We think of love as the reason for marriage as a foregone conclusion. Historically speaking, that isn’t the case. Love in ancient Greece was thought of as a mental illness, as was it in Medieval Europe. In France in the Middle Ages it was thought to be cured with intercourse with the beloved or some other. Marriage on the other hand was to combine wealth and for political power. It was also to make children to work family farms. Parents would be shocked in those days if their children wanted to marry for love.
Physical attraction has always been a part of marriage. The world over and throughout history polygamy has been the most popular form of marriage. It even appears in the Bible with King Solomon and David who had many, many wives. In a certain culture in Tibet, the Na people have the women go to the next village to conceive. Then they raise the children with their brothers. The children don’t have any parents like we think of them. They are raised by the whole village. Like that African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Too much love within marriage was thought to poison throughout ancient and medieval times in the West. However with the American and French Revolutions we saw a change in mindset. People were concerned with their personal freedoms and the pursuit of their own happiness, as Jefferson so eloquently put it. Working for a salary instead of on the farm helped break marriage away from the economic sphere and to the sphere of the heart. Only in the middle of the nineteenth century did Americans begin marrying for love. They convinced themselves that it was the only reason to marry and that it had always been so.
The largest group to marry was the returning G.I.s and their Rosie the Riveter’s just after World War II. The men worked and the women stayed home to care for it and the children. Salaries rose for men. But a lot of women found it confining. Enter the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. Women flooded the workforce. Soon we saw no fault divorces, the biggest years were between 1978 and 1980. 67% of divorces are filed by women. Today we are seeing vast changes. Some wonder if it is the end of marriage as we know it. But no one is tying the knot in America today, or at least not saying they are, without being in love. To learn more on this topic read, Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz.