A Brief History of
The institution of
marriage has had a long and sordid history. Not always referred to as
marriage, which is a word from the 14th century French (marier)
to marry, this sacred state had slipped through history under many
guises and forms.
describes a union of male and female or (today) same sex couples, so
long as the partners are only sleeping with each other. Until only
recently in the long history of humankind, marriages were arranged
according to lineage and economics. Kingdoms united through members of
each royal family. Countries aligned with arranged partnerships.
Bloodlines blended throughout history, in the belief that it made them
more royal or enduring. Arranged marriages in tight royal bloodlines,
often came about because of the sometimes humiliating and always
detrimental outcome of too much inbreeding in a family line. Try as they
might, attempting to keep the blood pure was not conducive to strong
Polygamy – is the
practice of one man or woman with several spouses of the opposite sex.
Often, the need for this type of arrangement came from times of
war, plague or other disaster. Women left with children and no husband
to provide for them were taken as second wives to a brother-in-law or
other adequate provider. The idea of multiple spouses as a show of love
was virtually unheard of.
Polyamory – is a
multiple-partnered marriage whereby the partners get together out of
love. Polyamory was sometimes practiced in the Polynesian Islands prior
to missionaries and their stodgy ideas of Christian marriage. In these
areas, the expression of sex and desire was a gift given by the gods to
ensure a strong race. Just as much of the parenting was done in a
communal type atmosphere with many mothers and many fathers, so too,
were the relations that developed among members of the village.
Partnering with one person was entirely foreign to this area, as with
many areas of the world.
Common-Law – is the
relationship of a couple without legal ceremony or license.
For most of
mankind’s “civilized” history, a woman was considered a possession
of first her father and then her lawful husband. She had little voice in
where they lived, what her husband did and her own duties. She
(post-Christianity) must devote herself to her husband, family and
faith. Aside from that, her time was her own.
exceptions. Many countries, prior to Christianity or missionary
outreach, believed the women to be the spiritual advisors, warriors on
equal footing and often times judge and jury. Women’s councils were
commonplace, for everything from healing and midwifery to dream
interpretation for the community.
The ancient world had
practices that set women up as trophies of war, competition and feats of
strength or bravery. Like a gold statue, a chariot, a horse, farmland or
other prize, officers and victors were awarded wives into the bargain.
Armies would often return home with women as booty from a raid or battle
won. These women were either enslaved or married off to the soldier who
brought her home.
rose to their peak during the Victorian period in British history. The
Puritans moved marriage to a point where love counted and delighting in
the state of marriage became commonplace, yet extremely committed. The
Victorian period dragged marriage into the closet. Sex was something
embarrassing and improper with a quiet understanding that married
couples engaged in marital relations, without pleasure and as duty and
Until as recently as
twenty years ago, in some areas of North America women still needed a
husband’s signature to obtain a credit card or mortgage. As in ancient
Rome, women went shopping in the marketplace, but they carried no money.
They had a manservant to carry it for them. Things have certainly
changed. You don’t see many manservants in the local supermarket.