In the first week of September, a certain pastor held a prayer night at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand and it made the Sunday Times Newspaper, True love Magazine, became the subject of a Checkpoint investigative journalism story and was discussed on several radio talk shows.
Pastors hold prayer meetings all the time and it hardly makes the news, or sparks heated debates on social media, but this one managed to do exactly that. There was controversy over why people had to pay to attend the prayer night, and the price of the tickets were a major source of contention, which saw Christians going head to head with other Christians over whether this is justified… Despite the fact that these people would have no qualms forking out the same amount to attend any other secular event at that venue.
The main issue is why would up to 7000 women (According to the Sunday Times Newspaper) come from all over the world to pay up to R5000 to get a special prayer for a husband?
Are women really that desperate to get married?
Feminists were probably shocked at how women had supposedly come so far and were seemingly so independent in public, and yet thousands of educated, well-to-do women who don’t need a man are in churches, on dating sites, anywhere really, looking for marriages. Not relationships, but actual marriages.
Most of these women don’t struggle to get a boyfriend or someone to have sexual relations with, but the challenge is to find one who will get down on one knee and commit to a life of loving and serving one woman happily ever after. That’s the challenge.
According to the Office for National Statistics in the UK, marriage in general is on the decline. In 2011, there were just 286,634 ceremonies — a 41 per cent free fall from 1972, when 480,285 couples tied the knot. This is a global phenomenon and people cite various reasons why this is happening.
The Mail and Guardian Newspaper published an article entitled “10 Things about Marriage in South Africa” and the first point is that the number of marriages registered in South Africa has been steadily decreasing every year since 2008.
It’s interesting that the number of weddings took a big dip in 2008, when the global recession started to bite. But unlike the economy, by 2013 the wedding numbers continued on a downward spiral.
Judging on how the invitation to the prayer night was directed mainly at women, it would seem that the idea of marriage is still a popular one amongst women who still want someone to plan an elaborate surprise proposal and present them with a big, shiny, overpriced rock. They still have fantasies of walking down the aisle in a white gown and being the centre of attraction on their wedding day. They still want to be the princess that meets Prince Charming and lives happily ever after, sharing their pictures and public displays of affection all over Facebook and Instagram.
But on a more serious note, women who identify themselves as Christians and want a deeper walk with Christ are under more pressure to marry because having multiple sexual partners is simply not an acceptable option. It’s either you find a husband or you remain celibate.
So you have all these women in church, with fully functional reproductive systems, hormones, desires, fantasies, hopes and desires showing up at church, hoping to get noticed by the right guy. He has to be Christian. He has to be educated. He has to be financially stable and family oriented. He has to be attractive and charming and romantic. So they pray and they wait…
They wait over their ticking biological clocks…
They wait as they watch all their friends hook up with one guy after the other in lustful bliss…
They wait as they see the church flooding with more women and less guys…
They wait as they see their twenties go by, their thirties, their forties? …
Most men on the other hand, have figured out that they can have their needs for sex, company, and a hot meal met without the hassle of legally binding marriage contracts, expensive weddings, commitment or church.
There are plenty of women in the world outside of the four walls of church who are giving these benefits out freely to anyone who gives them enough attention. There are plenty of women who are okay with being “friends with benefits” or “side-chicks” or “one night stands” or “live-in partners” or “baby mamas” with no possibilities of an “upgrade” in the foreseeable future.
I’m passionate about this subject of marriage and I write about it often because it is really disheartening to look around at ladies around the same age group as me struggling with issues of men treating them like they aren’t worth much because this really is an issue of economics.
The more saturated a market is with the supply of sexual content with no commitment or intimacy or meaning, the less demand there will be for marriages that require patience, faithfulness and commitment, because let’s be honest… Flings are easy. You get infatuated with someone and ride the wave until the high wears off and you start it all over again with someone else the minute your partner gets boring, or you have problems or the relationship requires work.
Now you meet someone who won’t sleep with you, requires marriage, requires faithfulness, requires spiritual maturity on your part and it all seems like this person has put way too much value on themselves… They just seem overpriced because you know you can get what you want cheaper elsewhere. You do the cost-benefit analysis and you don’t get why you should value intimacy with another human being that much.
And therein lies the problem.
I sincerely feel that my body, my time, my intellect, my hopes, my desires, my dreams, my spirit, my energy, my love, my passion and my devotion are worth marriage and nothing less.
So it’s a scary thought to wait on a Prince Charming that may never come.
You start doing the math and calculate the ratio of women to men, narrow it down to how many are Christian, how many are employed and stable… how many will find you attractive?
How many will propose?
In the African context, there are often so many hurdles that one has to leap over, before tying the knot that most people simply can’t afford to get married. There is the issue of cultural practices, rituals and expenses to consider.
The other day, I took the time to google the word “Lobola” and the following excerpt from Wikipedia came up:
“Lobolo or Lobola in Zulu, Swazi, Xhosa and northern and southern Ndebele (Mahadi in Sesotho, Roora in Shona, and Magadi in Northern Sotho, Lovola in Xitsonga), sometimes referred to as “bride wealth” or “bride price“, is property in cash or kind, which a prospective husband or head of his family undertakes to give to the head of a prospective wife’s family in consideration of a customary marriage. Historically, this property was in cattle, but over time it has moved to being mostly in cash. Some people still practice the tradition of offering cattle, or even a combination of cattle and money. The primary purpose of lobola is to build relations between the respective families as marriage is seen as more than a union between two individuals. (Compare with the European dowrycustom where the woman brings assets.) Although not very common, some families even use electronic transfers and credit cards as a form of payment.”
According to the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Professor Dori Posel “the typical bridewealth payment in KwaZulu-Natal is 11 cows for ilobolo – as it is called in IsiZulu – but the price of each cow can vary considerably.” Having done extensive research on the practice of ilobolo, Posel says that a high price raises the economic requirements for men to marry and may contribute to delayed marriage or even non-marriage among black South Africans, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal.
There is no nationally representative data on the value of bridewealth paid, but data from a regional survey for KwaZulu-Natal identifies that the average value of ilobolo paid in 1998 was R20 000 (in 2000 prices), which was more than the average annual salary of employed African men at the time.
Now let that sink in for a moment…
After lobola, you still need to have a traditional wedding, and then it’s the white wedding, which you want to be memorable.
According to professional wedding planners, Great Occasions, the average cost of a wedding in South Africa is between R70,000 – R80,000 for 80 to 100 people. However, the group notes that these going prices per head (R700 to R800) could easily escalate to R1,500 or R2,000 per person (R200,000 for a wedding).
For the same amount, though, you could get an amazing holiday with first-class flights around the world, a nice car, a deposit on an apartment or a wardrobe of designer clothes.
After the wedding, it’s the house, and then kids and so on.
All these things are expected of the man as the provider.
It’s quite a lot to take on for the average young person who is probably still starting out in his career and still paying off his student loans… So they delay marriage as much as they can.
Off course this doesn’t offset their hormones or desire to be in a relationship, but somewhere along the way, they start to view marriage as something you take part in when you are old, tired and don’t have any more options, because when you are young, you always have options.
It would seem that men have done some calculations of their own and concluded that the rewards of marriage are far less than they used to be, while the cost and dangers it presents to them are far greater.
Because ‘Ultimately, men know there’s a good chance they’ll lose their friends, their respect, their space, their sex life, their money and — if it all goes wrong — their family,’ says Dr Helen Smith, author of Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood And The American Dream.
Research has proven that once a man gets married, he will basically be giving up a significant amount of time he could have spent bonding with other males so that he can spend quality time with his family. Gradually, his social circle will shrink.
Society also doesn’t portray husbands and Dads as cool and desirable… In fact, most commercials and sitcoms portray the dad as the guy in the boring sweater, with the big belly and tired jokes. Bachelors on the other hand ate portrayed as exciting and attractive…
Just before they get married, men are warned of how they will lose their freedom, their space and ability to just be a man. They are warned of how she will run the house and completely domesticate their wild spirits.
Research has also proven that on average, married men have less sex than couples who are currently just cohabitating.
Oh and, more women are likely to initiate a divorce than men. Also, the courts are likely to give her custody of the children and demand that she gets alimony and child support from you from that day onwards.
So i get it, they don’t want to enter into a legal contract with someone who could effectively take half their savings, pension and property when the honeymoon period is over.
Men aren’t wimping out by staying unmarried or being commitment phobes. They’re being smart.
Or are they?
So, who benefits from the current status quo of undefined open relationships and arrangements, where nobody can ever feel secure or truly known, understood or worth faithfulness?
So essentially, by the time these guys get married, there’s been a massacre of heartbreaks, soul ties, children with mothers they are no longer in a relationship with, experiences they can never erase from their minds, mental and physical conditioning and high expectations for the wife to meet.
Marriage is hard enough without people entering into it with prolific CV’s and all sorts of reservations about what might go wrong, based on past experiences. Experience starts to work against you. Experience becomes that little voice in your head that tells you that you had it better with your ex. Experience starts to remind you that you had more of an adrenaline rush when you were hopping in and out of different beds. Experience becomes those memories you wish you never made.
Marriage is hard enough without the pressure that families put on you to pay obscene amounts of money at the beginning and you start your life together at a deficit. Some cultural practices need to just take a seat if they’re hindering people from doing the right thing. We’re going through a global recession for crying out loud. People are overworked and underemployed.The high cost of marriage really needs to fall.
Marriage is hard enough without women turning equal rights into self-righteous entitlement to such an extent that there is no value to having a wife. There is nothing that says to him, “you know what, I REALLY think I would be better off married. My life would be so much better.She’s not out to prove how little she can do and get away with it. She really has my back.”
Marriage is hard enough without divorce culture making it easy to walk out at a whim. Nobody wants to go through all that and know that it might not last. That you might make all those vows and they will still walk out on you like it never happened… That you will be reduced to a weekend Dad and a maintenance cheque.
And marriage is hard enough without the culture around us constantly trying to cheapen it and chip away at its value from every side… with wives and husbands competing with porn stars and supermodels who don’t even look like that in real life.
Godly, loving, intimate, real, honest, enduring marriages matter.