The Fallacy of Marriage

*See Updates section below

Marriage is an interesting institution in my opinion. Interesting in the fact that society places such a value on a ceremony that may not be necessary at all. Outside of the legal implication of marriage – is there really anything marriage provides to a relationship that cannot be had without it? In a modern society is marriage even worth it?

I’ve been happily married for two years now. I wouldn’t change that, but honestly our relationship didn’t change from one day to the next when it comes to marriage. We lived together before marriage, we shared incomes, we supported eachother, and we were monogamous. An expensive ceremony later, a few forms to change her last name, and WALA voilà – marriage.

The worst part about the institution of marriage is the legal implications. The worst of those – ending the marriage. Sometimes I wonder if the parting ways of two individuals should be left to the legal system at all. Shouldn’t it be a personal decision and a family matter? Even when kids are involved I imagine that most times (with the exception of violent relationships, which would require legal action since assault is a crime anyways) the entire situation would be better handled out of court than in it anyways.

You pay a thousands to get married then half of us pay a few more to get un-married. Seems like a brilliant Ponzi scheme played on us by society. Like I heard one guy say “It seems like a relationship based on love and wanting to be with each other is a lot more valuable than one based on staying together because it’s too expensive to separate.”

Legal Issues

Okay – legally speaking marriage is at times advantageous. It is helpful to, legally, be family. There are tax incentives, financial incentives, and the like. However, these are incentives to marriage that are built in to society. Legal incentives are not a natural advantage to the concept of marriage. Society could just as easily catered to a the recognition of the relationship status of each individual – without the complexities and legal ramifications of joining and separating from one another.

Marriage in Society

I can only imagine a few people cringing at this post. Some people probably feel that this is a direct attack on “traditional family values” and the very fabric of society. That’s not what I’m doing here though. I too believe that strong monogamous relationships are valuable.

I think that even the idea of marriage in religion is a far cry from what we have today. In the times of antiquity marriage was very personal. It involved the church, two committed people, and the family. There was no judge involved, often no legal ramifications, yet somehow it worked out.

Take Native American tribes. Couples were monogamous, helped each other live, and for all intensive purposes for all intents and purposes – married. The legal system had nothing to do with their commitment. Yet, somehow the very idea of marriage has become a legal one. Why?

Marriage vs. Marriage

The concept of marriage in it’s bastard form today serves to strengthen the state – not the two individuals engaging in such an act. When is the last time you heard of a couple that was happier BECAUSE they were married. I’m betting their love existed long before the exchange of vows and signing of legal documentation. If anything couples today exist IN SPITE OF marriage.

So for the couples out there who resist the traditional marriage yet live happy committed lives together – I say good for you. Maybe you are doing more for liberty than you even realized.

Updates:(7/18/2012)

After a few great comments/discussions I decided to somewhat reverse my opinion of the institution of marriage.  From a contract perspective it makes sense – especially when it comes to protecting the interest of the non-money earning party.  Here are a couple of comments that made me change my mind.

Via reconcileme:

That’s something I’ve often thought about. Even as a Christian I don’t really see the point in spending tons of money, likely putting people in debt, to make a commitment that can be made between 2 people and God. It really is simply about commitment and not tradition or ceremony. 2 people can decide to support and love each other without the state getting involved.

Now, even with that being said, there are definitely benefits to having a state recognized marriage when it comes to some of the things you mentioned, but also in divorce. There are a great many women who have literally given their life to a marriage. They have sacrificed careers, relationships, and the means to adequately support themselves for the sake of a husband and children. If not for the established legal system quite a few of these would be left with absolutely nothing after a divorce. If a man decides to leave a woman who has given her life to a marriage because he suddenly decides he wants someone else then she has a right to at least half of a family’s finances and continued support. How else is she supposed to achieve this if not for some kind of big binding legal agreement. The same type of scenario exists for men who see their marriage dissolve despite attempts to keep it together. Without some safeguards a woman could just up and move out taking the kids and leave a man with nothing to show for years of hard work and sacrifice.

While I certainly don’t think a legal document makes any 2 people more committed I do think the same legal document protects one party from the other’s bad choices.

Via Holden:

I think marriage provides a certain amount of security to the female in the relationship. Its natural that women be home keepers once they have a child in many cases and once a couple has kids, the woman usually takes primary custody with the kids in a divorce. Its not chauvinistic or sexist, its just a reality of life.

This leads to a limitation in a woman’s ability to earn for themselves and support themselves. Marriage acts as a bit of an assurance that they won’t get fucked over quite as bad if their husband decides to skip town.

Another thing. In my marriage, I “buy” the home. My name is on the loan, I pay for it. But my wife co-owns it with me. And she stays home and raises our children. If there were no legal/state involvement in contract of marriage, I could walk away and kick her ass out on the street. Is this fair?

Sorry, But the state most definitely needs to be involved in the institution of marriage to provide for a level playing field for both parties involved.

Alright, alright. I can admit when I’m wrong and I think both of these commenters made great points.

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12 thoughts on “The Fallacy of Marriage

  1. markd60

    I agree. What business is it of the state if two people make a comittment to each other? Plus, if you have kids you are blood related to your partner, then, even if you get a “divorce ” you’re still bound by blood.

    Reply
  2. reconciledme

    That’s something I’ve often thought about. Even as a Christian I don’t really see the point in spending tons of money, likely putting people in debt, to make a commitment that can be made between 2 people and God. It really is simply about commitment and not tradition or ceremony. 2 people can decide to support and love each other without the state getting involved.

    Now, even with that being said, there are definitely benefits to having a state recognized marriage when it comes to some of the things you mentioned, but also in divorce. There are a great many women who have literally given their life to a marriage. They have sacrificed careers, relationships, and the means to adequately support themselves for the sake of a husband and children. If not for the established legal system quite a few of these would be left with absolutely nothing after a divorce. If a man decides to leave a woman who has given her life to a marriage because he suddenly decides he wants someone else then she has a right to at least half of a family’s finances and continued support. How else is she supposed to achieve this if not for some kind of big binding legal agreement. The same type of scenario exists for men who see their marriage dissolve despite attempts to keep it together. Without some safeguards a woman could just up and move out taking the kids and leave a man with nothing to show for years of hard work and sacrifice.

    While I certainly don’t think a legal document makes any 2 people more committed I do think the same legal document protects one party from the other’s bad choices.

    Reply
    1. Atticus Finch Post author

      Your point is well taken. From a contract perspective a legally recognized marriage makes sense. Especially, as you pointed out, in situations when a women/man has given up their career, training, and ability to support themselves for the sake of the family. If that was the agreement the man and women settled on – a contract is certainly helpful. You made some great points!

      Maybe we should view marriage as a helpful tool – not a mandatory one. More like entering into a contract rather than something needed as a prerequisite to loving one another.

      Reply
  3. galudwig

    Brilliant post and I completely agree. While I have no problem with expensive ceremony or religious vows to demonstrate love, any legal advantages of some bureaucratic document which ‘makes it official’ should in my opinion be abolished.

    Bureaucratic definition of marriage doesn’t serve any purpose, but creates many problems (not the least of which is the ridiculous non-issue of whether to call gay marriage a marriage or civil union)

    Reply
  4. Rattlesnake

    First I have to say that the saying is “for all intents and purposes” and not “for all intensive purposes.” I know people don’t like being corrected, but I don’t care.

    Anyway, I completely agree. The state never should have gotten involved in marriage in the first place (from what I can tell the institution was much stronger before it did). Also, that would solve the problem of gay marriage.

    Reply
    1. Atticus Finch Post author

      It’s funny you corrected me on that because as I was writing it I thought “I don’t think that’s right.” Then I decided to Google “for all intensive purposes” and it seemed right so I left it in. Still the phrase bothered me because I felt like I had heard before it was wrong. Now I know! Thank you!

      As far as the actual post – I’m happy we are on the same page.

      Reply
      1. galudwig

        I feel I should also point out that WALA is about the strangest spelling of voilà I’ve ever seen (though ‘viola’ is the most annoying) 😀

        On topic, some people brought up good points here about marriage providing security for the woman. That is true, and does provide a defense for a ‘marriage contract’. But such a contract could be guaranteed by free market institutions just as much as it can be guaranteed by the state.

        Reply
  5. Holden

    I think marriage provides a certain amount of security to the female in the relationship. Its natural that women be home keepers once they have a child in many cases and once a couple has kids, the woman usually takes primary custody with the kids in a divorce. Its not chauvinistic or sexist, its just a reality of life.

    This leads to a limitation in a woman’s ability to earn for themselves and support themselves. Marriage acts as a bit of an assurance that they won’t get fucked over quite as bad if their husband decides to skip town.

    Another thing. In my marriage, I “buy” the home. My name is on the loan, I pay for it. But my wife co-owns it with me. And she stays home and raises our children. If there were no legal/state involvement in contract of marriage, I could walk away and kick her ass out on the street. Is this fair?

    Sorry, But the state most definitely needs to be involved in the institution of marriage to provide for a level playing field for both parties involved.

    Reply

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