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Companionate Marriage : All You Need to Know

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  • 2021-05-12
  • By: Jane

Marriage is a legal union between consenting adults, and in most cases, it is between a woman and man. The customs, rules, beliefs, attitudes, and laws that the parties prescribe to regulate the union. That is what usually describes the roles of the individuals in the marriage. A long time ago, the main goal of marriage was procreation. At the time, the union was a rite of passage, and therefore everyone had to go through it. Endogamy was the norm. That refers to marrying within your group or tribe. People from different tribes had very little communication, and that is what made endogamy popular.

 In some communities, this practice is still alive. If you have come across a situation where a rich family forbids their children to marry from a poor household, then you have a scenario that depicts endogamy. However, with time procreation seems to no longer be the most significant factor, leading to the creation of many varying forms of marriage. An example is same-sex marriage that is gradually gaining popularity in many societies.  

What is companionate marriage?

That refers to marriage whose basis is mutual affection and the personal choice of the individuals. The partners have mutual interests when it comes to children and their professions. It is important to note that some individuals in the union have no desire to raise children while others do want kids, and they believe the basis of divorce is mutual consent. When it comes to divorce, none of the partners has a financial claim, unlike in the traditional marriage where the husband pays alimony. In this kind of marriage, people use companionship and love as the major factors in choosing a spouse.

 It is blossoming in the current era because of the breakdown of previously persistent social constraints and the campaign for both same-sex marriages and gender equality. The women and men in this union believe that their roles are interchangeable, so no particular person is the only one who can perform a specific task. Companionate marriage is modern and, therefore, very common today. The partners refer to each other as best friends.

When two or more people live together, conflicts are inevitable. Therefore, it is vital to note that the commitment from the partners is what holds the union together. The individuals should openly confront the conflicts. The alternative is sweeping issues under the carpet, leading to resentment or even divorce in the long run. In this relationship, there is a lot of emphasis on communication and support between the partners.

Differences between companionate marriage and traditional marriage

The roles of the spouses in a traditional marriage are clear; the man is the breadwinner while the woman is in charge of the family and house. It is not common today because more women are career women. House managers perform the house duties and take care of children, especially wealthy families. In the companionate marriage, the roles are interchangeable. So, for example, the man can walk the dog today, and the woman can do the same thing the next day.

The partners in the traditional marriage usually focus on raising their children, but in the companionate marriage, the partners focus on their relationship or each other. Therefore, it is easy to notice that the partners in the traditional marriage experience a strain when the children are away and have very little in common.

In companionate marriage, people have the freedom to choose their spouses, while traditional marriage gives the family the responsibility of being matchmakers. The assumption is that the spouses in the conventional marriage fall in love later on in their marriage. That may, however, not be the situation in the union. Some of the couples stay together because they feel it is their responsibility.

The traditional marriage discourages birth control measures while the companionate marriage encourages it. Companionate marriage gives the couple freedom to choose when and the number of children to have. That could be helpful for a family that cannot sustain a large household.

When did companionate marriage begin?

Dr. Melvin Knight created the word companionate marriage in 1924 to refer to childless marriage meant for companionship. Before 1920, wives were in charge of domestic duties while husbands were breadwinners. The war, however, brought so many reforms to the societal norms. That included the marriage arena. So many revisionists had the desire to preserve marriage by coming up with various reforms. They got their ideas from social hygienists and sexual radicals. In their reforms, they looked at women, sex, and privacy. At that time, women were not as domestic as before, which was not in line with the traditional marriage requirements.

Like sexual radicals, the revisionists advocated the goodness and vitality of sexuality, especially for ladies, and freedom for younger couples. They denounced sexual repression and authoritarian attitudes towards sex. Their center of attention was on how the previous damaged marriages. After women got the right to vote and more opportunities for paid employment, it promoted equality for women.  The three themes of the revisionists were: sexual intimacy, equality in marriages, and independence of the youth through privacy and freedom. That means that for the youth, courtship was no longer an affair involving the entire family. They were free to choose their dates.

In the 1920s, sex was more visible with the help of advertising companies. The youth viewed sexualization as modernity, and there was less restraint when it came to sex. Women were more empowered. With all that, divorce increased. Through women's suffrage, women got more employment, public roles, activism, and birth control options. Motherhood and wifehood were therefore not as fulfilling as it was previously to most women. Lesbianism became a popular choice. Employment made it easier for women to leave unfulfilling marriages. The marriage revisionists understood all the above societal changes and felt the need to save the marriage.

Benjamin Lindsey was a judge in America. At one point in his life, his bulk of work dealt with divorce cases that had a chance or reconciliation. In 1927, with the help of Wainwright Evans, he wrote a controversial book called Companionate Marriage, whose aim was to correct the wrongs in marriage at the time. He believed that a good foundation of marriage was respect, equality, and companionship. He was a huge advocate for birth control and woman suffrage. According to Benjamin and other revisionists, this union would allow access to birth control and sex education, and divorce with mutual consent for childless couples. Birth control would help prevent pregnancy or to space out the children. Sex education would allow the teams to create a sexual bond. Divorce was more like the last result if the couple could not solve their problems.

Some aspects of traditional marriage changed. For example, if the man was not prepared to take the role of breadwinner, the newlyweds could receive financial help from their parents or the wife's earnings. It was a substitute for living or sleeping together before marriage.

Benefits of companionate marriage

· The birth control aspect allows couples to control the number of children they get or avoid having them. There is less pressure to have kids in this union. The partners need to discuss whether they see kids in the future beforehand to avoid conflicts later on concerning that.

· It promotes career advancement. In the 1920s, it helped women acquire more job opportunities. Today, it allows both parties have time for their professions while they are still together. In an era where everyone is constantly busy, companionship comes in handy.

· There is equality of the genders. That is why you will find that roles are interchangeable. Both parties can seek employment to support the family.

· It promotes friendship. During the courting stage, the individuals try to find common ground for the fun activities they like. That makes it easier for them to increase their bond or intimacy. It would be correct to say that love plays a big role when getting into this union.

· Divorce happens through mutual consent. Sometimes it's usually impossible to mend some relationships, and that's where divorce comes in. Despite going for many counseling sessions, the couple may not be able to overcome the underlying issue. A good example may be infidelity. Divorce allows them to heal as individuals and still lead happy lives instead of staying together with so much hurt and anger. The fact that the spouses do not depend on each other financially is a bonus.


Final thoughts

For this kind of marriage to succeed, the individuals require confidence and awareness. Other important factors are communication, friendship, trust, common values, and commitment. Companionate marriage helps to reduce some of the burdens that society places on marriage. For example, men being the breadwinners, ladies staying at home to do domestic chores. In situations where a man is in an unsteady job or loses it, it may be too much for him. Allowing women to chip in creates the necessary balance. Gender equality helps all parties feel valued and respected in the union. Most women feel empowered when advancing in their careers. Allowing them to create a name for themselves out in the world gives them fulfillment while still in the marriage.  

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