Marriage, Cohabitation and LAT Relationships

By Trost, Jan | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

Marriage, Cohabitation and LAT Relationships


Trost, Jan, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


A BRIEF HISTORY OF MARRIAGE

The verb to marry can have various meanings. In some cultures to marry and thus marriage has been constituted through the moving in together of a woman and a man under the condition that the surrounding society has acknowledged it as satisfactory. However, many cultures have had special rules for the union to be accepted as a marriage.

Lizzie Carlsson (1972) says that in pre-Christian Sweden the start of a marriage was a matter for the kinship and that the marital ceremony had nothing to do with the more formal society. Most important was the relatively complex formal activities for the legality were the betrothal or the formal announcement of an engagement to be married, the marital ceremony, the handing over of the bride by the father to the groom, and finally the bedding, i.e., when the bride and the groom went to bed together in the presence of witnesses.

Christianity came to these areas about a millennium ago and one of the issues of the church was to get rid of the pre-Christian marriage ceremony and add a Christian and religious ceremony. However, the church still allowed the old ritual to be a part of the new ceremony. But the presence of a priest was required to bless the bride and the bridegroom when they went to bed. The process of change from pre-Christian to Christian ceremony was very slow. The reformation during the 16th century did not mean much to the marriage ceremony (Carlsson, 1972).

To keep Sweden as an example, in the 16th century the king and eventually the Parliament decided that entire Sweden should abandon the old church and go over to a Lutheran kind of Protestantism. In fact almost nothing changed with regard to marriage. The marriage rituals were kept intact except for the ceremonial part of the father to hand over the bride to the groom; God was supposed to do so. The bedding remained almost intact but a priest was to be at the bedding to sacrifice the marriage between the two.

This way time went on and in the 19th century for example, Catholic and Mosaic congregations were tolerated (not really accepted). Until the 1950s everyone had to be a member of a congregation. The basic rules for marrying was the same, meaning that the two had to be of opposite sex, that they both were not married, of major age and that both would marry of their own free will. This was true independent of whether the marriage was civil or religious. Almost all marriages were performed with a religious ceremony.

During this time four elements were normatively connected (Trost, 1979):

The marital ceremony

Moving in together

Having sex together

A child born about a year later

Couples were not supposed to live together and were supposed not to have sexual intercourse together until they had passed a marital ceremony and without sex there would be no child. Important is that the normative connection was an ideal one, the norms were ideal norms. Among some categories of people the ideal norms were also behavioral norms, in others they were not behavioral norms. For example, almost everyone knew that almost all couples engaged to be married also had sex together. No one spoke about it and the couples were hiding their sexual activities as much as possible.

These elements still exist, meaning some couples marry, all couples one way or another move in together, they have sex together, and most couples will eventually have at least a child. But what has changed is the order of the elements as well as, most importantly, the normative connection has vanished totally.

TWO FORMS OF COHABITATION

As many have remarked (e. g. Björnsson, 1971; Price, 1965; Rodman, 1966; Sundt, 1866) non-marital cohabitation has existed during many centuries and, or but, they have been kind as a deficiency cohabitation. For example, common-law marriage has at least to some aspects been accepted because of the lack of someone official who could perform the ritual ceremony. …

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