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  • On marriage...

    Wed, 13 Jan 2010 06:00

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    Over at the Financial Times, Isabel Berwick looks at three recent books on matrimony:

    As I said in my wedding speech, while ruefully acknowledging the cliche, getting married is a giant leap into the unknown. Just as it is the anticipation of giving birth -- rather than the profound life-shift once the baby arrives -- that makes first-time pregnant women anxious, so it is that a wedding day to organise always gets in the way of consideration of long-term married life. A wedding day is a public event, a rite of passage. What comes afterwards, the modern marriage, is a private and unknowable realm on the other side of the contractual fence.

    Historically, there have been plenty of books about marriage, practical "how-to" manuals offering guidance on conduct, housekeeping and sex. Until very recently, a wife had a clear-cut role she was expected to fulfil -- and so did her husband. "Undoubtably the husband hath power over the wife, and the wife ought to be subject to the husband in all things," wrote Hannah Woolley, the author of The Gentlewoman's Companion: A Guide to the Female Sex (1675). But we have, unsurprisingly, moved on from those rigid expectations.

    A fundamental shift is that women, in particular, seem to have transferred the focus of their relationship anxiety on to child-rearing: parenting books are published by the shelfload and bought by singles and couples alike. Few now bother with practical books about marriage. And if we no longer feel we need to get married to have children, what is the point of modern marriage? (More...)

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