The Amish are a fairly clandestine ethno-religious group of Christians who are known for refusing the luxuries of the outside world.
Much of their day-to-day life remains relatively unknown to the public at large, so it’s common for many to wonder about the Amish and the different practices they may observe.
This includes marriage.
One of the most common questions about Amish marriage is whether they practice polygamy. In short: No, the Amish do not practice polygamy.
But there’s more to this question than a simple answer.
First, we should address what a typical Amish marriage looks like.
What Is an Amish Marriage Like?
An Amish marriage is heavily rooted in family, faith, and community.
The Amish themselves are a fairly closed-off group from mainstream society, even as they’ve been forced to become more modern to keep up with the economies of areas like Lancaster, PA.
But in nearly every culture, marriage is a practice that’s considered to be the foundation of a culture and its continuation. In many ways, this is true for the Amish as well.
An Amish marriage consists of one man and one woman, and — to the absolute best of our knowledge — there is no deviation from this structure.
The man is considered the head of the household, and the woman is considered the caretaker of children. This system of assigned gender roles is similar to the antiquated notions of the “1950s family” that you may have seen on shows based heavily in Americana, like Leave It to Beaver and others.
Part of the reason that this tradition persists in Amish communities in particular is that the Amish are exceptionally slow to change. Limited transportation means that the Amish families that grow up around one another are almost always in constant contact. As families grow, they intermingle, intermix, and reproduce over generations.
(This causes some issues with birth defects and genetic conditions, but that’s a topic best discussed in another blog.)
However, the Amish are rigidly attuned to the inner-workings of their faith, regardless of the denomination to which they belong.
This means the traditional (and conservative) interpretation of marriage as being between one man and one woman is the only marriage that is conducted in Amish communities.
Do the Amish exhibit homosexuality? Certainly. But it’s considered a grave taboo, and if anyone in an Amish community does come out as homosexual, the thought is likely not entertained for long.
This is because marriage isn’t just marriage in the Amish community.
It also plays a much larger role in the community.
Amish Marriage Is a Community Concern
In European royalty, it’s a common sight to read about kings who were obsessed with keeping their bloodlines continuing to the next generation, typically with a male heir to the throne.
While the Amish are not (and don’t claim to be) royalty, the idea that fuels their stance on marriage is somewhat similar.
There are very few — if any — individuals who choose to join the Amish church today.
As a result, the main way that the Amish continue to exist throughout the generations is through producing large families.
In fact, the Amish population in America is growing, as Amish families continue to have upward of half a dozen children per family.
There are a few reasons.
First, as we mentioned, this almost guarantees that the Amish will persist into future generations.
Second, it also gives more free labor for Amish families who own farms and other large-scale, manual-intensive occupations.
(Child labor laws don’t apply to immediate family members.)
Third, it creates a larger and more dependable community. This is essential to the Amish way of life because they don’t have traditional health insurance. Instead, they pool their cash as a community to afford health bills as they’re needed, kind of like small-scale universal healthcare.
Because of all of this, marriage is not just a promise between two people in the AMish church.
It’s a community affair.
Still, those who are married to one another don’t show signs of polygamy or cheating (at least none that are outwardly recognizable).
However, this in no way means that Amish marriages are perfect by default.
In fact, the exact opposite can be true.
Amish Divorce & Separation
Despite the great efforts that the Amish community goes through to promote marriage and large families, marriage itself is not necessarily an indicator of happiness — just like in the rest of the world.
However, the Amish are almost exclusively against the institutions of divorce and separation, with both actions being considered highly taboo.
As a result, there are Amish couples who are still together in their old age who clearly dislike one another, just like you may find with married couples throughout non-Amish society.
So why would they stay together?
The main answer is tradition.
Biblical tradition, cultural tradition, and community tradition all strongly urge Amish couples to stay together, no matter what the cost.
There may be some exceptions. We’re confident that at least one Amsih divorce has happened at some point in the history of the entire Amish church.
But for the overwhelming majority of Amish marriages, divorce and separation are simply not an option.
Once an Amish couple is married, they’re married for life.
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