How Romance Wrecked Traditional Marriage

smoke-and-mirrors-fullCollectors Weekly reminds us that “traditional” marriage isn’t what conservative pundits have made it out to be.

Despite the fondness among certain politicians and pundits for “traditional marriage,” a nostalgic-sounding concept that conjures a soft-focus Polaroid of grandma and grandpa, few consider the actual roots of our marital traditions, when matrimony was little more than a business deal among unequals. Even today, legal marriage isn’t measured by the affection between two people, but by the ability of a couple to share Social Security and tax benefits. In reality, it’s the idea of marrying for love that’s untraditional.

“Love was considered a reason not to get married. It was seen as lust, as something that would dissipate.”

For most of recorded human history, marriage was an arrangement designed to maximize financial stability. Elizabeth Abbott, the author of “A History of Marriage” explains that in ancient times, marriage was intended to unite various parts of a community, cementing beneficial economic relationships. “Because it was a financial arrangement, it was conceived of and operated as such. It was a contract between families. For example, let’s say I’m a printer and you make paper, we might want a marriage between our children because that will improve our businesses.” Even the honeymoon, often called the “bridal tour,” was a communal affair, with parents, siblings, and other close relatives traveling together to reinforce their new familial relationships.

By the Middle Ages, gender inequality was not only enshrined in social customs, but also common law. In most European countries, married women were forced to give up control over any personal wealth and property rights to their husbands. Eventually, the system became known as “coverture” (taken from “couverture,” which literally means “coverage” in French), whereby married couples became a single legal entity in which the husband had all power. The American practice of wives adopting their husbands’ surnames originated in England as a way to enforce patrilineal heritage, signifying that a woman belonged to her husband, thereby suspending any individual rights when she took her marital vows.

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18 Comments on "How Romance Wrecked Traditional Marriage"

  1. Dan Williams | Nov 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |

    Traditional Marriage was the parents arranging the marriage, often before the girl was born, and she would be married off as soon as she had her first period.
    I’m glad we put personal choice into marriage; but it’s created a lot of problems: divorce.

  2. Simon Valentine | Nov 2, 2013 at 8:58 am |

    “all these new fanangled ideas and whatnot” are about as relevant as people seem to think the patterns and equations forming and guiding things are. here’s another fanangle: it was never about couples, or law, or sin, or happiness, or content, or conduct, or love, or money, or evil – it was never about anything other than a collection of such illusions played to be “a greater good” or, really, a state representative masquerading as the pocket book collector for the greater god (somehow “”you wrecked my dream with that assertion!” doesn’t check out as anything save naivety” is indicative of a State of the Union, is it not?). oh, excuse me, “good”. etymological slip. did i mention that “a greater good” isn’t the only card in the deck?

    gender is irrelevant. the “father”, “husband”, “figurehead”, “collector”, “god”, “state”, “mother”, “caretaker”, “leader”, “goddess”, etc. words all have something in common beyond that which is ignored or cast as illusion, and such a phrase is a reiteration of that which anyone has, does, will, or shall seek.

    try that on for joyce, boise. 2 + 2 is not my favorite. but i added numbers, and i liked it.

    so in a manner not quite like the sixties, there’s this “world” which treats male-female relations like an industry. finding a partner for the night isn’t much different than picking a food joint for lunch, in “that world”. e, gads, another reference to a reference to babylon.

  3. Chaos_Dynamics | Nov 2, 2013 at 9:03 am |


    • Simon Valentine | Nov 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |

      being knighted?

      topping off the mold.

      signing an insurance declaration?

      somehow even “batteries not included” and “all priorities rescinded” …

      a grass-is-greener version of the bug zapper

      the wonderful world to which even “ecology” and “evolution” seek answers

  4. Ted Heistman | Nov 2, 2013 at 10:01 am |

    Upper class people often follow the traditional way. I rub elbows with them occasionally. Divorce is not as common either as it is in the middle class.

  5. Liam_McGonagle | Nov 2, 2013 at 11:10 am |

    Marriage was originally just a property transaction. The transfer of title to a vag*na and some cheap labor.

    • Anti-Crowley | Nov 9, 2013 at 10:38 am |

      Wow! Your right. Such a true statement regarding all of human history and civilization. I agree that two people getting married because they love each other is something we have recently invented…we are so awesome.

  6. Guess I’m a romantic “lust” lover. I just can’t imagine a world of pre arranged marriages. Even if the lust wears off and ends in divorce, I can say that I fell in love….for at least a short time. Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

  7. AgentStarling | Nov 5, 2013 at 5:42 pm |

    Maybe that’s what a hefty amount of heterosexuals have done to destroy marriage, but gay people marry for LOVE: Enduring love, caring for one another, growing old together, no matter what. That is what marriage is really about. And since for centuries, heterosexuals had been the only couples allowed to marry, it was them – NOT gay people – who have screwed up a beautiful thing that marriage should be. Straight people who have cheated on one another, had unwanted kids, abandoned each other, slept with other people’s spouses, and abused, beaten and raped their wives, destroyed marriages with drugs and violence…You can’t say gay people ruined what marriage is. Gays are bringing romance back. And yes, they CAN procreate, even if they don’t choose it do it sexually. The reproductive organs are there, even if they use insemination rather than sex. Having kids is NOT what marriage is for.

    • Anti-Crowley | Nov 9, 2013 at 10:43 am |

      I agree. No heterosexuals get married for love…EVER. It is also a fact that there has never been a case of infidelity or abandonment or abuse between any two homosexuals in a relationship (a little known fact.) Let’s pick this topic up again after homosexuals have a go at it for a few thousand years and we shall see how it plays out.

      • AgentStarling | Nov 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm |

        I didn’t say that “no heterosexuals get married for love..EVER.” What I had said was that there has been a large volume of heterosexuals who have lowered the standards of marriage and they have a pretty low success rate. I have seen heterosexuals marry for hours or days before winding up divorced. I’ve seen their marriages end after cheating, spousal abuse, abandonment, and other unresolved issues. So when there are gay people who believe in marrying I the bonds of LOVE and it is not a business, AND gay people have had to fight for their right to wed, you can bet that the determination rate of successful marriage is high, and commitment is cherished more than many people could say. Women understand how women need to be treated and they deliver. Just as men know what men need, and if two men marry, they will do their best. No relationship is perfect, but it happens to be my own belief that at this point in time, there could very well be a higher success rate of marriage between homosexual couples. Gays don’t marry for children, and considering the fight to gain legal rights to marriage, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Marriage is not a business or a religious rite, nor is it a means entitlement for procreation or ownership over another human being. For gay people, marriage means the law recognizing that you are a serious couple and share all of the personal and financial hardships together, in sickness and in health, to care, love and grow old together, and to forsake all offers from suitors, past present or future. Marriage is a special, deep, abiding commitment between two people, and since gays have never had a legal history of marriage, it won’t be taken lightly or like a business of ownership, but rather two people giving themselves to one another for life. I am not saying there’s no straight people who can do these things, but I am saying that it’s wrong and grossly inaccurate to blame gay people if anyone thinks that homosexuals have ruined marriage.

        • Anti-Crowley | Nov 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm |

          “Marriage is not a business or a religious rite, nor is it a means entitlement for procreation or ownership over another human being. For gay people, marriage means the law recognizing that you are a serious couple”

          Sooo Marriage is Uncle Sam saying it’s cool?

          “For gay people, marriage means the law recognizing that you are a serious couple and share all of the personal and financial hardships together, in sickness and in health, to care, love and grow old together, and to forsake all offers from suitors, past present or future. Marriage is a special, deep, abiding commitment between two people.”

          Sounds suspiciously like a religious vow that I have heard before…eh, maybe I’m wrong.

          • AgentStarling | Nov 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm |

            No, this is not a religious vow at all. Marriage is about the love and commitment and dedication between the couple. But legal permission is Uncle Sam putting it in writing for others to abide by, and to be acknowledged, regardless of what anyone’s religious or personal views of it may be. It’s a positive thing, and it’s something gay people have fought hard for, and it won’t affect the existence or quality of life of anyone else. There will always be gay people, just as there will always be heterosexual people. It has always been this way and always will be. It isn’t anything new. The only new thing is the attention being placed on the importance of recognizing and accepting these things as they are. Every species has homosexuals and heterosexuals, and that is actually part of nature. It’s time more people can learn to wrap their minds around that because not all creatures are heterosexual, and nature really does give us a broader mixture than just that. Being that there are more faiths than Christianity, there should be no reason for anyone to force everyone to live according to the Bible, or to subscribe to the lifestyle of any religious faith. Gays don’t force others to be gay, and heterosexuals cannot force gays to live as straight people do, either. Do what’s in your nature (gay or straight). To fight that is to live in anguish.

  8. Anti-Crowley | Nov 9, 2013 at 5:36 pm |

    Sorry Elizabeth Abbot, your book leaves out the billions who were not important enough to mentioned in ancient records…maybe that is why it was a book and not a study taken seriously by any relevant field of science.

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