The changing view of Marriage.

An interesting read on how marriage has changed over the past 250 years:

For millennia, marriage was about property and power rather than mutual attraction. It was a way of forging political alliances, sealing business deals, and expanding the family labor force. For many people, marriage was an unavoidable duty. For others, it was a privilege, not a right. Servants, slaves, and paupers were often forbidden to wed, and even among the rich, families sometimes sent a younger child to a nunnery or monastery rather than allow them to marry and break up the family’s landholding.

The redefinition of traditional marriage began about 250 years ago, when Westerners began to allow young people to choose their partners on the basis of love rather than having their marriages arranged to suit the interests of their parents. Then, just 100 years ago, courts and public opinion began to extend that right even to marriages that parents and society disapproved.

In the 1940s and 1950s, many states repealed laws that prevented particular classes of people—including those with tuberculosis and “the feeble-minded”—from marrying. In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for states to prohibit interracial marriage. In 1987 it upheld the right of prison inmates to marry.

The path to same-sex marriage was further opened up when heterosexual couples began to push back against state control over their sexual and reproductive lives. Until the 1950s, some states forbade married couples from using assisted reproduction to have children, ruling that artificial insemination was tantamount to adultery and any resultant child was illegitimate. Conversely, until the Supreme Court ruled in 1965 that couples had a right to sexual privacy, many states refused to allow the sale of birth control to married couples who wanted to prevent or limit their childbearing.

Marriage itself has evolved in ways that make it harder to justify excluding same-sex couples from its benefits and obligations.

The longstanding idea that the validity of a marriage depended on the ability and willingness of a couple to have children was eroded on two fronts when married couples who were not biologically capable of having children won access to other ways of starting a family—through artificial insemination, sperm donors, surrogate mothers, and liberalized adoption laws—and married couples who did not want children won the right to use contraception. Increasingly, Americans came to agree that two people who loved each other should be allowed to marry and to make their own decisions about whether or how to bring kids into the world.

But the most important cultural change that has increased support for same-sex marriage is the equality revolution within heterosexual marriage.

For most of history, the subordination of wives to husbands was enforced by law and custom. As late as the 1960s, American legal codes assigned differing marital rights and obligations by gender. The husband was legally responsible for supporting the family financially, but he also got to decide what constituted an adequate level of support, how to dispose of family property, and where the family would live. The wife was legally responsible for providing services in and around the home, but she had no comparable rights to such services.

That is why a husband could sue for loss of consortium if his spouse was killed or incapacitated, but a wife in the same situation could not. And because sex was one of the services expected of a wife, she could not charge her husband with rape.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, however, most Americans came to view marriage as a relationship between two individuals who were free to organize their partnership on the basis of personal inclination rather than preassigned gender roles. Legal codes were rewritten to be gender neutral, and men’s and women’s activities both at home and work began to converge.

Today, the majority of American children grow up in homes where their parents share breadwinning, housework, and child care. Some couples even decide to reverse traditional gender roles, with the woman becoming the primary breadwinner or the man becoming a stay-at-home dad.

The collapse of rigid gender expectations and norms has fostered the expectation that marriage should be an individually negotiated relationship between equals, replacing the older notion of marriage as a prefabricated institution where traditional roles and rules must be obeyed.

The result is a paradox. Marriage is now more optional than in the past, and people are far less willing to remain in a marriage that doesn’t feel fair, loving, and mutually respectful. On the other hand, as a result of these changes, many marriages have become more fulfilling and mutually beneficial than ever before.

Domestic violence rates have plummeted over the past 30 years, dropping by 50 percent since 1980. The divorce rate, which rose sharply in the 1960s and 1970s, has been falling since its peak in 1981, and it has fallen the most for educated couples, who are the most likely to mix and match traditional gender behaviors.


Divorce rates are falling because marriage rates have declined whilst births to "unmarried women" have increased ...

Is this a positive development or more social problems being created?

I think the answer is right at the bottom of the article:

"Marriage is now more optional than in the past, and people are far less willing to remain in a marriage that doesn’t feel fair, loving, and mutually respectful. On the other hand, as a result of these changes, many marriages have become more fulfilling and mutually beneficial than ever before".

Sounds good to me.

the whole marriage idea may become obsolete, replaced by a simple contract (concubinage, cohabitation...)

I think you can either be cynical and say that divorces are less because less people are getting married, or be positive and say that the people choosing to get married do so with a greater sense of its importance and what it means to them.

However, the whole point of the article was that the definition of marriage has changed so much over the last 250 years it's impossible to say that gay marriage will harm it as an institution.

Gay Marriage...:(-

I don't believe that the "Definition" has changed in people's minds. The main difference is that society and people are more accepting of co-habiting.

the nail in the Head...

No more marriages happening; live in relationship increasing. single parents concept is getting more popular.

Only God can save us.....and future generations.

I think the idea of marriage has changed Brit. It's no longer about ownership, property and power.

The marriages have become flimsy to say the least and the couple doesnt have the patience to sort out the issues, well mostly...divorces getting filed just cos the wife didnt know cooking or the hubby bought a dress for 1500/- when she actually wanted one for 5000/ I was reading this article and was laughing at what race to modernity has done to marriage or relationships in general.

This 'space' thing still confuses me...whenver she talks of it I just nod my head...dont know in what shape and form it will come haunting me when I am there...:( Basically what all does it include.

even if two matured and adult individual regularly communicate but could not resolve the issues due to different PoV. Their personal egos and selfishness become the first priority.

Whilst cohabiting and single parents may have lost the whole taboo factors, the idea of marriage too has changed and this is not ONLY due to the mentioned reasons.

Many of my friends today are choosing to remain single and/or postponing marriage for many reasons. Even the religious ones who would never have sexual relationships out of wedlock.

One of the biggest reasons being that women today are far more educated and independent and hence don't wish to marry a man purely for the sake of finding a provider and/or to please parents,relatives etc.

They prefer to think over each prospective groom more carefully,do a lot of research and make sure they are making the right decision before taking the plunge. And they can afford to do so,literally, as most of them are earning their own living and having quite good lives.What they look for in a spouse besides to fulfill their carnal needs, are men who will compliment their lives, and make good companions and of course be exemplary fathers to their future children. And to find such men may take time but will be worth it, since the chances then of incompatibility and finding the man you wed is some kind of monster is reduced by far.

In the recent years, having seen the divorces of many people, including my own parents, I can truly say that a majority of these cases occurred due to the couples in question marrying in haste and/or for wrong reasons.


'Space' need to be agreed and defined among the partners at the earlier stage of engagement.

Fatimah...what you stated is from the perspective of a woman and then it seems like only a woman has the problem while selecting a man to marry. Guess men today also are looking for the same attributes in his woman, whether the woman he is going to marry would prove to be a good wife and mother.

Exactly Fatima. Most people don't marry because they have to anymore, they marry because they want to, and most take the time to learn about and relate to their spouse.

This has definitely changed the concept of marriage from purely being an institution for the purpose of children and distribution of wealth and power to a partnership of two people who want to live their lives together, without or without children or shared wealth.

"Good wife and mother"...what exactly does that mean?

Same as 'good husband (companion) and exemplary father'...:)

Prism, yes, ok. But what does it mean?

Tinkerbell10...I still dont understand the concept of space. Isn't all that part of understanding that everything you do or think needn't be my concern. Why it has to be stressed separately. I never felt the need to stress want to know, here are the details. You dont want to know also is OK.

MM do you this as part of Human rights One will be given the choice to marry more than one in the Western world? Which I believe might be the next thing after Gay marriages..:)

It's funny, cohabiting still shocks me somewhat, especially for those with children. I don't believe the children are adequately covered legally. But I have no problem with people wanting to be married.


Nomerci...first let me understand what is meant by those in respect of men from Fatimah or anyone ..I will then be better placed to let you know what those mean in respect of women.

Tinkerbell10...thanks...I understand it it is not a big issue from my side, I am still

I have no issues with Polygamy UK, however I do understand why it is illegal in the US. The history of child & forced marriages in parts of fundamentalist sects of the Mormon church doesn't make it an easy issue to tackle.

However, I do believe it will be a hot-button issue after gay marriage is accepted. And rightly it should be.

Good companion I meant someone who's company you enjoy and love.

An exemplary father would be a man you know is just and of good character,not some abuser, thief, alcoholic, etc. A man who not only will you love and respect but who will also be loved and respected by his children. And of course when it comes to my religious friends they look for men who also practices their faith to the best of his ability and will not cause a hindrance to his wife's religious practices(Like these men who marry a woman and then try to convince her to remove her hijab etc...and yes this is known to happen!)

even on this forum :)

The institution of marriages find difficult to survive in modern society, where expectations and commitments are too demanding for both genders.

then it the possibility of separation or divorce is high. But if the real intent of marriage which is a sacred vow, then the law that binds a man and woman will only be untied when one party dies.

So they have to commit suicide/ kill the other party instead of just divorcing each other?

Bit drastic, non?

Even there are many ups and downs and hard things happenings between the man and wife, if no one among the two party tries to imposed his or her will and let the divine laws that binds them be the governing power over each of them, then marriage will remain.

Well, I think it would be a reason for divorce if there were no hard things happening between husband and wife...:P

there is a perfect marriage! But many chooses the easy way out!

Interesting comments from mitt Romey yesterday regarding marriage. Wonder what the conservatives think about it ?

it's a fact that those in the southern states of the know from the bible thumping bible belt... have a higher divorce rate than their more secular fellow americans.

The reason is because they marry younger and in haste; the only divine law in operation is an urgent need to obey the commands of their hormones and get their rocks off pdq

means they understood it!

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