October 10th, 2002

Postbox Fairy

Marriage

1) The social meaning of marriage has changed significantly over the years. In the past 20 or so years the increased acceptance of "living together" means marriage is no longer required in order to set up home with someone. This means that "Because we're in love and want to spend the rest of our lives together" is an insufficient reason in itself to marry.

2) This confused me for a long time, as I was asking the question "What difference would marriage make to our relationship?" and not coming up with any answers.

3) What I eventually realised (and I'm not sure why it took quite so long - over a year) is that marriage isn't about how you relate to each other, but how you as a couple relate to the rest of society, particularly people who don't know you very well (of course this may tangentially affect how you relate to one another as well, but only as a second-order effect). It's a way of announcing to the world "I have a permanent bond with this person, not just a long term one." Also the consequent increase in rights (e.g. inheritance, medical decisions) this implies.

4)It's also a way of confirming to your partner that you believe this is really It. Until you have something to lose on leaving the relationship, there isn't any way to distinguish between "forever" and "unless something better comes along". Matthew and I already have this to some extent with a joint mortgage (which, legally is probably only slightly weaker than marriage in terms of ease of dissolution), but the social implications of divorce are that much greater.

5) I also think it's the best way to bring up children, because I feel that children do better with the security of having two adults around (for both practical and emotional reasons), and with knowing that those two adults will both be around permanently. If you're not willing to make a formal committment to staying together, why are you having children? (I'm sure I don't need to make the point here that I'm not suggesting a) that if a woman finds herself pregnant that means she should automatically marry the father - in fact that's the complete reverse of my position b) in some cases divorce may be the least harmful option for all parties concerned)

PS The 'tired' mood on this entry has nothing to do with marriage - it's just because I was up til 1:30 am earlier this week playing Morrowind (a fantasy roleplaying game) on the computer.
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