I was caught in a heated argument about the topic, is it wrong to marry your cousin? Many a time, this kind of argument stems from the desire to find answers that would suit someone’s desire to marry someone they truly love, after finding out that they are related in one way, and if they both come from places that traditionally forbids cousin marriage.
As the world goes on, traditions have gradually been replaced by civilisation. People now look for reasons to support or refute the claims made by our traditional ancestors passed down to us through oral traditions and cultural education. However, issues that have to do with marriage and superstitions constantly present new questions, answers to which may not be satisfactory to people who asked them. One of these questions is that of marrying a cousin. Can cousins marry each other?
Marriage between cousins or siblings is referred to as consanguineous marriage. And of course, I’m sure you know who cousins are, don’t you?
People fall in love for different reasons. Sometimes, you just don’t predict who you eventually fall in love with. Prior to that, you find people who give a list of specifications they want in their spouse, tall, handsome, beautiful, dark and so on. But eventually, you end up with someone you never thought of. This could happen too, that you end up falling in love with your cousin, sometimes without even knowing.
Taking a peek at the historical perspective, marriage between cousins was encouraged and practised by indigenous cultures in Australia, North America, South America, and Polynesia. Those were very many years and I don’t know if they still hold on to that these days. Just like I started with, cultures are gradually being modified by civilisation.
Religiously, different sides have also been established. Whereas some form of Hinduism, Catholicism strictly prohibit cousin marriage, others like Protestanism, Islam and Judaism support cousin marriage even between first cousins.
Since the 19th century, cousin marriage has been in the decline. But in the Middle East and South Asia, cousin marriage is still strongly favoured even to date. Under Australian law, you are allowed to marry a cousin, niece or nephew, and even an aunt or uncle.
In Africa, cousin marriage is only allowed when the cousin relationship has become considerably distant. For example, immediate siblings and first or second cousins may not be allowed to marry, but distant cousins could. In the African setting, they have linked the cousin marriage to superstition and semi-religion, such that they believe that curses would be incurred if two cousins marry each other. To provide a solution to this, traditional rites would be performed to supposedly lift the curses before the cousin couple will be allowed to marry. No other constitutional laws exist against cousin marriages.
Whether you say only distant cousins should be allowed to marry or not, we somehow still meet the same question, is it wrong to marry my cousin?
I will make a fairly good attempt to provide an answer that is not only satisfactory but also explains some reasons behind some of these beliefs.
Another related entity to cousin marriage in the African setting is the concept of incest. Incest is the sexual relationship between close relatives, siblings, cousin, or between parent and child. Incest is more technically defined as sexual relations between people classed as being too closely related to marry each other. When people marry, they are expected to have sexual contacts, aren’t they? Now, when cousins marry, some of these cultures view their sexual relationship as incest and/or consanguineous.
Usually, the rites are enough to reduce the consequences but do they totally remove all consequences?
What are these consequences, as a matter of fact? I don’t know if I have talked too much already before hitting those consequences and many more, but I am certain this information will add value to your understanding of cousin marriage, consanguineous marriage and incest in these settings.
Many developed countries have formally documented marriage laws with clearly laid specifications in the judicial law for each state and country. This obviously means that what is accepted for one state may not be accepted for another.
The major reasons why cousin marriage was encouraged in some societies included the preservation of cultural values, family wealth, maintain physical closeness between all relatives, strengthen family ties and structure and building a stronger relationship between a wife and her inlaws, since they are, as a matter of fact, relatives even before the marriage.
Some notable people exploited this freedom in their own marriages as well. These include the following:
Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma – (first cousins)
Saddam Hussein and Sajida Talfah – (first cousins)
Albert Einstein and Elsa Lowenthal – (first cousins on mother’s side and second cousins on father’s side)
Franklin D Roosevelt and Eleanor
Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton – (third cousins)
Could there be some benefits in cousin marriage? We shall look at a few in the next section. After which, I can drop some great insights into the dangers associated with marrying a cousin.
What benefits could marrying a cousin offer?
Some Benefits of Marrying a Cousin
If there were no benefits, most cultures and people groups that permitted it through centuries wouldn’t have done so. There were some derived benefits in cousin marriages, and let me list a few of them for you.
Stronger family ties to realise that you are doubly related to your spouse.
Strengthening of the inheritance pool until a stable uniform gene pool is achieved.
Maybe, sustaining of ‘royal blood’ in cases of royalties and monarchy.
Children born between cousins have been scientifically noted to have a slightly lower birth weight, thus preventing too big babies and its complications.
As cultures and religion are likely similar, couple easily adapt to their new life together without so much stress.
Due to the recirculation of pure genes, newborns from a cousin/consanguineous marriage have been observed to have more thriving potential, in terms of growth.
I did get so much advantages of cousin marriage, didn’t I? These may be good enough reasons for you to move ahead, especially if you are here because you are in love with someone you later found to be your cousin, be it close or distant cousin.
But before, you exit this page and lay with him/her on bed to produce children that have a better growth potential, why don’t you consider some cons to cousin/consanguineous marriage first?
I promised you I was going to talk about the dangers and caveats of cousin marriage. So let me begin with the former here.
Dangers of Marrying a Cousin
Increased risks of genetic diseases.
Lack of social unity with other tribes.
Poor political relationships.
Increased risk for developing mood disorders.
Increased Risks of Genetic Diseases
Some genetic diseases do not get expressed in people so easily. They usually require more than one copy of a defective gene before the disease is overtly expressed.
Genes always come in two pairs known as alleles. One or both pairs of any given gene can have the defective copy. If the defect is on only one copy of the gene, it is referred to as heterozygous, but if both of the gene pairs have the defect, this is referred to as homozygous.
Many genetic diseases naturally require that two copies of the gene be defective(homozygous) before the disease is manifested in the individual. In which case, if only one of the gene pair has the defective change, the individual will be said to be a carrier but will not manifest any symptoms of overt disease. This can be exemplified by the SS (Sickle cell anaemia) genetic condition, that requires that both defective S haemoglobin must be present before the disease is manifested in the individual. People who have AS combinations are said to be carriers and do not come down with any symptoms of the disease.
When cousins marry each other, there are increased chances that a homozygous pair of the defective genes for a genetic disease will be obtained. The two sides of the union may have already gotten one copy of the defective gene individually, and when they come together to marry, there are high chances that one or most of their children would take the defective genes from both sides to make two copies, and the disease would manifest.
This is different from certain genetic diseases that need only one defective copy for them to manifest as disease. Other examples of these diseases that require two copies of the defective gene are Tay-Sachs disease(common in Ashkenazi Jews), cystic fibrosis, etc.
Lack of Social Unity With Other Tribes
Everyone of us is related to one another in one or more of three ways; by blood, through marriage and through the mere reason that we are the same biological species of homo-sapiens. For obvious reasons, the former bonds(blood and marriage) holds stronger than the homo-sapiens relationship. There are many other human relationships because as homo-sapiens, we love and enjoy almost the same things universally. For example, food, sports, entertainment, knowledge and business, these unites people to varying extents.
If we all stick to marrying ourselves, from our own tribe, we may be limiting how much better we can bond with other people out there. We get a form of social restriction, that’s is what it is. This marriage restriction is what has always been and we can readily see the reasons why this has been so. Due to issues relating to security, cultural differences, language differences, food preferences, marrying far too outside the immediate community and state/country have been rather frowned upon. But looking critically inwards, marriage is still our one chance to restore global peace, even among those people you never though would ever relate well together.
Poor Political Relationships
The Royal Marriages Act 1772 of the Parliament of Great Britain prescribed the conditions for which a British royal could contract a valid marriage in order to preserve the monarchical status of the royal house. In this prescription, before any royal marriage is conducted, it must first meet the minimum criteria for acceptance by the parliament, either lawfully or out of special consideration.
The laws are stringent but they sometimes allow marriage between royals and commoners. Otherwise, who knows if Prince Harry would have been allowed to marry Meghan Markle? But that’s just by the way.
Just like the social unity I talked about above, this kind of rules, especially if held more stringently, can cause some form of political restrictions. If only princes of Britain were, for instance, allowed to marry the princesses and vice-versa, with time, they would have all become cousins marrying themselves. And if there is no form of political diversity in marriage, such that, they are not allowed to marry from other kingdoms of the world, it would be a missed opportunity to gain more political influence.
King Solomon of the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah, was said to have had so great influence, fame and wealth because he married princesses from many other nations of the world at that time. Let me just end this chapter by asking this question, do you go to war with a nation for whom your daughter is a Queen? No you, don’t. That’s some form of peace right there.
Well, maybe I am biased against cousin relationships and marriage, but let’s pause a little. What is the caveat to this belief that it is not right to marry your cousin?
From a more critical point of view, there is no absolute reason why marrying your cousin is a taboo. Like we have already seen, different people have their own beliefs about this and they make their laws accordingly. One common fact about consanguineous marriage is that very close relatives finds it naturally uncomfortable to consummate any sexual act with each other. In cases, where these relatives have become separated or distanced from each other, or even made unaware of their relationship with each other, erotic feelings and the acts of sex can be consumated.
It therefore stands to reason that simple distance, alone, is enough to make two cousins compatible for marriage. However, some of those genetic factors we talked about are not removed by distance just as simple as that. So, biologic reasons that involve a high risk of acquiring certain genetic diseases must be considered seriously before deciding to marry your cousin.
So what is the caveat?
The Caveat: We Are Already Cousins
Several theories exist to explain the origin of the world. There is the spontaneous creation theory that emphasizes that life began from dust, or a pebble, or some small stuff I can’t just pick up right now.
There is the big bang theory that says life started after than big bang, an energetic collision of two high energy masses. And then, there is the special creation theory that emphasizes that a supreme being(God) created every living thing.
Genetic studies have shown that over 95% of genes are identical across all cultures and races of human. That means we have a lot in common already. Where did that commonality come from? Was it just a mere coincidence? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. But let’s assume for a moment.
So if we share so much genetic materials already, that means we may equally share a similar ancestry too. So, if we share the same ancestry, that means we are all related by blood, though distant, and it means we are already cousins.
In this case, the point of discussion shifts from why or why you should not marry your cousin, to how distant your cousin relationship with someone should be before you go all out to marry them.
Chimpanzees are sometimes called our distant cousins, but those are obviously too distant to consummate marriage with, hm? Quite funny but at this point, I want you to never forget something; – Consanguineous marriage have some benefits, can be unavoidable sometimes and it also have some disadvantages. But before you decide, can you take a moment to weight the risk-benefit ratio?
I am a seasoned writer, not because I am some genius but thanks to many years of trials, failure, and near successes. I curate the most content on this website; all geared towards making you a better and happier audience.