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The Short History of Romantic Marriage in the West
I've added some details to "Marriage: Its Diversity and Character: 3.2. The Short History of Romantic Marriage in the West" by Vexen Crabtree (2004)
Modern marriage, "for love", is a relatively rare and new institution. Not only is monogamous marriage common in only 20% of present-day societies, but romantic marriage itself has only been common in the West for a few hundred years. According to the sociologists Anthony Giddens, Lawrence Stone and John Boswell, even as late as the 1500s modern ideas of romantic marriage had not found common acceptance. Religious authorities regarded marriage as a necessary, pragmatic solution to unhealthy sexual emotions, and not something to be done for pleasure, romance or affection.
The idea of romantic marriage, steeped in personal choice, coincidence and love, had begun to flourish in cities and urban centres. Until the 1800s, marriage was still a deal sought for practical advantage - a peasant could not maintain his holding on his own, without a committed and hardworking wife. When bereaved, a peasant married almost at once, often to whoever was simply most willing to work hardest. It wasn't until the 1800s that ideas of romantic marriage began to emerge from the cities.
“[In the 1500s] Individual freedom of choice in marriage and other aspects of family life was subordinated to the interests of parents, other kin or the community. Outside aristocratic circles, where it was sometimes actively encouraged, erotic or romantic love was regarded by moralists and theologians as a sickness.” -- "Sociology" by Anthony Giddens (1997)
“In premodern Europe marriage usually began as a property arrangement, was in its middle mostly about raising children, and ended about love. Few couples in fact married 'for love', but many grew to love each other in time as they jointly managed their household, reared their offspring, and shared life's experiences. Nearly all surviving epitaphs to spouses evince profound affection. By contrast, in most of the modern West, marriage begins about love, in its middle is still mostly about raising children (if there are children), and ends - often - about property, by which point love is absent or a distant memory.” -- John Boswell
“The traditional conception of marriage as essentially a business contract, an arrangement based on mutual practical advantage in terms of property-ownership or the labour-power needed to work a peasant holding, the conception which had been taken for granted in pre-industrial peasant Europe, was now rapidly decaying. The idea of it as the result of free individual choice based on individual tastes and preferences was now seeping from the large city into the countryside and the smaller urban centres. In one small French town, for example, during the two decades after Waterloo, the average age of women at marriage was relatively high (about twenty-five) and about a third of brides were older than their husbands. Quite rapidly, however, the average age of marriage fell to twenty-one; and from about 1865 onwards only one woman in ten was older than the man she married. A basic aspect of human nature, the fact that, given a free choice, men prefer to marry women who are younger than themselves and who are physically attractive, was now increasingly able to assert itself.” -- "The Ascendancy of Europe 1815-1914" by M S Anderson (1985)Although romantic marriage was destined to dominate the ideas of what marriage should be in the West, it actually has a rather short history of less than 200 years of general acceptance.