Sunday, 5 August 2012

Love and Marriage in the time of Liberalism

A brief hiatus on the blog, but this post required a bit more research than normal, amongst other factors. But I don't believe in not finishing what you've started so here goes (hopefully I'll publish before Murray gets back on in the mixed doubles - edit: well nearly)

Recently I read this

"The combination of love and marriage is a phenomenon of a very recent history, and it's a volatile mix". In times past it was love and adultery that went together "like a horse and carriage". Marriages were arranged, wives were bought or traded. Such marriages were typically passionless, but stable... "

Marriage used to be an exchange of property - it was a way of tracing the lineage so as to pass property down to rightful heirs. Of course this in itself created a problem - as love was basically outside marriage (with a mistress or affair partner if you had one) then illegitimate children could cause a bit of an upset, as technically they could lay claim to your estate, yet, would have quite a lot of power if it came to exposing the fact that adultery had been committed.

".... The first change in this pattern came about in the sixteenth century when European scholars rediscovered the literature of ancient Greece, which described a democratic system in which the individual had rights, a radical concept in a world in which the individual hadn't even existed except as part of the collective. Still, the spillover into the arena of marriage was slight until the late eighteenth century..... The rights of the individual came to include the right to marry the person of one's own choice"

As Harville Hendrix* goes onto say, we haven't evolved as fast as the state of marriage has to actually deal with the consequences of falling in love and communication with each other - but that's probably a whole other post.

So, to move forward through evolution of love - thanks to Andy Connell (@andyconnell on twitter)** ;) I was informed that the practice of "Courtly Love" came about in France.

As described on wikipedia 

"Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration"

and elsewhere

The knight's love for the lady inspires him to do great deeds, in order to be worthy of her love or to win her favor. Thus "courtly love" was originally construed as an ennobling force whether or not it was consummated, and even whether or not the lady knew about the knight's love or loved him in return.

This is interesting as it shows that, even tho it wasn't always practiced between husband and wife, that there was the need for human beings to connect in such a way, and also to work for something greater than themselves. As the second link shows, courtly love may have come about as a way for second and third sons to find some way of expressing their desires without threatening social stability.

What is really interesting is that both the working for another's happiness (love) and also having the individual choice to choose who that other may be, could be competing interests, I suppose that's why it's such a mystery.

Anyway, back to individual rights - or liberalism. The rise of (especially French) liberal thought in the 1800s led to the change in thought about whether individuals deserved rights (liberals thought yes) and therefore the extension was why can't a marriage be a love match and people choose their own partners. Of course now there is more breakdown of marriage because in essence some people are poor decision makers - but I think it can be argued that choosing your own partner is progress

Which brings me on rather neatly to the concept of equal marriage. It's a natural extension of our wish to live lives that, as long as we don't harm others, we can do whatever we want to - be that fall in love, have a relationship with, or marry someone of either gender or sex.

So, you aren't at the Reading Festival (like me) and are in Manchester on the 25th August, give the Manchester Lib Dems a support at Manchester Pride :)

 *in Harville Hendrix's rather good book 
** who a little bit of research by you enterprising people should reveal has an interesting musical history himself...

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