Summary of “The Radical Idea of Marrying for Love”
In the essay “The Radical Idea of Marrying for Love,” Stephanie Coontz examines the history of marriage around the world and details its transformation from a necessity for the survival of society to becoming a tool for personal fulfillment and happiness.
For most of history marriage has been a tool of survival. Romantic love played little or no part in a marriage and was even discourages at times. Even today in some cultures monogamy and love are not seen as a necessary part of a marriage and seeking sexual and emotional satisfaction is the norm and is expected.
Modern western cultures believe in the dream of “Happily ever after” marketed to us nonstop in the media. It is believed that “married couples should be best friends, sharing their most intimate feelings and secrets. They should express affection openly but also talk candidly about problems. And they should be sexually faithful to each other.” Emotional happiness seems the ultimate goal. A happy marriage is defined differently throughout the world, but only recently have the emotional and sexual needs of the partners become emphasized .This formula seems exotic and exceptional when compared against a historical world view.
Survival of a society, from an individual family unit to an entire civilization was once the main goal. Forms of polygamy and co-parenting have been common occurrences if the chances of the family’s survival increased with the addition of another spouse or parent.
Political and economic motives have far outweighed many other rational for marriage. The idea of love wouldn’t even factor into the decision making. A courtesan or concubine filled the role of emotional and sexual partner while the spouse’s position insured the continued social or financial success of the family.
From the 1700’s forward social, economic and political changes in western cultures began to work...