Beatle McCartney backs marriage (again)

Tying, untying and then retying the knot all over again has become commonplace for showbusiness stars. What's the enduring appeal of marriage, to make them do it again and again?

It's too late for Sir Paul McCartney to serenade his new bride with a rendition of When I'm 64, the Beatles' comic lovesong about lifelong commitment. He's 69 and the wedding in London on Sunday was his third.

Asked how he felt after the ceremony on Sunday, McCartney said: 'I feel married. I feel absolutely wonderful.'

So what is it about the institution of marriage that gives it such an enduring appeal? Most people get married, even though in the West the numbers have declined steadily since WWII. And for some people, not just the celebrities, it's so good that they keep going back to it even after first or second marriages fail.

In the UK, the latest figures show a steady decline in the overall number of marriages and in first marriages: the peak was in 1940, when over 90% of all marriages were the first for both partners. Now it's only 65%.

McCartney's first wife, Linda, died in 1998. He divorced second wife Heather Mills after a very public falling out in 2008. Now friends and fans say they hope this relationship, with 51-year old American heiress Nancy Shevell, will be as happy as his first.

Robert Pattison, star of the Twilight teenage vampire TV drama and the object of many a crush, says he's another natural monogamist. Asked by a magazine about the future he said: 'I want to be with my wife. Sitting on a deckchair, sipping some tea, and reading books in a retirement home, in a beautiful and warm place. I'm a romantic guy.'

Marriage is also coming back into fashion among the politicians. The Conservatives have said that they want to recognise marriage in the tax system to encourage stability and commitment, although critics of this plan argue that it risks sending a message that children who don't live with two married parents belong to second class families.

And both parties in the UK Government support changing the law to allow gay couples to marry – since 2005 they have been able to enter civil partnerships but not have a religious ceremony.

Rock'n'roll heart

Some commentators have said that showbiz stars who marry several times make a mockery of the institution: if you can swap your spouse so frequently, don't the vows about 'till death us do part' ring hollow?

But no-one has accused Paul McCartney of being taking his marriages lightly – in fact, contrasting his devotion to his family to the rock'n'roll lifestyle of his peers in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Sir Paul was often mocked for uxoriousness. It seems the rock-star just likes, in his own words, to 'feel married.'

You Decide

  1. Do you aspire to getting married? Give your reasons.
  2. One of the writers in the links below says the Western culture of marriage is at war with the culture of individualism. Are you more of an individualist or team player – or can you combine the two?

Activities

  1. Write yourself a lifeplan: does it involve children and if so, does it involve getting married? If you have career ambitions, how do the two fit together?
  2. Research the pros and cons of getting married – think about health, finances, and society as a whole. Hold a class debate: This House believes that marriage is an outdated institution.

Some People Say...

“Vows make you free.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Who holds the record for remarriage?
In the fame stakes, film star Liz Taylor, known as 'hurricane Liz' for leaving a trail of mess and heartbreak in her wake, is in first place, along with a few other Hollywood names. King Henry VIII and his six wives caused a historic schism in Christianity by divorcing his first wife and remarrying Anne Boleyn and then four more unlucky ladies.
Not all at the same time?
No, his remarriage was enough of an earthquake without introducing polygamy to Europe. Catholics would not accept any marriage after divorce as legitimate. Of course the King was desperate for a male heir. Nowadays motivations for remarriage are more personal, less dynastic.

Word Watch

Uxorious
Adjective to describe a man who is devoted, excessively so, to his wife. From the Latin uxor, meaning wife.
Monogamy
When a person has only one partner at a time. As opposed to polygamy, where a culture allows a man to have several wives.

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