Monday, May 02, 2005

Article & Book: Marriage & History

Stephanie Coontz writes in the Washington Post, For Better, For Worse: Marriage Means Something Different Now (full article in the comments):

Marriage is no longer the main way in which societies regulate sexuality and parenting or organize the division of labor between men and women. And although some people hope to turn back the tide by promoting traditional values, making divorce harder or outlawing gay marriage, they are having to confront a startling irony: The very factors that have made marriage more satisfying in modern times have also made it more optional.

The origins of modern marital instability lie largely in the triumph of what many people believe to be marriage's traditional role -- providing love, intimacy, fidelity and mutual fulfillment. The truth is that for centuries, marriage was stable precisely because it was not expected to provide such benefits. As soon as love became the driving force behind marriage, people began to demand the right to remain single if they had not found love or to divorce if they fell out of love.

The article summarizes her new book, "Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage." I haven't read the book, but I like the use of bad puns and duel titles, popularized by "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends."
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