Perhaps when you and your spouse are at odds with each other, you've asked yourself "Why did I ever get married?" There are probably many possible reasons, but one is that you had a choice in deciding whether to marry or not to marry. Throughout the history of civilization, this is a fairly recent development. The origin of domestic male-female relationships was based on survival. The species could best survive if the male remained the hunter and the female stayed at home, raised the children and tended the crops, a purely economic arrangement. Later, marriages were arranged by parents at birth.
This was designed, in part, to insure the clan remained intact. A variation of this was to prevent teenagers from marrying outside the clan. On the other hand, if there was friction between two tribes, the heads of both might arrange a marriage between a member of each to strengthen the bonds between them and insure peace. Royal families in Europe continue this practice today by encouraging marriages between royalty of other countries.
In some primitive cultures daughters were bartered to prospective grooms. The more attractive women were worth more cows than less attractive ones. In some parts of Africa, women can still be bought as slaves. And men of importance can have many wives. In all of these examples, the participants had little or no choice of a marriage partner.
When they did, they had few prospects to choose from. At any one time how many princes and how many princesses are available? When the industrial revolution took place, the mores of the civilized world had drastic changes. People found an increasing number of ways to making a living, and in living their lives. Love replaced obligation as a prelude to marriage. People were expected to fall in love and live happily ever after. But, since no one knows what love is, the task becomes very confusing.
Sex is often mistaken for love. Therefore, when one party says, "Let's make love, is he/she talking about love or sex? When the Puritans took over, it was easier. Sex before marriage was taboo. Therefore, the only way you could have sex without feeling guilty was to get married.
If a woman really wanted to get married, she could retain her virginity until her boyfriend agreed. Then in the marriage vows, performed before God and everybody, both parties promised to be monogamous for life. All that has changed since the so-called sexual revolution and the woman's rights movement. Now, the trend preaches sex without guilt, and virginity is no longer esteemed. Today, couples living together sans marriage is quite common. It's kind of a trial marriage, but without the long term commitment.
It saves money when the couple share expenses. Sex is available. And the agony of a bitter divorce is avoided. Too often these arrangements don't work out, which proves the couple was not destined to live happily ever after.
With all the reasons not to get married, it is a wonder why millions choose to trade in their freedom for a marriage license. Obviously, the answer varies from person to person. A successful marriage depends on each partner satisfying the emotional needs of the other, and needs vary from person to person. Surveys of couples who have lasting marriages cite qualities that were important, such as trust, caring, friendship, compassion, security and affection.
These were considered more important than freedom. A couple celebrating their 80 year marriage anniversary stated that the most important factor in their longevity was that they talked to each other. Since no one seems to have a better definition of "love," perhaps it is really some combination of the qualities mentioned above. Love is why people choose to marry, and when it endures, it is the glue that holds marriages together. Copyright 2006 Robert T.
Robert T. Lewis, Ph.D.
Psychologist and Author of: How To Jump-Start Your Marriage Before It Crashes