Lord Ashtar's Thoughts on the Institution of Marriage

I found out last night that my dad proposed to his girlfriend (kind of creepy to hear a 58 year old man refer to the 60+ woman he’s dating as his girlfriend, but I digress) on Sunday and she said yes.

This frustrates the hell out of me, although I’m not entirely sure why. They’ve been dating for 10 months, which I’m sure is plenty of time when you get to his age. He waited a little longer this time, too. The last woman he was engaged to he had dated for barely 4 months before he dropped to one knee before her. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

Those who know me are probably already aware of how disenchanted I am with marriage in general. This could be because of the messy divorce my parents went through, or the messy divorces they each had with their subsequent spouses. It could be because of the national debate about whether or not two men or two women should be allowed to marry. It could be because my mom is on her fourth and this’ll be my dad’s third.

I guess I’m just questioning the whole point of the institution of marriage. I guess I can understand the religious implications, in that you want to be joined as one by God so you’re not living in sin or whatever. And I guess I understand how some people feel the need to make some kind of public declaration of their commitment to each other (okay, I really don’t understand that, but I can go with the flow).

With divorce rates skyrocketing and more and more children being born out of wedlock to absent fathers and alcoholic/drug addicted mothers, I just don’t see marriage as being necessary anymore. I say, if you love someone and want to spend the rest of your life with him/her, then more power to ya. Go do it. Hopefully you’ll be one of the Happliy Ever After couples that seem to be becoming so rare these days. But let’s drop this need to drop thousands of dollars on a dress, a tux, a caterer, and a minister/priest/shaman/whatever along with all the other expenses you’ll incur. Even if you just plan to fly to Vegas and get hitched by Elvis, don’t do it. You don’t need a piece of paper to tell you that you’re in love.

I know, I know, I’m a cynical bastard. I’m also aware that some of this stuff is quite the non sequitor. Whatever. Let me vent.

My take, for what it’s worth:

Marriage, like pretty much anything else, is what you make of it. If it’s just a convenience move or whatever to you, it won’t mean as much–or be worth as much.

If it’s a commitment in a real sense, a work in progress, a work of building trust and compassion and love–then it’s so much more.

It’s all about what you put into it–that’s what counts. Don’t let your dad’s marriages (and divorces) disenchant you, if you meet the right person.

You don’t need a piece of paper to tell you you’re in love, but you DO need a piece of paper to tell the hospital your lover can make medical descisions on your behalf. There are significant tax and legal benefits to being married in the eyes of the state.

Okay, but how is that any different than a regular relationship?

It’s not, sort of–those are the basics for any working relationship, including a marriage.

But I think it tackles the issue of fidelity (which is what I think bothers you most about your dad and his marriages?), which is more pronounced in a marriage, since you’ve made a commitment with your spouse to be faithful to each other for the rest of your lives.

I mean, marriage vs. a relationship seems to me mostly about something temporary vs. permanence. If you realize that marriage is a work in progress–an ongoing relationship for the rest of your life–I think you deal with it that much better.

Does any of this make sense? :slight_smile:

Won’t somebody think of the children???

Hey, it’s MPSIMS. Whaddaya want?

I have a friend who was married four times by her thirtieth birthday. I often wondered why she kept trying. But her fourth husband turned out to be THE ONE, and I envy them their happiness. (And since he was a friend of her third husband, they may never have met had she not married anyone who asked.)

My parents are still together, and there are almost no divorces anywhere in my family, which is a statistical miracle.

I agree with both Kythereia and Hello Again regarding the benefits of marriage, but I can also see why someone might wonder what the point is. I know couples who have been together as long as my parents without being married, and they don’t seem to love each other any less, or any differently.

Whether or not you want to get married is really up to you and your partner (in hetero relationships, at least–otherwise, it seems to be up to the government, and we don’t want that argument here). When it comes down to it, it’s about what you want. Some people need that feeling of permanence, that divine justification, that promise of fidelity. Personally, I am in favor of marriage because I’d get to wear a pretty dress, eat cake, and people would buy me new kitchen stuff. :slight_smile:

I sympathize with your point of view, Lord Ashtar. My dad is on wife number three himself and it isn’t the most wonderful relationship, either. He has seven children from his previous two marriages (my mom was wife number two). Of the seven of us (age ranges from 28 to 49), only two have gotten married. I think its partly because watching our dad flail has made us all pretty jaded towards marriage. My dad proposed to his third wife less than a year after the divorce he didn’t want from my mother was finalized. Wow what a recovery period dad. Whatever.
One of my older sisters has been dating the same guy for over 20 years. They are for all intents and purposes married. But they never bothered to get hitched. I think sometimes hanging the name of “marriage” on to your relationship puts a burden on it. There seems to be a lot of baggage to getting married.
I probably will get married someday anyway. But I will be very cautious about it. I don’t want to end up like my dad, in an unhappy marriage just because he can’t stand to be alone.

Yes. And the part about making medical decisions and being able to visit your loved one in the hospital ICU is the single biggest reason why I think same-sex marriages should be legal. Imagine how crushing it is to have your SO become seriously ill and be completely excluded because you aren’t legally family - and can never be.

And that’s another point too - marriage is a way to officially, legally make an individual who is unrelated by blood into a family member.

Historically marriage wasn’t about love and romance - it was about property, linking families and consolidating power.

Sure, but how permanent is a marriage nowadays anyway? I mean, if people can divorce because of “irreconcilable (sp) differences” after only a few weeks, when does the permanence come in? All that’s happened is you and your ex are now out thousands of dollars. And just how permanent was Britney Spears’ marriage?

BTW, I’m sorry if any of my replies to you sound snarky. I guess I’m just in a lousy mood with some heavy stuff on my mind. Please don’t take it personally.

I just wanted to second Hello Again’s point. Marriage is simply economically more feasible. And being able to make decisions for each other, be in the hospital, etc., these are all important things.

Plus, first weddings are a big deal. I suppose they all are but I haven’t even had one yet, so I can’t say.

The thing you have to realize, Lord Ashtar, is that you’re absolutely right. Marraige as a social institution no longer fits the society we live in. It was conceived first, as romansperson said, as a means of linking families and their assets (I’m talking about land here, you perverts). Only later did this idea merge with that of chivalry to create the “divine union” concept. This idea worked for hundreds of years, a time period when, to find her husband, a wife needed only to look out over their farm, and there he was. Now our society is far more mobile, and we come into contact with far more people than we would if we stayed within a 30 mile radius of our birthplace as used to be the norm. This is not to say that it’s impossible for two people to be very well suited to sharing their lives with each other. Rather, the “divine union” concept works best when the couple is in relative isolation, and this is clearly no longer the case.

In my view, a marriage is an agreement that this will be a permanent relationship.

Dating, even monogamous, committed dating ain’t necessarily so.

Yes, a large portion of marriages ultimately end. But the intent upon entering into a marriage is that it be forever. The intent upon entering into other relationships isn’t necessarily that it be permanent. People who enter into all romantic relationships treating each one as though it’s forever (regardless of the situation) are the stuff of hideous dating nightmares.

My personal view is that a marriage is the formation of a whole new relationship out of an existing relationship. It’s a beginning. A lot of people view marriage as the culmination of their romantic relationship - the apex. It’s not. It’s the point at which you change to a whole NEW relationship - with the same person. You date in order to find the person with whom you can build a permanent, life-long relationship with. When you locate that person, you celebrate by having a ceremony to mark that you’re sure you’ve found each other and are going to get started with your lives together.

I think a lot of people get married not because they found the person with whom it’s possible to build a life-long relationship, but because they feel the need to culminate their not-currently-dysfunctional romantic relationship.

Okay I’m not sure I’m making sense here, so I’m just going to stop :slight_smile:

Divorce Form


However, on point #1, the medical decisions part, everyone should also have a durable power of attorney for health care drawn up, which will specify who definitively does (and does not) have such rights.

In addition, in some cases a person can designate to a hospital who may and may not have family-type visitation rights. A few years ago, a dear friend of mine was hospitalized for a stroke. Her elderly father lives several states away, and she has no spouse, children or siblings. She designated me as the person with such visitation privileges, although we are not not involved in any type of romantic relationship, both being quite happily heterosexual females. Of course it helped that she was conscious and perfectly capable of making her wishes known. YMMV.

JohnBckWLD, the problem with those rates is that they’re per 1,000 people. So there are fewer divorces; fine, but fewer people are getting married, too. I think Lord Ashtar was referring to figures that show that a greater percentage of marriages end in divorce. This site has a comprehensive list of statistics, though most are a few years old. According to that site, 50% of marriages ended in divorce as of 1997.

My SO and I have been living together for almost 13 years now. We are on our 5th mortgage together. We share bank accounts and credit cards. We are the beneficiaries of each others life insurance. We get multicar discounts because we each have a car. We have also outlasted half of our friends’ marriages.

So no, a wedding really isn’t necessary. On the other hand, if for some reason we split up, I’m not sure it would be any easier to do then if we had to get a divorce.

For some people though, I think that a marriage offers that incentive to try a little harder to make a relationship work, rather then just moving out and on. To give it one more try, to forgive one more time, to talk it out again.

And yes, the legal side of marriage does have it’s benefits. The hospital / healthcare thing has been mentioned. I’ve been tossing around the idea of popping the question, for insurance reasons. We are quite happy the way we are, but it would be nice to know that if one of us was unemployeed, the others insurance would cover both.

There’s also the fact that people live a lot longer now, too. Just 100 years ago, life expectancy in this country was about 50 years, so a long-term relationship wasn’t as long term as it can be now. My own parents are in their 70s and have been married for longer than someone who was born in 1900 was expected to live. That’s a reeeeealllly long time with the same person, regardless of how much in love with them you are. Still, I think people in general, when they are in love, tend to look at that relationship optimistically and want to add an air of permanence to it, and marriage achieves that particular goal.

As visions of pregnant 60-year-old women dancing through my head, I suppose your father and girlfriend are not expecting any life altering circumstance to occur for the rest of their lives barring death, disease, or you moving back in. The expectation of raising a family is way past them. So why not marry. :rolleyes:

OK, speaking as a person who just got married and is thusly biased, I’d like to throw out a few bullet points.
[li]Social and Legal Recognition [/li][li]Legal Rights[/li][li]Taxes[/li][li]Insurance[/li][li]Raising Children[/li][/ul]
You can put your SO on your insurance, have a power of attorney for them to make decisions for you, raise kids, etc without being married, but it’s simpler if you just have the document. When I worked in insurance there were all sorts of hoops an unmarried couple had to jump through to be treated like a married couple and get the discount, be able to change each other’s plans, etc. And no matter how long you and your SO have been together, the general public will not consider you as committed to each other or as unified a couple as if you had gotten married. And let’s not forget there is no fun party where people throw presents at you. :smiley: