A Super-interesting Look at How Marriages Have Changed Over Time

How has marriage changed over time
A time-tested 'institution', marriage has evolved, transformed, metamorphosed, and has surprisingly managed to survive at the end of it all. Is it giving up? Certainly not. And certainly not anytime soon. This Buzzle post chronicles the journey of marriage throughout centuries.
Marriage is having someone who'll die for you at the drop of a hat.

(If you don't kill 'em first.)
The ones who've never been married will read this line and be amused by the exaggeration here. The about-to-be-married ones will smirk at the sarcasm.

Only the ones who've been married, and married for a while now, will be able to nod in agreement at the reality, and mutely accept it as the reality of their lives and get on with it.

Coming back to the point at hand, we're discussing how marriages have changed over time. Have they really? Aren't they all about two people cohabiting, then progenerating, and pretty much tolerating each other through it all? There may be slight variations to this definition, and that is exactly what we're going to be discussing.
How has Marriage Changed Over Centuries
20,000 years ago in a land not too far from here...
Prehistoric Alliance
... lived a rather hairy bunch of people whom we'll refer to as early humans. They are the ones suspected to have coined the concept of monogamy, a key component of marriage. That said, polygamy is also believed to be as old as civilization itself, with many in the contemporary world insisting that man, by nature, happens to be polygamous.

Yeah, right. Don't all women already know that?
Strategic planning was what it was...
Strategic Alliance
... to the tribes and kingdoms, where marriages were the perfect tool to establish trade relations, define boundaries, avoid expensive battles. Marriages were practical alliances, and they were instrumental in maintaining peace. Royal bloodlines were established and protected, and therefore, suitability of the partner (read:woman) mattered.

While you may mistakenly think of this as a thing of the past, modern aristocracy has clung to this practice till date. Alliances among the royals are still verified, scrutinized, and dissected even before they take place. Any of you dainty ladies envying Kate Middleton, stop right there and count your blessings for not being in her shoes. Why, you ask? Well, you wouldn't have to look beyond her late mother-in-law's tragic life, would you?
Then came a time when it became sacred...
...with the intervention of God. From just an institution, marriage turned into a sacred institution that was endorsed by (men of) God. Which roughly meant that a marriage was everybody's business except the couple themselves. Legalities and illegalities became a part of marriage, and men of religion assembled to draft a set of general rules that constituted a marriage.
And so, it wasn't long before it transformed...
... into a fully blown street party. You needed to go ask her hand in marriage. You needed a priest to conduct a wedding. You needed witnesses to ensure that you weren't dreaming about it. You needed a house of God to endorse that your actions were pure, and not just unbridled lust. You needed vows to assure each other about the "in sickness and in health" clause, because you no longer took things at face value. And of course, you had to feed a thousand-odd odd relatives on the day for partaking in your happiness.
Somewhere down the line, we discovered...
Romantic Alliance
... our beating hearts. Love. Romance. Passion. Commitment. Happily ever afters. These were the kind of things that became associated with marriage. Prose and poetry got written about it, and soon the word spread around. Love became the premise that a marriage was built on, making a villain out of polygamy... sorry... free love.
And it was love and only love...
Bad Marriage
... that gave rise to divorce. You thought it was incompatibility? No. It is love. Here's how. You/your spouse no longer feel loved in the marriage... you get divorced. Or you/your spouse loves someone else.... you get divorced. Marriage for many, until now, was a bitter pill that lodged in the throat, but couples kept choking on it for the sake of their children, to save face, for religious reasons, or because it made financial sense. With love coming into the picture, the stakes had turned, and how!

People began to live for the quest of finding "true love", and marrying that one true love. Only to discover in time, that Prince/Princess Charming ended up being a paunchy, smelly, saggy old bugger who routinely took you for granted. Marriage being the eye opener to blind love, and all that.
Soon enough, it became a partnership...
Civil Partnership
... between "persons". Woman-woman. Man-man. Man-woman. So you see, a full circle later, we're back to where it all began, just like it was in the ancient times. We can live together without being married. Have children without being married. Keep lovers despite being married. It's come a full circle. It definitely has.
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But it ain't all hunky-dory...
... for every marriage born out of freedom, there are several others born out of pressure. Forced marriages are quite common in several African and Asian countries, especially in tribal belts. Weird marriage rituals, combined with equally horrific traditions, have made a complete joke of what a union of two people should mean. To each their own, you might think, because ultimately, when it comes to a marriage, a third presence often makes it crowded.
We're all wondering whether this grand dame of an institution called marriage is coming to an end, with more and more couples choosing to omit what they consider is a mere formality. Time will tell how long it would last, only time will tell.