Last week, I was wandering around Harvard Square with a friend of mine. We meandered into a small, bright little store filled with miscellaneous interesting things. One such thing was a book that described the world in charts. I started flipping through it, and I found a chart that visualized the history of marriage.
A few hundred years ago, all marriages were arranged, and they were lifelong commitments. Any romance or love was always found outside of marriage. Affairs were common and lacked the negative connotation that they carry today. (Chart: [Marriage] [Romance])
As time progressed, arranged marriages were made with the hope that one day, love would develop in the relationship. (Chart: [Marriage] —> [Love])
Then, in the romantic era, “love marriages” gained popularity. Couples would court for a short time, build a romance, get married, and then develop their relationship to a loving one. (Chart: [Romance] —> [Marriage] —> [Love])
In modern times, however, Sex comes first in the progression of a relationship. In the chart, this is the first time Sex appears as its own category, signifying that in this day and age, people can have sex not only outside marriage, but outside love and without romance. The timeline was as follows: [Sex] —> [Romance] —> [Love] —> [Marriage]. This is also the first era in which marriage comes as the very last stage of a relationship. AND! This is also the first era in which more than half of all marriages end in separation, annulment, or divorce.
Indeed, modern marriage has changed over time to a completely different concept than it was at the start. Do we even know what marriage means anymore? Do we even need marriage? If its original purpose was to have a companion with which to bear children, but the human race no longer needs to try so hard to procreate, has marriage lost its meaning?
Sometimes, it seems so. With the relatively young concept of divorce, people are getting married and saying to themselves, “Well, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just get a divorce.” Divorce has gained social acceptability, and so traditional “marriage” has taken quite a blow.
Also, with the new progression of relationships typically beginning with “Sex”, there are many relationships that reach that first stage without ever making it to “Marriage”. Many don’t even make it as far as “Love”. Does that mean our modern culture is over-sexualized? Probably. Is there anything we can do about it?… Maybe, but probably not.
It’s interesting to consider how humanity’s views of committed relationships have changed over time as well. In today’s society, it is not uncommon for a couple to be together for years and even raise children together without ever getting married. Perhaps it is possible that modern marriage has gone full circle, back to a political and financial concept like it was when humans were tribal beings. After all, marriage changes insurance policies, tax rates, etc. Aside from wanting a beautiful wedding and a marriage certificate, if these political and financial reasons are a couple’s motivation to get legally married, is there even a higher purpose in the union?
That brings up another question. Are religious marriages the only ones that still hold significance? What about modern-day arranged marriages?
I don’t have all the answers. But it’s certainly interesting to think about.
- keepitclassy2012 posted this