Love in Marriage is a Relatively New Idea

marriage

Love in Marriage is a Relatively New Idea

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.

Conscious Uncoupling

Conscious-Uncoupling

Conscious Uncoupling

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and rock group frontman Chris Martin announced their divorce earlier this year, what Paltrow described as “conscious uncoupling.” Many people throughout entertainment and beyond however were blown away by the gentleness of this phrase. Mindfulness is a trendy concept entering our lexicon as of late from Buddhism as a push back to the constantly multitasking hustle and bustle world we often find ourselves trapped in. Conscious uncoupling sounds like a mild separation rather than the rancor, pain and conflict that often inhabits a divorce. Paltrow announced the split on her website Goop.com in tandem with a piece on conscious uncoupling written by Sherry Sami and Dr. Habib Sadeghi, experts in combining the medical traditions of the East and West. The essay argues that the institution of marriage should evolve with the extended life expectancy of humans in today’s world. Instead of focusing on longevity the piece argues the focus on marriage today should be on how fulfilling and meaningful it is or was. Legal and divorce experts say this new phrase, conscious uncoupling, could be used to define low conflict divorce proceedings, especially in relation to the children should a couple have them.

Children generally see their parents as a unit rather than as two individuals, so this type of divorce, conscious uncoupling, could help the children endure the process more easily. In legal terms Nathalie Boutet, a lawyer in the Montreal area, lets us know that despite the hype, collaborative law is far from a new concept. This idea is that both partners want the divorce to go smoothly. The two want to collaborate, not combat one another. Says Boutet, “It’s a very evolved, mature way of resolving disputes.” This isn’t unheard of either. It seems Paltrow has coined a phrase that is on the forefront of a new trend. More and more people do not want to go through toxic divorce proceedings that drag out every point, that are filled with rancor, grief and pain. As Boutet puts it, “[Conscious uncoupling] is simply thinking about the consequences of your actions. It’s making plans rather than reacting to emotions like fear, anger or revenge.” For celebrities like Paltrow and Martin, this phrase may also be a code, telegraphing the fact that the divorcing couple doesn’t want to trash each other in public, something that many celebrity couples have done in the past, to the media’s delight and their friends and family’s chagrin. Whether or not the couple keeps things copasetic or the divorce devolves into a he-said-she-said all-out war remains to be seen. But if they can successfully, consciously uncouple in a smooth and cooperative manner it may give other couples the courage to cool off their combativeness and try cooperation themselves. For more on conflict free divorce read the book, No-Fight Divorce: Spend Less Money, Save Time, and Avoid Conflict Using Mediation by Brette McWhorter Sember.

Do High Expectations Make us Prone to Divorce?

MARRIAGE-PROBLEMS

Do High Expectations Make us Prone to Divorce?

Marriage in America has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Lots of people today, particularly younger people who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and who themselves had divorced parents are cohabitating rather than getting married. Others are getting married far later in life, due to the large amount of education necessary to be a viable part of today’s workforce. What’s more, our citizenry is growing more and more to approve of cohabitation. Those who marry have a 50% success rate today, so this may be another reason long-term cohabitation seems a better option than marriage. Couples can then have the benefits of a committed relationship without having to suffer the painful emotional and financial consequences should the couple decide their relationship is no longer viable. Even for those couples today who do get married and stay married, their rate of satisfaction remains low. More and more psychologists and other experts studying marriage wondered about and so have been studying what has changed so dramatically since the 70’s that has transformed the institution of marriage so much and how we feel about it. One study found that, when interviewed, Americans overall are still optimistic about marriage and would be happy to enter into one with the right person.

Recently an article written by psychological researcher Eli Finkel and his associates looked at how many changes had taken place regarding our expectations of marriage. The central theme is that our high expectations of marriage make us more prone to divorce or an unsatisfying union. These researchers state that, generally, the existence of marriage was more of a financial arrangement or institution, held in order to provide adequate resources to each partner such as food, shelter, security and safety, as well as love and stability, and also the having and rearing of children. One thing that has changed is that with dual income households and everyone working, most people don’t seem to need to be in a marriage for financial reasons anymore. These researchers then argue that modern marriage as it exists today not only has to fulfill our need for emotional and physical intimacy and the need to raise children, but also we want to feel our needs for fulfillment and personal growth. These types of marriages are called “self-expressive” by Finkel and fellow researchers. We may be free from the bonds of relying on a partner for income or putting food on the table, especially for women. But in another sense we are binding ourselves psychologically in other ways, the need to feel self-actualization, self-esteem and a positive self-image.

It was once described as we want our spouses to take the place of what a whole village used to provide. We want our spouse to not only help provide for the household and manage the children should there be any, but also to be our lovers, cheer leaders, the ones who challenge us, confidants and so much more. Instead of these needs being pieced out through different relationships, they are being concentrated directly at our spouse. Another study found that those who were married spent less time with family and friends than their non-married brethren. So all of our needs are now falling to our spouses, and vice-versa and perhaps each member is crushing underneath the tremendous weight. Another problem found in a separate study is that we in the U.S. are investing less effort and time in our relationships. With higher expectations and less time to meet those expectations, this is a sure checklist for disaster. Finkel and his fellow researchers believe there are three possible ways out of this dreadful situation. The first is to lower expectations in marriages. For instance, perhaps a best friend or family member, or even coworkers can be better cheer leaders or intellectual duelists than say one’s spouse. The second is putting more time and effort into one’s relationship. Quality time, doing activities or talking together should do the trick. Third, investing in using the time that couples do have in a better way for instance, communicating more clearly, taking part in exciting experiences together and other ways to make things run smoothly and increase and deepen a couple’s bond. Having trouble in the marriage department? Read Making Marriage Work by Joyce Meyer.

The new Meaning of “Husband” and “Wife”

relationship-advice

The new Meaning of “Husband” and “Wife”

More and more people are cohabitating rather than getting married. In the U.S. traditional marriage is at an all-time low. Yet these cohabitating couples use traditional marriage terms. There is a new meaning for the words “husband” and “wife,” meaning the couple is committed and monogamous but they aren’t married on paper. 46% of U.S. households in 2012 were unmarried, about 56 million households. That’s quite a shocking number. Well educated, well-to-do Caucasians are still marrying. But it seems most of the folks in the other categories are hobbling out a relationship or a family sans marriage. In 2012 households of single individuals living with at least one child was 40%. USA Today called this the new normal. And due to the Great Recession, many Americans couldn’t afford a wedding even if they wanted one. Weddings in some parts of the country are so expensive they get into the tens of thousands of dollars. When people are unemployed or underemployed, even if they wanted to get married, they have to put the big to-do wedding on the back burner to pay for the essentials like food, rent, gas and utilities.

So this elicits the question, does marriage truly validate a couple, or does the couple validate themselves for the faith and commitment they bestow on one another? Many younger couples would certainly say that their personal commitment to each other is what really counts. A piece of paper or a big party doesn’t very well mean that a couple has lasting power. That’s up to them. But due to the traditions and expectations of the older generation, younger couples are calling each other “husband” and “wife” not just to be funny or display how they feel about one another, but to put older relatives at ease. People start asking questions and feeling awkward at family parties when they don’t know the couple’s exact situation, particularly if children are involved. Those whose families are from certain religious backgrounds can find cohabitation, especially with children involved, particularly disillusioning and disappointing. So to calm expectations and keep up appearances couples are using these titles. Some couples too find boyfriend and girlfriend doesn’t convey how they actually feel about one another. But husband and wife does. Marriage and family planning has changed significantly due to social, economic and political forces with no abatement. This new generation will redefine these for themselves and future generations to come. For advice on this topic, read Unmarried to Each Other: The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Couple by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller.

Arranged Marriages in India Move Online

ARRANGED-MARRIAGE

Arranged Marriages in India Move Online

Though many places have abandoned this long-standing practice, arranged marriage still exists in some places in the world. In fact, it’s alive and well in India. Those who support this centuries old tradition say that people grow to love each other over time and point to the low divorce rate among arranged marriages. But proponents of an individual’s right to choose, first fomented in the West, say that this practice is antiquated, that it strips a person of their basic freedoms, preserves inequality between the sexes, and that divorce is looked down upon, not that people in arranged marriages are happier. Despite criticisms, arranged marriages are still the norm in India. The majority of Indian marriages are arranged according to experts in the wedding industry.

An increasingly modern, tech savvy urban class however is tired of the stiff and ancient rituals of the traditional marriage process. So today, websites are streamlining it, making it modern and more convenient. One such website is ibluebottle. Founded by Akhilesh Sharma, this site is dedicated to helping Indian professionals through the nuptial process. This site discourages users from selecting their mates based on caste. Instead, users are encouraged to look at the qualities they want in a spouse. In 2011 online arranged marriages reached 4 billion. It is predicted to grow a healthy 27% per year.  Participants like how much choice it gives them. And in a busy world, it helps speed up the process and makes it more efficient. Feminists on the subcontinent call it a step forward toward modernity. Traditionalists say however that Indians do not interact on the individual level. Instead, everything is done on the collective or family level. All of the rituals of a traditional Indian wedding speak of families coming together. So the institution of arranged marriage in India hasn’t ended, it’s merely moving to a new arena; it now takes place online. To acquire more perspective on arranged marriages, read Rearranged by Allison Singh.