can find all
ethnic groups from all over the World. The social and cultural links can now be very
easily maintained. I have seen Korean, Indian, Chinese and Pakistani communities all
across America. It is now possible to develop a network of friends within one own
community who can understand the background of problems.
In South Asian communities, parents, brothers and sisters play a powerful role. If the
parents listen to only one side of the story, then the marriage is doomed. On the other
hand if they understand and appreciate the situation of other partner, then the marriage
is strengthened. I have seen parents listening only to version of their own kids. It is
very difficult to accept that their own kids could be wrong because it reflects their own
failure. The key for the parents is to listen to both sides before placing the blame.
American Work Environments
The working environments in the USA are very dynamic as compared to any country in the
World. The non- stop restructuring, new technologies have a great impact on the society.
In order to keep up with the changes, people have to move in search of jobs. The
neighborhoods get transformed in a matter of years. Sometimes it seems as if all America
in on the move. When the people move, they get away from friends, relatives and familiar
environments. The American born people are perhaps used to this kind of life. Most of the
Americans quickly get settled in new environments, make new friends and never look back.
However, people from the East come from very stable family systems.
The movement from one place to another uproots people and kids never develop lasting
friendships. These relationships are a stabilizing factor in marriage. Whenever, there is
a disagreement between the spouses, these are the people who can patch up the differences.
The big dilemma is now how to reconcile the demands of career with the needs of a stable
marriage. A simple advice for people on the move is to develop new friendships and also
maintain old relationships. It has become very easy with the emerging technologies of
Internet and communications.
Developing new friends can be easily done. In a new place, telephone directory research to
look for places of worship and familiar surnames can be very helpful. Our experience shows
that even random calling can result in finding very helpful people from any Asian or Mid
In spite of great social upheaval in social norms during the past century, I find the
institution of marriage still very strong. In the USA, people can live together without
marriage and have children. The people in USA do not question the private life styles of
other people. However, it is a surprise to see young Hollywood stars getting married who
are supposed to be in the forefront of new liberal style. A large number of people get
married again after bitter divorce. This indicates that there is something in the human
psyche that propels people towards making a commitment to marriage. This fact was
recognized long time ago and gradually the institution of marriage evolved over centuries.
The challenge for our times is to keep the marriage intact. I believe it can be done and
most of the marriages can be successful. The institution of marriage is a foundation for a
stable society. We owe it to our future generation to provide them a carefree childhood
with pleasant memories.
For comments contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org