American journalist Mignon McLaughlin said, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” Today, we believe that romantic love should be the foundation on which two people lay down the blueprints of a lifetime of togetherness. If there’s romance in marriage, all else will or should fall in place. But things were not so simple for our ancestors.
While marriage has existed as a central element of life in nearly every global culture in recorded history, in none of them, till at least very recently, did people marry for love… Especially romantic love. For thousands of years, marriage had done well not because of love but despite it. Love has always been considered too insufficient and weak a reason to marry.
Looking back at our journey will make us realize just how far we’ve come. Our perception of love has undergone a significant change in the last two centuries. Let’s take a stroll in the lanes of history and answer a very important question – is romance in marriage really that important?
Romance And Marriage – A History Lesson
“In 1800, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous,” said Eli Finkel, lead author of the study on marriage and professor of psychology at Northwestern University. “That isn’t to say that people didn’t want love from their marriage; it just wasn’t the point of marriage.” It was desirable for love, or at least affection, to develop after a couple was wed.
Love was not the main thing that people took into account while deciding when and whom to marry. Practical considerations always overrode emotional notions during decision-making. Simply put, a spouse was not the primary individual with whom one built an emotional connection. But if there was no romance in marriage, how did people foster intimate and meaningful relationships?
A Quick Recap: The Chronicles Of Romance Vs Marriage
A courtesan or concubine filled the role of an emotional and sexual partner. Here’s an interesting fact: in the 12th and 13th centuries, the European aristocracy viewed extramarital affairs as the highest form of romance, untainted by the gritty realities of daily life. Where the daily grind existed, love could not! A person’s partner (outside the marriage) was an escape from mundane routines and hassles.
In ancient India, falling in love before marriage was considered a disruptive, antisocial act. Matrimony was an arrangement, an alliance, and a partnership that could not rest on love. And this belief was not just confined to the Indian subcontinent. In some Chinese dialects, a term for love didn’t traditionally apply to feelings between husband and wife: it was used to describe an illicit, socially disapproved relationship.
Both, the ancient Greeks and medieval Europeans thought lovesickness was a type of insanity; that it was almost indecent to love a spouse too ardently. Our predecessors widely agreed upon the incongruence between romance and marriage. But this begs an important question. What was the problem with romantic marriages?
Related Reading: 7 Benefits Of Love Marriage Over Arranged Marriage
But What’s The Problem With Loving Your Spouse?
Love and marriage were once widely regarded as incompatible with one another for all practical reasons. If we are to put it simply, no romance in marriage was a much safer bet. Here’s why our predecessors perceived love in marriage to be a poor decision…
Reason vs Emotions
Marriage demanded a calm head on two shoulders working in unison. It required managing and adjusting to another set of agendas and priorities, day after day, and year after year in Herculean toil. Spouses allotted their individual selves or what was between them in the lower case of significance.
On the other hand, passionate love demanded intense emotional involvement, asking the two involved to prioritize each other. And by its very nature, love was an all-consuming emotional storm, fleeting and prone to fade eventually. When the rosy glow of passion would subside, what would the couple do?
Because we know, even today, that love is not enough for a happy marriage. There are many other traits that make a marriage successful. Respect, support, trust, communication, and compromise are equally (if not more) important. Imbibing romance in marriage threatened the solidity of the institution. Getting carried away by the whims of the heart was a strict no-no.
Stability vs Spontaneity – Why romantic marriages were inadvisable
The certainty and security that marriage demanded were antithetical to the mystery and adventure that romantic love thrived on. Where marriage demanded logic, rationality and arrangement, romantic and passionate love lived on anarchy, arbitrariness, and chaos. Marriage demanded commitment and obligations; passionate love considered anything not arising out of its own center as unworthy of keeping up with.
While marriage wanted safety and stability, passionate love needed danger and life on the edge. Spontaneity was the driving force of passion. Hence, a ‘married romance’ seemed like an impossibility. As late as the 18th century, the French philosopher Montaigne wrote, “Any man who was in love with his wife was a man so dull that no one else could love him.”
The Countess of Champagne echoed the same sentiment when she wrote, “Love cannot exert its powers between two people who are married to each other.” How strange these beliefs seem to us who place romance on a pedestal. It’s time to come back to the present and understand why we don’t think of love and matrimony as contradictory. Why is romance necessary for marriage to us?
Related Reading: 6 Facts That Sum Up The Purpose Of Marriage
Why Do We Value Romance In Marriage Today?
If our forebears got a glimpse of the way we conduct our relationships, they would be aghast, to say the least. We have dismantled the dichotomy of romance vs marriage quite neatly. Today, love in marriage is an important quality that is cherished. We know that romance has much more to it than gestures of affection; it is deeply entwined with the fundamentals of commitment in a marriage.
Things cannot be separated into watertight compartments in a relationship. It’s a simple rule really – everything affects everything. To illustrate this better, we’ve listed a few reasons which explain the value of love. They answer the question, “Why is romance necessary for marriage?”
Romance is a beautiful expression of gratitude. A gesture that says, “I appreciate everything you do for me. This is my way of showing how important you are in my life.” Even uncommon romantic gestures like making breakfast go a long way in making one’s partner feel loved. Gratitude is the cornerstone of a happy relationship.
When romance and marriage mix, partners are in tune with each other. The conscious effort romance demands is good for matrimony. You keep learning new things about your spouse and this keeps the relationship fresh. This is precisely why we work toward “keeping the spark alive” in long-term connections.
Trust is built by virtue of romance in marriage. Gestures of affection make one’s partner feel secure in the relationship. They act as an anchor, strengthening the bond between the two individuals involved. We know what our ancestors didn’t – those seemingly little things have a deep impact on the couple’s dynamic.
Married romance ensures healthier patterns of communication. When conversations are laden with empathy and kindness, forgiveness becomes easier as well. Whenever the couple has a disagreement, they strive toward peaceful conflict resolution, not shouting matches or outbursts. A battle of egos rarely occurs when there’s love in marriage.
Do you understand why our perception of marriage has altered so much? If there’s no romance in marriage, there won’t be any gratitude, trust, involvement, or communication either. The olden ways worked for our ancestors but they’re definitely not compatible with the contemporary arenas of dating and marriage.
Romance was not the primary criteria for marriage as recently as the 19th century. The notion of romance in marriage has evolved over time. We now consider love to be an indispensable aspect of matrimony. Romance is important because it fosters qualities like gratitude, involvement, trust, and communication.
A couple tends to function on individual trajectories with little regard for one another. Their communication deteriorates and they descend into unhealthy tendencies. Moreover, support and trust falter in the absence of romance in marriage. In a nutshell, marital disputes become more frequent and escalate quickly.
That depends on one’s definition of ‘work’. Many relationships operate without romance but it is difficult to ascertain how qualitative they are. Romance is linked with other qualities like support, trust, communication, and gratitude. In the absence of it, the partner might not share as deep or meaningful a bond.