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Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage

How Love Conquered Marriage

Stephanie Coontz

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  • Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage

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Erst in den letzten 200 Jahren begann man, die Ehe als eine persönliche und private Beziehung zu sehen, die emotionale und sexuelle Wünsche erfüllen sollte. Sobald dies geschah, wurde freie Entscheidung die gesellschaftliche Norm der Partnerwahl, Liebe wurde der Hauptgrund zu heiraten, und als erfolgreich wurde die Ehe definiert, die den Bedürfnissen der Beteiligten entsprach. Doch diese Entwicklung hatte zur Folge, dass die Erwartungen an die Ehe immer größer wurden. Kaum hatte das Ideal der Liebesheirat über die Zweckgemeinschaft triumphiert, als das Recht auf Scheidung gefordert wurde, falls die Liebe verging. Die renommierte Familienhistorikerin Stephanie Coontz zeigt, wie wenig wir über die Geschichte der Institution Ehe wissen und wie erhellend eine Beschäftigung mit der Vergangenheit für die Zukunft unserer Paarbeziehungen sein kann.

Stephanie Coontz lehrt als Historikerin und Expertin für Familiengeschichte am Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Sie ist Autorin mehrerer viel beachteter Bücher zu den Themen Familie und Familiengeschichte und schreibt u. a. für The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post und Vogue.


Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 432
Altersempfehlung ab 18
Erscheinungsdatum 01.02.2006
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-14-303667-8
Verlag Penguin UK
Maße (L/B/H) 21,4/14,2/2,5 cm
Gewicht 381 g


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  • George Bernard Shaw described marriage as an institution that brings together two people "under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part."1
    Shaw's comment was amusing when he wrote it at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it still makes us smile today, because it pokes fun at the unrealistic expectations that spring from a dearly held cultural ideal that marriage should be based on intense, profound love and a couple should maintain their ardor until death do them part. But for thousands of years the joke would have fallen flat.

    For most of history it was inconceivable that people would choose their mates on the basis of something as fragile and irrational as love and then focus all their sexual, intimate, and altruistic desires on the resulting marriage. In fact, many historians, sociologists, and anthropologists used to think romantic love was a recent Western invention. This is not true. People have always fallen in love, and throughout the ages many couples have loved each other deeply.2

    But only rarely in history has love been seen as the main reason for getting married. When someone did advocate such a strange belief, it was no laughing matter. Instead, it was considered a serious threat to social order.

    In some cultures and times, true love was actually thought to be incompatible with marriage. Plato believed love was a wonderful emotion that led men to behave honorably. But the Greek philosopher was referring not to the love of women, "such as the meaner men feel," but to the love of one man for another.3

    Other societies considered it good if love developed after marriage or thought love should be factored in along with the more serious considerations involved in choosing a mate. But even when past societies did welcome or encourage married love, they kept it on a short leash. Couples were not to put their feelings for each other above more important commitments, such as their ties to parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors, or God.

    In ancient India, falling in love before marriage was seen as a disruptive, almost antisocial act. The Greeks thought lovesickness was a type of insanity, a view that was adopted by medieval commentators in Europe. In the Middle Ages the French defined love as a "derangement of the mind" that could be cured by sexual intercourse, either with the loved one or with a different partner.4 This cure assumed, as Oscar Wilde once put it, that the quickest way to conquer yearning and temptation was to yield immediately and move on to more important matters.

    In China, excessive love between husband and wife was seen as a threat to the solidarity of the extended family. Parents could force a son to divorce his wife if her behavior or work habits didn't please them, whether or not he loved her. They could also require him take a concubine if his wife did not produce a son. If a son's romantic attachment to his wife rivaled his parents' claims on the couple's time and labor, the parents might even send her back to her parents. In the Chinese language the term love did not traditionally apply to feelings between husband and wife. It was used to describe an illicit, socially disapproved relationship. In the 1920s a group of intellectuals invented a new word for love between spouses because they thought such a radical new idea required its own special label.5

    In Europe, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, adultery became idealized as the highest form of love among the aristocracy. According to the Countess of Champagne, it was impossible for true love to "exert its powers between two people who are married to each other."6

    In twelfth-century France, Andreas Capellanus, chaplain to Countess Marie of Troyes, wrote a treatise on the principles of courtly love. The first rule was
  • Part One: In Search of Traditional Marriage

    Chapter 1: The Radical Idea of Marrying for Love
    Chapter 2: The Many Meanings of Marriage
    Chapter 3: The Invention of Marriage

    Part Two: The Era of Political Marriage

    Chapter 4: Soap Operas of the Ancient World
    Chapter 5: Something Borrowed: The Marital Legacy of the Classical World and Early Christianity
    Chapter 6: Playing the Bishop, Capturing the Queen: Aristocratic Marriages in Early Medieval Europe
    Chapter 7: How the Other 95 Percent Wed: Marriage Among the Common Folk of the Middle Ages
    Chapter 8: Something Old, Something New: Western European Marriage at the Dawn of the Modern Age

    Part Three: The Love Revolution

    Chapter 9: From Yoke Mates to Soul Mates: Emergence of the Love Match and the Male Provider Marriage
    Chapter 10: "Two Birds Within One Nest": Sentimental Marriage in Nineteenth-Century Europe and North America
    Chapter 11: "A Heaving Volcano": Beneath the Surface of Victorian Marriage
    Chapter 12: "The Time When Mountains Move Has Come": From Sentimental to Sexual Marriage
    Chapter 13: Making Do, Then Making Babies: Marriage in the Great Depression and World War II
    Chapter 14: The Era of Ozzie and Harriet: The Long Decade of "Traditional" Marriage

    Part Four: Courting Disaster? The Collapse of Universal and Lifelong Marriage

    Chapter 15: Winds of Change: Marriage in the 1960s and 1970s
    Chapter 16: The Perfect Storm: The Transformation of Marriage at the End of the Twentieth Century
    Chapter 17: Uncharted Territory: How the Transformation of Marriage Is Changing Our Lives

    Conclusion: Better or Worse? The Future of Marriage