Provided by Jaybird from The League:

Well, once upon a time, marriage was, in theory, a bargain.

The man would trade some amount of food and shelter in exchange for sex and reasonable assumptions of paternity of any children born. Love wasn’t really that much of an issue to the point where marriages were as likely as not to be arranged by parents (see, for example, Fiddler on the Roof for the dynamic that existed between Tzeitel, Motel, and Lazar Wolf… we, being modern folks post 60?s know that Tzeitel and Motel ought to get married!!! *dUh*). Divorce was damn near unheard of… only the French got divorced. There was a *HUGE* stigma to divorce. Huge. Like, you got divorced? You have to move because you’d be otherwise shunned. If you were lucky, you could move somewhere and claim to be a widow and MAYBE accepted by the new community. Maybe. The stigma was just that great.

Well, the personhood of women happened and that screwed everything up. Well, as society evolved and absorbed the lessons of feminism, marriage stopped being *PURELY* an economic bargain made by parents pimping out daughters to the best available John (will she be fed? housed? rarely beaten? Listen to the matchmaker song!) but an economic bargain made by the women themselves in response to the most skilled suitors. Divorce still carried a *HUGE* stigma… but folks got married, had children, and discovered that, for better or worse, parents were somewhat more dispassionate when it came to making these economic decisions…

Which brings us to 99.44% effective birth control.

Once children were no longer certain to happen when a woman married a man, the economic bargain became exceptionally moot for *HUGE* swathes of the “respectable” community. Hell, even if you *HAD* kids, you no longer had seven. You had two if you were Protestant and three if you were Catholic. This changed the dynamic and potential costs of divorce enormously and once we reached a tipping point where everybody knew someone who got divorced (and was better off for doing so), the stigma pretty much evaporated entirely.

Which brings us to the 80?s when it seemed like everybody’s parents were getting divorced. (I was in Middle and High school… it felt like every freakin’ month someone would come in absolutely wrecked.)

Marriage stopped being an economic bargain and became something that two people who loved each other and wanted to have children did and that became something that two people who loved each other and if kids happened, great!, did and *THAT* became something that two people who loved each other did.

And seeing soooooo many marriages end in screaming fights taught a lot of kids a lot of lessons about being a lot wiser about making the devil’s bargain of marriage. Ubiquitous birth control (and abortion) gave an out for a huge number of folks when, in the past, they’d have had a hasty elopement followed by the first baby being born two or three months “premature” (but still full weight! It’s a miracle!) and people who once would have gotten married at 19 were allowed to be people who just broke up at 20. No kids, no foul. Hell, there are even “starter marriages” now. People get married, figure out that 20 year-olds aren’t very good at making long-term predictions, get divorced, no kids, no foul… and, from what I’ve seen, a lot less acrimony than we saw in the 70?s and 80?s. (Seriously, hearing the grown-ups talk about their exes was like listening to New Atheists talk about Christianity.)

And now that marriage is pretty much a “no kids, no foul” kind of relationship, it only makes sense to extend it to homosexuals and, having done so, it *STRENGTHENS* the idea of marriage as a “no kids, no foul” long-term commitment. Indeed, even as the kids of divorce from the 70?s and 80?s are getting married, many are making different mistakes than their parents… and, when it comes to marriage, they’re better at getting out before they wreck the lives of their kids.

Or something like that.


Category: Coffeehouse

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One Response to Jaybird’s History of Marriage

  1. Maria says:

    Marriage is still a good economic deal, if you marry someone who is fiscally responsible. If you marry somene who is fiscally irresponsible, of course, it can ruin your whole life.

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