Continuing from the two previous posts (one, two), Bill Hobbs sent me an article by Ed Weathers in which Weathers disparages marriage as an artificial social "institution" and really -- in my mind -- misses the entire point.
I live with a woman who is not my wife. Her name is Gail. We share the same bed, and occasionally we make love to each other. We have been doing this for 7 years. At least once a week, Gail and I look at each other, shake our heads, reach out to hold hands, smile and say how lucky we are to be living such a pleasant life. Honestly. We do. You can ask her. ...Whew, long quote, go read the article.
Last week, for the five hundredth time, a friend asked me, good-naturedly, "When are you two finally going to get married?"
I gave him the answer I always give to that question: "Never."
Sometimes I'm asked the question differently: "So why don't you two get married?"
Again I always answer the same way: "Why should we? There's absolutely nothing marriage can add to our life together that would make it any better." ...
[snip lots of stuff about how marriage was "designed" to oppress women, "certain colors", and "certain castes", as well as to "suppress the fun of sex"...]
It's not just that marriage is unnecessary, I believe, it's that it's actually harmful. It replaces choice with compulsion. It makes that which should be voluntary, compulsory. ...
Things are clearer for Gail and me, and for others who live together. We know why we're there on Sunday afternoon, reading the paper on the sofa, looking at each other occasionally and smiling. It has nothing to do with covenants and courts. We're there because we like each other best. And we'll be there as long as we both shall love.
Ed's is not a new view, and I've heard it before. For all intents and purposes Ed and Gail are married. You don't need to have a big ceremony in a church or a piece of paper from the state to be married; by common law both church and state will recognize their marriage after 17 years, even if they might frown upon it.
What makes his view sound childish to me (aside from all the absurdities I snipped about oppression) is the end where he says "It has nothing to do with covenants and courts. We're there because we like each other best. And we'll be there as long as we both shall love." If that's all he wants, then fine, but you have to admit that an intimate relationship must -- by necessity -- be somewhat limited where there is no commitment.
How much of your life would you be willing to share with someone who may decide on a whim that they don't like you best anymore and that it's time to leave? I wonder if Ed and Gail have joint bank accounts. Do they jointly own property? Do they have children? These are the things that put strain on relationships and that require self-sacrifice and tenacity and commitment above and beyond mere emotion.
Only when we go through trials and tribulation with someone is a friendship really tested, and only then does real love show its worth. Ed seems to see no value in a relationship beyond the extent to which it fulfills his emotional lust, but commitment and partnership take a relationship beyond that. Consider other relationships with financial involvement, such as business partners. Only a fool would go into business with someone or invest money with someone who was unwilling to assume contractual obligations that extend beyond how fun the partnership is at any given moment. How much more so for people having children together? Entering a relationship is voluntary, and voluntarily assuming compulsory obligations is what adults do.
I have a great many acquaintances and surface relationships which exist out of convenience: people I go to class with, work with, see at conventions and conferences, you name it. But there's no real substance to those relationships because there is no shared living. Ed claims that he and Gail are "living together", but I wonder how "together" they really are? How together can it possibly be if there is no commitment beyond "I'll stick around as long as it's fun"?
I will certainly never plan my future on the shifting sands of human emotion.
Thanks Bill for linking to this post, and for rightfully acknowledging the shredification.