What is marriage

What is marriage?

What is marriageMarriage is the union of a single man and a single woman. They make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other. This exclusive commitment is characterized by bearing and rearing children together. Besides the inherent act of bearing and rearing children, marriage includes the norms of fidelity and monogamy. This article will address the history of marriage, marriage laws and other topics related to this issue.

History of Marriage

From 1500 to 1800 in most of North Western Europe the average age of marriage was 25 years. The Church dictated that both the man and woman had to be at least 21 years of age to be able to marry without the consent of their parents. Also, the Church supported marriages of people who were roughly the same age. Most brides married in their early twenties, while grooms where mostly two to four years older. The age of marriage, however, was not absolute. Child marriages occurred during the Middle Ages and later. Even today, in some countries the age of consent can be as low as 12 years old. In England, marriage by cohabitation and consent was valid until the Lord Hardwicke’s Act was passed in 1753. This act set certain requirements for marriage. One of the requirements was that a religious ceremony had to be performed which also had to be observed by witnesses. Also, the marriage had to be officially registered. After the Marriage Act in 1837, civil marriages were officially recognized as a legal alternative to church marriages. The Marriage Act allowed for a marriage before the civil administration to constitute a legally recognized and valid marriage. This included the fact that both man and woman had to affirm their will to marry. Currently, marriage is seen as a voluntary contract by a man and woman in contemporary English common law. In this agreement they commonly choose to become husband and wife. The current average age of marriage is between 22-39 for women and 25-44 for men.


Monogamy is a form of marriage in which the husband or wife only has one spouse during their lifetime. In most marriages, monogamy is considered to be one of the norms of marriage and contributes to the distinctive character of marriage. In the majority of countries, polygamy is not permitted. If a married person marries another while still being lawfully married, he or she commits the crime of bigamy. This is a crime that is punishable in countries where polygamy is not allowed. In these countries, the second marriage is considered to be void and null. Besides the second marriage being considered null, the bigamist can face penalties. This varies between jurisdictions. In the majority of the world, however, it is acknowledged that marriage involves three main norms. First, a comprehensive union of spouses is required. Secondly, the spouses have a special link to their children. Third, the norms of exclusivity, permanence and monogamy contribute to the understanding of marriage.


Polygamy is a form of marriage which includes more than two people. When a woman is married to more than one husband at the time and there is no bond between the husbands, it is called polyandry. When a man is married to multiple women and there is no bond between them, it is called polygyny. Group marriage is when multiple wives and husbands are married to each other. If polygamy is practiced, it is often part of a cultural practice or ideal. Societies differ regarding their levels of acceptance of polygamy. The practice of polygamy is different from the social tolerance for the act. In a country where polygamy is allowed, it requires wealth to maintain multiple households when having different wives. The act of polygamy is more common in African societies compared to Western societies. Western perceptions of African marriage patterns are said to be biased. Polygamy is often condemned as being a form of human rights abuse. This is because it is often linked to forced marriage, domestic abuse and neglect. The majority of the world’s countries, including all of the world’s developed nations, do not allow polygamy. There has also been a call from developing nations to abolish polygamy.

Partner Selection

Partner selection varies per person, tradition and cultural practice. There is a wide variation in the social rules that govern partner selection for marriage. There is variation in the rules regulating which partners are considered valid. There is also variation in the individual decision of choosing a partner. Also, sometimes selecting a partner is not an individual choice but is a choice that is made by the parents of the individual or the partners’ kin groups. In most countries, the individuals are free to choose their own partner. In some cultures, the selection of a marriage partner may involve going through a selection process. In other cultures, the selection of a marriage partner is arranged by the couple’s parents. This is a practice that has been used for many years and continues to be present in many cultures today. One of the reason for an individual’s parents to choose their partner could be in order to keep the wealth in the family and not involve an outside or unknown party in the family wealth. Moreover, sometimes a partner is selected by the parents of the individual in order to prevent the individual for making a wrong partner choice, as is stated by various cultures worldwide.

Law of marriage

The law of marriage or marriage laws entails the legal obligations and requirements which determine the validity of a marriage. This varies considerably between countries. In some countries, when two individuals get married it means that the husband or wife is also responsible for a spouse’s debts. Another law that is common is to give a husband or wife control over a spouse’s labor, property and sexual services. The last point has often been criticized, especially regarding the topic of rape in marriage. Many countries have no laws in place that prohibit rape in marriage since they state that a partner cannot be raped when being married, since the spouse should always be willing to adapt to the needs of the partner. While more and more countries are prohibiting the act of rape in marriage by law, many countries remain to neglect the devastating consequences this act can have on a woman or man.

Marriage and gender roles

Marriage laws in many countries have come under a lot of international scrutiny. This is due to the fact that they contradict international standards of human rights. For example, some marriage laws institutionalize violence against women, allow for forced marriage and child marriages. Also, in some countries a wife requires the permission of a husband to sign legal documents, file criminal charges against someone, be entitled to land or work a paid job. Also, in some countries women are heavily discriminated against in the process of divorce. A lot of these things were legal in even many Western counties until recently. For example, in France married women only obtained the right to work without the permission of their husband in 1965. Women in Eastern Germany were entitled to the right to work in 1977. In Spain, a married woman needed the approval of her husband to perform any economic activity. This included ownership of property, travelling away from home and working. This was only abolished in 1975.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1745x
Added: 20-03-2016 19:24
Last modified: 20-03-2016 22:46

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