The True Purpose of Marriage: More Than Just Love and Romance


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Does love and marriage REALLY go together like a horse and carriage? Not quite. Marriage is a fundamental societal institution. Nonetheless, people marry for different reasons. The modern focus on emotional and romantic unions was traditionally not why most people married. Marriage goes back to prehistoric times. It was a way for groups to unite, including two countries. People married to increase their status. The government and religions used marriage to regulate family life. Today, it remains about more than love. 

Marriage Begins 

Anthropologists believe marriages go back beyond the start of written history. 

Marriages became more important societal events as we settled down into cities. The first reported evidence of marriage might be as late as 2350 BCE.  

Before then, men and women joined together to form families. The family was the basic unit in society. Men and women unofficially married long before governments started to record them. 

Growing Up 

Marriage was a traditional milestone in a person’s life. 

Girls married in their teens and early twenties. Boys married somewhat later than girls, especially if they had money. Over time, people married later. 

Marriage remains a milestone in life. Adults “grow up” when they get married and start families.  This event can happen in a person’s thirties or even later. 

Allies and Partners 

Marriage allows different families to join together. New families arise. In-laws might be a pain. They also provide assistance and resources that can be essential for survival.

The average couple formed a partnership to raise a family. A farm or business requires juggling many tasks. Husbands and wives split the burdens. If all went well, it was a pleasant union. 

A wedding was traditionally a way to unite different communities. Marriage continues to form families that form a mosaic. Blended families have a little bit of everything. American colonists often married Native American women, allying whites and natives. 

Not all work out. Cleopatra broke up the marriage of Mark Antony to ally Egypt and Rome. Queen Mary’s marriage with a Catholic prince caused problems in Protestant England. 

Status 

We often marry people we know. People marry others from their communities. 

Communities are groups of people that join together for different reasons. People are wary of “outsiders.” Outsiders might be from other ethnicities, races, religions, or economic statuses. 

Societies often break down by castes, classifications of people of the same status who associate with each other. Marriages within “in groups” are a way to reinforce traditions. 

One way to increase your status in society is through marriage. Alexander Hamilton arose from lowly origins. He married into an elite New York family. There is a song about it in Hamilton

Law and Religion 

Marriage is a special thing in our society. It has ceremonies and symbols to underline how precious they are. Religious institutions traditionally handled marriage. 

The United States gave the government a fundamental role. People have personal marriage ceremonies. Nonetheless, they are not officially married without a government license. 

Marriage is a personal thing. We protect the privacy of marriage in many ways, including allowing people to choose who they want to marry. 

Law and religion retain some oversight. Law and society, including family, friends, and others, restrain our choices. How society regulates marriage influences its character. 

Marriage remains a way for the government and society to regulate family life.  

Children 

Marriage provides a range of government benefits and responsibilities. 

For instance, the federal government provided marriage benefits to the spouses of veterans. Newly freed slaves saw marriage as a fundamental sign of becoming full-fledged citizens.  

Marriage was a means to restrain social relationships. Sex before marriage and children out of wedlock was illegal. Children born outside of marriage were “illegitimate” and did not have legal rights. The restraints decreased over time.  They never totally went away.  

People continue to marry to start families. Governmental policies play a fundamental role. For instance, tax policy treats spouses and children differently. 

Same-sex couples began to form families, which helped lead to marriage rights

Love Matches  

Love and marriage, love and marriage

They go together like a horse and carriage

This I tell you, brother

You can’t have one without the other

Traditionally, with apologies to Frank Sinatra, love and marriage often did not go together. People did not marry for love. Some people even argued that love was an unreliable reason to marry. Marriage was a practical institution. Love was a dangerous emotion.

Love could be part of marriage. Nonetheless, the ideal was usually to respect your spouse. True love was an ideal that you wrote poems about. “Courtly love” was something for aristocrats during the Middle Ages. A chivalrous knight would have courtly love for his fair maiden. 

Romantic love has become a considerable part of marriage in recent times. People now are supposed to choose their marriage partners because of emotional and romantic attachments. 

Marriage for love is a wondrous thing. People still do not marry only for love. Also, love alone will not be enough for a healthy marriage. The many reasons for love remain part of the mix.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.

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