Nowadays, when people think about marriage, they usually think of two people, deeply in love, who decide to bind their lives to live together. Unfortunately, that is not always the truth. There are many reasons other than love that cause marriage. Marriage has different meanings for everyone, depending on the era, the economic situation, and the culture in which they lived. But no matter what these different reasons are, the main idea has always been the same. People get married for the sake of security. This can be seen by looking at different types of marriages and finding the similarities underlying each. Although not many people are aware of it, one of the most common types of marriage was and in some parts of the world still is “Arranged Marriage”. “Arranged marriage is a marriage where the marital partners are chosen by others, based on considerations other than the pre-existing mutual attraction of the partners.” This method was practiced especially in noble families, where two different families came together and decided that the son in one family should marry the daughter of the other. (Arranged Marriage) Arranged marriages were done in order to combine the strengths of both families. It was like a pact between the families who, by this way shared their nobility, wealth and property.
Centuries later, arranged marriages are still common all over the world. The reason behind these marriages is the parents’ intention to make their children marry someone of their own class, someone ‘suitable’ for them. It is also, as in old times, a pact between the two families to share their wealth and help each other when needed. Therefore, arranged marriages do not mean ‘love-marriages’ mentioned in the common definition of marriage, but they are obligations that the children have to fulfill for the older people in their families. Although these marriages tend to last a lifetime, that does not necessarily mean that the couples are happy, and get along well. They usually don’t get a divorce; because they know that their marriage has much more profound meanings and purposes than their relationship only. This marriage is how the two families secure their business and therefore their property. Another type of marriage, which used to be common and is still practiced today, is “Catholic Marriage.” In a Catholic Marriage, both sides are free to marry whoever they choose. In this way it can be considered as a love-marriage.
What is different is that their intentions must also be religious. “They must intend an exclusive, lifelong, childbearing union.” (Catholic Marriage) Also, the couples who get a Catholic marriage, with the aim of serving God, also face a big problem. Contrary to the marriages we know of, since it is accompanied by divine ratification, creating an indissoluble union, no divorce is possible. (Catholic Marriage) This, of course, has always created problems and still does, if the couple later realizes that they can’t get along. But the couples take the risk, because of their desire to satisfy their obligations towards their religion and their God, by making a kind of marriage that is required by their religion. Such ideas apply to common idea in not only Catholicism but in almost all religions. Marriage also has a moral meaning for many people. When people get married, they are approved by the society; if they have kids, they are legitimate. Getting moral security is an important factor. It means a more secure life for the couple and especially the children.
Even today, when couples live together or have children without getting married, they are confronted with the harsh criticism and disapproval of the society. In order to avoid being ostracized, people feel the need to rise up to societies expectations. By getting married, they choose to feel secure in the place they live. Society is not the only institution that praises marriage. Governments have also established many regulations that show their preference for marriage. In the United States, insurance coverages are expanded in the two-parent families. (Helping Married Families By Expanding Parents’ Insurance Coverage) They have more privileges and opportunities about healthcare and property ownership. Furthermore, if one of the spouses dies, the other spouse easily gets the inheritance, whereas it is a much more complicated and hard process to claim the ownership of the wealth if the couple had not been married. By giving married people these kinds of privileges, the Unites States aims to encourage marriage, and they are many people who take these factors under consideration before they make the decision about getting married. Again, they want more security from the government or from their insurance companies, and they get it by marriage. As some of these examples of marriages already suggest, the most valid reason behind today’s marriages is economic security. Most couples are aware of the fact that if they get married, they will be able to share their responsibilities, spend less, invest and save much more for the future, and at the same time raise their children. (Whitehead)
They know that if one of them gets ill, the other one will be there to support her. There are many people who, if they did not know that they would one day need each other to help them, or if they did not want to be sure that the other person will be there no matter what, would only live together without feeling any need to get married. This idea of people living together without getting married, is a new idea which has developed with the modern relationships, in which both sides feel confident about their own economic situations. But even today in the most parts of the world, the economical situations of man and woman are not equal enough for them to risk not being legally tied to the other person, which means, there are still many people who think of marriage as a way of improving and securing their financial situation. In financially-based marriages, unlike the general opinion about the nature of marriage, love is not necessary, since the financial situation is the dominating factor. This effect can also be explained by looking at those people, mostly men, who can’t get married because they are financially not capable of taking good care of another person.
Every day, we see movies and read stories about young girls getting married to rich, old men, and about boys who can’t get married to the girl they love, because of their economic situations. Wealth is a factor which cannot be underestimated. It becomes more and more important everyday with the modern society where living a good life means earning and spending as much money as possible. People want to be sure that they will be financially comfortable and secure. This is what many people consider first, more than everything else, even love. But all these suggestions about non-love relationships don’t mean that they aren’t any. When Americans were asked about what they think causes marriage today, almost all of them gave the same answer: love. Not surprisingly, some non-Americans gave different answers, answers that we listed above. (Interviews) Since the genders are becoming more and more equal, and the people are getting more education on how to stand on their own feet in the developed countries, needs for financial security are declining. But in the newly developing or underdeveloped countries, old society norms are still in effect. With the development of capitalism and bureaucracy, the individual is being pushed out, as well as the ideas of religion and tradition.
Although people are financially more capable of leading simple lives, and even get more approval for it, what they need now is to fill the emotional gaps caused by individualism. Today in the developed countries most of the marriages result from love, or at least not from religious or traditional reasons like before, and like many countries still do. But, when looked at carefully, it can be seen that, love also is nothing but a personal need, a security. Marriage is a way that people guarantee to be loved forever; it is a way to feel emotionally secure in today’s individualistic world. In the course of history, marriage has taken on many different meanings, most of which it still takes on today. Most of these meanings have nothing to do with love, but mostly with other needs and obligations that are fulfilled through marriage. Although this is the case, the general opinion today is also not false. All the people who answered ‘love’ when they were asked the reason for marriage, represent the modern era, where all other effects are slowly declining, leaving love needs as the main reason. “As an institution, marriage has lost much of its legal, religious and social meaning and authority. It has dwindled to a ‘couple’s relationship,’ mainly designed for the sexual and emotional gratification of each adult.” (Popenoe)
These changes in the meaning of marriage have also lead to an increase of divorce and a decrease in the number of marriages. This is because more and more people are getting married just because they think they are in love, and then realize that they were wrong about their own feelings; and with nothing else keeping them together, they get a divorce. People commit themselves in marriages for different reasons for security, which can be emotional, social, financial or physical. People need someone who will support them, help them when they are sick or be with them when they become old. No matter what the reasons are, marriage means security, and security is what people want. Some of benefits of marriage are, “routine services (doing a load of laundry), other services (buying a birthday card for a mother-in-law), goods (a watch), verbal affection (saying ‘I love you’), physical affection (a backrub), emotional support (reassurance that all is OK following a spouse’s bad dream), and giving instructions (how to use a new computer).” (Noller) All of these are factors that make people want to get married, factors that cause people to feel secure about their lives. Putting together all the reasons discussed above, one can conclude that marriages, contrary to what is mostly believed, have almost never been only about love, until recently. And today, purely love-marriages can take place only in some of the countries, where the traditional norms have become less effective. Still, when looked at all different reasons, including love, it can be seen that there is one common idea underlying all: fulfilling security needs.
- “Arranged Marriage” Free Software Foundation, Inc. 2002. 24 October 2004 http://www.fact-index.com/a/ar/arranged_marriage.html
- “Catholic Marriage” Free Software Foundation, Inc. 2002. 24 October 2004 http://www.fact-index.com/c/ca/catholic_marriage.html
- “Helping Married Families By Expanding Parents’ Insurance Coverage: A Fact Sheet” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 25 July 2001, 27 October 2004 http://www.cbpp.org/7-25-01health-fact2.htm
- Interviews conducted with Middlebury College students (November 1st and 2nd) – Noller, Patricia; Feeney, Judith; Understanding Marriage, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2002, Chapter 6
- Popenoe, David. “The Social Health of Marriage in America” The National Marriage Project. 2004. 29 October 2004 http://marriage.rutgers.edu/Publications/SOOU/SOOU.htm
- Whitehead, Barbara. “The Marrying Kind: Which Men Marry and Why” The National Marriage Project. 2004. 29 October 2004 http://marriage.rutgers.edu/Publications/SOOU/TEXTSOOU2004.htm#Figure%203