Marriage is an ancient institution that has been around for thousands of years. It originated in Middle English, first seen in 1250-1300 CE, but is likely to have predated this date. Historically, the primary purpose of marriage was to act as an alliance between families, and it was organized by families for couples. The best available evidence suggests that it is about 4,350 years old.
In the early days, marriage had little to do with love or religion. It was a practical arrangement between families and was often a matter of convenience. Men were taught to show greater respect for their wives and were forbidden to divorce them. Church blessings improved wives' luck and Christian doctrine stated that the two will be one flesh, giving husband and wife exclusive access to each other's bodies.
The concept of romantic love as a motivating force for marriage only dates back to the Middle Ages. This model was popularized by the French, who believed in the idea of a gentleman feeling an intense love for the wife of another, as in the case of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. Richard de Fournival, doctor to the King of France, wrote Advice on Love, in which he suggested that a woman give flirty glances at her love anything but a frank and open plea. The traditional meaning of marriage is a contract; an important feature of their religion, since sex before marriage is discouraged and procreation is encouraged. This understanding is similar across cultures, religions and legal systems.
However, as society has become more liberal and gender roles have diversified, the meaning of marriage has also changed. It is widely accepted that today, in a more liberal and tolerant society, the meaning of marriage focuses more on the heart of the matter: love.