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Love, Romance & Marriage


It was January 18, 2010 when I received the calendar for writing monthly articles, from Elizabeth Kelly, Co-Chair of FAWCO’s Sharing Cultures”: I was proposed the writing of a piece about “Love, Romance, Marriage”.

I was thrilled about the theme and my mind started the so called “parallel thinking,” a flow of ideas began streaming out of my mind.  What about it? A combination of three words that could be seen as the combination of three elements, and taking a close look at them from different perspectives as if we were looking at a “diamond”, one can see how faceted this subject can be!

Love, an ordinary word, an extraordinary power. The philosopher Sofocle quotes: “one word frees us of all from the weight and pain of life; that word is love”.

Romance, a dreamy imaginative tale, connected to love.

Light, nature, or an unpredictable place,  two human beings get captured by a glance in a particular circumstance, and the “click” makes it happen; when  the so called strike of the mythological Cupid -  the god of love that is often remembered as an icon of Valentine’s Day - there comes the beginning of a romantic story.  What are the elements that make two persons love one another? Here again, it depends on circumstances, the being together, focusing into the understanding of one another, the sharing of time, experiences: a stream made of consciousness.

Marriage, anthropologists have proposed several competing definitions about it, so as to encompass the wide variety of marital practices observed across cultures. In his book “The History of Human Marriage” (1921), Edward Westermarck defined marriage as “a more or less durable connection between male and female lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of the offspring”. In “The Future of Marriage in Western Civilization (1936), he rejects his earlier definition, instead provisionally defining marriage as “a relation of one or more men to one or more women that is recognized by custom or law”.

Although the institution of marriage pre-dates reliable recorded history, many cultures have legends concerning the origins of marriage. The way in which a marriage is conducted has changed over time, as has the institution itself. Various cultures have had their own theories on the origin of marriage. One example may lie in a man’s need for assurance as to paternity of his children.

There were several types of marriages in ancient Roman society. The traditional (“conventional”) form called ‘convention in manum’ required a ceremony with witnesses and was also dissolved with a ceremony.

From the early Christian era (30 to 325 CE), marriage was thought of as primarily a private matter, with no uniform religious or other ceremony being required.

Marriage in sixth-century Europe has been characterized as political polygamy. The Germanic warlord Clothar, despite being a baptized Christian, eventually acquired four wives for strategic reasons, including his dead brother’s wife, her sister and the daughter of a captured foreign king.

In the twelfth century, aristocrats believed love was incompatible with marriage and sought romance in adultery. Troubadours invented courtly love which involved secret but chaste trysts between a lover and a beloved.

In fourteenth-century Europe, ordinary people could no longer choose whom to marry. The lord of one Black Forest manor decreed in 1344 that all his unmarried tenants – including widows and widowers – marry spouses of his choosing. Elsewhere, peasants wishing to pick a partner had to pay a fee.

With few local exceptions, until 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties. The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other, the presence of a priest or witness was not required.

In the early modern period, John Calvin and his Protestant colleagues reformulated Christian marriage by enacting the Marriage Ordinance of Geneva, which imposed “The dual requirements of state registration and church consecration to constitute marriage” for recognition.

All mainstream religions have strong views relating to marriage. Most religions perform a wedding ceremony to solemnize the beginning of a marriage.

Only one side of the globe was here taken into consideration in regard to the historical concept of a marriage. What about the rest of the globe where there are deep differences in culture and religions?

In essence, love is a universal multiple of feelings that a human being endeavours through suffering, fighting, with tears, hope, healing, laughing, smiling: they all are ways of beings with one common denominator: love.


February 7, 2010, Luciana Fava Giles, AILO, Florence, Italy

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