In her essay “The Radical idea of Marrying for Love,” Stephanie Coontz expresses her views on the evolution of marriage from its former survival and connection based purpose, to its now personal and emotional fulfillment motives. Coontz explains that in the past “it was inconceivable that people would choose their mates on the basis of something as fragile and irrational as love (Coontz 3). For most of history marriage was a mere tool for survival and political gain. Coontz provides several examples of such marriages motives but goes on to explain that in recent years, the focus has changed to a more personal motive. This shift of motives in marriage is primarily seen in Western societies and can be tied to the media driven idea of a “happily ever after” seen, heard, and advocated in a plethora of ways throughout Western societies.
Today, marriage is based on the idea of love. Before getting married, couples take vows to love one another no matter what until death parts them. This, according to Coontz, ensures that couples are getting married for emotional and sexual fulfillment (or Love), rather than survival and political gain. That is why it is believed that “married couples should be best friends, sharing their most intimate feelings and secrets (Coontz 20).
Love, Coontz explains, is not a new idea and it has been seen in marriages before. Even though many marriages in history were arranged, the couples eventually fell in love. However, the perceived view of love throughout history by philosophers like Plato and Aristotle has not included the love of a man for a woman. Quite the contrary, since love sickness was often seen as a disease or even weakness. However, today our society has evolved to become a radical community where men are no longer the “bread-winners,” but instead “homemakers” and the readily available birth control mechanisms have lessened the needs for polygamy and reproductive based marriages to one that is dependent on a choice to experience true love. Why else would someone choose to spend the rest of his or her lives with only one other person?
Coontz presents a great deal of information regarding the history of marriage that to my knowledge is certainly accurate. However, I believe that despite the fairytale movie “happily ever after” endings there are not any marriages in any society that are truly based on love. First of all, the majority of all marriages are still based on survival and political or financial gain. Coontz oversimplifies the argument by not stating that today there is a combination of the traditional and new motives for marriage. Furthermore, Coontz’s conclusion is drawn on very little evidence or she makes a hasty generalization (Coontz 32).
According to Coontz, Western societies have evolved to view marriage for its personal fulfillment based on some surveys and certain pieces of evidence. However, Coontz fails to take into account the number of prenuptial agreements that are signed by couples or even the existence of such a document. Moreover, Coontz does not mention the divorce rate, in this country where people either don’t know what true love is or they don’t get married for true love.
Personally, a majority of marriages in western society is based on financial and status gain; why else does a twenty-five year beauty marry a seventy-year-old man? Or why does every politician get married? Or an aspiring entertainer marries an old or less qualified partner simply because they are famous? Maybe it is because marriages are still used to gain connections, money, and power. True love has started to become less and less the reason for marriage in our society and it all boils down to one thing; do we know what true love really is?