The 49-year-old widow of the Apple founder Steve Jobs has moved on, she has found her new partner; already the critics and sceptics are at it. It’s too soon, only two-years have passed by, how could she fall in love with another man so quickly? Does it mean she didn’t really love him? The cycle of speculation and gossip continues. One can understand grounds for criticism in cases where an aging octogenarian tycoon has left a younger beautiful widow, who runs off the next day with his fortune and a young male model, but that, is not applicable here.
In some religious cultures widows do not remarry at all, enduring loneliness until the end of time, whilst a widower is free to continue. For example, In Hinduism the marriage of widow is taboo, it is enforced rigorously by society among some castes; the logic is, if the widow remarried, she can possibly conceive her reincarnated dead husband in her womb, and a husband cannot be a son too, thus prohibition of marriage for widows. I assume they were not willing to take risks with contraception either!
Going beyond the religious and cultural paradigms, some people, especially women, remain single after being widowed; they do it willingly out of their deep love and attachment to their late husband. This tends to be the exception rather than the norm; because the human body and the emotions it generates will continue to make demands. Just ask those celibate priests that are regularly caught out in various sexual scandals.
There is no prescription for how long one must mourn for and wait before remarrying. How can social laws or customs be formulated for such matters, when there are so many variables, and each case will always be unique? Moreover, we live in a free society where individual freedom on personal matters is sacred, yet there is social pressure to conform on these issues. This is the same type of duplicity you see daily: columnists scorning celebrities and politicians for extra-marital relationship when the same traits are clearly present in the masses.
Among all the noise, the key person’s viewpoint is missing - of course the dead can’t talk, but one should ask the question and make reasonable speculation before passing judgement: what would have Steve Jobs wanted for his wife? Would he have wanted her to go on mourning for a year, let alone two? I am sure an intelligent person like Steve Jobs would recognise that if she found a new partner that would help her to heal her pain. And out of love, he would want her to be happy with a new partner, and not continue to live in loneliness and sorrow. How many of us would wait for such a long period before finding a new partner.
Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with marriage of widows and divorcees in some quarters of our society, especially those coming up to the middle-aged bracket. There is an implication that they have ceased their biological requirement. And the jokes and humour go on, about an older male or female remarrying a younger spouse. Despite the equality crusade, it seems that for an older woman to take up a younger man is acceptable, whereas an older man marrying a younger woman is seen in a negative light.
It is perplexing as to why society expects individuals to continue to demonstrate loyalty to their deceased partner for beyond a short period, when such loyalties are scarce among the living. Whatever ideological spectrum one comes from, be it religious, secular or agnostic, everyone concurs that love implies loyalty to some degree between the two partners. However is the ‘loyalty’ absolute in that it excludes the formation of any other bonds concurrently. Well there is an argument that such bonds between two partners should not exclude bonds with other partners, because they are similar to business contracts, and on a daily basis we have multiple commercial contracts in our life. Even if we examine it from an emotional perspective, we can draw an analogy to children; multiple bonds are formed and there is never an allegation that loving one child is a betrayal of the love for the other child. Therefore, why can’t an individual love two or more people concurrently? Why is there a demand for 100% possession? Is this in reality a reflection of our self-centred materialistic society, coupled with the domination of primitive emotions of jealousy?
Yes this is venturing into polygamy using the rational argument, and that is for next time.
Yamin Zakaria (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published on 10th August 2013