I’m Married, But Free – Rejoice Ngwenya, October 26, 2011

The Christian faith – no doubt like Baha’i, Buddhist, Moslem, Hindu and Mormon – considers the marital institution inviolable. This male – female union is one of the oldest ‘institutions’ in the history of mankind.

Those like me who were brought up under the Judeo-Christi doctrine are persuaded on the two thousand year-old Eden provenance of this institution. But one only needs to be an extreme fundamentalist to ignore that God ordained marriage about the same time that mankind assumed freedom of choice. Male chauvinist conservatives would then add how Eve abused this ‘free-to-roam’ privilege and ended up under satanic reptilian influence!

Like many institutions, marriage has a tendency to infringe on personal liberties. Reasonable people marry when they are adults this usually when they already have crystallised individual idiosyncrasies and dogmas that define their core characters. They bring into the marital institution perceptions, values and behaviours which are a result of a twenty five to thirty-year evolution. Some of these are personal liberties subsequently sacrificed at the altar of marriage institutional expediency. No sooner than either spouse lapses into their natural libertarian habitat than the other accuses them of violating the rules of the institution. Gross ‘violations’ – or rather more accurately – extended libertarian lapses result in friction, separation and outright divorce.

The bottom line is that all institutions have rules designed to limit choice or enhance safety, purportedly for ‘common good’. Rules are by nature, restrictive. Similarly, the marital institution is allowed to infringe on natural justice purely on the basis that spouses are expected to compromise or conform to specific paradigms. It is a long held belief that the test of ‘successful’ marital institutions is the degree to which one compromises their personal liberty for ‘the good of the family’. Fulfilling gluttonous demands and weird family expectations becomes the foundation of marital bliss. Marriage, we are told, is the cog around which the human development planetary system revolves, without which mankind degenerates into gross moral depravation!

What marriage fundamentalists choose to ignore is that God gave equal attention to both marital and personal freedom. I insist that He [still] appreciates coexistence of the marital institution with freedom-to-choose. The fact that we fail to apply this dualism does not mean we should blame it on Him. Back to the mundane, ZANU-PF fails to accept that even if they ‘liberated’ us we can still be patriotic and at the same time exercise our freedom to vote for MDC. I mean this is so basic but at the same time concealed to those with devious political intentions!

If I reminded you that the marital institution was ‘founded’ 2000 years ago in Eden with a divine seal, bear in mind how it will also be subject to abrasive, transformative pressures of modernisation. It is delusionary self-deception to believe that marital values are static. I am not proclaiming that marriage destroys or thwarts individuality. My point: failure to adapt to the rapid change in human perceptions of freedom can only result in marital instability. Two such change agents that have catalysed the demise of this institution are cell phone technology and internet.

Marriage counsellors advice on constantly sending an ‘I love you honey’ SMS message to one’s spouse to ‘spice’ the marital institution. But a cell phone is a double-edged sword, bringing both pleasure and turbulence to the institution. Those who believe in literary innovation have learnt the hard way why one should restrain their freedom of expression on the SMS platform. Left to its own device, the ‘in box’ inadvertently causes marital disharmony especially if you, like me, are married but free!

Rejoice Ngwenya is President of COMALISO, a think tank in Zimbabwe and an affiliate of AfricanLiberty.org