Marriage Week UK got underway today, to the tune of a sultry Tango in the austere surroundings of Committee Room 10, in the Houses of Parliament. The room was packed as Italian opera star Gianluca Paganelli explained that Tango is one answer to bringing people closer together. The dance is arguably one of the most passionate of dances. Key to it is the physical intimacy which one has to adopt to make the dance powerful, dramatic and engaging. It builds trust, respect and heightens emotion.
The passion wasn’t only in the dance, as Iain Duncan Smith, Susanna Abse and Anastasia de Waal each underlined the vital role marriage plays in building strong families and a stable society.
Anastasia de Waal, Head of Family and Education at Civitas, (Institute for the Study of Civil Society) questioned whether, in 21st century Britain, marriage is alive or dead. She said: "Marriage has moved from being a social norm, to being problematised by feminism, to becoming a personal aspiration. Survey evidence tells us that marriage has become ‘de-institutionalised’, moving away from normative pressures and shifting instead into personal commitment."
Susanna Abse, Chief Executive of Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships said: "Research tells us that the quality of the relationship between the couple has deep impacts on the healthy development of children and the emotional and physical well being of adults and that without intervention, troubling or negative intergenerational relationship patterns will be repeated in the next generation. Poor family relationships engender poor family relationships and these can have devastating consequences for the life chances of the individual. Given this, it is vital that early intervention programmes include a focus on the adult relationship and particularly on enhancing stability and relationship quality as couples become parents."
Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions commented: “Over the years the political establishment has frowned if a mainstream politician mentions marriage. The prevailing view was that to extol the virtues of this most fundamental institution somehow meant that you were going to stigmatise those who were not married. This is an absurd and damaging assumption.”
“Government must understand the effect that family breakdown can have on the wellbeing of both adults and children. The financial costs of family breakdown are incredibly high. But what is most painful to see is the human cost – the wasted potential, the anti-social behaviour, and the low self-esteem.”
“When asked about their aspirations, young people are very clear that they want to marry. So we have to ask ourselves: if people from the youngest age aspire to make such a commitment in their lives, what stops them doing so?”
“Research by the Centre for Social Justice has found that a majority of people out of work or in part-time work think low-earning and unemployed people are better off living apart than as a couple. Only those with money say that money has no bearing on whether people stay together.” “Government cannot and should not try to lecture people or push them on this matter, but it is quite legitimate to ensure people have the opportunity to achieve their aspirations. That is why we are investing £30m in relationship support and are
committed to reducing the couple penalty.”
“Today through our celebrity focussed media we give awards to so many different groups. Film stars, soap stars, pop stars and football stars. We extol the virtue of public institutions and private business and we even give awards to politicians. Yet the most basic institution, which nurtures each generation and from which so many of us draw our strength and purpose, goes unnoticed and unrewarded. Fashionably dismissed or taken for granted the commitment of two people to put selfish interest to one side for the sake of each other and the children they raise is simply the very best of us as human beings. Furthermore, marriage is perhaps the best antidote to the celebrity self obsessed culture we live in, for it is about understanding that our true value is lastingly expressed through the lives of others we commit to.”
Summing up, Dave Percival, Coordinator of Marriage Week added: “Commitment really is the key. Commitment means making an active and public decision that this is ‘my partner for life, come what may’, and then putting it into action, not just in the big things, but in everyday life too. That’s why this week we are encouraging couples to ‘Eat, Talk and Play’ together. Having a meal, chatting about our relationship, and then having some fun together may not seem like a big ask, but if every married couple in the country did that every week there would be even more happy, strong and resilient families out there! And just imagine what might happen if they started to Tango every week!”
Terry Prendergast, Chief Executive of Marriage Care added: “Most relationships are a “dance” of one kind or another and problems occur when the dancers become separated. Intimacy in long-term relationships is vital and maintaining this through action is part of that process. Having come across Gianluca we thought his idea of using the Tango to restore connections was an excellent one and we will be incorporating this into our suggestions for couples to try in the comfort of their own home”
Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “I welcome the launch of Marriage Week UK since it provides the opportunity for us to focus on this important and vital relationship within our society. Marriage and family is the bedrock of society. This week offers couples the opportunity also to celebrate their marriages and strengthen their love.”
Adding his support, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury commented: "Marriage nourishes our society and it's only natural that couples should nourish themselves by making sure they have a proper helping of leisure time together. We know there's no greater communication than in breaking bread together and I hope Marriage Week will serve to remind those of us who are married that we should be making time to eat and talk and play together all year round."
Established in 1997, Marriage Week UK exists to raise awareness of the considerable social importance of marriage to society, and to encourage married couples everywhere to celebrate their commitment to each other. There will be a debate in the Lords on successive Government’s support, or lack thereof, for marriage as well as events all over the UK encouraging couples to invest in their relationships.
Many communities are planning St Valentine’s Day dinners, and churches will be holding services to encourage couples to re-affirm their marriage vows.
A Mass in thanksgiving for the Sacrament of Marriage will be held in the Diocese of Shrewsbury on Saturday 12 February at 2pm in St Columba's Parish Church, Chester.
For details contact: Contact Clara Donnelly, Marriage and Family Life Ministry Coordinator Tel: 0151 691 2811 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Mass in Celebration of Marriage will be celebrated by Bishop Malcolm McMahon at St Barnabas Cathedral in the Diocese of Nottingham on Sunday, February 13 at 3pm. Contact: Rev John Sherrington, Chair, Marriage and Family Life Commission, Tel: 0115 9268288 Email: email@example.com
A Mass in Celebration of Marriage in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle will be held at the Parish of Our Blessed Lady Immaculate, Washington on Monday, 14 February at 7pm. Contact: Rev Deacon Peter Lavery, Diocesan Coordinator for Marriage & Family Life Ministry. Tel: 0191 4102530 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Mass in Celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage will be held in the Archdiocese of Cardiff at St Helen's Church, Caerphilly on Saturday, 19 February at 11am Contact: Ansti Corellis, Diocesan Family Life Commission Tel: 02920 486995 Email: email@example.com
Bishop Declan Lang will be presiding at a Mass in Celebration of Marriage at Clifton Cathedral on Saturday 19 February at 12 noon. Contact: Anne-Marie Sparrow, Diocesan Coordinator of Marriage and Family Life Ministry Tel: 07871106992 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
On Sunday, 20 February the annual celebration of Marriage and Family Life in the Archdiocese of Liverpool will take place at St Mary's, Lowe House, St Helens. 2.30 - 4.30pm, with a Commissioning and Blessing of Marriage and Family Life Local Pastoral Area representatives. Contact: Maureen O'Brien, Assistant Coordinator for Faith Formation Email: email@example.com
For more information see: www.marriage-week.org.uk