Cover image for The book of marriage : the wisest answers to the toughest questions
The book of marriage : the wisest answers to the toughest questions
Mack, Dana.
Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Mich. : William B. Eerdmans, [2001]

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xvi, 620 pages ; 24 cm
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BV835 .B65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Couples spend an enormous amount of time and energy planning for the perfect wedding. But what about planning for the perfect marriage? In these times of rampant divorce and "relationship" crises, it makes sense to think seriously about the many challenges of married life that loom so large today.

Author Notes

Dana Mack is an affiliate scholar with the Institute for American Values, New York City, and is director of its Childhood and Adolescence Project
David Blankenhorn is founder and president of the Institute for American Values. He is the founder of the Council on Families in America

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Publisher's Weekly Review

Writings on marriage from sources both ancient and modern, secular and religious, aesthetic and utilitarian have been collected in a single volume by editors Dana Mack (The Assault on Parenthood) and David Blankenhorn (Fatherless America), both with the Institute for American Values. Intended for students and general readers as well as marriage and family professionals, The Book of Marriage: The Wisest Answers to the Toughest Questions includes cross-cultural sources (e.g., the Bible, the Koran, works of Western and Eastern philosophy, literature from around the world) that not only look at marriage in the past but that also offer projections for its future. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.



Chapter One EDWARD WESTERMARCK Moral philosopher and anthropologist Edward Alexander Westermarck (d. 1939) was born in Finland in 1862. His most important work was the groundbreaking three-volume The History of Human Marriage , a brilliant and exhaustive compilation and analysis of marriage customs and mores. In The Future of Marriage in Western Civilization , first published in 1936, Westermarck drew on his extensive knowledge of non-Western cultures, and incorporated the most recent social science findings on Western marriage to argue the survival of marriage as a primary sociocultural institution. The reader will undoubtedly notice that even in 1936, arguments for or against the "perpetuity" of marriage as an institution were politically charged. More conservative scholars defended marriage as fundamental to human culture. Many socialist thinkers, on the other hand, saw it as an artificial institution, which might, as society advanced, entirely disappear. The Future of Marriage in Western Civilization In my History of Human Marriage I laid down the rule that we can postulate the ancient prevalence of certain phenomena only if we find out their causes and may assume that the latter have operated in the past without being checked by other causes. So also we can predict future occurrences, with some hope of success, only if we may assume that the causes of such occurrences will operate without being checked by other causes.     This is the method which I am going to apply to my inquiry in this book. I shall deal with various aspects of marriage as they exist today, and by examining their causes try to find an answer to the question whether they are likely to survive or to undergo a change. Many of those causes cannot be properly understood without a knowledge of the past. Hence I shall repeatedly have to fall back upon my earlier researches in the history of marriage, when pondering over its future. I. The Meaning and Origin of Marriage In the earlier editions of my History of Human Marriage I defined marriage as "a more or less durable connection between male and female, lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of the offspring." This definition has been much criticized, and not without reason. We do not say that a man and a woman are married simply because they live together, have a child together, and remain together after its birth; and on the other hand, there are married couples who get no children at all.     In the ordinary sense of the term, marriage is a social institution which may be defined as a relation of one or more men to one or more women that is recognized by custom or law, and involves certain rights and duties both in the case of the parties entering the union and in the case of the children born of it. These rights and duties vary among different peoples and cannot, therefore, all be included in a general definition; but there must, of course, be something that they have in common. Marriage always implies the right of sexual intercourse: society holds such intercourse allowable in the case of husband and wife, and, generally speaking, regards it as their duty to gratify in some measure the other partner's desire. But the right to sexual intercourse is not necessarily exclusive: there are polyandrous, polygynous, and group-marriages, and even where monogamy is the only legal form of marriage, adultery committed by the husband is not always recognized as a ground for dissolving the union.     The sexual side of marriage is nearly always combined with the living together of husband and wife; a mediaeval adage says, "Boire, manger, coucher ensemble est mariage, ce me semble." Marriage is also an economic institution, which may in various ways affect the proprietary rights of the parties. Since ancient times it has been the husband's duty, so far as it is possible and necessary, to support his wife and children; but it may also be their duty to work for him. Even the Russian Soviet law, which does not compel either spouse to follow the other if the latter changes residence, recognizes the economic aspect of marriage by prescribing that the husband shall support his wife and the wife her husband in case the other party is necessitous and unable to work.     As a rule, the husband has some power over his wife and children, although his power over the children is in most cases of limited duration. Very often marriage determines the place that a newly born individual is to take in the social structure of the community to which he or she belongs; but this can scarcely, as has sometimes been alleged, be regarded as the chief and primary function of marriage, considering how frequently illegitimate children are treated exactly like legitimate ones with regard to descent, inheritance, and succession. It is, finally, necessary that the union, to be recognized as a marriage, should be concluded in accordance with the rules laid down by custom or law, whatever these rules may be. They may require the consent of the parties themselves or of their parents, or of both the parties and their parents. They may compel the man to give some consideration for his bride, or the parents of the latter to provide her with a dowry. They may prescribe the performance of a particular marriage ceremony of one kind or other. And no man and woman are regarded as husband and wife unless the conditions stipulated by custom or law are complied with.     In the present treatise I shall throughout use the term "marriage" in its conventional sense, as the name for a social institution sanctioned by custom or law. At the same time I maintain that my earlier definition had a deep biological foundation, as applying to a relation which exists among many species of animals as well as in mankind. I am of opinion that the institution of marriage has most probably developed out of a primeval habit: that even in primitive times it was the habit for a man and a woman, or several women, to live together, to have sexual relations with each other, and to rear their offspring in common, the man being the guardian of the family and the woman his helpmate and the nurse of their children. This habit was sanctioned by custom, and afterwards by law, and was thus transformed into a social institution.     Similar habits are found among many species of the animal kingdom, in which male and female remain together not only during the pairing season but till after the birth of the offspring. We may assume that the male is induced to stay with the female so long, even after the sexual relations have ceased, by an instinct which has been acquired through the process of natural selection, because it has a tendency to preserve the next generation and thereby the species. This is indicated by the fact that in such cases he not only stays with the female and young, but also takes care of them. Marital and paternal instincts, like maternal affection, seem to be necessary for the existence of certain species. This is the case with birds; among the large majority of them male and female keep together after the breeding season, and in very many species the parental instinct has reached a high degree of intensity on the father's side as well as on the mother's. Among mammals the young cannot do without their mother, who is consequently ardently concerned for their welfare, but in most of them the relations between the sexes are restricted to the pairing season. Yet there are also various species in which they are of a more durable character, and the male acts as a guardian of the family; indeed I have found that those species are considerably more numerous than I was aware of at the time when I first set forth my theory. To them belong the apes. According to most earlier accounts of the orangutan only solitary old males, or females with young, or sometimes females and at other times males accompanied by half-grown young, had been met with; but more recently Volz and Munnecke have definitely proved the existence of family associations with that ape, whereas it apparently never, or scarcely ever, congregates in larger groups. The social unit of the chimpanzee and gorilla is the family; but several families may associate and then constitute a band or herd, in which a mature male acts as leader. The family is asserted to be the nucleus of the society also among the smaller gregarious monkeys, never losing its identity within the herd; even the enormous herds of a species like the baboon consist of numerous families banded together.     In the case of the apes there are some obvious facts that may account for the need of marital and paternal protection. One is the small number of young: the female brings forth but one at a time. Another is the long period of infancy: the gibbon is said to achieve sexual maturity at five to eight years of age, the orangutan and chimpanzee at eight to twelve, the gorilla at ten to fourteen. Finally, none of these apes is permanently gregarious; even in the Cameroons, where the gorilla is particularly sociable, the herd scatters over a fairly wide district in search of food. These considerations are of importance for a discussion of the origin of the family in mankind. The family consisting of parents and children prevails among the lowest savages as well as among the most civilized races of men; and we may suppose that the factors which made marital and paternal relations indispensable for the apes also made them so for our earliest human or half-human ancestors. If, as most authorities maintain, on the basis of morphological resemblances, man and apes have evolved from a common type, there is no doubt that in mankind, too, the number of children has always been comparatively very small, and that the period of infancy has always been comparatively very long; and it seems to me highly probable that with primitive man, as with the anthropoids, the large quantities of food which he required on account of his size were a hindrance to a permanently gregarious mode of life and therefore made family relations more useful for the preservation of the offspring. There are even now savages among whom the separate families often are compelled to give up the protection afforded them by living together, in order to find the food necessary for their subsistence, and may remain separated from the common group even for a considerable time; and this is the case not only in desolate regions where the supply of food is unusually scarce, but even in countries much more favored by nature.     I have so far spoken of habits, not of institutions. But there is an intimate connection between them. Social habits have a strong tendency to become true customs, that is, rules of conduct in addition to their being habits. A habit may develop into a genuine custom simply because people are inclined to disapprove of anything which is unusual. But in the present case the transition from habit to custom has undoubtedly a deeper foundation. If, as I maintain, men are induced by instincts to remain with a woman with whom they have had sexual relations and to take care of her and of their common offspring, other members of the group, endowed with similar instincts, would feel moral resentment against a man who forsook his mate and children. And, as I have pointed out in another work, public or moral resentment or disapproval is at the bottom of the rules of custom and of all duties and rights. That the functions of the husband and father are not merely of the sexual and procreative kind, but involve the duties of supporting and protecting the wife and children, is testified by an array of facts relating to peoples in all quarters of the world and in all stages of civilization. Many savages do not allow a man to marry until he has given some proof of his ability to fulfill those duties. Marriage and the family are thus most intimately connected with one another. Indeed, quite frequently true married life does not begin for persons who are formally married or betrothed, or a marriage does not become definite, until a child is born or there are signs of pregnancy; whilst in other cases sexual relations that happen to lead to pregnancy or the birth of a child are, as a rule, followed by marriage or make marriage compulsory. We may truly say that marriage is rooted in the family rather than the family in marriage....     In no case ... could uninterrupted sexual stimulus, which Dr. Zuckerman regards as the sole source of the family with monkey and man, explain the male's relation to the offspring and the paternal instinct underlying it, which has been noticed both in the anthropoids and in other sub-human primates. Diard was told by the Malays, and found it afterwards to be true, that the young siamangs, when in their helpless state, are carried about by their parents, the males by the father and the females by the mother. Von Oertzen states that among chimpanzees the father, as well as the mother, defends the young in case of danger. The Duke of Mecklenburg tells us that one morning when he had shot down a young chimpanzee from a tree, an old male appeared with his mouth wide open, evidently inclined to attack him; he adds that old males "often accompany the families at a distance, but keep to themselves." Livingstone says of the "sokos" in the Manuyema country, which would seem to be the common chimpanzee, that "a male often carries a child, especially if they are passing from one patch of forest to another over a grassy space; he then gives it to the mother." Forbes writes, perhaps on the authority of Von Koppenfels, that chimpanzees build resting-places, not far from the ground, "in which the female and her young take refuge for the night, the male placing himself on guard beneath." Von Koppenfels also says that the male gorilla in a similar manner protects the female and their young from the nocturnal attacks of leopards. Burbridge mentions a case in which a great gorilla met death in a headlong charge to rescue his young. Speaking of the gorilla of the Cameroons, Guthrie relates on native authority that in one instance, when a band was attacked by two men, "the old gorilla of the band first got his family out of danger, and then returned to the encounter." Brehm mentions instances of the paternal instinct among some other monkeys. It should finally be noticed, with reference to Dr. Zuckerman's hypothesis, that the lasting association of the sexes among the primates by no means presupposes an uninterrupted sexual capacity, since similar associations are found in many species whose sexual life is restricted to a certain season.     When I first set forth my theory of the origin of marriage I had to oppose a view which was then held by many eminent sociologists, namely, that the human race must originally have lived in a state of promiscuity, where individual marriage did not exist, where all the men in a horde or tribe had, indiscriminately, access to all the women, and where the children born of these unions belonged to the community at large. I do not know that this view nowadays is supported by any English writer, but it has, to some extent, survived in Germany. Iwan Bloch says that recent ethnological research has proved the untenability of my criticism, that there can be no doubt whatever that in the beginnings of human development a state of promiscuity actually prevailed, that it even seems incomprehensible how a dispute could ever have arisen in the matter; and he quotes with approval P. Näcke's dictum that an original state resembling promiscuity can, in fact, be assumed a priori. He argues that since even in our time, after the development of a sexual morality penetrating and influencing our entire social life, the human need for sexual variety continues to manifest itself in almost undiminished strength, "we can hardly regard it as necessary to prove that in primitive conditions sexual promiscuity was a more original, and, indeed, a more natural, state than marriage." Now it is certainly true that the sexual instinct is stimulated by a change of its object, and that this taste for variety is a cause of much extra-matrimonial intercourse of a more or less promiscuous character. But the assumption that it dominated primitive man to such an extent as to exclude all unions of greater durability is warranted by nothing that is known either about anthropoid apes or savage men. When Dr. Bloch and some other authors speak of early marriage, they are too apt to overlook the fact that a wife is not only a cause of sexual pleasure but a helpmate, a food-provider, a cook, and a mother of children.     The main evidence adduced in support of the hypothesis of primitive promiscuity flows from two different sources. First, there are in books of ancient and modern writers notices of peoples who are alleged to live or to have lived promiscuously. Secondly, there are certain customs which have been interpreted as survivals of such a state in the past. As to the evidence of the former kind, I think it would be difficult to find a more untrustworthy collection of statements. Some of them are simply misrepresentations of theorists in which sexual laxity, frequency of separation, polyandry, group-marriage or something like it, or the absence of a marriage ceremony or of a word for "to marry" or of a marriage union similar to our own, is confounded with promiscuity. Others are based upon indefinite evidence which may be interpreted in one way or other, or on information proved to be inaccurate. And not a single statement can be said to be authoritative or even to make the existence of promiscuity as the regular form of the relations between the sexes at all probable in any case. That no known savage people nowadays is, or recently was, living in such a state is quite obvious; and this greatly discredits the supposition that promiscuity prevailed among any of the peoples mentioned by classical or medieval writers in their summary and vague accounts. Considering how uncertain the information is which people give about the sexual relations of their own neighbors, we must be careful not to accept as trustworthy evidence the statements made by Greek and Roman authors with reference to more or less distant tribes in Africa or Asia of whom they manifestly possessed very little knowledge. Nor can I ascribe any evidentiary value at all to the supposed survivals of earlier promiscuity. After a detailed examination of them I arrived at the conclusion that none of them justifies the assumption that promiscuity has ever been the prevailing form of sexual relations among a single people, and far less that it has constituted a general stage in the social development of man. But the hypothesis of promiscuity not only lacks all foundation to fact: it is positively opposed to the most probable inference we are able to make as regards the early condition of mankind. Darwin remarked that from what we know of the jealousy of all male quadrupeds, promiscuous intercourse is utterly unlikely to prevail in a state of nature.     ... Among modern savages living in the hunting and food-collecting stage, or at most acquainted with some primitive mode of agriculture, the family consisting of parents and children is a very well-marked social unit; and it is so also among peoples who trace descent through the mother. Its world-wide prevalence has more recently been affirmed by Professor Malinowski, who has an intimate personal experience of matrilineal savages. He writes: "The typical family, a group consisting of mother, father, and their progeny, is found in all communities, savage, barbarous, and civilised; everywhere it plays an important rôle and influences the whole extent of social organisation and culture.... In no ethnographic area is the family absent as a domestic institution.... It is an undeniable fact that the family is universal and sociologically more important than the clan which, in the evolution of humanity, it preceded and outlasted." If it exists universally both among monkeys and men, it would be a true marvel if primitive man had been the only primate who had been without it.     Theories concerning the earliest form of sexual relations in mankind have influenced speculations as to the future of marriage and the family. Socialist writers have tried to reinforce their social ideals by references to primeval sexual communism. According to Dr. Briffault, "every inference that can be drawn from the facts of social history shows that the inevitable consequence must be a tendency for marriage to revert from patriarchal to so-called matriarchal forms; that is, to a very loose and unstable association." I myself have been accused of attempting to justify the perpetuity of the family by representing it as the basic unit of primitive society. But it never occurred to me to regard the existence of the family in primitive humanity as a sufficient reason for its preservation ad infinitum . It is, on the contrary, quite obvious that the general cause to which I have traced its origin, the need of the species, no longer operates: mankind would not succumb if women and children now and in the future had no husband or father to look after them. Yet I think that the origin of marriage and the family has had some bearing on their continuance by leaving behind deep-rooted instincts which will help to preserve them, even though no longer necessary for the survival of the race. II. The Essential Elements in Marriage There are three essential elements in every normal marriage: the gratification of the sexual impulse, the relation between husband and wife apart from it, and procreation. The comparative importance attached to these factors has varied considerably. The primary object of marriage has always been sexual union, as sexual desire is obviously the primary motive of relations between the sexes among animals, even when these relations last beyond the pairing season till after the birth of the offspring. But among existing savages the aspect of procreation also plays a very important role. The desire for offspring is very strong among them. A woman is valued not only as a wife but also as a mother; and the respect in which she is held is often proportionate to her fecundity, a barren wife being despised as an unnatural and useless being. Pre-nuptial relations frequently have the character of a trial by which the lover ascertains that the woman will gratify his desire for offspring, and in such a case marriage is not concluded before the birth of a child or until there are signs of pregnancy. A very frequent cause of divorce among simple peoples is barrenness in the wife; and it is so not only where the husband may repudiate his wife at will, but also where his right of divorcing her is restricted. A man without offspring is an unfortunate being under savage conditions of life, where individual safety and welfare depend upon family ties, and the old have to be supported by the young. The childless man may even have to suffer after his death for lack of offspring, there being nobody to make offerings to his ghost.     For a similar reason procreation has assumed an extraordinary importance among the peoples of archaic civilization. According to Chinese ideas it is one of the greatest misfortunes that could befall a man, and at the same time an offense against the whole line of ancestors, to die without leaving a son to perpetuate the family cult; for it would doom father, mother, and all the ancestry in the Nether-world to a pitiable existence without descendants enough to serve them properly. Among the Semites we meet with the idea that a dead man who has no children will miss something in Sheol through not receiving that kind of worship which ancestors in early times appear to have received. Among the Israelites procreation was the chief goal of marriages. According to the Talmud "every Jew who does not occupy himself with generation is on a par with one who is guilty of bloodshed"; and all Jews desire to have a son who after his father's death can say the prayer on his behalf. The ancient Indo-European nations believed that a man's happiness in the next world depended upon his having a continuous line of male descendants, whose duty it would be to make the periodical offerings for the repose of his soul. The old idea still survives in India: "a Hindu man must marry and beget children to perform his funeral rites, lest his spirit wander uneasily in the waste places of the earth." In the Zoroastrian books we likewise meet with the idea that a man should marry and get progeny; the man without a son cannot enter paradise because there is nobody to pay him the family worship. Plato remarks that every individual is bound to provide for a continuance of representatives to succeed himself as ministers of the Divinity; and Isaeus says: "All those who think their end approaching look forward with a prudent care that their houses may not become desolate, but that there may be some person to attend to their funeral rites and to perform the legal ceremonies at their tombs." The ordinary Greek feeling on the object of marriage is no doubt expressed in the oration against Neaera, ascribed to Demosthenes, where it is said: "We keep mistresses for our pleasures, concubines for constant attendance, and wives to bear us legitimate children and to be our faithful housekeepers."     A very different view of marriage was introduced into Europe by Christianity. It was permitted to man as a restraint, however imperfect, on the sinful licentiousness of the sexual impulse. Said St. Paul: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." He said nothing about procreation. But the Church also admitted marriage as a necessary expedient for the continuance of the human species, and at the same time pronounced this to be the only legitimate object of sexual intercourse even between husband and wife. The procreation of children was said to be the measure of a Christian's indulgence in appetite, just as the husbandman throwing the seed into the ground awaits the harvest, not sowing more upon it. The Pope's encyclical of 31 December 1930 forbids the use of contraceptives on the ground that "the connubial act is naturally designed to evoke new life."     Among orthodox Christians of other confessions we also find, to some extent, the theory that sexual intercourse is justifiable only as a means of generation; but it is certainly on the wane. Some interesting information on this point comes from America. Dr. Katharine B. Davis, who carried out a study on a thousand educated married women and about a thousand unmarried college women, put to them the question, "Are married people justified having intercourse except for the purpose of having children?" Only a small minority (15.3 percent) of those answering definitely this question replied negatively. Dr. G. V. Hamilton put a similar question to one hundred married men and an equal number of married women, most of whom were well under forty years of age, residents of New York City, and classifiable as having attained a relatively high level of culture. He formulated it thus: "Do you believe that it is right to have the sex act for any other purpose than to bring children into the world?" Eighty-five men and 81 women replied, "Yes, it is right"; and 11 men and 12 women, "Formerly believed it to be wrong, now believe it to be right." Again, the question whether it is right to use methods for preventing pregnancy was answered in the affirmative by 89.7 percent of more than 1000 women belonging to the Davis group, and in the negative only by 10.2 percent. The enormous frequency of the use of contraceptives also bears testimony to people's feelings concerning it. The leader in the movement has been France, a largely Catholic country, where it started in the middle of the last century in the great cities and in the fertile districts of the south; and the proportion of Catholic women who apply for advice at Margaret Sanger's clinic in New York is only one percentage lower than the proportion of Protestant women. So far as England is concerned, Dr. A. W. Thomas wrote in 1906: "From my experience as a general practitioner, I have no hesitation in saying that 90 percent of young married couples of the comfortably-off classes use preventives"; and this rough estimate does not seem to be over the mark. In Germany birth control was very prevalent before the War, and has greatly increased afterwards. In the United States 74.11 percent of the 985 married women who answered Dr. Davis' question referring to the use of contraceptives admitted it, and 87 percent of the women belonging to the Hamilton group did the same. At the same time contraception has still many opponents also in Protestant countries, and not only on political grounds as lowering the birth-rate; in Denmark there seems to be quite a widespread feeling against it.     The use of contraceptives by a married couple does not, of course, mean that no children are wanted: it only implies a desire to control the appearance of children, their number, and the times when they are to be born....     ... According to Havelock Ellis, "most people, certainly most women, feel at moments, or at some period in their lives, a desire for children"; and in women the longing for a child "may become so urgent and imperative that we may regard it as scarcely less imperative than the sexual impulse." Van de Velde writes: "To be a woman means to have the desire to become a mother both physically and mentally." He admits that "there are women, and presumably always have been women, although their number may be relatively very small, who feel such a strong antagonism to motherhood that they refuse to marry for this reason"; but he adds: "The absence of the maternal instinct in the modern woman is really nothing but a pose. The maternal instinct exists in spite of this, although there may be only one child.... Where it really is repressed, because some women think it fashionable, or because of decadence, or love of pleasure, it will also be seen that such repression has its revenge sooner or later. A more than temporary repression of the mother instinct is, practically speaking, impossible." It may be that Bertrand Russell was deceived by that pose when he made the contrary suggestion that so long as women were in subjection they did not dare to be honest about their own emotions, but professed those which were pleasing to the male, and that consequently, until very recently, all decent women were supposed to desire children, because many men were shocked by those who frankly admitted that they did not desire any. He thinks that the desire for children is commoner among men than among women, and that in a very large number of modern marriages the children are a concession on the part of the woman to the man's desires. He even writes: "It is for this reason, rather than for the sake of sex, that men marry, for it is not difficult to obtain sexual satisfaction without marriage." He seems then to forget that marriage has other advantages to offer a man than the prospect of fatherhood and the gratification of the sexual impulse. But it is quite possible that though the desire for children does not play such an important part in the thoughts of men as it does with most women, nevertheless, as Popenoe observes, "the number of men to whom this aspect of marriage appeals strongly is far greater than is often realised." Among European peasantry it is certainly a powerful motive. The so-called Probeheiraten , or trial marriages, in some districts of Bavaria and the brutkoste of the Dutch plainsmen have in a large measure the purpose of testifying the woman's capacity for bearing children.     We now come to the third essential element in marriage: the relation between husband and wife apart from the gratification of the sexual impulse and procreation. If my theory of the origin of marriage is correct, this relation has from the beginning contained some degree of affection. In a species where the male remains with the female and takes care of her even after the pairing season has passed, it must be a feeling of this sort that accounts for it. We may assume that the tendency to feel some attachment to a being who has been the cause of pleasure, in this case sexual pleasure, is at the bottom of the marital instinct, and that the need of the species is the ultimate cause of the association between the sexual desire and affection, which is the essence of conjugal love. At the lower stages of human development conjugal affection seems to be considerably inferior to the tender feelings with which parents embrace their children, but we must not be misled by statements to the effect that among some savages love between husband and wife is unknown. However different the love of a savage may be from that of a civilized man, we discover in it traces of the same ingredients. I have elsewhere given a long list of primitive peoples who are by no means strangers to conjugal love, and among these we find even the Australian aborigines, who generally have the reputation of being the greatest oppressors of women on earth; many authorities attest that married people among them are often much attached to each other, and continue to be so even when they grow old.     Advancement in civilization has not at every step been favorable to the development of conjugal love. In a book containing the cream of the moral writings of the Chinese, and intended chiefly for children, we read: "A wife is like one's clothes; when clothes are worn out, we can substitute those that are new." While the Vedic singers knew no more tender relation than that between the husband and his willing, loving wife, who was praised as "his home, the darling abode and bliss in his house," it is said that sincere mutual friendship is rarely met with in the families of the modern Hindus. Among the Arabs, Burckhardt writes, "the passion of love is, indeed, much talked of by the inhabitants of towns; but I doubt whether anything is meant by them more than the grossest animal desire." In Greece in the historic age the man recognized in the woman no other end than to minister to his pleasure or to become the mother of his children; the love of women was only the offspring of the common Aphrodite, who "is of the body rather than the soul." Both in the East and in Greece progress in civilization widened the gulf between the sexes and tended to alienate husband and wife, because the higher culture became almost exclusively the prerogative of the men. Yet Europeans are apt to be somewhat mistaken when judging of the conjugal relations of Orientals. A factor which should be taken into account is their ideas of decency. In Morocco it is considered indecent to show any affection for one's wife; in the eyes of the outside world the husband should treat her with the greatest indifference. But this by no means implies that he is devoid of tender feelings towards her.     Many students of the psychology of sex have emphasized the unity and transfusion of the spiritual and the bodily elements in sexual love among ourselves. Havelock Ellis writes: "Love, in the sexual sense, is, summarily considered, a synthesis of lust (in the primitive and uncoloured sense of sexual emotion) and friendship.... There can be no sexual love without lust; but, on the other hand, until the currents of lust in the organism have been so irradiated as to affect other parts of the psychic organism -- at the least the affections and the social feelings -- it is not yet sexual love. Lust, the specific sexual impulse, is indeed the primary and essential element in this synthesis, for it alone is adequate to the end of reproduction, not only in animals but in men. But it is not until lust is expanded and irradiated that it develops into the exquisite and enthralling flower of love." "In human beings," says Dr. Beale, "the physical union of real lovers becomes the vehicle and symbol of a spiritual union which cannot in any other way be so completely effected or expressed. From the bodily coalescence of lover and beloved, from the thrill and ecstasy kindled and rekindled in that close embrace, the full mutual surrender and uttermost delight in one another, there spring emotions and sympathies that are quite unattainable save in this manner." Bertrand Russell remarks that the sexual instinct "is not completely satisfied unless a man's whole being, mental quite as much as physical, enters into the relation.... Love should be a tree whose roots are deep in the earth, but whose branches extend into heaven." Female writers also point out that the sex communion between husband and wife should be "a true union of souls, not merely a physical function for the momentary relief of the sexual organs," and that the complete act of union symbolizes and actually enhances the spiritual union.     Dr. Loewenfeld observes that sexual love is a complex emotional state which in its well-developed or, as one may say, higher form is composed of three elements: first, such as appertain to the sexual instinct, or, at least, instinctive elements originating in the sexual sphere; secondly, feelings of affection and sympathy for some individual; and thirdly, feelings of esteem, ranging from simple esteem to veneration, admiration, or even idealizing. He adds that the feelings of the last-mentioned group, if very strongly developed, tend rather to diminish the sensual desire, and may easily lead to a feeling that the beloved object is debased by any attempt at satisfying the latter. This takes us to the important fact that sexual love does not necessarily aim at the supreme satisfaction of the sexual impulse. This impulse is an urge to sexual activity which has its seat and its irradiations in the whole body and the whole psychic personality, being largely dependent not only on the external secretions of the sex glands (sperm and egg cells), but especially on their internal secretions or hormones. And it may lead to tenderness, affection, admiration, or idealization in regard to the individual by whom it is aroused to such a degree that it is itself pushed into the background. In a young person's first love the desire for sexual intercourse is often completely absent, indeed the thought of it may fill him with reluctance; and if he has a desire for such an act, it is directed to another person than the beloved one. On the other hand, when the sensual attraction has ceased to be felt, its spiritual effect may still remain unabated, as is the case in long and happy marriages where husband and wife are united by lasting ties of mutual love and tenderness.     Though love is frequently considered the only justifiable basis for marriage, material aspects have always played a very prominent part in it. Marriage is a community of life with everything that is implied in it, with common interests bodily and mental; as the marriage service of the Church of England states, it exists for "the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other," as well as for the procreation of children. In early civilization a man will have a female companion who takes care of his house, who procures wood and water, lights and attends to the fire, prepares the food, dresses skins, makes clothes, gathers roots and berries, and among agricultural peoples very frequently cultivates the soil; and a woman wants to have a protector and supporter. The various occupations of life are divided between the sexes according to rules, the formation of which has no doubt been more or less influenced by the selfishness of the stronger sex, but which on the whole are in general conformity with the indications given by nature; and so they have always, in a large measure, remained. Among ourselves, also, the desire to enhance one's own comfort and to have a home of one's own with a companion to look after one's interests, is an important motive for marriage. Love enthusiasts are apt to look down upon so prosaic a motive, and even declare that marriages should be continued only so long as love remains. But there is sufficient evidence that love offers no sufficient guarantee for a happy married life.     Economic considerations are certainly of great importance at the conclusion of a marriage. Poverty may cause much hardship to the couple, and may prevent them from having children, or if they have any, from giving them a proper education. Even some amount of wealth is not to be despised. It may increase the enjoyment of life in various ways; it may give the spouses leisure for some useful kind of work -- scientific, literary, artistic, or social -- which yields no pecuniary gain; and it may enable them to accomplish the education of their children. No wonder, then, that economic circumstances influence very largely the choice of a partner....     The three essential elements in marriage are all sources of much happiness. The gratification of the sexual impulse not only gives intense momentary pleasure, but exercises also a wholesome influence on body and mind, and may lay the foundation of that exalted feeling of love which is the chief condition for a happy marriage. The community of life between husband and wife may in various ways be a blessing to both. It offers many advantages that are denied solitary men and women. It is a safeguard against loneliness; it is apt to be conducive not only to material comfort but to spiritual edification, to intensified life, to fulfillment of personality. Children increase the happiness of married life both as objects of parental affection and as binding links of love between husband and wife. Their presence may even induce the parents to carry on their marriage when personal feelings between them would not do so. Divorces are considerably more frequent in cases where there are no children or only one child. In England, during the period 1899-1930, never less than 60 percent of divorce petitions concerned families with no child or one only, while between 38 and 43 percent came from childless families. In the United States almost two-thirds of the divorces are recruited from the 17 percent childless marriages, and an additional 20 percent of the divorces, or the majority of the remainder, come from that comparatively small category, the one-child marriage. In Switzerland, two-fifths of the total number of divorces are said by Glasson to take place between married people who have no children, though the sterile marriages only amount to one-fifth of the number of marriages.     But while those factors which we have now considered -- the sexual impulse, the community of life, and the presence of children -- may be conducive to much happiness in married life, they may also be quite the reverse. And it is the unhappy marriages that have in particular impressed those who nowadays speak of the decay of marriage and the disintegration of the family. Copyright © 2001 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Don BrowningEdward WestermarckTu FuGiovanni BoccaccioFranz KafkaSt. AugustineSt. Thomas AquinasDesiderius ErasmusWilliam BuckIsak DinesenHomerApuleiusZeami MotokiyoWilliam ShakespeareDerrick Sherwin BaileyJudith WallersteinEuripidesHiguchi IchiyoElizabeth von ArnimJames McBrideAristotleHsu Chun Ch'ienJane AustenJohn MiltonBronislaw MalinowskiGeoffrey ChaucerWilliam ShakespeareJohn Stuart MillGeorge Bernard ShawFrancesca M. CancianTs'ao ChihMartin LutherLeo TolstoyVirginia WoolfJoseph E. KernsMartin LutherGeorge EliotEdward AlbeeBill CosbyJohn GottmanSt. Thomas AquinasMartin BucerJohn LockeBertrand RussellJudith WallersteinMolly HaskellErik EriksonJohn BayleyGabriel Garcia MarquezEuripidesViktor Frankl
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Preface: Why This Book?p. xiii
Introduction: What Is Marriage? An Explorationp. 1
1. Why Get Married at All?p. 11
From The Future of Marriage in Western Civilizationp. 19
Genesis 1-4p. 34
"The Man with No Family to Take Leave Of"p. 41
The Seven Benedictions of Jewish Marriagep. 43
"The Fifth Day," from The Decameronp. 45
"The Judgment"p. 51
2. What Are We Promising?p. 61
1 Corinthians 7:1-39p. 69
"The Good of Marriage"p. 72
From the Summa Theologicap. 86
The Wedding Ceremony from the Book of Common Prayerp. 95
"Marriage," from The Colloquiesp. 99
"An Iron Net," from the Hindu Mahabharatap. 109
From On Modern Marriage and Other Observationsp. 114
3. Can Love Last a Lifetime?p. 129
"The Great Rooted Bed," Book 23 in The Odysseyp. 135
"Cupid and Psyche"p. 148
"Izutsu"p. 160
Othello, Act III, Scene IIIp. 169
From The Mystery of Love and Marriage: A Study in the Theology of Sexual Relationp. 181
From The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lastsp. 192
4. Should I Marry One of My Own?p. 203
From Medeap. 209
Judges 14-15p. 219
The Book of Ruthp. 223
"The Thirteenth Night"p. 230
From Lovep. 244
"A Jew Discovered," from The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Motherp. 254
5. How Do We Handle Money?p. 261
From Politicsp. 268
Proverbs 31p. 272
"Beginning of Spring--A Stroll with My Wife"p. 274
From Pride and Prejudicep. 275
From Paradise Lostp. 280
"Marriage"p. 287
6. Who's the Head of the Family?p. 295
Ephesians 5:22-33p. 302
"The Wife of Bath," from The Canterbury Talesp. 304
"The Man Makes and the Woman Takes," an African-American folktalep. 318
The Taming of the Shrew, Act III, Scene II; Act IV, Scenes I and IIp. 322
From On the Subjection of Womenp. 330
From Getting Marriedp. 338
"Gender Politics: Love and Power in the Private and Public Spheres"p. 341
7. What About Children?p. 351
Genesis 17-18:15; 22:1-19p. 357
Psalms 127:3-5; 128p. 362
"The Forsaken Wife"p. 364
"The Estate of Marriage"p. 366
From Anna Kareninap. 374
From To the Lighthousep. 387
8. What About When We Fight?p. 399
"For Better, for Worse"p. 405
"On Questions of Marriage and Sex: To Stephen Roth"p. 414
From Daniel Derondap. 416
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Act Ip. 431
"Your Beloved Foe"p. 453
From The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Workp. 462
9. What About Divorce?p. 479
Deuteronomy 24:1-5p. 487
Matthew 19:1-11; Mark 10:2-12p. 489
"Salvation," Book Four of the Summa contra Gentilesp. 491
From De Regno Christip. 493
The Qur'an 2:223-42; 4:35p. 497
From The Code of Maimonidesp. 500
Two anonymous Chinese reflections on divorcep. 510
From Two Treatises on Governmentp. 515
"Divorce"p. 520
From The Unexpected Legacy of Divorcep. 528
10. Will We Grow Old Together?p. 537
From Love and Other Infectious Diseasesp. 543
"The Voices of Our Informants," from Vital Involvement in Old Agep. 559
Elegy for Irisp. 570
From Love in the Time of Cholerap. 581
From Alcestisp. 584
From Man's Search for Meaningp. 594
A Word About Translationsp. 597
Notesp. 599
Permissions Listp. 615