The author Stephanie Coontz produced an essay on ‘The radical ideas of marrying for love’ and examined the historic concept of marriage in different countries throughout the world. This being examined on the basis of necessity of the institution to assist survival of society in personal fulfilment and happiness. Coontz maintains that marriage historically has been used more as a personal tool of survival as opposed to a lot of the romantic idylls that are portrayed by the media. She questions whether the western view of being best friends, candidacy and sexual faithfulness is an out moded concept ?
In Chapter 1 of the essay Coontz explains the concept of the radical ideas of marrying for love. “In many cultures, love has been seen as a desirable outcome of marriage but not as a good reason for getting married in the first place. The Hindu tradition celebrates love and sexuality in marriage, but love and sexual attraction are not considered valid reasons for marriage” (Coontz). The article explores the cultural differences between nations and puts forward different arguments based upon different value sets and belief systems. Each has very different perceptions on the role of women and marriage. Whilst this is generally accepted there seems little persuasive argument geared towards the different stages of evolution of the individual societies that are discussed. For example countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries that practice extreme Islamic Law are still practicing medieval traditions that are alien to modern western democracies. This causes a great deal of tension when migrants from these countries try to continue such practices in the West.
Marriage is considered a social contract, primarily because the issues that are involved extend beyond the concerns of purely the particular individuals. The children of the married couples are the future generations of which the whole society depends. In essence, the termination of the marriage contract is either a legal consideration or by death. In more modern marriages parties often seek legal contract terms that protect their financial assets i.e. in the event of separation or divorce. These are often referred to as ‘premarital or prenuptial agreements’. This type of arrangement is it’s often more common amongst wealthy or affluent couples, and second marriages. (Sheriden)
In the last 20 years we have seen a dramatic rise in divorce rates, particularly in the US and Western Europe. Studies have indicated that this decline in marriage is largely due to the general breakdown and weakening of the traditional family structure. It is the maintenance of the family structure that really necessitates the importance of marriage. The children produced from the marriage are the future in terms of perpetuating human society. Strong family values teach the children the ethics and the social responsibilities of adulthood. The love of the parents to the children translates to the personality of the adult. The displacement of this leads to a more random outcome and potentially more uncaring society. ” New research highlights that women in the UK think that marriage is no longer necessary in today’s society (results based on a survey of 2,134 women surveyed). Almost three quarters of women think that couples today enter into marriage too quickly without thinking it through and 62 percent of childless women are concerned about their declining fertility. ” (Papadopoulos)
Modern pressures on marriage have caused partners to ask the question “Whatever possessed me to marry you just because I loved you?” (Coontz). Ronald F. Levant is a psychologist at the University of Akron. His position is that there is a crisis in masculinity, indicating that many men are in need of psychological advice. In addition, he states that few men avail themselves of such advice. Much of this appears to be related to a loss of connection with female partners. It is the concept the changing role of women over the last 40 years, and the lack of compensate for changes in men’s roles. The traditional role of the wife living a life of domesticity staying at home and raising the children. Women today are much more career oriented, and in some cases, taking the dominant role in the family. This shift in traditional family values has left many men feeling both insecure and with a loss of self-esteem. Those male partners that seem unable to make the transition have been seeking extra marital relationships, where they can express their dominance and regain their self-esteem.
Coontz maintains that “Whether it is valued or not, love is rarely seen as the main ingredient for marital success”. (Coontz) With tough economic times it is more a partnership of equals and the ability to create a family structure that will sustain both partners in terms of human survival and a foundation for stability in an ever changing ever moving world. The definition of love however imposes certain value sets like loyalty, trust and honesty to one another, equity, a level of maturity and mutual co-operation. These philosophies generally hold true regardless of culture or creed. Perhaps this is one area where Coontz might explore in greater depth and consider the reactions of failure where such considerations are neither respected or employed. We have seen in the Islamic world where this has led towards increased resentment from subjugated females and the cry for greater levels of freedom. The philosophical views in China stated: “you have only one family, but you can always get another wife.” (Coontz). An interesting slant considering the wife is not part of the family model. Hence this does not satisfy the criteria for an enduring and lasting relationship.
Coontz, Stephanie. The Radical Idea of Marrying for Love. 2012 StepanieCoontz.com. http://www.stephaniecoontz.com/books/marriage/chapter1.htm. 2 2 2012.
Papadopoulos, L. Marriage is no longer relevant in todays society. 1 10 2009. : http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=182222. 2 2 2012.
Sheriden, G. How to write a marriage contract. 2010. http://www.ehow.com/how_5028492_write-marriage-contract.html. 2 2 2012.