Czechs celebrate 7th annual Marriage Week, but marriage rate still falling
Marriage week as a way of celebrating and nurturing the institution of marriage was established in Great Britain in 1996 and has since taken root in ten more countries. At the time of its establishment marriage was the last thing on Czechs minds. The country had recently returned to democracy and young people were on the brink of discovering the world, living a Western life and developing successful careers: everything their parents had been unable to do for four decades. As a result the tradition of marrying at 18 and having a baby within a year or two died a quick death. Marriage, at least marriage before one’s 30s, became an unfavourable prospect and many Czechs who embraced a singles lifestyle found they liked it too much to give it up or no longer knew how to go about changing their life.
“We certainly do not want to moralize or force the idea of marriage on others. It is more a question of fuelling debate and getting people to stop and think about what they can do for their marriage or their relationship. “
The face of this year’s marriage week is celebrity actress Ester Janeckova, herself born out of wedlock.
“I was raised by my mom and I really missed not having a proper family. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have a family of my own.”
“When I lecture at primary school and talk to 14 -15 year olds I find that those with a single parent are often extremely sceptical about marriage and those who want to give it a try are convinced even at that age that it will only last for a while.”
Approximately 42 percent of Czech children are now born out of wedlock, either to single mothers or to people who are simply living together without having tied the knot. Many people point out that if every second marriage breaks up their chances of making the relationship work might be higher if they retain some degree of freedom. Marta Fenclova has a two-year-old son with her live-in-boyfriend.
“I really don’t think we need a marriage certificate to make us a family. I don’t believe marriage keeps people together in any significant way.”
Psychologist Pavel Raus says there are several critical periods in any marriage that test the strength of the relationship.
“The first crisis-period comes fairly soon in the marriage when the novelty wears off. At first partners go out of their way to meet each others needs and are extremely selfless in this respect. But in time people revert to some of their less attractive habits and no longer make so much effort on behalf of their partner. This is the period where we have to accept our partners for who they are and respect them but also to feel free to be ourselves.“
“In the past people felt and enormous responsibility to make their marriage work, and there was a great deal of social pressure on them to do so. They often stayed together against all the odds because they felt it was their duty to do so and that it was best for their children. They got married for better or for worse and many did not even consider divorce as a possibility. Today people perceive marriage very differently: it must bring them satisfaction. If it does not satisfy all their needs – emotional, sexual and so on – or give them freedom and allow them to grow they think they deserve better and opt out. People’s attitude to marriage has definitely changed."
Psychologist Pavel Raus says that while wanting a good life for oneself is perfectly in order people often leave a good and promising relationship at the first sign of trouble because they see marriages breaking up all around them.
The Czech Republic celebrated marriage week for the 7th time in a row this year. Whether the events have made Czech couples any the wiser is not clear. Finding the secret to a happy marriage is clearly not easy. But there could be one pointer for those who really want to increase their chances of success. According to statistics the highest number of divorces is in the north-western regions of the Czech Republic specifically in Karlovy Vary and Usti, and the highest marriage success rate appears to be in Vysocina, Zlin and southern Moravia.