Saturday, November 8, 2014

How Romantic Movement Destroyed Marriage

Romantic movement (is)...a group of writers, artists etc. who followed their feelings and emotions rather than logical thought or reason...It first became popular in the late 18th century...(Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture, 1992).

The destruction of marriage didn't start in the 1990, and  neither when divorce was made easier in the middle of the 19th century. It started with Romantic movement which prioritised feelings over common sense as perfectly shown in the first novel of Jane Austen Sense And Sensibility.

As most of you probably know,  Sense And Sensibility is a story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Marianne is thoroughly romantic in all her notions and has a disregard for prudence and society conventions. She is totally governed by her feelings and passions with a predictable result of falling in love with a handsome cad John Willoughby who jilts her for a wealthier woman. Elinor, on the other hand, practises quite admirable self-control and restraint.

When Dashwoods find themselves in reduced circumstances after the death of their father and have to move, one of their new acquaintances, Colonel Brandon falls in love with Marianne. He is a rich man of an admirable character but Marianne finds the whole idea ridiculous since he is 35 years old and according to her: "...must have long outlived any sensation of that kind." (p.35, Penguin Books, 1994).

When Elinor points out that Marianne who is only 17 is probably too young for him, but he could marry a woman of 27, the latter remarks that a woman so advanced in years can't hope to inspire affection in any man but could marry for the financial reason. However, in Marianne's eyes: " would be no marriage at would seem only a commercial exchange" (p.36).

In the end of the book, Marianne marries the colonel feeling only friendship and esteem and later learns to love her husband. Their marriage, according to the author, is happy and prosperous and thoroughly refutes the romantic nonsense. This makes the book quite traditional, especially comparing to some of her other stories.

Among other opinions of Marianne was the disapproval of second affections (though her own father had been married two times) and  the idea that money is wholly unimportant when one considers getting married. Elinor, on the other hand, is financially prudent. Since Edward (that's the guy she loves, for those who haven't read the book), is dependent on his mother she realises that they can't marry without her agreement and help, despite their mutual affection.

Marianne shows contempt for the rules of decorum by writing to Willoughby, even though they aren't engaged. When her sister points out the impropriety of it, she answers that she felt herself: "... to be as solemnly engaged to him as if the strictest legal covenant had bound us to each other." (p.181); to which Elinor answers: "I can believe it...but unfortunately, he did not feel the same." (idem).

As you can see, romanticism introduced the idea that legal ceremonies and formalities are of no importance, together with any financial issue which may arise and the only thing which makes a marriage valid is feelings. A couple can marry out of convenience, but it's not really marriage at all and similarly, the society conventions should go out of the window when feelings are involved. Nowadays we have couples living together who declare that they feel they are married even as they totally disregard the established way of doing it.

However, if feelings are the only thing which makes a marriage valid, then obviously when one's feelings change, it should be grounds for divorce. So it's probably not surprising that when the romantic ideas became widespread divorce became easier till finally we got a no fault divorce.

Another pernicious idea of the Romantic movement was the existence of a so-called soul mate. I have written about it before, so I won't repeat myself. I wish, however, to point out that since marriage is obviously all about your feelings and finding a perfect soul mate, then why reducing it to the union of one man and one woman? Why, anyone can be a soul mate, can't they? Why not marrying several of your best friends, your sister or your cat?

 Since it's all about the soul then apparently the body doesn't matter, the marriage doesn't have to be consummated and two persons who are completely celibate should be still considered legally married to each other. Do we need any other proof that liberalism (of which the Romantic movement was the predecessor) is a modern gnostic cult?


  1. I found his very interesting and hope others comment and I can also read their ideas. It makes sense. Thank you for informing me. You and Lady Lydia have made me aware of so many things! Thank you! Sarah

  2. Sarah, you are welcome! I'm glad you liked it...

  3. Saane, This was a very thought provoking article. I was talking to my husband on this very same subject earlier today.A "Feelings" culture, whether secular or faith based leads to all sorts of mayhem as witnessed by the results of "The anything goes" mindset.If it "feels" right do it, regardless of how it affects our communities or the world as a whole.Thank you.Molly. Germany.

  4. Welcome to the blog, Molly! It's nice to hear from our neighbours:)

  5. Sanne, you must be provoking :-) Life isn't so black and white, and there is a place for feelings in a reasonable marriage too, isn't there?

    But in general, I'm with you. You probably remember my outpourings about thinking vs. feeling (The Iron Lady, a movie about Margaret Thatcher)

  6. I'm not against feelings:) I wrote a book about passionate love, after all:) However, as Jane Austen famously said in one of her books, feelings should be subordinate to the sense of duty. In fact, feelings vs duty always makes for very interesting conflicts in literature.

  7. Also, in the context of marriage, what creates a marriage is not "feeling married" but exchanging wedding vows in the presence of witnesses, whether in a civil or religious setting. Marriage is an institution, with its own rules, it's not something we can redefine according to how we feel at the moment. It's like joining the army. Once you are married "for better for worse", quitting on a whim is breaking your vows and was traditionally considered shameful. When we started defining marriage by our feelings, it died as an institution.

  8. I mean it's normal for people to have feelings for each other when they get married, however, feelings aren't what creates a marriage in the first place. One can marry without love and still be legally married. Traditional marriages came with a strictly defined set of obligations for both husband and wife (and not only in Christian tradition). People who were getting married were aware of those requirements and the costs of breaking them. Nowadays, marriage is loosely defined (it's not at all uncommon for the couple who live together refer to each other as "husband" and "wife" and to their partner's parents as "my in-laws" (the irony obviously gets totally lost on them), the obligations of each spouse are hardly defined at all (stay-at-home dads and career moms, anyone), plus the union can be dissolved at any moment when one party feels like it.

    1. You are absolutely right. I'm all for, as you wrote, strictly defined set of obligations. I mean, if you know where you are going in, what you are expected, it's easier to adjust into marriage. You don't have to 'find yourself', your married identity or the way of being married that suits you, because you are being saved from unnecessary stress and countless 'discussions' who should do this or that. Specific responsibilities build up, shared/'discussed' responsibilities do not.

      Of course feelings don't make you married. But, as you know a lot of historical facts, do you know if there has been any indication according to marital relations? Was marriage valid if relations haven't occured?

    2. What I was trying to say was that stepping into marriage can be difficult and adjusting life as a couple needs time, so it is a relief if you know something what you are expected, so you don't have to waste your precious energy in every possible issue under the sun.

  9. Miriam, I can only speak about Western Christian tradition, but I think it was similar for other cultures,too. To be valid, a marriage had to be consummated, i.e. the husband and wife had to have sex at least once. If they didn't, it was grounds for annulment.

    As for feelings, what I chiefly meant is that many women who shack up consider themselves married, unfortunately for them, men don't always feel the same:)

  10. P.S. also, in some Western (non-Catholic) countries which allowed divorce, the refusal to have sex with your spouse was grounds for divorce.