Paul McCartney ties 3rd knot without a safety net.

There is an interesting discussion going on in Mexico City about short term marriage contracts. Of course there are many people in uproar about the thought that we could have something like a two year marriage contract, that if things don’t work out it can be undone without the hassle of legal divorce proceedings. I guess next to religious objections -the Catholic Church calls marriage a Sacrament-, political objections -deeply rooted conservatism does not even want to consider the potential ramifications-, objections from legal council who sees the initiative as a straight line to the poor house, will all come out fighting in large numbers as this discussion may be a frontal attack on their income potential. But as so may traditional opinions are inline for an overhaul in today’s society, a simple rejection of the idea of a short term marriage contract will not make the idea go away. It’s like a line I overheard the other day: If you know that one out of two crashes (airplanes), would you still go for it (marriage)?

The idea of Marriage has been around since before recorded history, but for the longest time was not a contract requirement by the state or government. One obvious reason for it was the creation of offspring. But a far more important reason for “marriage” was to justify the perpetuity of the family by representing it as the basic unit of a primitive society. It was a major strategical structure to warrant survival of mankind. Times were a bit more dangerous then and it’s fair to assume that in our current civilization mankind would probably not succumb if women and children had no husband or father to look after them.  Yet, even though no longer necessary for the survival of the race, the status of marriage and the family in recent centuries has had some bearing on their continuance by leaving behind deep-rooted instincts of love and care, which will help to preserve the institution and the cementing of alliances.

The history of the marriage bond

In the ancient world, the more allies you had the safer you were. Marriages (of some kind) were the preferred method for sealing alliances between families, clans, tribes, and ultimately nations. Warlords and Chieftains acquired more wives for strategic reasons. Over time it became a way for government administrators to keep tabs on individuals. Now in order to be clear about the term “government”, my personal definition would describe it as “the monopoly of force within a certain geographic location.” No doubt others would probably add to this “democratically elected” but I have some deep anchored doubts there.

The idea of marriage based on romantic love is actually a relatively recent innovation ( about 2 centuries old), supported by religion and in my sarcastic opinion, the “de Beers Diamond Company”. The true purpose of marriage throughout the ages was advancement of family (clan, tribe, city state, state, race — whatever) interest. That’s why throughout history most marriages were arranged. There was no romance or love involved — this was all about the business of survival.
Basically, through most of Western civilization, marriage has been more a matter of money, power and survival than of delicate sentiments.

What’s Love Got to Do with it

In my opinion, the first marriage was probably a co-habitation agreement between a caveman and a cavewoman. It was sealed with the blood of the man who tried to take the woman from her mate. The wedding knot was made with the hair of a woman who tried to entice the man away. They didn’t know beans about paternity then. What they knew is they were good together. He was a good hunter and she was a good mate and probably a good cook and she birthed children well. The institution of marriage handled a secure environment for the perpetuation of the species, a system of rules to handle the granting of property rights, and the protection of bloodlines. That’s why Ancient Hebrew Law required a man to become the husband of a deceased brother’s widow.

Different periods of time and different cultures have very different histories when it comes to women however. Ancient Egypt, in theory, gave women equal rights, but it wasn’t always practiced. Medieval women faced dual responsibilities to religion and marriage.
Throughout history,mankind created varieties of marriage to better fit the need, resulting in aberrations of polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, endogamy, exogamy, common law marriage…… and yes there is monogamy.

Some marriages were by proxy, some involved a dowry (bride’s family giving money or presents to the groom or his family), some required a bride price (the groom or his family giving money or a present to the bride’s family), few had any sort of courtship or dating, but most had traditions.

The notion of marriage as a sacrament and not just a contract can be traced to Saint Paul who compared the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and his church (Eph. v, 23-32).
Joseph Campbell, in the Power of Myth, mentions that the Twelfth century troubadours were the first ones who thought of courtly love in the same way we do now. The whole notion of romance apparently didn’t exist until medieval times, the crusades, the woman on a pedestal, and the troubadours singing about it.

During the Renaissance many marriages took place without witness or ceremony but the “aristocracy and religious leaders” were so disturbed by this, that they decreed in 1563 that marriages should be celebrated in the presence of a priest and at least two witnesses. Marriage took on the new role of saving men and women from being sinful, and of procreation. And even in this area Love wasn’t a necessary ingredient for marriage.

Years later, the Puritans viewed marriage as a very blessed relationship that gave marital partners an opportunity to not only love, but also to forgive. Many people hold the view that regardless of how people enter into matrimony, marriage is a bond between two people that involves responsibility and legalities, as well as commitment and challenge. That concept of marriage hasn’t changed through the ages.

It has only been little more than 200 years since people started marrying for love in spite of Romeo and Juliet. Since then it has also become clear, that the phase that usually precedes Love is called Lust, which Wikipedia explains as an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one’s desire, usually in a sexual way. Mexico City may be on to a part of human behavior that we still prefer to deny, which is calling the first period of a new relationship LUST instead of LOVE.

With one out of two weddings ending up in divorce within 5 years, a two year renewable wedding contract would support that when Lust turns into Wanderlust, the untangling process should allow separations to be more civil and out of court.