Marriage, it seemed, was a dying institution. A failing institution. With the rise of secularism and the fall of old-fashioned value on purity; the widespread accessibility of birth control and the decriminalisation of homosexual acts; the introduction of no-fault divorce and the ease with which drunken lovers and friends and strangers could get married, well, it was no wonder marriage was on the outs. But it wasn’t marriage as a concept that was the problem, all the studies proved that. Theoretically, marriage ought to not simply provide a structure for raising a family, but also a support structure for adults, it should lower the suicide rates, stabilise the economy and the job market, the overall health of the population should increase, life-expectancies raised while simultaneously decreasing the number of aged persons requiring external care. A strong marriage should result in happier, healthier, more prosperous and useful citizens. It was not the idea of marriage that was failing, but the quality when left in the hands of the ignorant masses.
The British government had been aware of the problems surrounding marriage for a long time. It was hoped that cheap or free access to birth control would help as the number of marriages to save bastard children decreased. It didn’t help. Then it was argued that poor marriages were as damaging to society as quality marriages were beneficial, and so divorce became more affordable and accessible. It didn’t help. And then one day, early in the morning, after endless fruitless discussions about how marriage shouldn’t be ruining the country, marriage should be the cornerstone allowing it them to grow and flourish, someone had a thought. Medical advances and scientific discoveries and the growing acceptance that people were all different and that different didn’t have to mean bad, it should have all added up to a terribly progressive and efficient and lovely world to be living in. It was utterly absurd that all these wonderful elements could do bugger all as long as the plight of moronic marriages was allowed to continue. If only people thought for a second before they got married!
This thought was allowed to fester and grow. Rants about people not really knowing who makes a good spouse turned into venting about people going into marriage totally unaware of just how incompatible they really were and suddenly there were declarations that if so-and-so were in charge of who married who they’d never be in the mess they were in now.
The proposal that the government should be in charge of telling people who they ought to marry would never go over well. People instinctively protested governmental interference. If the government were to take control of marriage, it had to be subtle, with excellent marketing and minimal overt intrusion.
To start with, marriage as a concept needed to become popular once more. The definition grew so it wasn’t just about babies or religion. Same-sex marriage was to be treated precisely the same was as opposite-sex marriage. The emphasis was on companionship, stability and help.
Then, the government came up with a new initiative: Matching. With proper access to knowledge about people’s habits, passions, hobbies, needs and desires when combined with factors like age, location, income and education it was possible for algorithms to fairly accurately determine the likely success of a couple’s relationship. A department would be established to assist couples seeking marriage to optimise their chances of future bliss, and it would also advise single citizens on people with whom they demonstrated significant compatibility. It was of course, entirely up to them what they did with this information. The government was just giving a helping hand.
Behind the scenes, changes would be brought in slowly, gradually, working up to the ideal balance of government interference and citizen stupidity, but it could work.
They started by making it harder to get married. There was more paperwork, personality tests, mandatory waiting periods and counselling. People understood that. Marriage, they had been made to realise, was quite a serious business. The minimum age to get married was officially raised to 22 and divorce was unofficially harder to get after 50. To save time and effort and money and all the things the government ought to be saving, it was agreed that everyone should just do the bureaucratic side of things, the paperwork (mostly just questionnaires and surveys, nothing to worry about) at 21 and then they would just have to update them before they got married.
So carefully and slowly were these changes brought in that before people realised it, there was legislation in place that meant if you wanted to have a proper say in who you married you really had to get married before you were 30, and even then it was trial by paperwork and patience. After 30 the matter of whether you were Matched or unMatched was much more serious. Not impossible to work around, mind you, but it certainly made things more complicated. And if, heaven forbid, by the time you were around 40 you were still unmarried, well, that just wouldn’t do, now would it? The government had been generously sending you notifications of people with whom you displayed remarkable compatibility on a regular basis for the past 20 odd years, after all. It had been proven, scientifically, psychologically, economically, historically, bad for everyone if the majority of the population wasn’t happily married. At this point, the government pulled out all the stops and found your Perfect Match. A Match of such compatibility you’d be an idiot not to get married. A really big idiot. Criminally idiotic, one could say. Most people married their Perfect Match.
The Perfect Match scheme did come dangerously close to crossing a line of interference that people would not withstand, so it was kept in largely in reserve. Fortunately, the Matching scheme was so successful, most people were married well before 40, and the social stigma that came from being unmarried made the whole process quite smooth. And those still unhappy with the scheme? Too few to worry about.
This Orwellian approach to marriage should have resulted in uproar and protest and possibly even a revolution or two, but the illusion of freedom of choice was maintained. People were happy. The Matching process worked. Not all the time, of course, and to varying degrees, but on the whole it worked. Marriage was saved. Great Britain was saved.