Do modern-day marriages obey any economic laws?

The announcement that the world’s richest man is divorcing after 25 years of marriage is not really news. Divorces are on the rise in the West and East too.

In some countries, over 50 per cent of the marriages end up in divorce. In Kenya, the term divorce is also becoming commonplace. 

As the old order punctuated by our traditions give way to modernism, we expect more cultural changes beyond divorce.

The number of children who prefer to use their mothers' names as their surname is also on the rise as single parenthood gains currency locally.

Cohabitation and other alternative lifestyles are also becoming more common.

While we dream of growth and development in the form of superhighways, skyscrapers, flat screen TVs, internet and the latest phones, we rarely focus on unintended consequences of this growth such as failed marriages, meaninglessness, anxiety and unhappiness.

Back to marriage. Divorce is more common among the affluent. It is rare among the ''hustlers.'' Is there a connection between divorce and economics? Does marriage obey the laws of economics? 

The affluent or leisure class, to quote Thorstein Veblen, have more time for each other.

Could this be the one cause of divorce with familiarity breeding contempt?

If you look at the poor, they have less time for each other, each party is struggling to make a living. They have no time to see faults in each other.

Marriage is also one their few signs of their achievement. The affluent have more alternatives to show off their achievements.

Could their more interaction lead to dissatisfaction with their partners through comparisons? 

The law of diminishing marginal utility also plays a part in divorces. Simply put, you get less satisfaction from the more of a product or service you consume.

Remember your first pair of shoes for those who put on shoes late in life?

Do you recall your first date? Your first flight? Each subsequent shoe or flight is less exciting. If thirsty, your first glass of water is the most satisfying. 

Mpango wa kando

Could marriage be under this law? Does satisfaction with each other diminish with time? After all, most activities in marriage are repetitive?

Some marriage partners try to mitigate the effects of this law through polygamy or cheating, commonly known as mpango wa kando. 

Marriage, we must confess, defies innovation, making it prone to the law of diminishing marginal utility.

Could the Government have realised that and come up with marriage contracts to make it harder to separate? Religions also abhor divorce; It’s supposed to be a lifetime contract.

Interestingly, the contents of a marriage certificate, (or is it contract?), have not changed much.

The difference between my grandfather’s marriage certificate of 1924 and the modern one is the issuer; one by the Protectorate and Colony of Kenya and the other by the Republic of Kenya.

Interestingly, divorces often come after children are grown up and one has gone up the career ladder.

Not surprising because bringing up children and building a career need time and support.

When goals are achieved and one is settled, it’s time to look for new goals which do not exclude romantic goals.

Remember the mid-life crisis? Are we helpless again the rising tide of divorce? Maybe not. It starts with courtship where partners are never sincere with themselves.

If they are incompatible, they don’t want to disappoint each other or their friends.

Often, marriage partners are after something else beyond the hearts. It could be wealth, family name or escape from an unhappy background.

As Tracy Chapman put it in one of her famed song, ” all the bridges that you burnt will one day come to haunt you.“ This applies to marriage.

In marriage, you can be innovative. Can you develop common interests or interest in each other’s interest? What of hobbies? Can you keep setting new goals?

Remember the basics like food or shelter may not matter much at this time.

It is the soft part of life like your emotions, dreams, aspirations and your legacy that make the big difference. Unfortunately, we often think material things matter most. 

Seeing life as a continuum from birth to death could make your marriage last longer. What shall you do at each stage? And why do we love complicating love? Why do we compare ourselves with others yet we can’t be them?

The sun rises from the east for all of us.  We fall asleep the same way irrespective of where you sleep.

Our biological systems work the same way and we depart this planet at some point. We also obey the same laws of nature and economics. 

Anytime you attend a wedding, see beyond the veil into the years ahead. Happy marriages lead to happy nations which are more productive.

If you are happy at home, you are likely to be more productive in the workplace.

After all, we marry to be happier and through children hopefully, pass that happiness to the next generation. Are you married? Has your marriage obeyed the laws of economics? Share your experiences with us.

-The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi

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Economic lawsMarriagesDivorces