In the essay “The Radical Idea of Marrying for Love”, Stephanie Coontz discusses the change marriage has made among the different cultures around the world and how it went from being an act that was necessary to something that was done for personal joy and fulfillment. For most cultures marriage was an act that was done as a necessity. Couples married because they needed to reproduce and ensure that their family continued to have money and power.
The romance of marriage did not exist and it was discouraged in most cultures for the couples to fall in love before marriage. Most marriages were arranged by the family, the couples did not marry because of being in love. In the Chinese culture the man could return the wife to her father if it appeared the husband and the wife were too in love. The husband had duties to perform as well as the wife and if those duties were neglected because the couple was too in love it was looked down upon.
Couples weren’t supposed to love their spouses. It was common for each partner to have a mistress. The mistress was the one they were to be intimate with. In fact it was common for the couples to explore intimacy outside the marriage openly. The couples depending on culture would share spouses with other couples, or even siblings. In the Bari culture it was common for the women to be with other men even during pregnancy. However at time of birth the women could name all the partners she had been with since she knew she was prengnat.
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The men would help support the child. Acts such as this are not accepted in all cultures. In more recent centuries couples began to fall in love before they married; although it is still looked down upon in certain cultures. Certain critics felt that if women and men were in love before marriage that things would change in marriage. They felt that men and women would choose mates based on what made them happy at the moment and then could decide to not be married if they were no longer happy.
The idea of marriage and love has changed over history and many cultures still have mixed beliefs on what is acceptable within the marriage. Being in love is not a necessity before marriage and those that believe this also feel that it is acceptable to find intimacy outside the marriage. While other cultures believe that you should marry for love and be faithful to your spouse. Marriage is one of the many things that vary depending on culture and the beliefs among those cultures regarding marriage has also changed over the centuries.
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