common threads #7: marriage

Posted: March 8, 2012 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , ,

The argument for marriage essentially boils down to one of four reasons, or a combination thereof.

– Love
– Security
– Companionship
– Unplanned Pregnancy

Love is a slippery, tricky beast, ain’t it? Physically grabbing onto a chunk of love so you can hold it in your hands and examine it as a geologist would a rock is impossible. It’s like trying to scoop air into your hands and hold it still so you can perform a detailed analysis on it. Can’t be done. But like air, when love is present you know it. Now in the context of marriage love is a relatively new motivator. For the longest time people didn’t marry for love. Marriage was a practical decision, like merging two companies to create scales of economy. Why deal with the grinding business of life alone when you could just as easily latch onto another set of arms and legs to help? Another benefit was you may eventually produce more arms and legs to help with the never-ending work. Let’s face it. Once you hoed the fields and chopped the wood and captured the food there wasn’t much else to do, especially after the sun set. Release a bit of tension AND create additional workers! Can’t beat that! More people to hoe the fields, chop the wood and capture the food. Oh I’m sure some married for love back then, but basically marriage was born out of survival. And the need for laborers.

Well, things evolve. Daily life has been eased by innovation and we have plenty of workers. As such the idea of actually marrying the person you love (instead of secretly pining for them while you milked the cow) grew. Of course lots of people who don’t love each other still get married, but it’s probably a much lower percentage than in 1850. The prevalent expectation today is when people marry it is because they are in love. Or the illusion of love. Whatever. Love’s messing around in there somewhere.

When love is nowhere to be found marriage may be a means to gain security, be it financial or emotional. Perhaps two people simply crave constant companionship, the comfort that comes from knowing you will not be alone at the end of the day. While many people say they would never marry without love they have no qualms when other people do. “I’d never marry a person I didn’t love, but I understand why they did. It was because _______.” Fill in the blank. His money. Her status. His inability to live alone. Her need for validation. And on and on and on. But are they condemned for this loveless union? No. Individuals may privately pooh-pooh it, but society is accepting. “It’s their life. They can do what they want.”

Finally, there’s the joy of unplanned pregnancy. Increasingly couples who find themselves in this situation choose not to marry. Most do, but not all. Certainly lots of tsk-tsking and recriminations are whispered when marriage doesn’t follow a surprise pregnancy, but it stops there. Society says, “Okay by us!” No law requires people marry just because a baby is coming. Lots of folks think it’s the proper thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it happens.

Whatever the reason(s) people get married, one truism is attached to every marriage – it’s a legal contract. When you strip it down to its irrefutable core marriage is always a legal arrangement. For the longest time it was a one-sided arrangement which heavily favored men, but it was still a legal matter baby. Which makes it doubly difficult to understand the notion that the only people who can enter into this legal contract are those of the opposite sex. Is there any other situation where people who want to enter into a contract have such a basic requirement thrust upon them, the requirement of gender? It certainly doesn’t happen in business. Contracts between and among people of all faiths, genders, cultures, backgrounds, shapes and sizes are signed every day. No one cares. It’s only this one contract, one which allows two people to legally share a life and enjoy the societal benefits which come with it, that places a specific (and unchangeable) requirement upon the people involved. Isn’t that odd?

Arguments against same sex marriage often reference “the sanctity of marriage” which, we all know, is blatantly disregarded by lots of married people. We hear about “corrupting the moral fiber” of society. Denying a segment of your citizens the opportunity to enter into such a basic, mutual agreement…is that how a morally just society operates? We hear about religious doctrines and historical precedents. We hear the earth will start rotating backwards and lightning will shoot from the ground up. We hear everything except the truth. The truth is that in a system where the law and contractual obligations drive everything forward there is no justifiable reason why this single contract, one which impacts a small percentage of people, is left on the side of the road waiting for a ride that may never come.
Learn more about The Common Threads Project.

  1. kayjai says:

    Same sex marriages are marriages between two people who share a common bond and wish to share their life together. I’m confused as to why this should remain a question of legality or a question at all. It is what it is…


  2. Excellent point and innuendos!


  3. Kana Tyler says:

    “Sanctity of marriage,” my ass! Show me any heterosexual marriage, and I’ll guarantee that THAT marriage is 100% more likely to be threatened by the behavior of one of the two people IN it than by the totally unrelated fact that my daughter has a WIFE… 😉


  4. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Your common thread posts have been really interesting. I personally, married for money and to have someone reach things off the high-shelf for me since I am short. Both good reasons in my book.

    Lovely post.


  5. Makes me sad to think of people together for reasons other than love..


  6. I completely agree. Until anyone can marry, I can see only two good reasons to get hitched, both legal: children and old age. Because of how our society is set up, having it legal helps take care of children of your spouse later on for that “in sickness and in health” part of the promise. But all this hoopla about who can be married and who can’t just takes all the romance out of it, for me.


    • John says:

      I completely agree. It does take the romance out of it. But it never seems like romance is a concern to the people who argue against same-sex marriage. Actually, with lots of those folks romance never enters into any discussion about marriage, same-sex or otherwise.


  7. I completely agree with you on this. I’ve been wondering, though, if it’s a legal contract, why don’t we allow polygamy? It seems that, if they are consenting adults, we should. I have no problem with same-sex marriages, but for some reason polygamy bothers me. I just can’t figure out why.


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