The Making and Unmaking of Love

Category: Featured, Life & Society Topics: Marriage Values: Love, Spirituality Views: 15062

"Love and marriage, love and marriage; they go together, like horse and carriage...". 

What a beautiful song Frank Sinatra sang! The relationship between these two things was supposed to be so "elementary" that one could find out the truth just by asking the gentry. This song, of course, comes from a Sinatra movie. In real life, Frank Sinatra had so much love to share that he had four marriages. As a Hollywood star, rather a superstar, everyone knows that there would be times when horse and carriage might not go together. FRANKly speaking, to expect otherwise would be almost unthinkable.

In a world where "sacred" does not mean anything anymore, it is understandable that the idea of family has also become less important and relevant. While love is more of an emotional thing; sex is more of physical appetite, though these two are not mutually exclusive.

There is nothing deep about the fact that the newborns who come through a relationship that is based on love and some sacred bond may have better chance to have their own existence and reality be explored, understood, and regarded in a loving and sacred manner. However, those who come to this world merely on the roller coaster ride of sex, without any necessary link to "love and marriage" may tend to regard the whole life from the very same perspective that brought them to this world.

Sex passions are transient. It does not take very long to build the sexual passion: feed it to the climax, and it is all gone. Permanence does not mean anything in this context. Love does have a continuity and meaning. One can see in the nature that even in the animal kingdom examples abound that birds, apes, have sex generally with two implications: they build nests (or their homes) and they reproduce. It is not much different for the humanoids.

How old fashioned Mark Twain had been when he said, "Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century." (Mark Twain's Notebook) Sometime he had a different thought too: "It is not immoral to create the human species - with or without ceremony." [Mark Twain, a Biography].

All those nostalgic connections are so utterly outdated to our free-bird like spirit. Apparently, the old fashioned view is that a marriage can never take place without another marriage: that is between tying of the knot between marriage and love. But in the aftermath of the sexual liberation movement, our kewl attitude has no room for such kind of interTWAINining (deliberate misspelling) relationship as mentioned by Twain.

Making Love: The transformation of meaning

The whole idea of marriage has undergone a most radical transformation. There was a time when marriage meant a "union of a man and a woman as husband and wife". Some older dictionaries (e.g., The Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English of 1973 edition) has only one meaning of marriage as I just mentioned. We can't take it for granted that words mean the same as it used to. These days whenever someone is getting or got married, we have to politely ask whether it is "heterosex marriage" or "same-sex marriage". Who knows soon there might be marriages between human beings and animals? After all, we do have ancestral relatives (!) - according to some - living on and jumping from trees to trees. Since morally right or wrong is just relative thing, shouldn't everyone have his or her own definition? Therefore, what's all this fuss?

To understand this, let's first take a peek at the historical background of the changes we have experienced and what essentially we are undergoing. This period of radical cultural change was shaped by popular attitude regarding sex - as expressed by famous singer Tina Turner - "What's love got to do with it?" Indeed, love and sex became synonymous, as love as a euphemism for sex is found to be common to a lot of pop music from that period.* 

In the past, love used to "happen." People did not use to MAKE love like they made wagons, wars or fortunes. Yes, "making love" as an expression has been used centuries earlier, but not in the sense in which it is used now. For example, Shakespeare has Macbeth say to the murderers: "And thence it is that I to your assistance do make love." The phrase has been used by authors as diverse as John Dryden, Henry Fielding, Jane Austen; Thomas Hardy; Henry James and D H Lawrence.

However, until comparatively recently, the phrase meant something like this: 'to declare one's passion.' It had nothing whatsoever to do with having sex. Thus one finds in W. Somerset Maugham's 'Of Human Bondage' this interchange: 

"Did he make love to you?" he asked. The words seemed to stick funnily in his throat, but he asked them nevertheless. He liked Miss Wilkinson very much now, and was thrilled by her conversation, but he could not imagine anyone making love to her.
"What a question!" she cried. "Poor Guy, he made love to every woman he met. It was a habit that he could not break himself of."

Lines like these can cause much unintentional amusement to those who don't realize that the phrase once had a very different meaning. Martin Stent recalls having a class of A Level students howl with laughter when it got to this section of Austen's 'Emma':

.....but scarcely had she begun, scarcely had they passed the sweep-gate and joined the other carriage, than she found her subject cut up - her hand seized - her attention demanded, and Mr. Elton actually making violent love to her .....

Apparently, "make love" as an exclusive euphemism for having sex is a more recent coinage. Some relate it to the period during the 60's in the US when the anti-war movement was chanting slogans like "make love not war". Peter Frewer's "Mrs Grundy - Studies in English Prudery" just lists the phrase as appearing with that meaning in the late nineteenth century. Stuart Berg Flexner in "Speaking Freely" says the twentieth, but again with no clear citation.

Valerian's search on an excellent cd-rom library of pre-twentieth century texts showed every single one of the more than sixty authors cited used the phrase in its earlier meaning only - without any connotation of sex whatsoever. Not even DH Lawrence adopted the sexual definition, although he used the exact phrase in his 1913 novel "Sons and Lovers." This research does not include a reasonable search on twentieth century texts to trace the current usage.

Liberation of love from marriage: The sexual revolution

One of the most significant influences of the sexual revolution was its success in securing a divorce between the presumably sacred link of love and marriage. Those who really believe that, morally, ethically, psychologically or socially, there is no essential link between love and marriage, the new marriage between love and sex was a great accomplishment. Whatever was the price, to them, it was worth. But what was the price? Higher divorce rate, infidelity, broken families, widespread teen-age pregnancy, weakened family bond, sexual promiscuity, too many unplanned pregnancy, abortion on demand, and so on. To many, especially those who believe that the relationship between love and marriage is based on the foundation of nature and morality, this is a very high price to pay. To those who do not share this perspective, they are claiming their existential right to define morality.

Technologically, we are advancing more and more toward from everything corded to cordless. In another sense, we are going cordless. We all know that newborns at their birth are connected to their mothers' womb through a cord. Indeed, this cord has to be severed for the baby to begin its human journey of independence. The severence of the cord does not mean that we forget, emotionally or socially, that cord that dries up in days leaving only a physical trace on our body. This is a mystic tie that is more than physical. It represents a bond that, many believe, has a sacred dimension connecting the baby and the womb that bore the baby.. 

O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. [Quran 4:1]

The Prophet : The womb, i.e. the blood relationship, is suspended from the Throne of Allah and announces: 'Allah will hold by him who holds by me; and Allah will cut asunder from him who cuts asunder from me'. [Narrator: Hadrat A'isha; Sahih Muslim, #6198]

Thus, to those who view life in a purposive perspective and hold the family-centered, blood relationship as sacred, the cord connecting the baby and the mother's womb extends far beyond - a big part of the suspended cord that we can't see, except possibly with our eyes closed. In this technologically advanced, modern, cordless society, we are also making transition toward another kind of cordless society. People can now live together without any marital relationship and have children. Single parenthood is becoming almost as common as the traditional parenthood. As they feel like, they can get pregnant any time and any way they wish and then they can abort the new life at will. Those newborns who get to see the light of life are so easily abandoned to foster parents or for adoption. So easily people can seek divorce without little regard for the children and their life. So easily they also can relegate their parental responsibility to babysitters or daycare. No wonder that in the fairness of reciprocity, as parents send their children to daycare so routinely, senile parents are sent to the nursing homes. 

To make the matter worse, family and home used to be a place for refuge and comfort, especially the mother's lap, but no more. The story of newborns being dumped into trash can is becoming not so uncommon. Some mothers are even murdering children as happened in the case of Susan Smith in South Carolina. Family, love, marriage, mother-child relationship - nothing seems to be sacred or essential any more. When people can satisfy all their passion and more without any relationship of meaning and permanence, why bother with all those formal and/or sacred ties? In a way, it makes sense!

Obviously, this is not an issue without controversy. While in many societies where the relationship of marriage has nothing to do with love and the family life has rendered women into no more than reproductive machines and caretakers, the other extreme is that such relationship has nothing to do with reproduction in a sacred perspective. While Dr. Karl Bowman said, "Love is an obsessive delusion that is cured by marriage". Now, it seems that the society is trying to make the statement that "marriage is an obsessive delusion that is cured by love" - that is, consensual sex and relationship. 

Anyway, there might be broad agreement that the wind is blowing not in favor of love, but sex; not in favor of marriage as we used to know, but relationship. For many, love is not happening any more, we are making it. Like so many other things we are making - from cars to pencils to disposable diapers - we are making love. No wonder love - as it used to be linked with marriage, not sex - is "Gone with the wind!". If you are not aware, that's the name of one of the most famous, all-time classic movies. Toward the end of this 1939 movie, Captain Butler puts on his hat, picks up his stick and walks away from his remorseful, sobbing wife and love, saying: Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn! 

It seems that MAKING "love" has paved the way for UNMAKING of it.

The author is an professor of economics and finance at Upper Iowa University.

The author welcomes volunteers who would like to translate this piece into their native language.
[email protected]

  Category: Featured, Life & Society
  Topics: Marriage  Values: Love, Spirituality
Views: 15062

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Older Comments:
the article is a wounderful one but the muslim umah or muslim societies should try and establish a programmes where muslim brothers and sisters looking for true love and marriage to meet themself.Because this is one way the christan use in convering the muslims bothers and sisters.

alsalam alikom for all muslims
allah give us islam and imaan we say alhamdolla
love and marriage must be togather so marriage
is so inportant in islam and love allah and love any one love allah

I am impressed with the article, may Allah SWT rewards the author. The making of love today has reduced man to unnatural state, parents becoming enemies of their own offsprings. verily such a nation is treding the path self distruction. may Allah SWT guide the islamic nations.

I am glad to see Muslims discussing the proper place of emotional love. To those who object to linking love together with marriage, and especially for the brother who suggested that it is shirk to love one's spouse, I would respectfully refer you to the Qur'an, Surah 30 (Al Rum), verse 21: "And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and he has put love and mercy between your hearts: Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect." It is clear from this verse that love is a gift from Allah, to be enjoyed gratefully within marriage, not to be rejected as sinful.


people today many forget when u get married u complete half of ur imaan. if u love allah u have to love ur spouse for the pleasure of allah an allah will love u. today many are infuenced by the outside world and are never content with what they spouses have to offer, think back more then 1400 years ago in the time of our prophet and then u will c what love and respect is

I agree with the article. I think the "unmaking of love" so directly reflects the lack of committment to our relationships. In the face a difficulty, or the diminishing of that passion, the relationship is too often discarded, divorce is spoken with abandon, our lives and families destabilized. It is frightening prospect these to enter into a union.

it is really an impressing article especially in our present culture. The concern about making love deals great important, as we lose sincerarity &morality in such relations.Pleaseconvey the very article to whole mob.

totally agree with the author

totally agree with the author

It was a good article. And most of it atleast in theory true. Although I wondered how come there was a long paragraph about the mother child relationship and nothing about the father. Doesn't he have any importance, even in the traditional sense. In my poit of view many times the terrible things done to children are also due to the lack of interest in the part of the father. I think many women if the father would come up to say he will take care of the family and bare his responsibility like he should women might not get so many abortions or abandon their children. So let's not always blame the mother... even though she has also a great responsibility.

I agree with the idea of this article that people have lost the meaning and security of Marriage. But I am also against the idea of the apes and monkey sentence....unless it was meant as a sarcastic statement. I also don't like that there are a lot of references to singers, authors, books, movies and Mark Twain so much, as if they are who we follow. There is little reference to Islam. I totally don't like that the title of the movie GONE WITH THE WIND is hyperlinked. Why encourage people to see such things...your point was made. Period. And those quotes from the books were unneccesary. And yes, it does take on a different meaning for us nowadays, that's why they should not have been used.

Evelyn, about evolution: ever wonder why you have wisdom teeth an appendix and a tailbone? Or why there are racial difference among human beings? I guess not.

I do agree with this article. If this is the way people view marriage now imagine what it would be like when our children get married. it's scary!! I think that the western world plays an important part in the way things are done nowadays. Another important factor with regards to the high divorce rate is that people no longer want to compromise. it is always a matter of my way or the highway!!

What Prof. explained is not applied to our islamic society .. we still believe of marriage as the only relation between man and woman.

i love to read islamic city almost everyday cause there are something i 'miss' bout life...and how life should be!!!..but now...i really need your help to settle down my thesis study on the current situation of muslim minorities in different country.i lack off sources....i blank off it!!

i visited this lovely site some days back,it was so o nice to see such an islamic thought and preaching,i married mid last year and i will like to read more on what islam say about marring to or more wives..yours faithfully adekola adekunle abdul.

While I agree with some of the points made in this article I feel uncomfortable with the term 'love' being suggested as the criteria of (islamic) marriages for a number of reasons. I seem to recall that one of the implications of the name al-Wadood was that Allah was the only one worthy of Love, thus relationship love is more of a western concept than an Islamic one (note the author's reference to mainly western sources for his quotes). This western 'love' is as stable as the participants in it are emotionally stable and is not a criteria for successful marriage. I cannot recall hadeeth in which the Prophet has said that you need to be in 'love' to be married. Being in 'love' with other than God has a delusional idolatrous quality. How many people are there who thinking they are in 'love' destroy each other.

I blame the concept of the relationship of emotive 'love' to marriage as being as disastrous an impact on marriage as the equation of sex to love which the author of the article is addressing. Look at the divorce rates in societies which ennoble the emotional gratification of romantic love as the basis for marriage. If the author is not referring to romantic love, then this needs to be made clear in the article. Romantic love is the basis of fairy tales not marriages and Islamic marriages are based on something more noble.

I agree with this article with one exception. Apes and monkeys are not our ancestors! If anyone believes that - tell me where are all the stages of evolution? There are apes/monkeys and humans only - shouldn't there be living creatures in between? We are God's creation same as apes/monkeys are His creation - nothing in between. Back to article - what is happening with love and marriage is very sad - people no longer care about right and wrong, no longer care about the children, no longer care about each other. There will more Roman Empires falling, more Sodom and Gomorrahs. I, for one, do not life what I see is happening in the world.

Well done piece! (I, too, was impressed that his area of teaching was Economics.) Kudos to you, Professor, and thanks for writing an articulate AND interesting article on this subject. May Allah Bless all you do.

Since despite the umbilical cord severence at birth has been linked to family unity etc, it would have been more significant to stress that although Allah DOES provide a gradual independant exixstance for the baby, HE nevertheless wants us to "HOLD on" the the rope (CORD) of Allah in order to prosper.

I've been using Islamicity website for a long time, such as Quran recitations. Which is very good. And was tempted to become member and support this website, but I had my doubts becasue of other things this websites produce.
This article has made it all clear that what kind of people runs this website.
Firstable now I can not even go to this website to visit infront of my children, for such language used. I thought I am wrong so I read the article. I found it to be totaly out of place.
I could not understand that why this article was posted here. If this was for Muslims, living in USA, could have some references to Islam. At least that is what I thought this website is for.In my opinion the auther could show some examples how muslims should do things better.
If this website thikns that Muslims sensor rating system is same as the Holywood sensor rating then why do we need to have a separate website called Islamicity. We could just use the other websites that are out there like or etc. I hope Islamicty will read this and make changes accordingly. This is a Nasiha from your brother in islam.
Jazzak Allah Khair
Jahanur R. Subedar
Dallas, Texas.

What a refreshing piece of sourced expose.
It seems odd that a professor of economics would know so much about everything, but now that I think about it, perhaps you have a lot of time on your hand, and you have all the elements to study love which includes your young practicising flock of students.
Well done professor.

I would be glad to see the author write a book on the same topic. A good 300 to 500 pages in length, publish it in different languages, and sell it to the morally and ethically bankcrupt societies that seem to exist almost in every part of the world. It is a fact that i see everyday that the author has soo concisely put.

very nice. i like your approach and wording. very refreshing to see and read. reference to society today here in Usa, via music/TV, etc...adds a great touch to get the positive point across. Thanks Much...hamdullilah!