Marriage, the Contract

27 August 2010

From me, I’ve failed at the marriage once and the sequel. I was not interested in the concept of marriage, even the first time. For me, marriage is a religious thing and I’m not religious. But my kids make a difference, at least to society that they be raised in wedlock for many including my first wife. I have two girls by my 1st marriage, who I love more than anything and I want to be involved with them with everyday. But, I’m male and society judges you for that gender and if you’re a man, you are a secondary influence. True, but changing.

After my 1st divorce, I went through another long term relationship. I gained a girlfriend, then wife and a son, hers. Now, we didn’t really want to get married again…but… We did mostly since society makes it difficult not to. The primary reason we married again was to reduce the cost of health insurance in half. Yes, half because we were paying for insurance our own families out of pocket and both policie$$$.

Hell, even just one policy these days is getting **very expen$ive** for even those doing well. I can’t imagine if for those who aren’t. As it approaches and soon surpasses your housing expense, what will we do as a society?

If either I or my second wife were ever out of work, even for a short time, it was impossible to keep our basic needs going. Getting married, eased the financial burden of the life we wanted to live. Getting married again was difficult, but it was doing something that neither of us felt comfortable with. For some reason, it added to life’s stresses and strains. We tried to work through those… I wish we didn’t *have* to. Mixing families is difficult enough.

For me, marriage *is* and always will be a religious thing, and I don’t belong there. I’m not in the club. Civil unions should be what all of them be classified and gender-agnostic. Why why do we need special or new laws? Can’t the union all just be partnerships, as in a business sense or basically a non-profit. Home is a business anyway, isn’t it. What’s the product? Love, happiness, family, kids, +. Why can’t we control who’s in our partnership and why should anyone, any entity, or any government care, but my insurance provider care? If we make a deal, then we have a deal, right? It’s a business transaction, simple.

In Wikipedia, [Marriage](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage) is social, religious, spiritual or legal union of individuals acknowledged by the state and/or the church. The church covers most of the social, religious and spiritual side of the deal and that fits with my point of view. Why does the government care or anybody else for that matter. Isn’t it a private thing?

BUT… The state, the fed mostly, on the other hand, primarily considers it a **contact**. Most of us would consider it a contract between two individuals or *the union* as defined above. Why a contract?

A contact is an exchange of promises. The marriage contract is actually a contact between more than 2 parties, at least here in the USA. Huh? Yes, it is an *implied* contract between the two marrying but also a contract with each of them and as a pair back to society. While society does not have a lot of say in the creation of the contact, it is on the hook for many of its benefits:
1. tax benefits
2. power of attorney to act for the other
3. custody and legal guardian decisions about and for the children
4. financial merging or partnership or an exchange of promise
That is a lot of stuff to be ‘gained’ automatically. Even more concerning is that often you can enter this contract without a pledge at all in many states with a common-law marriage definition in many places.

With that much at stake, why does society make it harder to separate than marry?

It *is* what it is, but the arguments about who can marry and not? Why is really about that at all. I don’t think many on the [Defense of Marriage]() side as only the union of a man and a woman. What are the DOM afraid of? Giving away the benefits? It doesn’t seem so, from the arguments I hear. It seems that are mostly concerned with the belittling of the *name* Marriage and mostly I think in the religious sense. Love thy partner!

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One Response to “Marriage, the Contract”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Interesting POV on marriages. If they were easy for most folks, it might be less of an issue. But they’re not. They certainly seem to be difficult to maintain, and the difficulty is growing. Why?

    Here are my thoughts: At the 50,000-foot view, Western Civilization is still in the process of emerging from a pretty much completely male-dominated society with a 2k, 3k or longer “habit”. Sure, the 60’s and 70’s provided a big jump in the push for equality, but even this past Sunday’s Boston Globe (11/14/2010) featured an article about gender inequality in pay. In the US, women still earn about 81% of what men earn for the same jobs.

    Still.

    What does this have to do with marriage? Simple: In the most base of perspectives, men may still run things, and out-earn women, but women wield significant power in Western culture too. And women tend to want marriage, and the marriage contract, as a measure of security for their nest — as a way of making sure that, when they have babies and start to raise them, their man won’t bolt — or, say, start having kids with other women concurrently. And to a lesser extent men have tended to want marriages too, as a way of making sure that the kids they raise, provide for and care about, are actually theirs.

    On a somewhat less rudimentary level, we now know enough about psychology to understand that kids tend to do best in life when they are raised in stable homes with loving parents who get along. The “we” in this statement is not, unfortunately, most individuals, but US culture as a whole.

    So there’s some substantial rationale for marriage, above and beyond political or industrial incentives.

    But if we have both strong desires for marriage, and a decent rationale, then why have marriages become so difficult to maintain?

    I believe the “forcing function” in this equation is, as you listed in your blog entry, the financial piece — but the real issue is often invisible to most people. As Eric Schlosser keenly points out at the start of his 2001 expos√© “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal,” real wages for Americans have been steadily dropping since the 1950’s — and possibly as far back as the end of WWII. In the 50’s, housing prices were comparatively low, and a family of four only needed one income to support the whole gang — with money to spare. Easily.

    But the more wages have dropped over the ensuing decades, the more imperative it has become for two incomes to support the household. Two income families mean choices that no well-meaning parent wants to make: babies and toddlers in daycare, kids in after-school care, and less time overall to do the activities that are important — like being there for your kids, being there to guide and raise your kids, spending quality time with your spouse or significant other, cooking real food, maintaining a network of friends, and on and on. Instead, households are persistently strapped for time and money just to maintain the household — pay bills, clean the house, and on and on. When William James called his late 19th Century culture “The Age of Anxiety,” things were indeed rough; but what a fitting title for our culture as well.

    These stressors can make a modern marriage into a crucible of tensions and frustrations: unfulfilled and unfulfillable dreams, arguments about money, “not enough time in the day”, and so on.

    No wonder so many people are thinking that marriage may be the root of the problem.


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