~ August, 2021 ~ More and more people are asking themselves, “What is the purpose of marriage? Do we need or even want to be married anymore? What does it take to have true companionship?”
In order to get the answer, it’s important to look at the history of marriage and understand its purpose and relative appeal.
So, what is the purpose of marriage?
Dictionary.com defines “marriage” as “an interpersonal union established in various parts of the world to form a familial bond that is recognized legally, religiously or socially, granting the participating partners mutual conjugal rights and responsibilities and including, for example, opposite-sex marriage, plural marriage and arranged marriage.”
In the United States, marriages tend to be legal, religious, and/or social between either opposite-sex or same-sex couples. And everyone wants about the same things.
It appears that the purpose of marriage has changed over the years, with the primary elements today being:
1. Emotional partnership and connection.
2. Personal fulfillment and growth.
3. The expression of love and sexuality.
Everyone wants to have love, sex, and a strong foundation for the building of a family.
As a marriage therapist, I occasionally encounter couples who do not want children but still consider each other family (along with various dogs and cats).
And of course, there are couples who practice polyamory or open marriages, where sex is not monogamous.
The history of marriage
Until around 1850, we lived in the age of “institutional marriage.” The union was based on the need to help each other with food production, shelter, and protection. This was its purpose.
Then roughly, between about 1850 and 1965, because of the shift from rural to urban life, American marriages focused more on intimate needs like loving, being loved, and an active sexual life.