To have and to hold forever and ever? Amen. The storybook concept of two people madly in love and vowing before God or man. What’s love got to do with it? The truth of the matter is that the concept of, and the various vows and actions that constitute marriage, are as varied as man’s life on this planet has been.
Marriage historically was based on tradition, practicality, and necessity. From quite early on, humans have bonded together for the survival of a tribe, to form an economic collective, to join nations, or to further some other group endeavor. Marriage in its various forms has provided a structure for the furtherance of the human race, creating a social unit that provided their progeny a better chance of survival through protection, nurturing, and training. It is the practical aspect of man’s struggle to create a better future and provide for the survival of the human race.
In the past, it took forms we may look at with disdain today, but those were probably practical at the time. A patriarch with many wives could provide for a family in lean times when few could. Arranged marriages secured the welfare of children when parents were considered old at 30 years. Political marriages were made to secure peace between nations or expand territory. The list goes on. What about love? Until modern times, love was not as common a reason to marry. In many of those arranged marriages, perhaps fondness and respect and possibly love followed in time.
Nowadays, in our country, the decision to marry typically lies with the individuals involved. In many cases, the marriage contract and ceremony is a combination of civil and religious practices. Civil matters regarding marriage include the state license and any written contract or prenuptial agreement. It is completely secular and subjects the marriage partners to legal restrictions and benefits. Many choose to include their church in the process, where the contract is between the partners and their god. In many states, an agreement of cohabitation between the partners who state to others they are married becomes a binding and legal civil marriage after a specified period of time and is known as a common law marriage. Civil and religious marriages are often combined, giving legal rights and privileges to both parties.
It is easy for us in our lives of convenience, containing at least a modicum of leisure, to judge those in past history for the forms of marriage thought to be archaic nowadays. Have we done better? Has marrying for love succeeded in the goals of marriage? In many cases, yes. Divorce was not an easy option for our forebears and seldom occurred until the last few decades. Its consequences represented a lack of survival, especially for women and children. In broken marriages, children may bear an emotional toll, affecting their future.
Men and women have the freedom in this country to choose their mates, but with that freedom comes great responsibility. We must have a successful marriage, survive the test of time, and give our children the best hope for a promising future. Marriage is a challenge. It requires not only the choice of a good partner but especially one who will work through life’s problems with you. Good luck to all who jump the broom!