Marriage is a wonderful concept. It is a promise of love, togetherness, mutual nurturing and the creation of family. It exists in one form or another in all cultures, and it appeals to the majority of people in the world, each of us dreaming of a long-term mate, and the promise fulfilled.
And yet marriages fail. All the time. Why is this? Well, of course there is a myriad of reasons, but usually it comes down to the fact that the conditions—the rules if you like—for making marriage work are cast aside, or reformed to suit one or other of the individuals. If we listen closely to the language of a particular marriage we may hear words to the effect of… “love is good and everything, but this honor thing doesn’t quite work for me”, “till death, hm, that’s an awfully long time”, “faithful really means just not telling”, “I see the value of the ‘in health’ thing, but this ‘in sickness’ part isn’t adding much to my personal happiness”, “can I rephrase that as ‘for richer or not quite so rich’? If you’re going to humiliate me by being poor you’re on your own”. And so on.
MarriageBut. It is the root cause of marriage failure: the inability or refusal to honor the contract. The contract is a very simple one, and there are many variations on the vows [ref], [ref], so we are not asked to say things we don’t believe in. We agree to live according to the framework, but so often when it starts to get difficult one or both partners start shifting the rules to suit themselves, undermining the foundation and ultimately causing the structure to fall apart.
The pertinent question for this blog post is this: Does Marriage fail? I’d argue strongly that it does not. Marriage as a framework, as a promise is strong and robust. It has served humankind well for hundreds of centuries. There are tweaks and incremental improvements we can (in fact do) make, e.g. the removal of the words “to obey” from the woman’s script in many modern Christian ceremonies, but for the most part the framework has been strong for a long time.
It is the instances of marriage that fail, the individual implementations. Few, after a failed marriage, would say that the concept itself is wrong. They may apportion blame to one another, or to outside forces (e.g. in-laws) but in the end they move on and often try a new implementation, learning from their previous experiences.
Marriage doesn’t fail. Some marriages do. It is important to separate the model from the implementations. In this, and other aspects of our lives. If I build a house for myself using shoddy materials and poor techniques, is the concept of Home a bad one? When a government is run by disingenuous, dishonest individuals does it make the concept of Democracy a failure? I think most would agree that the failure is in the implementation rather than the idea.
Many are quick to knock the concept of self-organized business as a fad, or the Scrum framework as too rigid, and point to a few failed implementations to discredit the concepts. But in essence these concepts are good ones. They speak to the natural rhythms of our lives, and our very human need to collaborate and trust. Scrum, like marriage is a contract, rooted in sound values. Each is a promise of an improved quality of life. And yes, we’ll screw both up time after time. And still the ideas are strong.