Tag Archives: marriage

Documenting multiple-partner marriages in America

In an earlier post, I mentioned the existence of multiple-partner marriages in America; commenter Ellen challenged me to find reputable sources to back up this assertion. Somewhere in my personal library I do have at least one book that documents the practice of multiple-partner marriages among lower-class white in colonial New England; but I cannot find that book right now; my books are still in a certain amount of chaos from moving.

Google Books came to my rescue. A quick search of Google Books turned up several reputable sources that back up my assertion. If this sort of thing interests you, I’ve included lengthy quotations from the relevant books below the fold — then you can go read those books yourself online. Continue reading

Rough description of marriage in contemporary Unitarian Universalism

With all the current debate about the meaning of marriage, particularly in the context of the so-called “culture wars,” I decided to summarize what I know about marriage as it is practiced in, and understood by, Unitarian Universalist congregations today. This is a descriptive rather than a prescriptive summary; I am not trying to prescribe what “real” marriage is; I am not trying to tell how you should do marriage; I am trying to describe marriage as I have observed it in my affiliation with nine different congregations with varying theological emphases.

Covenantal basis | Forms | Same-sex marriage | Divorce | Changes and challenges | Life in the married state

Three dimensions of a covenantal basis for marriage

The most obvious thing to say about Unitarian Universalist marriage is that it is a covenant; that is, it is a complex of promises exchanged by individuals, promises that are designed to bind them together in relationship. Unitarian Universalist marriage has three basic dimensions: (1) a personal relationship between the individuals who are married; (2) a public or social relationship between the individuals being married and a wider social web of relationships (that wider web of relationships may include family, friends, congregation, wider local community); these first two dimensions may be characterized as horizontal relationships, i.e., relationships between persons. The third dimension may be characterized as the vertical dimension: (3) a relationship with something larger than individual humans or human organizations. This third dimension tends to be flattened or barely acknowledged in many Unitarian Universalist marriages, and may be acknowledged only as some implicit or off-hand appeal to larger ideals; other Unitarian Universalist marriages refer explicitly to a deity (God, Goddess, etc.) or deities, or to something like Bernard Loomer’s theological concept of the Web of Life. However each dimension happens to be understood, Unitarian Universalist marriage is a covenant, a set of promises, encompassing all three of these dimensions. Continue reading