Marriage: Emotional Infrastructure Of Society?

Marriage binds the human relations in its most intimate manner. However, the survival of marriage as an institution has been threatened from time to time by various socio-political and economic transitions (Feminism, Individualism, co-habitation culture etc.) across the globe; nevertheless, it survived every time because humans find deep emotional security in a relationship. And, a long-term human relationship can only be guaranteed by a legal, social contract between two adult individuals that’s called marriage.

That’s the reason that marriage has risen as a very strong institution of human society but that does not mean that it can’t crash on the shoulder of the reality of today’s’ individualistic society. In fact, marriage does face a threat today but it’s not because this institution has become obsolete but because the concept of modern love is making the institution look less compatible in light of contemporary social behaviour. 

Relationship of Romanticism and Marriage

In Alain de Botton’s words “tie-up of marriage with romanticism is not a very old phenomenon; since the Romantic movement (Mid-Eighteenth century), love became a desirable element in marriage”. However, the primary objective of marriage remained always a conjugal arrangement for attaining certain social status and continuing with the family legacy.

Romanticism is quintessentially an affair of emotion. It’s rationally right not to find too much of rational in romanticism. You find love charming only when you don’t see it through a prism of deep rationalism. If you try to rationalise it; that means love will lose its real essence. Any attempt to treat emotion through a device of reasoning would create only chaos.

On the other hand, people saw rational in being in marriage a committed relationship of physical and mental security where the engaged partners would surrender themselves with emotional investment for bringing joy to each other’s life. So, romantic love provides strong supporting limbs to the body of marriage. But, the advent of free market economics (since last two decades when the global capitalism became the guiding force for society) has brought structural transformation in romantic love.

Modern economics promotes a new concept of romantic love

In modern society, consumerism is a way of life. It asks us to commodify everything; be it an idea, individual, body or even the emotion.

The free market system presents the body as a commodity. Modern mode of production puts the body in centre because it serves their purpose in commodifying everything even remotely related to human anatomy. Thus, the product and service based enterprise (especially fashion, cosmetic, clothing) venerates body because the more people would value body, the more these production houses will earn, survive and thrive.

One of the main striking, transformative changes in romantic behaviour that happened in modern times is the fact that how the choices for pairing are made via technology tools. Modern dating sites behave like virtual supermarket. They’ve turned the human conduct of searching wife-husband into a full-fledged shopping industry. As famous sociologist, Eva Illouz (author of Why Love Hurts), in an interview with the UK Guardian, calls it a commercial activity of comparing alternatives and frequently asking for a better deal than following a gut feeling in finding a partner.

On just a few clicks, you’re free to choose a partner from a borderless territory. The plethora of choices makes the partner seeker utterly confused and indecisive. To reduce his indecisive state of mind, Like a project management program, he comes up with the idea of using checklist of qualities which his prospective wife should have. Despite having such a wide range of options, it’s rare that someone finds an ideal partner as per his or her checklist. It’s because no sane man or woman with human character can fully fit into a frame from where a person can fulfil the unrealistic expectations of their partner.

Finally, we end up becoming someone who selects his partner on the simplest and the most popular criteria: the external appearance. Those who look charming to look at are considered a safe option to go along with by neglecting other qualities of mutual compatibility. It shows as if we’re not looking for a soulmate but for sex-mate. It won’t be incorrect to say that consumerism has brought sexualization of romantic life.

We’ve become a consumer of love which corrodes the notion of romanticism. As the concept of love has gone through transformative changes, so we should not feel squeamish tomorrow if the institution of marriage gets reduced to mere a tie-up of economic transaction and social security.


© ajitabh 2023
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