06 Aug 4 great tips for a happy marriage
via Eric Barker
Being married in the modern world can be difficult and confusing. What are the rules for a happy marriage? It doesn’t seem like there are any easy answers.
So I called an expert.
Stephanie Coontz serves as Co-Chair and Director of Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families and teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. She’s the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage and The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap.
We hear a lot from psychologists and therapists on the subject of marriage but what’s fascinating about Stephanie is she studies the history of marriage. She’s looked at what marriage has meant through the ages, what worked and didn’t, and how it’s changed in the modern era.
To put it simply: everything you think you know about marriage is wrong.
We’re gonna learn the truth, find out why modern married life is so confusing, and get a few tips on how you can make your own marriage much, much better.
Here’s what she had to say…
1) Everything You Know About Marriage Is Wrong
Everybody thinks marriage used to be better “back then.” Nope.
Marriages in the past weren’t better. In fact, they weren’t even about love.
Certainly, people fell in love during those thousands of years, sometimes even with their own spouses. But marriage was not fundamentally about love. It was too vital an economic and political institution to be entered into solely on the basis of something as irrational as love. For thousands of years the theme song for most weddings could have been “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”
Not only were marriages not based on love, the idea that they might be was terrifying.
In ancient India, falling in love before marriage was seen as a disruptive, almost antisocial act… In China, excessive love between husband and wife was seen as a threat to the solidarity of the extended family.
So what was marriage about in the so-called “good old days”?
Getting in-laws. Seriously. Here’s Stephanie:
Marriage was not about the individual relationship between the two people involved, or more than two people involved, but it was a way of getting in-laws.
Think “Game of Thrones” here, folks. Marriage was about getting in-laws for purposes of politics, consolidating resources, or increasing your family’s labor force.
Why do you think for the longest time a kid born out of wedlock was called a “love child”?
Of course, people did fall in love back then. And they would have liked to marry the person they were in love with but, at the time, it just wasn’t practical. Here’s Stephanie:
People correctly recognized that marriages based on love were potentially very destabilizing. It was going to lead people to demand divorce if the love died. It was going to lead to people refusing to get married. They were very frightened by this and they thought, “How can we get people to get married and stay married?”
But the world changed. We no longer need to rely on in-laws for protection from barbarian hordes or producing good heirs to the throne.
So love hijacked marriage. And today’s marital equality has resulted in higher marital satisfaction.
And beyond satisfaction it’s led to other really nice things like fewer suicides among women. And guys get a great benefit too: your wife is far less likely to murder you.
Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that in states that adopted unilateral divorce, this was followed, on average, by a 20 percent reduction in the number of married women committing suicide, as well as a significant drop in domestic violence for both men and women. Criminologists William Bailey and Ruth Peterson report that higher rates of marital separation lead to lower homicide rates against women. But a woman’s right to leave a marriage can also be a lifesaver for men. The Centers on Disease Control reports that the rate at which husbands were killed by their wives fell by approximately two-thirds between 1981 and 1998, in part because women could more easily leave their partners.
So what do we really need to to know from the history of marriage? It’s quite ironic, really…
The big lesson from history is: stop looking at history. Don’t compare your marriage to the 1950’s or any other era. It’s a brave new world. Marriages are based on love and equality now, so the old models don’t hold.
The most important lesson in history, I think, is to understand that there is no perfect marriage form of the past, even if it has one or two attractive features. Those attractive features are almost invariably connected to some really unattractive ones, to some injustices and some inequities that would be totally unacceptable to us. We need to dispense of the notion that there are models for what we’re doing in history.
So marriage based on love and equality is very new. And comparing wedlock today to some “perfect” era in the past doesn’t make sense. So what should we be doing to make marriages work in the modern world?
…keep reading more HERE