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the democratization of love

Romantic love as we know it today is not that old. In the not too distant past, marriages were more like arrangements where two people joined to increase their chance of prosperity. Many of these unions were arranged and before these children had reached the age of puberty, some were already betrothed to be wed. The families had a mutual interest in these marriages and at the highest levels of power included access to the thrones of Europe. At the lowest levels, they could be a way out of poverty.

But as wealth began to be more evenly distributed among the population, the idea of choice became possible. People could wait for the person they were drawn to rather than concern themselves only with economics or power interests. Love became in a way democratized like it never had before.

Of course as we well know, these unions were not necessarily more successful in the long run and, in highly patriarchal societies, women were left vulnerable to the infidelities of men who had grown weary of their partners. The inequality only worked in one direction.

Today, we are left with a more level playing field but also with more confusion than ever before because the rules are increasingly non-existent. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean we are even more uncertain of the outcome and, as the pressure of religious dogma as bonding agent has been removed from the equation, the likelihood of a union surviving has been greatly reduced.

As a result, perhaps we need to refashion our thinking about the idea of marriage and expect that the old baseline of "till death do us part" is now the anomaly.

One of the largest growing group of people are now divorcees many with grown children who are trying to find love in an environment of increasing uncertainty but perhaps with the added advantage of hindsight in knowing what they don't want.

Still, no matter our place in life or economic standing, romantic love remains and always has been at best a crap shoot.


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