Is Love Really Essential to Marriage?

We all have a childhood dream that when there is love, everything goes like silk, but the reality is that marriage requires a lot of compromise
— Raquel Welch

The notion that “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage” is still widespread, but the arguments against it are gaining strength. Addressing such arguments requires clarifying what we mean by profound love.

The Recent Connection Between Love and Marriage

The older I get, the less time I want to spend with the part of the human race that didn’t marry me—Robert Brault

The prevailing ideal that passionate love is essential in marriage is actually recently new. In her book on the history of marriage, Stephanie Coontz (2005) shows that this ideal became prevalent only about two centuries ago: “People have always fallen in love, and throughout the ages many couples have loved each other deeply. But only rarely in history has love been seen as the main reason for getting married.” Coontz further argues that “in many cultures, love has been seen as a desirable outcome of marriage but not as a good reason for getting married in the first place.”

Similarly, Pascal Bruckner (2013) argues that in the past, marriage was sacred, and love, if it existed at all, was a kind of bonus. Now that love has come to be seen as essential in marriage, love is perceived as sacred, and marriage as secondary.

person holding silver-colored ring
Photo by Sarah Drisk / Unsplash

Accordingly, the number of marriages has been declining, while divorces, unmarried partners, and single-parent families are increasing. Bruckner notes that love has triumphed over marriage, but now may be destroying it from within.

Considering passionate romantic love as essential in marriage has upgraded the value of marriage, making it a top priority in our lives. It has also, however, made marriages more volatile and uncertain. The issue of whether to leave a marriage in which love is not passionate becomes alarmingly central for many couples, and romantic compromises become a major concern.

Objections to the Connection

I never knew what real happiness was until I got married. And by then it was too late—Max Kauffman.

There are two major types of objections to considering love as the essence of marriage:

  1. Marriage is a framework of living that includes other important factors besides love.
  2. Passionate love is a relatively short-term experience in our lives, and so the long-term aspects of love are of greater importance.

The first set of objections indicates that marriage is a social framework that exists within certain socioeconomic circumstances—and that the well-being of the couple requires this fact to be taken into account. The second set of objections suggests that passionate love is unstable, exciting, and brief—and that this is contrary to the stable, routine, and longterm nature of marriage. The combination of these objections leads to the claim that considering love as the essence of marriage is bound to lead to disappointments and romantic compromises.

Photo by Jamez Picard / Unsplash

It is obvious that as a framework of living, there is more to marriage (or to other types of committed relationships) than just love. Getting married should take into account additional aspects—for example, whether a partner is likely to be a good provider and a good parent. Indeed, throughout history, marriage has been regarded as a kind of “deal” that should improve, or at least not harm, either person’s status and economic wealth. (For this reason, despite a variety of stories on the Cinderella theme, marrying “below oneself” has typically been infrequent.) Marrying for love may make a person blind to these additional aspects—there’s a saying that, “He who marries for love has good nights and bad days.” Coontz notes that the Enlightenment gave rise to the view that “love developed slowly, out of admiration, respect, and appreciation of someone’s good character.”

Socioeconomic considerations are related to all kinds of external circumstances that carry weight in the decision to get married. In our society, it appears that the value of such considerations is decreasing while that of love is increasing. The importance of love for both the establishment and the maintenance of a marriage is greatest in Western and Westernized nations, which tend to have higher economic standards of living, higher marriage and divorce rates, and lower fertility rates (Berscheid, 2010).

In light of the general improvement in living conditions in modern society, it’s understandable that the value of socioeconomic advantages is given less weight than that of love. However, these advantages have not disappeared—they have become part of the factors that increase love. It is easier for many to fall in love with people who have a higher socioeconomic status; to them, these people appear to be more desirable and therefore sexually attractive. Although the socioeconomic considerations for marriage may be losing ground as more people are able to maintain and even improve their socioeconomic situation without it, external circumstances still influence the decision to form any committed relationship, including marriage.

Photo by Steve Halama / Unsplash

I believe that all of the above objections can be met once we distinguish between intense and profound love.

Establishing the Connection

There is no substitute for the comfort supplied by the utterly “taken-for granted” relationship—Iris Murdoch

Establishing the connection between love and marriage requires the distinction between the acute emotion of intense passionate love and the different sentiment of profound love. A sentiment does not merely consist of experiencing a given acute emotion repeatedlyit also shapes our attitudes and behavior in a permanent way. A flash of intense sexual desire might last for a very short time, but profound love resonates constantly, coloring our moods, our demeanor, and the way we relate to time and space. Romantic intensity expresses the momentary value of acute emotions. Romantic profundity embodies frequent acute occurrences of intense love over long periods of time, along with a life experience that resonates in all dimensions, helping the individuals flourish and thrive. Romantic profundity involves shared activities which fulfill essential needs that foster of a couple’s long-term flourishing. The profundity of a romantic experience is different from how intensely it is felt. A short sexual desire may be more intense than a longer experience of romantic love, but it is less profound.

The above objections to considering love as the essence of marriage are valid concerning the acute emotion of intense, passionate love—but not concerning the sentiment of profound love. In a recent Psychology Today post on why marrying for love is not wise, Susan Pease Gadoua suggested three reasons:

  1. Love is a changeable emotion.
  2. Love does not make for a strong enough foundation.
  3. Love is far from “all you need.”

I believe that the notion of profound love can persuasively meet these objections.

  1. Intense passionate love is indeed a short-term emotion depending to a great extent on changeable circumstances—but the sentiment of profound love is a phenomenon that can last for many years.
  2. It is true that intense passionate love, limited in scope, does not provide a strong enough foundation for living together for many years; however, profound love, based upon a profound compatibility between two lovers, enables them to share many activities together and to promote their flourishing.
  3. Intense passionate love is indeed far from “all you need,” but profound love nurtures each lover’s flourishing as well as their common flourishing. In this sense, it enables the two to fulfill other needs as well. In this context Augustine’s claim—”Love, and do what you will”—is quite proper. In profound love, all activities will naturally nurture the lovers’ flourishing.

Marrying a person on the basis of merely intense passionate love, while ignoring, say, the person’s low intelligence or lack of kindness, may be considered in the short run as a very romantic decision. However, when long-term considerations of profundity are taken into account, the decision will typically prove to be a romantic disaster, involving misery and the feeling of having made a romantic compromise.

Love should have a central place in our life and our decision to marry, or enter into other types of committed relationships. However, long-term happiness and meaningfulness cannot be based upon intense passion alone, but should involve profound love, which includes shared activities and profound care and reciprocity, as well as at least a moderate level of intensity.

As Mignon McLaughlin put it: “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”


21 days ago

Get married, free, on muzmatch.

South African Match! #muzmatchsuccess

My name is Halima and I'm from Gauteng, South Africa and my husband (Arshad) is from Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; we are both South African Indians.

He liked my profile on muzmatch on the 8th of April 2018 and on the 9th we started chatting and Alhamdulillah, today we are husband and wife.

We did our Nikah last month (March 9th 2019).

About a month before I joined muzmatch I remember speaking to my mother in the kitchen as we cooked supper and she had full confidence that I'd be getting married soon.

I told her that I felt that maybe I'm just not meant to get married and be happy, taking into consideration that I personally felt like one could never find a decent man whose intention is to make Nikah in this day and age.

My Moulana had recommended that I join Nikah/Muslim match-making groups and muzmatch populated amongst my searches, so I downloaded the app and registered. After a while I had lost hope so I deleted the app from my phone but did not deactivate my profile.

It was a Monday morning, I had woken up to get ready for work,

I checked my phone and I had an email notification from muzmatch which read "Arshad likes you".

I was quite surprised; I looked at his profile and his biography was quite captivating but it seemed so surreal - this was too good to be true.

Wintery iPhone Flat Lay Mock Up
Photo by Emma Matthews / Unsplash

I used the link in his bio to view his Facebook profile, we had a mutual friend which was my cousin that also resides in Kwa-Zulu Natal, so I felt a bit more assured that this is definitely real considering that I had started to think that this could potentially be a catfish.

We started chatting that very morning and there was an instant click. It felt like we were long lost friends because of how well we understood each other and could complete each others sentences. We had the same interests and the same intention; we could speak for hours on end without running out of things to say.

We had realized that we are most definitely soulmates.

Within 2 weeks he called my parents to ask for my hand in marriage. In July 2018 (21st), I booked a flight to visit him and his mum for the day and after spending time together we knew that this was the right decision and that Allah SWT had created us for each other.

Photo by Ross Parmly / Unsplash

We then saw each other once again in August 2018 (25th - A surprise for my 21st birthday planned by him and my mum); and again in November 2018 when he flew up to attend my younger sister's wedding with his mum, younger sister and brother-in-law.

Slowly the long distance had become difficult, our younger sisters were both already married and settled and we started wondering when would we actually get married. In February this year he decided to relocate to Gauteng and found a temporary job.

His dad visited my parents and they decided to set a Nikah date, Alhamdulillah once the date was set everything fell into place by the will of Allah. He found a job as a PC Engineering lecturer and we were able to find our own place with our parents help and support.

Today I am happily married, living my dream with my husband and I have wonderful in-laws that love me as much as they love Arshad.

The most important quality I wanted in a husband was someone that could take my family as his own and Alhamdulillah I found that in Arshad.

We are now a huge happy family Alhamdulillah.

Jazak'Allah muzmatch! Arshad has found me due to the creation of this wonderful app (He always says that he found me, not the other way around).

I would advise everyone to put their trust and faith in Allah SWT, never give up hope that Allah SWT will send the one who is meant for you when the time is right - for Allah is the greatest of planners. May all the other individuals find their spouses through this app as well Insha'Allah.

Halima & Arshad

3 days ago

Egyptian Romance #muzmatchsuccess

My name is Yasmeen and I found my husband, Taymoor, on muzmatch on the last day of last ramadan. We were both divorced.

The first time we talked on muzmatch was in June and we got married one month later in August 2018. I always wanted to send our story to inspire others who are searching for a good husband and wife.  

We are both Egyptians, from Cairo, we even work & live very near to each others in New Cairo city. I am a digital marketing manager and Taymoor is an IT manager. I am 37 years old and he is 40.  

Influences of the past —
Stories, desire and a vivid imagination
attract people to this place.
Photo by Simon Matzinger / Unsplash

I have a daughter who is 12 years old, and I was searching for a real Muslim man who would be a good husband and father. Finally I found Taymoor, who is a good man and a good Muslim, he is very kind.

I am telling my friends that I found someone who really looks like me from the inside.  He was divorced and also has a kid, who is 5 years old. When we first chatted on muzmatch we spoke for over 6 hours, he was surprised much we got on, he even thought that this was a prank!

I couldn't believe that I finally found the man I was looking for. The first time we met, was after Eid al futr, in the House of Cocoa, as Taymoor knew that I loved chocolate. We talked about ourselves for over six hours, I did not want to leave and neither did he.

After we met I told my family and friends, and he did too. He and his family visited us and we got married in only two months, I never imagined that I would find my soulmate and marry him that fast.

I always wanted to find a man to trust and love, after being a single mom for years, I found out that my dream man was hard to find, but alhamdullah I found him on your app.  

Alhamdullah, we are very happy together, my daughter lives with us and his son visits us on the weekends. You cannot imagine how much I am now recommending muzmatch to all my friends.

It didn't even take me long to find my husband. I used the app for almost one month or less.

I am so happy alhamdullah now that I married a real muslim I always wanted.  

3 days ago

Get married, free, on muzmatch.

Close Call #muzmatchsuccess

My name is Sara and I just wanted to thank muzmatch and let you know that I finally got engaged on 24th December 2018 and found my Fiance - Ghazunfar on the App.  

We are really happy Alhamdulilah and just wanted to thank you for creating a platform for Muslims to find a suitable match for marriage!    

I believe it's a real blessing because initially we matched but we didn't talk as he hadn't read my messages and was not appearing online. After around 4 weeks, I unmatched however after some weeks I logged in and I came across his profile again. After some giving it some thought I decided to rematch and give it a try again.

The next day he replied to me and the is history.  Its been a almost a year since we matched on Muzmatch and we have set the Nikkah date which will be 1st March 2019 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.  

Our families are very happy and we are looking forward to entering into the blessed union of marriage Insha'Allah. We just wanted to say keep up the good work, may Allah bless you and request that you keep us in prayers.  

One last thing to everyone using the  muzmatch App - please do not give up, there is someone out there for us all!  

3 days ago

Get married, free, on muzmatch.

© 2019 muzmatch Inc.