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Related: adultery - divorce - family - law - relation - religion - romantic love

Instances: John Ruskin's marriage and divorce

Shortly After the Marriage (c. 1743) - William Hogarth

The notion that marriage is the proper outcome of the close personal preoccupation which we ambiguously call "love" is of course a modern one. The above canvas of a series of six satirical paintings known as Marriage Ó-la-mode painted by William Hogarth shows the miserable tragedy of an ill-considered marriage for money.

Edwin Long's painting Babylonian Marriage Market depicts the auction of girls for marriage. When it was first shown at the Royal Academy in 1875 it caused a sensation.


A marriage is a relationship between or among individuals, usually recognized by civil authority and/or bound by the religious beliefs of the participants. The fact that marriage often has the dual nature of a binding legal contract plus a moral promise, can make it difficult to characterize.

In one form or another, marriage is found in virtually every society. The very oldest records that refer to it speak of it as an established custom. Despite attempts by anthropologists to trace its origin (such as the hypothesis of primitive promiscuity), evidence is lacking.

In Western societies, marriage has traditionally been understood as a monogamous union, while in other parts of the world polygamy has been a common form of marriage. Usually this has taken the form of polygyny (a man having several wives) but a very few societies have permitted polyandry (a woman having several husbands). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage [Jul 2006]

Same-sex marriage

  • 2001 Same-sex marriage in the Netherlands legalized.
  • 2003 Same-sex marriage in Belgium legalized; Same-sex marriage in Canada introduced.
  • 2004 Same-sex marriage in the United States: a few local government officials in U.S. start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and a court ruling in Massachusetts comes into effect, introducing same-sex marriage in that state --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage [Sept 2004]

    The Romantic Quest

    by Gordon Rattray Taylor

    THE notion that marriage is the proper outcome of the close personal preoccupation which we ambiguously call "love" is of course a modern one. I can still remember the astonishment which I felt, at about the age of twenty, when I first learned that this conception had never existed in any other period of history and that it was confined, for all practical purposes, to Britain and the United States. At about the same time I became aware of Romanticism as a literary movement: if I had been asked to define Romanticism I should have done so, I expect, in terms of its lyrical quality and I should certainly have made some reference to the braving of physical dangers in order to win the hand of a fair lady. But why a rather short-lived literary fashion should have given rise, a century later, to a convention affecting actual behaviour, I had no idea. Nor could I have said why the word "romantic" was applied to it. The word "romancing" is sometimes used to mean fabricating stories which are untrue, and the implication is that they are wish-fantasies; so presumably a romantic marriage is the sort of successful love-match which we should all like to have but which few of us do. However, at this date, the idea that marrying for love and living happily ever after was not a thoroughly feasible proposition had scarcely entered my head; and the sinister suspicion that what I called "love" might be something which endured only as long as desire was frustrated had never occurred to me.

    Such are the defects of a system of education in which literary movements are discussed solely in terms of "historical influences" and with no reference to the general psychological and social trends of the time; and in which all reference to specifically sexual attitudes is rigidly excluded. This is a book about sexual attitudes and love makes only incidental appearances in it, but it is necessary to pay some attention to romanticism because it reflects a psychological shift of attitude of just the sort which we have been discussing. It represents, in fact, a movement towards matrism; a rather abortive movement, it is true, since it occurred at a time when the majority of persons, after a chaotic period in which little introjection had taken place, were moving towards patrism.

    [B]locked of outlets, Romanticism turned more and more to fantasy: the Gothic horrors of the Castle of Otranto were succeeded by the echoing caverns of Xanadu. And since growing public Puritanism denied the frank expression of libidinal motifs, the imagery became more and more generalised and more and more allusively sexual. Nineteenth's century poetry is full of waves beating on rocks: the alternatives are an infantile pretence that babies are found under gooseberry bushes or a retreat to the unpublishably pornographic. And since we have seen how, in periods of repression, the death instinct becomes excited by the repressed libido, it is not surprising to find a prolonged Romantic Decadence. The Movement which started-out with such noble hopes, terminates in the degraded attempt to gain an extra 'frisson' from perversion. If the doctrine that one must feel powerful emotions was responsible for such incidents as Byron's trying to wreck his wife's peace of mind by insinuating that he was living incestuously with his sister, and the Princess Belgiojoso keeping the embalmed body of her lover, Gaetano Stelzi, in the cupboard, the doctrine that one must conceal them was responsible for the even more depressing flagellatory poetry of Swinburne and the appalling sadistic fancies of de Lautreamont.

    Nevertheless, to the Romantics belongs the fame of having placed the ideal of romantic love within marriage on a respectable footing. It was a major achievement. --Sex in History (1954), http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/taylorgr/sxnhst/chap10.htm [Jul 2005]

    see also: marriage - romanticism - Gordon Rattray Taylor

    Love needs closeness, desire needs distance

    Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic (2006) - Esther Perel
    [FR] [DE] [UK]

    "Love," says Perel, "needs closeness and intimacy and familiarity to flourish. Desire does not. Desire needs distance, insecurity, novelty and surprise. Desire needs tension, breaches and repairs."

    "Love is not comfortable with fights, but desire needs fights," says Perel. "Fights generate energy, erotic energy - and this is not just desire for sex, but a general exuberance and vitality, an Úlan, an aliveness! We often judge couples on the amount they fight, like: "Oh, they have such a good relationship! They never fight!" And yes, I know of couples who never fight and do have a very good relationship - but they also have a sex life that is somewhat flat. Desire needs fights! Intimacy - that is, emotional intimacy - inhibits erotic expression. Desire needs edge!"

    "Love needs absence of sexual threat, but desire? Desire needs to know there are other options out there for your partner, that your partner moves out there in a sexual world when they are not with you, a world of other people who look at them, sexually. Love needs talk. Desire needs not to talk. Eroticism thrives in the space between the self and the other. In order to maintain a sexual edge in our relationships, we must learn to tolerate this void, these uncertainties."

    "I wrote this book," she says, "because, in 22 years of practice in six different languages, I've met couples over and over again who were having a good relationship, who love each other, but who have no sex, no tingle! I met couples who had a bad relationship, and who I helped to have a good relationship again, and the expectation was that the sex would just come back - but it didn't. I began to think there's something in this premise - that if sex is wrong, the relationship is wrong; and equally that more talk, intimacy and closeness will equal more sex, better sex - that just doesn't work."

    "Fantasy... is never politically correct, it's transgressive and about power, which is why it's so hot. It's about surrender, revenge, aggression, abandonment. You can transcend moral and social boundaries. But this idea that you should share your fantasy with your partner... I think that's very risky."

    "Talking is overrated. Especially talking to just one person".

    "I cannot stand this tendency to identify a victim and a perpetrator in an affair."

    "This idea that tenderness and emotional intimacy leads to good sex - I'm afraid it became current when women came into my profession." --via Click Opera [Oct 2006]

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