Home > Uncategorized > And while we’re on the topic of marriage…

And while we’re on the topic of marriage…

My general belief in marriage is that to maintain a lifelong, committed relationship (such as a marriage), the two people involved must have the tools (eg: communication skills, etc)  to do so, be compatible, and be willing to put in the necessary work to make the committed relationship successful.
Lately, I have been exposed to many unsuccessful attempts at marriage and committed relationships. I have also been exposed to ‘alternative’ relationship setups and ideas and being the open-minded person I am, I do think about  it all.
After all of this, I think I still believe that a successful, lifelong, committed relationship is possible, but I think it’s more and more difficult to attain, and consequently, takes more and more dedication and effort. And, most importantly, I think the end result is worth all the effort.
However, I came across this yesterday while reading "The Fourth Horseman: a short history of epidemics, plagues, famine and other scourges" by Andrew Nikiforuk. It’s a book that is entertainingly written (much in fact, how I would write a history piece – very tongue in cheek with a lot of subtle, black humour). Please go and buy a copy. Jenn – I know you’ll enjoy it particularly, so remind me to give you my copy when you visit in July.
Anyway, the author was discussing tuberculosis (TB) and mentioned its fashionability as a disease (all the best artists/poets had it, wanted it or pretended to have it) and how it affected people’s perceptions of death, etc. Then he says:
     "The exit of TB and cholera also changed the state of marriage. In the age of plague and smallpox, men and women married at different times, some at seventeen and some at thirty-five. For peasants, the age of marriage was usually determined by the random and pestilential death of the farm owner. People didn’t marry for sex or looks; they carefully chose a partner for his or her ability to outlive an epidemic and feed a family. For affection and intimacy men turned to male friends, often made in childhood. Women leaned on the shoulders of female neighbours, relatives and friends for love and support. The randomness and suddennness of death simply made it unwise to invest too much emotion in a single person. Consequently a good marriage wasn’t necessarily based on hugs, flowers or candle-lit dinners. And if a marriage didn’t work out there was generally no need for a backdoor exit such as divorce. If a woman didn’t like her husband, she simply patiently waited for tuberculosis, typhus, or some fever to do the job, praying that she and her children wouldn’t be swept along with him. Men also counted on death to do the parting.
     "Because TB and plague insured that widows and widowers were as numerous as divorcees today, an old farmer and a young girl didn’t make an unusual couple. Second marriages with perilous piles of accompanying children happened regularly. Grimm’s fairy tales talk openly about dead parents and the terrible tensions of reconstituted families. Hanzel and Gretel were abandoned in the woods because the stepmother didn’t want to feed them during a famine…
      "In contrast to the golden age of pestilence, people now marry at a standard age for standard reasons: sex, affection and intimacy. As the divorce rate of the Western world demonstrates, "love marriages" don’t last very long. Expecting one individual to carry the heavy burden of friend, confidant, income earner and sex expert is not a gamble our pestilence-ridden ancestors would have chosen. Without germs to relieve them of the strain of romantic love or an unpleasant spouse, modern men and women have done the next best thing: they have marched en masse to the divorce court. There were no more than four divorces in all of England and Wales in 1857 when tuberculosis ruled the mortality tables. Today there are 160,000 a year. Waiting for someone to die of heart disease takes too long. In North America, half of all marriages fall apart sooner than the incubation period for AIDS. Not surprisingly, the divorce epidemic has merely returned marriage to its traditional short length. Although most couples filing for divorce don’t know it, they’ve found a legal substitute for tuberculosis and typhus."
Something to think about anyway.
(By the way, the author is a Calgarian. Support your Canadian authors and buy his book.)
( And have I mentioned that Calgary did not make it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals? ha ha.)
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Jenn
    June 21, 2006 at 10:37 am

    ooooh, I am SO intrigued!  You are right; I love that shit!

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