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Cross-posted at Immizen.com

As we know, sadly, the same sex marriage bigots came out in force past Wednesday to give support to Chick-fil-A’s stance of “marriage is between a man and a woman”.
Marriage has been many things to so many people over the centuries and across cultures, that in the light of the Chick-fil-A scandal, it gives us an added incentive to do a little research on the topic of marriage.

This book chapter, “The Radical Idea of Marrying for Love”, has a great compilation of examples of the cultural phenomena of marriage throughout history and diverse cultures, and the main point it makes is that marriage was not always about love.  

George Bernard Shaw described marriage as an institution that brings together two people "under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part."

People have always fallen in love, and throughout the ages many couples have loved each other deeply. But only rarely in history has love been seen as the main reason for getting married.

The chapter goes on to discuss Plato’s and other philosopher’s take on marriage and love, wading through the traditions in ancient Indian, Greece, the Middle Ages, and China in current times. The chapter also recounts how adultery became idealized as the highest form of love among the European aristocracy of the 12th/13th century

In twelfth-century France, Andreas Capellanus, chaplain to Countess Marie of Troyes, wrote a treatise on the principles of courtly love. The first rule was that "marriage is no real excuse for not loving." But he meant loving someone outside the marriage.
Aaah, yeah, the French. And the olden Romans were not much better:
In many cultures, public displays of love between husband and wife were considered unseemly. A Roman was expelled from the Senate because he had kissed his wife in front of his daughter.
And then there is love in remote African tribes:
Many cultures still frown on placing love at the center of marriage. In Africa, the Fulbe people of northern Cameroon do not see love as a legitimate emotion, especially within marriage. One observer reports that in conversations with their neighbors, Fulbe women "vehemently deny emotional attachment to a husband."
And there is a whole section on “Happily Ever After” that unfortunately focuses on happy marriages between three or more people, usually more wives than husbands, except for some African tribes and the Eskimos. The claim seems to be that “happy” only works if there is no need for two people to be faithful to each other.

The book chapter is very thorough in describing love and marriage through the ages and societies and basically calls into question the new order in which marriage is expected “to satisfy more of people’s psychological and social needs than ever before”.

But even if marriage in the past wasn’t what it is today, as in the example from Roman times, everything was different back then; people would go to the coliseum to see lions eat the humans and cheer. Do we want to go back to these times? And some guys may like the idea of having 2 or more wives like in some African tribes but would they like to live in that tribe?

Marriage has evolved and become more complicated, more demanding of the partners in a marriage but that is just another one of the challenges of modern life.

Marriage as a cultural tradition to honor and preserve the love between two people is a challenge that is worth pursuing. It is a challenge that should be admired, and not limited to certain people only. I used to think (long time ago, don’t hate me) that marriage was a lame excuse to force a partner to stay in a relationship  and that women want it so much because they are insecure. In light of the discussion on same sex marriage and the premise that marriage was not about love in the past, the whole essence of marriage takes a different and better meaning. You have two people, no matter what sex, who love each other and are willing to face the very difficult challenge of committing to loving and staying with another person forever, through thick and thin. And it is that thick and thin that is so noble and so hard to achieve. But when two people make that commitment it should be celebrated.

We see many marriages fail today, but that is not a reason to give up. Someone has to figure it out. We have evolved as people, culturally, (well, some of us have,) and life becomes more demanding of us, sometimes, but more rewarding as well. Marriage demands generosity, empathy, love and reflection. That can only be good. So, let’s press ahead.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    In the 2008 elections there were 15 million less people who identified themselves as "liberals" than as "conservatives" (L/C ratio: 65%). Face it, this country is center-right. Moving it to the left is up to us!

    by healthy on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 05:25:22 PM PDT

  •  Whether or not marriage is about love (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    healthy, nuclear winter solstice

    the government recognizing marriage is really about two things...death and divorce.  Who gets what, and what happens to the kids.

    Marriages may or may not involve love...non-marriage relationships may or may not involve love.  The government simply doesn't have any role in love.  The government has a role in taxes, legal separations and inheritance.  It ain't sexy or loving...but that's really the entirety of the government's role.

    So...I support gay marriage because I see no reason that lifelong gay partners should pay inheritance tax when lifelong heterosexual partners don't.  I support gay marriage cause gay people break up and its pain in the ass to figure out gay divorce and alimony when they weren't legally married.  I support gay marriage because gay couples can fight over, and fuck up, their children in a divorce just as much as straight couples.

    As for love, I hope everybody has the same love as I have in my marriage, but the legal recognition of marriage has nothing to do with.

    Legal marriage is a convenience for a government dealing with all sorts of legal and financial issues.  Love, that's a whole 'nother thang

    "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

    by Empty Vessel on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 05:46:58 PM PDT

  •  Marriage Lasted Around 10 Years in Biblical Times (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    healthy, Alexandra Lynch

    because one partner or the other was likely to be dead, which is why there is discussion in both testaments about remarriage obligations of spouses. I think it was barely 15 years in the early 20th century because death was still common at all ages.

    My hypothesis is that the 7 or 10 year itch, if there's any basis found in it, may well be a positive adaptation for the benefit of children so that a surviving single parent will feel enough drive to take another mate soon after the loss of the first one.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 06:11:29 PM PDT

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