Marriage has evolved quite a bit since it first began. In the early history of human relationships, marriage began as simply a contract, a way to tie two people, or more often, two families, together. Marriage was used as a strategic method of furthering a family’s reach; by marrying two families together each could gain power. Now though, marriage has evolved into a relationship built on love and teamwork.
Over the years, marriage has evolved into the “ultimate expression of love,” said Marriage and Family Therapist Dominique Rice from Ohio Marriage and Family Therapy. This is a far cry from what marriage used to be
For most of human history, marriages were almost always arranged by the families, with the couples often not even meeting before the wedding.
“The purpose of marriage when it first began was for monetary and political gain… for wealth and power,” said Rice.
Marriages inside of a family weren’t uncommon either. Oftentimes, whether it was to keep a royal bloodline pure, or simply because of proximity, people married their cousins, and sometimes even their siblings.
“I would say that cousins marrying cousins wasn’t uncommon among commoners historically speaking,” said history and psychology teacher Jamie Paoloni.
It was around the 17th century that marriages started to become more about the relationship between the two people, instead of just a bond between families. It was during the renaissance period that marriages became about romance, according to Live Science.
“Marriages during the 1600’s were romanticized. This is the period when marriages were about love, compassion, and intimacy,” said Rice.
In the 1950s, marriage was very popular, with most people getting married right after they graduated from high school, according to Marriage and Family Therapist Sujata Ponappa from Relationships[CW1] . There was a strong push for marriage, especially with young couples, with some people even believing it was wrong to be in a committed relationship but not married.
“In the 1950’s, marriage became [unofficially] mandatory. If you were not married it was viewed as the person was ‘sick’ or ‘immoral’,” said Rice.
Divorce was very uncommon. In fact, it didn’t become statistically prevalent until the 1970’s. Statistics show that divorce rates have significantly increased over the years. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of married Americans get divorced.
“[In modern times] many couples no longer attempt to work it out and if they are facing issues they choose to just break up” Rice said.
While divorce was on the rise in the 1970’s, marriage started to become less common, with people often choosing to marry later, or not marry at all. Couples began to live together before getting married, or as a substitute to marriage entirely.
“As college education increased and more women joined the workforce starting in the 1970s, the trend of delayed first marriage and cohabitation as a precursor or a substitute to marriage began to appear,” Ponappa said.
The marriage rate in the U.S. is beginning to decrease again. Millennials would like to marry, but prefer to further their education and build a solid economic foundation before taking the big step, according to researchers at Bentley University.
“A trend I see in relationships today is that there are many women who are choosing to remain single and put their careers first prior to getting married and settling down,” said Rice.
Cohabitation, in which an unmarried couple lives together, is becoming more common since the 1970s when it first became a trend. According to researchers at Bentley University, about a quarter of young adults (ages 25-34) are living with a partner.
“Cohabitation has become an alternative choice and often a replacement for marriage. As college education increased, and more women started joining the workforce in the 1970’s, the trends of cohabitation came about. Couples use cohabitation as a trial process for which they learn the give-and-take required in marriage,” said Ponappa.
Today, gender roles to play a major role in the give-and-take of marriage, although marriages have become more egalitarian than in the past. Egalitarian marriages refer to both gender roles sharing equal power and dividing responsibilities evenly. However, some traditional gender roles may still appear.
The dynamic between men and women and their respective roles in their relationship began to shift in the 19th and 20th centuries. Men and women began to take on more similar and equal roles in the relationship, especially as the women’s rights movement progressed, according to The Week.
“In today’s view of gender roles it is acceptable to play equal sharing of chores and other duties. [But] the division of labor is developed in a way that conforms to societal differences in sexes. Women take care of the children and the household chores, while men fix things around the house and works on the cars. This a pattern that sometimes develops within the marriage unintentionally and unconsciously” Rice said
Marriage has come a long way since it’s beginnings, and today marriage is no longer limited to being between a man and a woman. In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States passed a law legalizing gay marriage, overriding any remaining states that hadn’t yet legalized it. According to the Pew Research Center, there has been a dramatic shift in recent years in Americans’ attitudes about gay marriage, with support for same-sex marriage rising from 37 percent in 2009 to 57 percent in May 2015.
Along with same sex marriage, inter racial marriages are on the rise. In 2013, 12% of all newlyweds married someone outside of their own race – a record high according to Pew Research Center.
For some, it doesn’t seem to be as a big a deal as it used to be. Bryn Pride, a 2016 OOHS graduate who is half black, and Cory Deibert, a 2014 OOHS graduate who it white, became engaged over the summer of 2016. When asked about her interracial engagement, Bryn Pride said, “it’s honestly something I’ve never thought about. Those days are over.”
“Same-sex and mixed-race marriages are much more common today than [they were] 50 years ago,” Ponappa said.
Societal norms for marriage are ever changing and evolving, and the millennial generation is certainly impacting this by going about marriage in their own way, however they please – shaking up the typical time frame for getting married, the gender roles with in the marriage and much more.