It is evident that marriage is a dying institution in Norway. For me, this is such a wide topic especially after having had an encounter with so many divorced people, single men and women and those living together but not sure about getting married. Last week I wrote about a case sample of a Norwegian wedding, where I didn´t see the couple sign their marriage certificate and that was something to me. “In many cases, the couple usually have done that earlier on, during some of their meetings with the priest. Actually, I have never attended a wedding in Norway and seen the couple sign the marriage certificate at the church,” explained a friend.
I explain to her how we do it in Kenya and I insist on the fact that, we view the signing of the marriage certificate before the church as a committment to the marriage institution between the couple. We translate that as the couples committment to stand by their vows and that the priest, the congregation and God Himself are a witness of the nuptials.
“Good, maybe that explains our views on marriage, if I did say my own vows and even signed my marriage certificate before the church maybe I will protect it much better. We do not do that, maybe that makes our marriage institutions a loose unit, where people just wake up from the blues and call it quits, and go ahead and propose for a divorce” said Anne.
“Hey I read from your blog, did you say 50% divorce rate in Norway? I think that has risen over the past few years. It is probably at 55% as of today. For your information, it´s very normal for people to divorce and get married again and again up to four times, that’s quite normal, nothing to raise eyebrows in Norway”. Said Erick, one of my friend, who is also divorced. Two weeks back, a Norwegian Newspaper reported that children, work, jealousy, holiday choice are some of the key challenges that most modern relationships are facing.
Many Norwegians are living together for many years without formalizing their marriage. “How does a piece of paper seem so important to some people? I have lived with my “husband” for 8 years, together we have two babies and I believe, by the virtue of me carrying his babies plus we have huge properties together that automatically makes me his wife. I don´t see the need for any piece of paper and a flashy ceremony . Both of us do not believe in this man up here “pointing to the sky” therefore, we do not need to pretend for just one day, I call that blasphemy against that man, if He exists.” Said a friend in Oslo.
An article from The US Today had this on the same, “But why don´t many believe in a church wedding? This lady has no children and is not married. She says it would be blasphemous for her to get married in a church. A civil service would be “highly unromantic” and “a lot of papers to fill in and ceremony to go through for something that might not really last that long, because you never know.”
It continues to say, “ many prefer living together for long just to see if it works. Half of the children are born to unmarried mothers. While many couples marry after having the first or second child, it’s clear marriage in most parts of Scandinavia is dying. Social trends have been reinforced by policies designed to promote equality for women and further separate the church and state. As a result, the link between marriage and having children has all but disappeared. “Now days, no one notices if someone is pregnant without being married,” says Carl-Johan Lidén, a priest for the Täby församling parish, part of the Lutheran State church in Sweden.
Many more people confess to have lived in a marriage that was not fruitful but didn´t know how to bring up the divorce topic. “When we did, it took us 5 minutes and we agreed to end it. We lived together for 12 years, we were living a lie, we never shared a bedroom and we were both not happy. I am yet to find a man who I love, but I am not in a hurry about it. It doesn´t stress me, I have my work and three kids to look after.” Said a lady friend.
Big Step in life
Further quotation from the US Today article says this “Lidén, Swedish priest, says he performs many baptisms for children of unwed couples and asks them why they don’t get married. “They think marriage is such a big step in life that they want to be absolutely sure before they do it,” he explains. “My question is, ‘What is it to be a parent? Isn’t that the biggest step in life?’ But they don’t see it that way.”
Social welfare policies in Scandinavian countries treat all parents the same, married or not. It is said that the government does not think it is their place to show people how they are supposed to live. This is because it was (becoming) more common to live together and have children without marrying, they introduced laws that made it easier for families who were not married.”
In Scandinavia, there is no “family values” debate, no soul-searching for ways to reverse the upward trend in divorces and separations. Instead, “the discussion has been more focused on how can we help people who want to split up? How can we make it easier for single parents? It’s not that the government encourages it. They adapt to make it easier for single parents, single mothers.”
The social welfare in Norway, provides maintenance allowances for children if the father does not pay any support and the women even receive housing allowance. Others have the fathers paying maintainance allowance every month in addition to seeing their children as agreed by the divorced couple. “ I am not with the children this week, they are with their dad or their mum,” is a common sentence from many Norwegians.
It is believed that the idea of the holiness of the marriage has disappeared because there are so many broken marriages. There is little religious pressure to get married. Even though there are state churches in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, few people go. But why is that the case? An interviewee quoted on the US Today article, said “Religion has had too many bad things going for it for too long,” Hanssen says. “Every single war, every single conflict, everything has been based on religion; so it just reaches a point where you say, ‘If God is that great, he’s not doing a very good job, is he?’ Eventually, you end up choosing not to believe because to me it’s just too much of a contradiction. I’ve got to hope there’s no God, because if there is, I’ve got some issues with him.”
Mmmm, now you know!!! Enjoy your week ahead!!