Churches love to preach about marriage, in its “traditional” sense. I know I have heard my grandmother lecture me a few times about how marriage is supposed to be. She got married when she was 18. And she stayed married until my grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of 50. They had five kids. She never worked, and never got her driver’s license until he died.
That was then. Me? I’ve been engaged a few times, and finally got married at 25, which is often considered young. I got divorced at 27, because the marriage was abusive. It’s not something I brag about. In fact, many Christians don’t even believe in divorce.
Many people think we are failing miserably because of how high the divorce rate is, and always talk about how people don’t stay together anymore. Isn’t it traditional to stay with one person the rest of your life? Isn’t it also traditional for women to stay at home, have several children, and raise a home?
I read an article recently that allowed me to review some history prior to World War II.
Fashion Beans put it out, and they had some valid points about how traditional marriage doesn’t exist. There is just simply no easy way to define it. It varies so much across history, cultures and customs. We are simply just where we are now with marriage, and in some ways it is a reflection of where we have been.
For instance, some cultures practiced polygamy. Some men married more than one woman, and sometimes women married more than one man.
Monogamy is a fairly new idea in and of itself, as wives and mistresses often had separate roles.
One major valid point they make is marriage had nothing to do with romantic love until recently. Whole businesses get rich on selling romance in marriage, but for a long time this had nothing to do with marriage. It was even considered inappropriate to love your wife as you would a mistress.
It was more about merging families than anything–typically about the in-laws. This even occurred when they had same-sex marriages.
On another point, marriage was often involuntary. In Mesopotamian tradition, women were literally put on an auction block while men bid for their hands in marriage.
Other societies were much more relaxed in their customs and laws. Stricter, wealth-based societies were a bit stricter on the women, though, because they had to ensure the economic status remained. Rituals such as the father giving away the bride during the wedding derive from these customs.
Marriage as a tradition itself is much more fluid than we like to think. Just examining the 20th century, we have seen an increase in equality between genders in marriage since the 1960s every decade. Women are no longer just homemakers and men no longer the only providers.
Today, the most satisfied marriage are the most equal–splitting housework, childcare and income.