How the goal of marriage has changed over time

There has been a lot of recent discussion about marriage and its place in American society. Within this, researchers present new insights into how what people expect from marriage and their partners has changed over time:

The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first?

Not anymore. For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself. But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.

Caryl Rusbult, a researcher at Vrije University in Amsterdam who died last January, called it the “Michelangelo effect,” referring to the manner in which close partners “sculpt” each other in ways that help each of them attain valued goals.

These findings would seem to have consequences for marriage as an institution and for society as a whole. While this particular article doesn’t really discuss these consequences, it is also interesting to be reminded how the institution of marriage has changed.

I would be curious to read work by people who have linked these findings about partnerships and shared goals and reconciled this with religious perspectives on marriage. This article also reminds me of Ann Swidler’s Talk of Love and her discussion about how individuals create new strategies between the cultural poles of romantic love and committed love.

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