Love and marriage

i’m stuck. i’ve been stuck at 3 of 10 pages of my comparative-historical sociology final paper for a while now. but i’m hoping me rambling about it will help. enjoy…

my own romantic notions of marriage have mostly come from all the films, books, music, poems i’ve consumed in my 21 years of life. i’ve seen it in my parents; in my cousins’ relationships; in fantasizing marriage in my own relationships. but where do their notions of marriage come from? if it comes from similar sources as mine, then marriage has transformed since the beginning of time, just like a simple sentence transforms through a game of telephone: everyone tells its story in their own words, with endless different versions. so how do i know that my notion of marriage is the correct one? if marriage in the scope of romantic love is a social phenomenon, like i’m suggesting it is, then it must be that the original intent of marriage was not for romance.

first, what is the purpose of marriage? in contemporary American society, it’s safe to say that we all equate marriage with love. most of us are searching for the one to spend the rest of lives with under the safe umbrella of marriage: someone compatible, a lifelong companion, an ultimate complement. marriage therefore serves as the official seal to put on an everlasting loving relationship. in other words, love comes before marriage. and this makes sense – in our learned American way of thinking.

consanguineous marriages – marriages between cousins – along with arranged marriages counter our Romantic visions of marriage, where love largely comes after marriage. both consanguineous and arranged marriages still persist today, particularly in south asia, some parts of china, and the middle east. scholars claim they strengthen alliances between families, minimize incompatibility between marriage partners and their families, and better the families’ social and economic statuses. these, among many other reasons, justify why such marriages still persist in the 21st century despite the invasive ideals of modernization. in this game of telephone, love is not an important factor in marriage, at least not in the initial search for a marital partner.

consanguineous and arranged marriages are nothing new, but we look down on them as backwards and counter-progressive, thanks to our god complex as Americans. but stripped down to its most basic and most essential structure, this idea of marriage works. if it has persisted this long, even through modernization, something about it is right. i’m not saying i’d marry my cousin but by all means, if you want to go ahead. but the point is, the search for a marital partner is not always going to be about love. there are marriages in our contemporary world that persist without it.

so my question is, how has love before marriage become so essential in our American life?

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