Love, for most of us, is a very personal concept. We believe that although what we feel is universal, it is at the same time customized specifically for us and towards the person that our love is aimed at. The truth is that the concept of love itself is relatively new — at least when looking at it as a part of human culture.
The first to give romantic love a name were the Greeks, calling it "Eros." However, romantic love didn’t actually become a popular concept until the medieval ages. During this period of roughly 1,000 years, the concept of romantic love formulated and spread through European culture, but nevertheless was not yet considered to be necessary for marriage; only during the Victorian period did romantic love become a prerequisite for marrying someone.
So if not for love, for what reason did people marry? Originally, marriages were not by choice, but rather by arrangement or by capture. When men raided other villages, they would capture the women and take them as brides. Even more common were marriages formed in order to strengthen business relationships or to create political alliances.
Dowries were also strong motivators, but until the 5th century, the idea of loving someone and marrying them for this sole purpose was unheard of. Romantic love, which fully blossomed during the Victorian Era during the 19th century, has basically remained an important concept in western culture today.
Nevertheless, the concept of the relationship between a man and woman has changed. Overlooking the whole gay marriage movement, the concept of marriage itself has begun to change. Nowadays many believe marriage to be a rather archaic concept, one that no longer fills a cultural void.
Tradition has in the past played a significant role in cultures all over the world. While in many parts of the world, tradition remains the main guiding light, in the most developed countries the importance of tradition has dwindled and the tradition of marriage, specifically, has begun to transform.
Peoples’ ideals have shifted and a culture that was once focused on family and togetherness now revolves around the concept of independence. The priority of human beings for centuries has been to begin a family — to procreate. That, I believe, is no longer the case — generally.
Most people — especially those living in an urban setting — have shifted their focus from the family ideal to a more egocentric way of thinking and of living. While during the Victorian Era, many found the idea of finding a lover and starting a family to care for as their sole purpose in life, many of today’s youth shudder at the idea.
If we look at this closely, we will notice a pattern: our culture is slowly cycling back to the days prior to the Medieval period; we are resorting back to the days when our focus was on ourselves. The main difference is that during those days of yonder, marriage brought with it many monetary and/or political gains. Today, marrying to get ahead in life is rare.
Because our culture focuses so much on independence and on self-improvement, many people prefer to make their fortune themselves rather than marry into it. Not to mention that the richest of the rich tend to carry a prenup in their back pocket, just in case.
If you aren’t going to marry for profit, then you will marry for happiness. This, however, brings another problem. The current dominant view on marriage is that it leads to tension within the relationship, leading to a separation and much unhappiness.
We love our freedom and tying the knot leaves us feeling tied down. If we look at the divorce rate, we will notice that this idea is not so farfetched. I honestly believe that marriage is becoming such a deterrent because people are becoming more and more afraid of divorce.
Divorce causes pain, misery, monetary loss and is seen as a significant setback to living a happy life. So, we are beginning to avoid the possibility of divorce by avoiding marriage altogether. This is not to say that we are boycotting relationships. We do and always will date — what passes for dating these days is rather sad, but I will try to refrain from going off on this tangent.
The main problem that I see with the way most of us are living our lives these days is that while we cherish our independence and prefer to focus on bettering ourselves as people, we have been exposed to romantic love. For all of you that have experienced that magic of falling in love, you will surely agree that there is no other feeling like it in the world.
Our culture still focuses on romantic love and for this reason it is embedded in our minds. I don’t believe this is a bad thing — we ought to focus on love. The only issue is that many people get lost in their independence. They live alone for so long, that the idea of marriage and finding love seems to become an impossibility. These people tend to resort to saying: "marriage just isn’t for me."
There isn’t a single thing about marriage itself that ought to deter anyone from getting married. All it is is a piece of paper and a promise. Those who resort to such line of thought rather not admit to themselves that they have lived alone for so long that they believe themselves to have become incapable of sharing their lives with another. Whether or not this is true, I cannot say for sure since I am not in this situation.
The one thing I can say is that love ought to remain cherished because it is the one concept in this world that remains untainted. As of now, our culture has resorted back to the days of pillaging — only that after we pick up a woman and use her, we don’t marry her; we send her on her way. Love can be a scary thing — or rather the loss of it can be.
Living in fear is no way to live. The concept of marriage fading doesn’t bother me as much as people avoiding love for the fear of being hurt or having to break a promise. You need a bit of pain and suffering in your life in order to experience joy and happiness.
Paul Hudson | Elite.
For more from Paul, follow him on Twitter @MrPaulHudson