Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What is the need for marriage?

It has been quite a while this question has come to my mind. I believe I have found answers to the question, and this is effort to write down my thoughts. The idea is some of the more experienced people will go through the theory and blow holes in it :-), in the process make the theory concrete.


Marriage is the only arrangement which satisfies the Emotional and Sexual needs of an individual in combination. Any individual who wants to enjoy the fruits of satisfying these needs (not the only ones though) together needs a marriage.

The theory sees the marriage as a unity between 2 people, without giving any significance to any external entity. Some examples of external entities are society, caste, religion, money, work, etc. etc.


Let me try to explain what I mean by different components of the theory,

Emotional Needs: Most of the individuals, have a emotional need to share happiness, sadness, thoughts, cravings, feelings etc. etc. with mates. The practical spectrum of mates is broad, it can be parents, friends, spouse, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, dog, cats, etc. Though the spectrum is broad, it is very rare that people find 100% emotional compatibility with their mates. But people have learnt to define the percentage of emotional compatibility needed for them to lead their life.

Yes I agree that, there are individuals who do not need have any emotions associated with them. In fact if we live in a "completely conscious state" of mind we will not have any emotions associated with us. This is the state of mind defined as "Sat Chit Ananda" in Indian philosophy. The individuals who have achieved this are, very rare exception individuals who are actually yogis, sadhus, rishis etc.

Sexual Needs: This is one of the the basic needs of which any living being needs to satisfy naturally. There are number ways to satisfy this need, masturbation, sex with individuals (gay, straight, lesbian) etc.

Important point to note is some of the Yogis, Sadhus etc. of the Indian society have an argument against "Sex" being a need. Since I am not knowledgeable enough why? how? they think this way, I agree and say there are exception individuals who do not have sexual need. But from the all the other general people perspective, Sex is a very important need which needs to be satisfied.

Marriage: General definition of marriage would be, "An institution where man and woman live together in a legal way". But if we leave out the specifics, and take the principle, the definition would sound like, "An institution where 2 individuals share their living". I think this is a holistic definition of marriage as an institution. As one can see this definition encapsulates different varieties of relationships like Live-In relationship, Gay/lesbian marriages, extra marital relationship etc.

Putting all these pieces together,

there are "emotional needs" of a being which can be satisfied in many ways.
there are "sexual needs" of a being which can be satisfied in many ways.

Marriage is an institution which satisfies these needs of individuals in a combined way. To put it the other way, the pleasure of combined satisfaction of these two needs is what makes an individual need marriage.

Although these are not the only needs of any individual, these needs stand on top in the need hierarchy with respect to marriage.

Unfortunately theories like this can be proved only through hypothesis, rather than based on actual data. I have tried to list some of the practical scenarios and see how it maps to the theory ,

Scenario 1: 2 individuals in marriage with dis-functional sex life - These individuals will be categorized as friends living together rather than a married couple.

Scenario 2: 2 individuals in marriage with functional sex life, but emotional disconnect - This would map to one individual having sex with a professional sex worker or an individual being subjected to rape.

Scenario 3: 2 individuals married for 3 years and divorced due to incompatibility - This would map to the scenario where there was a satisfaction of emotional and sexual needs for 3 years. But over a period of time, emotional needs of one or/and both individuals changed to irreconcilable levels.

Scenario 4: One person is married and has affair running with another individual - This person has found the emotional/sexual need satisfaction with another individual rather than a legal spouse.

Most of the scenarios I believe justifies the theory in a concrete way.

Reason for writing Conclusion:

After writing the theory, explanation, my own doubts on the article not explaining the theory in a conclusive way, reading all the comments from dear ones. I started off with an idea of changing the original article, I couldn't continue doing it. The reason is, it is an attempt to provide a structure to the relationship. Though it is a failure for now, I am satisfied with an attempt and want to cherish the attempt for future. I certainly want to re-look at this whole attempt in the future and want to provide a conclusive structure to the theory.

I thought it is good time to close the article with a conclusion with my current thoughts.


The reason/need for any relationship to happen has multiple facets to it. For example, money, love, intellectual match, emotional attachment, sex, proximity, interests, etc. The list will go on and on, and is not a easy task to list all the factors. Each one of us can see all these factors working in various proportions in our relationship with, friends, family, etc. Influence of these factors on an individual is defined by things like, upbringing, knowledge, genes, etc.

I believe, these factors can be categorized into mutually exclusive buckets and the general trend in the human thinking can be captured across these buckets.

Relating the above to the question, the reason/need for the effective working of a relationship called as marriage. All these factors still form a part of the relationship. Every individual will decide for himself/herself/itself what proportion of each factor is needed for the marriage to happen and work.

It occurred to me that, "Emotional Need" and "Sexual Need" are the important factors which makes the marriage work (Not the only ones) and hence becomes the need. And the pleasure associated with both of them is unique for marriage. The failure of the article is because, the article doesn't explain "Why" and "How" these factors are important in comparison to others. In fact article didn't even list the others. At this point in time I beleive I do not have enough logic, data, thoughts to explain how it is important for general people. My attempt would be understand those reasons clearly in the future.

But I can confidently say, these 2 factors together stands as high priority for me. These are the needs "I" need to fulfill to get into the institution of marriage successfully. And my efforts will be to find continuously improving mix of both these factors.

-- Madhukar Hebbar


VidyaShankar Harapanahalli said...

I guess you are going to complete this article? Looks incomplete to me...

Family is smallest unit of society. As civilization progressed, there was need for more organized society. Everything else looks secondary to me.

Yogi's never got married but did have sex. They never said sex is bad, AFAIK. Yogi's never wanted to settle down as their main mission would be sidelined.

Madhukar Hebbar said...

There is a flaw somewhere in the logic. I am not sure where, probably that is the reason it looks incomplete.

The theory looks at "2 individuals" perpspective only. Not considering all the external elements. An attempt to figure out what paramters gel too people together in marriage.

Article doesn't say sex is bad. Article says Yogis, sadhus etc. have no need for sex.

if I get time today will go through it again to see, where it has gone wrong. Else will pull it out in the evening.

Critic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Critic said...

There are couple of things I want to say. First, Sex is a basic instinct. So its no way related to marriage. Marriage is a legal way prescribed in the society to have sex.
Secondly, Marriage doesnt need to satisfy any emotional needs. Emotion is a mental state that can be controlled only by that individual. For ex: If someones dies, an individual who has more bonding on the person who died will cry more and the person who doesnt have more bonding, will cry less. So what I mean to say here, an individual can control emotions by himself.
My thought on marriage is a person needs a company to share happiness, sorrows, feelings, moods and all the worldly things with another person who is very close and gives a feel of belonging. Ofcouse this includes sex too. People have thought about this since ages and have made a legal bonding for such a companionship for life, and thats marriage. So as the saying goes
"Arthecha kamecha dharmecha nati charami" which means righteously, financially, by desire, or spiritually, I will not walk away.

Shetty said...

Madhukar good attempt at summing it up. I think the flaw is that you are using just 2 variables to theorize a complex entity such as marriage. Its far too dynamic to be limited by a simple equation involving emotion and sex. Also, while emotional needs covers a huge spectrum the sexual need is pretty specific. Applying both with the same priority and weight would be incorrect. Good sex may be a sanity factor but does not account for good marriages. Emotion on the other hand is far too complicated for me to comment.

Madhukar Hebbar said...

friends, thanks for all your comments and thoughts.

Have updated the article with

1) Some small corrections
2) Added a section of Conclusion to finally define what I thought was missing in the article.

Thanks again!

VidyaShankar Harapanahalli said...


Now it reads better.

Friends read the following poem as corollary to Hebbar's article. Although they of chalk and cheese contrast, it will be interesting!!!

Gulmohar said...

Hebbav! It was not long that I had guessed you'll come up with a topic like this one.

Yes, it is a perfect articulation to call marriage as an Institution. Nevertheless, sharing emotions and love (as in sex) do not necessarily demand a marriage. I can still manage to have a girlfriend and meet both the said needs. Not to mention that it exists. It is reality. It is not at all unusual to bump into people involved in live-In relationships. I reckon it is getting popular in the East too.

I've been thinking on two more things which make marriage more sense to me:
The need of support. The need of having someone with me not only to share my emotions but also to come to my rescue. Bluntly put, it is to expect to be looked after at times when it is no more possible to look after myself. It is again a mutual understanding, give and take (It can easily turn into selfishness or selflessness with the just one of them)

I've figured this only recently. The passion to have an offspring. Yes it is to be a parent and experience parenthood. I am convinced that parenting is an intricate and delicate art which poses endless challenges and bliss.
It is the passion to realize; rather help the Being realize her/his potential
It is the passion not to repeat the faults that my Parents did while raising me (again this is a subject by itself and one can debate for eternity. But let me keep it simple. It is just to learn from what my parents did and did not)
It is the passion to put theory into practice
It is the passion to see and experience my child realize what she/he wanted to realize
It is the passion to imbibe the values and principles into my child (you could term this as selfishness, but there are a very handful TRUE values that one needs to have and it is only from parents that they come from)
It is the passion to see the mystery of holy Mother Nature - the miraculous bonding between the Parent and the Child.

VSS, I can now quantify the experiences you used to share about your Son. Any comments?

I can call the above as instances of your object - Emotional needs. But prefer to have them as separate Objects. Because the properties for me, demand their own existence.

Gulmohar said...

Having said all this, I am still bullish on getting richer by 2 lakhs:-)

Madhukar Hebbar said...

Thanks for detailed responses all. Made me realise some of the flaws in the writing... thanks again,

Vinay, my attempt to define marriage was as unity between 2 people rather than societies perspective. article terms live-in relationship also as marriage.

point 1 is defined as emotional need. read third party perspective also. i tried to define the emotional need from third party.

point 2 - nice point - Basic purpose of sex is to reproduce. to propogate genes/species whatever. over time, this has become a source of entertainment. will try to write about my thoughts some time later..

Emotion/sex were buckets within which each individual can define the variety. Details are specific to you.. thanks for sharing :-)

VidyaShankar Harapanahalli said...


You are right. After the 'new arrival' relationship and priorities change drastically...

Being a parent highly rewarding and taxing at the same time. At least in the initial stage. but kid do repay all that within initial five years with all their cuteness, innocence and play.


Atmaram said...

My comments would be similar to the comments already there. I would like to add that marriage satisfies the need to have someone who will stand by you in good and bad times.
Sex thats a different topic brother - marriage or no marriage