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UmmSqueakster

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http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arc ... _page=true

My sister sent this to me last week. It's a bit long, but it's a very good read. Makes me want to go and investigate the history of marriage.

Our cultural fixation on the couple is actually a relatively recent development. Though “pair-bonding†has been around for 3.5 million years, according to Helen Fisher, the hunters and gatherers evolved in egalitarian groups, with men and women sharing the labor equally. Both left the camp in the morning; both returned at day’s end with their bounty. Children were raised collaboratively. As a result, women and men were sexually and socially more or less equals; divorce (or its institution-of-marriage-preceding equivalent) was common. Indeed, Fisher sees the contemporary trend for marriage between equals as us “moving forward into deep historyâ€â€”back to the social and sexual relationships of millions of years ago.

It wasn’t until we moved to farms, and became an agrarian economy centered on property, that the married couple became the central unit of production. As Stephanie Coontz explains, by the Middle Ages, the combination of the couple’s economic interdependence and the Catholic Church’s success in limiting divorce had created the tradition of getting married to one person and staying that way until death do us part. It was in our personal and collective best interest that the marriage remain intact if we wanted to keep the farm afloat.

That said, being too emotionally attached to one’s spouse was discouraged; neighbors, family, and friends were valued just as highly in terms of practical and emotional support. Even servants and apprentices shared the family table, and sometimes slept in the same room with the couple who headed the household, Coontz notes. Until the mid-19th century, the word love was used to describe neighborly and familial feelings more often than to describe those felt toward a mate, and same-sex friendships were conducted with what we moderns would consider a romantic intensity. When honeymoons first started, in the 19th century, the newlyweds brought friends and family along for the fun.

But as the 19th century progressed, and especially with the sexualization of marriage in the early 20th century, these older social ties were drastically devalued in order to strengthen the bond between the husband and wife—with contradictory results. As Coontz told me, “When a couple’s relationship is strong, a marriage can be more fulfilling than ever. But by overloading marriage with more demands than any one individual can possibly meet, we unduly strain it, and have fewer emotional systems to fall back on if the marriage falters.â€

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Cool and interesting read, which doesn't really surprise me at all! Esp the last line about putting unduly strain through overloading marriage with more demands than any one individual can possibly meet seems so spot on. Unfortunately the alternatives seem quite emotionally complicated as well...;-)

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