How 5,000 Years of Marriage Led Us to 'I Do'

Modern lovers aim to invert roles long 'set in stone,' author says
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2008 3:38 PM CDT
The cover of Susan Squire's book "I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage"
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(Newser) – Author Susan Squire takes a long view of marriage—about 5,000 years, in fact. Her new book, I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage, traces matrimony’s bizarre historical journey, from pure mating ritual to Christian "lust-containment facility" to modern romance. In an interview with Salon, she says that love had nothing to do with marriage until Martin Luther said it did.

In early Christianity, loving one’s wife—or any woman—was "heresy to the church," Squire says. But codes of conduct for adultery—aka courtly love—elevated commitment to a love object, and in the 16th century, Luther called marriage a holy state of being. Modern husbands and wives may rely overly on romance and sex, but can also be credited with a new marital notion: equality. "We have tried to invert roles that have been set in stone for 4,700 years," says Squire. "It's going to take a while."