December 9, 2013
So, here we are, trying to figure out the rules for modern marriage…but where to start?
Well, before we start making up new rules, let’s take a look at the source of some of the old ones. To do that, we have to go back to the Middle Ages. Yep. I’m serious. The Middle Ages.
In the Middle Ages, the ruling classes spent a lot of time “at court,” that is, staying in and around the palace of the king. And with not a lot to do (especially during the winter), the nobles made up the game of “Courtly Love” to keep themselves amused.
Now, this game was very elaborate, and had to do with identifying a “beloved” (usually another person’s spouse) to whom to devote oneself in an exaggerated way. Poems were written, songs were sung, tokens exchanged…however, such relationships were never, EVER to be consummated, as adultery was taken very seriously.
Of course, a game of such complexity must have rules, so in the late 12th century, Andreas Capellanus drew up a list of the "Rules of Courtly Love.” Below are a few (I’ve combined some here and there). The sarcastic comments, are, of course, my own.
Even though we can see at a glance how silly and impractical these “rules” are, upon deeper consideration, we can identify the roots of some of the more destructive ideas on which we’ve been trying to build our most important relationships.
Next post, I’ll talk in more detail about how courtly love has left its mark on our attitudes and expectations about marriage, and what we can do about it.
Coontz, Stephanie (2005) Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage
Gottman, John (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
Graff, E. J. (1999) What is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of our Most Intimate Institution
Lerner, Harriet (1989) The Dance of Intimacy: A Woman’s Guide to Courageous Acts of Change in Key Relationships
Lerner, Harriet (2001) The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate
Mazur, Ronald (2000) The New Intimacy: Open-Ended Marriage and Alternative Lifestyles
O’Neill, Nena & O’Neill, George (1984, 2000) Open Marriage
Random Facts (website) 63 Interesting Facts About Marriage, retrieved from http://www.facts.randomhistory.comon October 21, 2013
Real, Terrence (2007) The New Rules of Marriage