Even when my own parents seemed happy together, I had a hard time making sense of the institution of marriage. There's always been something a bit suspicious about the whole gimmick. Something about monogamy and human nature has never seemed to add up, and I wish to begin an investigation into the history and evolution of marriage in the hopes of putting my finger on just what that "something" is.
From my understanding, marriage began as a practical engagement that had nothing to do with love or romance or religion, or even the law, necessarily, but basically served as the most convenient means of preserving the human race, carrying on lineage, and passing on property and wealth.
In its beginning, if a couple simply said to one another, "We are married," then it was so. Now one needs witnesses and a license, as the union does not count unless recognized by God and the government.
In its beginning, a bachelor would simply make an offering to a father and would thus be granted one of his daughters to marry and provide for. Now, there is a notion of needing years of searching and courting to find and fall in love with "The One" first--which, it seems, rarely happens.
I strongly suspect that these and other evolutions that marriage has undergone over the centuries have done more than many of us care to realize to complicate a once quite simple situation.
My aim is to decipher what happened in-between to incite such evolutions to the institution--why the aspects of marriage and its role in society that have changed have changed, and why the aspects that remain the same have remained the same.
And from there, I aim to form a more informed opinion regarding the validity of the institution in the context of our current society, especially among its variations and alternative forms such as polygamy, group marriage, gay marriage, serial monogamy, Boston marriage, common-law marriage, covenant marriage, and many others.
My theory, pre-investigation (or, my uninformed opinion):
Marriage "worked," historically, because it had to. (Unfortunately), a woman rarely had much say in who she wound up with, held a blatatly established subservient role within the union, and tended to have no way out, or even a way to survive if she were for some reason tossed out. Love had little, if anything, to do with it.
However, as women became a bit more independent, over time, our culture came to regard marriage as less of a necessity and more of a mere economic strategy (as far as the most logical way to pool incomes and successfully raise a family)--and eventually even less of that than the acknowledgement of the undying love between to people.
This is where the problem comes in. Love, in the romantic sense, does tend to die, sometimes peaceful deaths, sometimes quite horrendous ones--but die nevertheless. I'll go so far as to say this is not always the case, but it is so often enough for "true love" to concern me as the primary basis upon which a society's worth of people (cl)aim to maintain an eternal union. Marriage only "works" if the couple is true to the vows it declared and sticks together anyway, beyond the faded romance. It's the classic internal struggle between practicality and passion, and there's something to be said for either. However, marriage is not for the passionate, but for the practical, and that "love" thing is something altogether different.
I have nothing against marriage, per se. I have nothing against the pusuit of true love. But I am very much against the assumption that the two are necessarily and directly related to one another. From what I've observed they're two different pursuits.
Yet people with either motivation take the exact same vows and violate them with no regard.
Thus, I propose, at the very least, that an ambitious couple not blindly and irresponsibly promise to forever uphold a set of vows that have nothing at all to do with them. People should take that option to write their own vows a bit more seriously, and sit down and very honestly and realistically consider what they can offer and what they absolutely must have in return so that there is no misunderstanding when they join in the name of "forever."
Speaking on this, I realize that I sound like the ultimate cynic and bitter spinster, and this is why I must research this subject. I must know to what extent my suspicions are warranted, and to what extent I simply enjoy attacking the masses, with little motivation.