When Did Marriage Become about Love?

When did Marriages become about love? For centuries, marriage was viewed as a practical
arrangement between two families. So, what changed to make love the basis for
the institution of marriage? So a lot of people across the U.S. have grown
up thinking that “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” But besides being the lyrics to the catchy
opening theme song of “Married with Children”, and a popular song by Frank Sinatra, I wanted
to know: when did love become the primary rubric for choosing a life partner? Now, before we get started, I would like to
point out a small disclaimer that this episode isn’t intended as an endorsement of any
particular type of marriage or as a negation of the wonderful institution of love. Rather, I wanted to do some deeper research
into how “love matches” became the ultimate sign of a healthy or strong marriage in the
U.S. and when we started to see the shift from marriage as the joining of two lives based
on the choices of families and parents, to marriage as a choice driven by love at the
center. Because even though love wasn’t always considered
the central criteria for getting married, today love is the key factor in how Americans
choose to enter into marriage, with a recent study showing 88% of Americans listing it
as a very important reason to enter into marriage, over the 81% who listed making a lifelong
commitment as very important, the 76% who listed companionship as vital, 49% who thought
having kids was key, and the 28% who thought financial stability ranked high marks. But as you can see from these numbers, many
of these considerations (love, companionship, financial stability) overlap, so even if someone
thinks love is key, that doesn’t mean that they consider it to the exclusion of everything
else. So to start of this week’s topic, we should
first ask ourselves: When did marriage start and what were the
primary rubrics for choosing a mate before love came into the mix? Well if you haven’t gotten a chance to watch
our episode on the origins of the Nuclear family, hint hint 😉 Here is a short recap
on the marriage portion: Marriage is a custom that dates back thousands
of years and is practiced in cultures the world over. And marriages haven taken a variety of forms,
including the arranged marriages sanctioned by parents, religious marriages, monogamous
marriages, plural marriages, and marriages that involved licenses and other legal documents
issued through the state or government. Also since divorce and annulment were considerably
less common until recently, either due to a lack of legal recourse or because of the
social stigma, marriages often lasted longer (although that doesn’t note whether they
were more functional, happy, and harmonious unions). But according to Stephanie Coontz author of
Marriage, A History, the love match is a relatively recent phenomenon in Western marriage customs. She says that “What marriage had in common was that it
really was not about the relationship between the man and the woman…It was a way of getting
in-laws, of making alliances and expanding the family labor force.” So not exactly hearts, roses, red boxes of
chocolates, and warm fuzzy feelings. But it brings us to our next question: When did love start being considered the primary
reason for marriage? Well according to Dr. Aparajita Jeedigunta’s
blog, some of that has to do with marriage laws and property rights. In early marriages in societies that established
property laws through children, Jeedigunta notes that monogamous marriages were a way
of legitimizing children, with men claiming their offspring and wives as part of their
household and “property” (charming really). This ensured that any family wealth was passed
down accordingly. But starting in the 10th century in Europe,
the concept of consent in marriage became more vital, with the idea that unions between
two consenting parties should be approved by a religious body and before God. So love before the union began wasn’t considered
the only focus, but consent and family approval often were. And the idea of a married couple growing to
love each other or providing companionship after years in a relationship wasn’t so
outside of the cultural imagination. It was just viewed as a potential part of
married life, rather than as a prerequisite of getting hitched. But throughout history people have gotten
married for a variety of reasons, and love was sometimes one of them. However it wasn’t such a common practice
in the West that it became a well known truism. That didn’t start until the 18th century
when the idea of marriages based on romance as an ideal started to slowly emerge. And this trend continued into the 19th century. Because businesses and factories weren’t
the only thing that the Industrial Revolution… well… revolutionized. As people began to move away from family areas
and into more densely populated cities, we saw the rise of Enlightenment era ideals that
focused on individuality and the happiness of the individual. As a result, in Europe and the US, some folks
were picking their own partners for the first time, rather than relying on, or considering
the larger family structure. So with people moving away from the influence
and protection of their parents households in order to make livings in large cities,
all of this new fangled Enlightenment talk about the individual as opposed to the group/collective
is theorized to have impacted marriage trends (which was followed by similar trends throughout
the Romantic era that centered inspiration, strong emotion, and the individual instinct). As a result, during the 19th century in areas
and countries such as Europe, the U.S., and Australia we started to see the rise in the
love match (and not just as words associated with tennis). Which wasn’t as long ago as we might originally
think. But this perspective isn’t universal. For example, a contemporary study of populations’
attitudes towards marriage in India, Pakistan, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Hong Kong,
the Philippines, Australia, England, and the United States by Robert Levine et. al found
that love isn’t considered the number one factor in choosing a life partner in some
contemporary Eastern cultures, whereas it ranked as the highest consideration in the
West. And arranged marriages aren’t a relic of
the past. They still exist widely across cultures, from
Jewish and Hindu matchmakers to celebrity matchmakers with reality TV shows. So how does it all add up? Well even though marriages being chosen based
on love is a relatively recent occurence in some countries, such as in the US, it still
doesn’t remain the norm everywhere. And while there is evidence that suggests
that love matches are more likely to end in divorce than marriages that are arranged,
we should take both of those facts into careful consideration. Divorce rates alone cannot tell us about the
happiness, or functionality of a certain relationships. So just because a marriage is passionate at
the onset doesn’t mean that it will last forever or that it will fall apart. And a marriage born out of love can become
dysfunctional or breed a love that lasts a lifetime. And although arranged marriages tend to last
longer, Coontz also notes that some arranged marriages can be coercive or oppressive if
both parties aren’t consenting. So while many people in marriages that are
structured around family approval, long term security, and shared values can lead to supportive
and loving arrangements and long term companionship, there are also instances of bad matches in
these cases as well. So if love matches and arranged marriages
both have their pluses and minuses, then, where do lasting marriages come from? Well this is a history show and not a love
advice show, but it seems that early configurations of parties giving consent is the easiest formulation
to see how to build a marriage with the potential to last. Marriages built around consent and not coercion,
where all parties have shared goals seems to be the real ideal here, whatever form your
actual marriage contract may take. So what do you think? Any evidence to weigh in on why or why not
the rise of the love match happened in the U.S.? Drop them below, and see you next week! Luckily everyone in our audience appears to
be on board with hand washing (that’s a big sigh of relief) so here’s what some
of you had to say about last week’s episode: Adam Marentes on Youtube pointed out that
the story about the discovery of the effects of the Helicobater Pylori bacteria on gastrointestinal
problems and ulcers is a pretty good case of the “Semmelweis effect”. Check out the links below for more info on
the two researchers who championed different methods of treatment, Barry Marshall and Robin
Warren. Thanks Adam! And Ryan the Raptor Guy (cool handle and page
by the way!) notes that geologists J Harlen Bretz’ theories and research about Lake
Missoula and the Lake Missoula Floods were often refuted by other geologists because
they didn’t align with his contemporaries. So the Semmelweis effect strikes again! Read more about it in the works cited section
and thanks for sharing Ryan! That’s all for questions, like, share, and
subscribe to all our content and remember: rub a dub-dub, when it comes to hands, be sure to scrub, and we’ll catch you next week!

About the author


  1. All the arranged marriages in my parents' generation either ended horribly or are currently in jeopardy. My parents met each other and have been together since '94.

  2. 5:37 if love isn't the defining factor for choosing a partner in Eastern cultures, I would be interested to know what the reasons are then?
    Very informative video overall! 🙂

  3. Love became the prime cause for marriages when; there was finally too many different lifestyles to choose from?
    In that the lifestyles effected the average etiquette, the morality, & personalities of those within their reach/ borders?
    With one religion, one set of rules, one culture, one set of habits; this would produce a population full of very similar like minded people, who cared about, thought about, & work towards the same things, in the same way. Emotions didn't need to play a part, therefore love wasn't necessary for marriages.
    Wasn't until times of peace, where people no longer saw survival as important as their personal happiness & could safely move away; comfort became to take priority over survival.

  4. I've noticed the symbol of a game that I have in my possession on your channel cover…Skull. That is the skull with a flower them. 🙂 But I know the story from the cover.

  5. Topic suggestion: why do we put vanilla flavouring in cakes, cookies, pies, etc, even when the goal flavour is for example chocolate?

  6. Don’t you just love trolls that watch videos to find the smallest thing to whine about? Great job by the way, you rock.

  7. I like your videos, however it would've been nice to see African images as well as European and Asian images of marriage in this video. I imagine your audience is multicultural.

  8. I've read Coontz's The Way We Never Were.

    The idea of love being part of marriage goes back a long time, but often simply as lip service. Look at Shakespeare history plays. Clearly not primary, but definitely there.

  9. I once read that arranged marriages are less likely to end just because of the social pressure associated with it. The partners won't even consider separation, because the shame or social disapproval that comes with it is worse than whatever nightmare of a relationship they have.

    Also I personally believe love matched marriages are more likely to end because both parties will feel that if their relationship is not the best they shouldn't be forced to be together. The freedom that comes with love matching also reflects in freedom of choosing when to end it, I think.

    But it could also be that people just become infatuated and get married quickly and then when they get to know each other they realize they never actually liked each other.

    And final thought, why does your life companion have to be your lover? I think it would be great if you could make some sort of contract with your best friend or something like that.

  10. I think arranged marriages work mostly because of the hopelessness of women. In rich arab GCC countries. Arranged marriages are still common yet the divorce rates are high. I think its mostly because women now have more freedom to reject their husband since they can be financially independent. If a housewife was to be divorced she’s most likely going back to her family and had to be reliant on them, unlike working women, also governments give many subsidies for divorced women and oblige the Ex-husband to keep spending on her if she has his children, mostly like child support. This is why modern marriages have high divorce rates not only love marriages.

  11. Very big thumbs up. Love marriages are emotion based. Marriages should be about wisdom and shared values and Love comes as a result of that

  12. Lucy Worseley has a 3 part documentary called "A Very British Romance" which details the rise of romance and marrying for love.

  13. IMO a lot of people don't know what they want and don't often make good longterm decisions. I think that's why divorce is so high, and why a lot of westerners are giving up on marriage altogether.

  14. Did anyone but me notice part of the background music being the overture to Mozart's opera "The MARRIAGE of Figaro"? 😉

  15. When I got married, the lady ask to my husband and I why we were getting married… we start to list many practical motives like "taxes", "good jobs", "like her/his family values", "support my dreams and ambitions" and the officer always said "what else?", finally we get to the part were we said something like "I don't know, love?" And that was the answer she was waiting for… after that I said "lady, if you ask us why we are getting married, we will respond with many practical and even economical reasons, but if you started with why are you two together, then we will respond with the romantic love part"… needless to say, this caused a lot of laughs

  16. Another factor that came from the Enlightenment in the 18th century was the rejection of caste systems (i.e. the hereditary division between nobility, commoners, etc.). With hereditary social status of families no longer a matter of law, it became much less important that one's mate be from a certain social class, which was a major driver for shifting the choice from one of "marrying into this family" to one of "marrying this individual".

  17. These days the girl you married probably has already had 10 ding dongs in her mouth, and all before the age of 18.
    You are basically getting a used car. That smell and itchiness you have since being married can be from a dozen guys that has been there before you.
    And vice versa for all those girls marrying these guys out there. 50-50 chance they are nasty and have a side chick, because throwing your rod in the same pond gets boring really fast.

    Just remember, sex can be very dangerous. And it might make you take a lot of medication for the rest of your life.

  18. There's a joke my father used to tell. (Simplified preamble: divorced Catholics are not allowed to remarry in the church, but confession can absolve all sins.) – A Catholic couple were having marital issues. A friend asked one. "Why don't you get divorced?" They responded, "Divorced? Never." Then thought to themself Murder? …Maybe.

  19. You guys OVER explain everything. You lost me at 41 seconds. You're supposed to finish with a summary…not START with it. And when you say "Before we get started…." That tells me to hurry up and click on another video. Get to the point. I don't need BS and rhetoric. Bye!

  20. Seems to cover only straight marriage, which isn't a personal concern of mine.
    Families don't normally get involved in gay marriage, it's usually up to the couple and IMHO generally involves some prior sex and cohabitation.
    I have no reason to suppose that gay folk choose their partners for the same reasons as st8 couples. The recorded history is quite recent.
    Lots of gay couples spend a life time together, married or not.

  21. When Christianity became the dominate religion in Europe, they change the concept of marriage. You needed the consent of females or the priest would not perform the marriage. You will find this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This actually elevated the role of women.

  22. I actually don't think that arranged marriages are that bad (As long as both people agree). But I guess that goes down to my personal definition of love, which is not a feeling in the least, but rather a choice to always put the person you love before yourself.

  23. Jane Austen's books are a good picture of the time when the idea of marriage as a love match was taking hold and things were transitioning away from the arranged marriage.

    Stupid Enlightenment ideals, bring back the good old days of the 17th Century.

  24. You have to remember that most of the history we hear about revolves around rich nobles. Just because something was common for nobles doesn't mean it was true of the general population.

  25. In Judaism consent for marriage was always very important. This is demonstated when Rivkah was asked if she would agree to marry Isaac. They made a point that she shouldnt go unless she wanted to.

  26. Love is an action not a feeling. The reason for high divorce is because people marry they people they love instead of loving the person they marry.

  27. Wherever women have their own money and access to education, there is less need and lessened necessity for marriage, period, plain and simple; and therefore the freedom to make the decision to marry based on love is such a privilege and even whimsical in a sense, not merely a luxury. Where women will be homeless if they don't marry or get taken in by other relatives when their parents are gone there is a stark necessity for marriage and I can image has resulted down through these few thousand years in billions of unhappy but tolerated unions just so a girl could eat every day … but I dunno.

  28. I think she's asking the wrong question. When did a marriage not become about love? Marriage has been about love from the very beginning.

  29. I think it's also been reinforced by mass media (e.g. movies, radio etc) and the growth of the romantic novel because many of those have "happily ever after" marriages and endings unlike real life.

  30. well, love is a set of emotions, and emotions change, so it is no surprise that marriages based on love are more likely to end.
    Some people just seem inclined to form lasting relationships than others, in some cases becoming a superorganism, in others, one becoming a parasite attached to the other. In the case of superorganism relationships, when one died, the other will often die within a few months.
    I think that the concept of romantic love started to enter the western world during the Crusades due to contact with Islamic culture, where it was common. In those days, war kept people apart for long periods of time, and that gave people plenty of time to pine over somebody who was not available, which was the ideal at the time, and often, in addition, that person was married so doubly unavailable, though sometimes infrequent adultery did happen, due to husbands being away at war for long periods of time, too.

  31. Marriage is both about love and family… Especially among mixed nationalities couples… There's love that binds the pair… But it takes a commonality to make it ok for both parties parents

  32. sooo entering a lifelong endeavor with serious implications for the next generation and yours based on temporary fee-fees? what could possible go wrong?

  33. I still think marriage should be practical to!!
    yeah love is great but a marriage should also consider the class of the person
    Why pass on a prince because you feel in love with the pauper ?
    Just putting it out there….
    Your mate should be able to take care of you and you him

  34. i come from a south asian background and was born and raised in australia, almost everyone in my parents generation had arranged marriages but now that my older family friends are starting to get married there's many more love marriages. of course with our parents still being against dating for the most part, some of my older family friends have actually pretended as if they hadn't been dating for 8 years before deciding to get married- then everyone's happy haha

  35. There's many forms of love and we over-simplify it into this one word. I see romantic relationships as different balances of these different types. My husband and I, for example, have always had a very high friendship and sexual compatibility, but not a very high romance/limerence factor. I think basing a life-long relationship on friendship is probably going to be more stable and less draining in the long run. 😀

  36. This only describes rich people marriages not peasants. They were free to bang anyone in their social class. Some of their unions only lasted until the kid reached a certain age and the parents could move onto someone else.

  37. I believe that TRUE LOVE should be the reason to marry. And I mean true love not passion. When you truly love your partner you want the best for them, so that will motivate you to become the best person that you can be for the one you love and you will work harder. Your partner will feel the same and do the same for you and in the end all desires, comforts and goals will be acquired together because they both care. In TRUE LOVE there is also mutual respect and more communication. There is an openness to work things out during difficult times and grow as a person together. You become a team.

  38. i feel like the target viewer for these videos must be about 12 years old. i swear down this is like the encyclopedia Britannica for kids

  39. This leads me to wonder about the "wedding night" tradition – has 'sex on the first day a couple was officially married' been around for ages, and if so, how often was it completed due to social pressures vs. desire or "consent"?

  40. The reason arranged marriages last longer than marriages that existed based on passion is because marriage was originally created for gains and built around one's partner being chosen for them. If you're crazy in love with someone and then decide marriage is how you want to seal it? I say you're confused.

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