Marriage: time for a new paradigm?

This thread and a few previous threads have set me to thinking: is it time we reconsider the concept of marriage?

I’ve not had the experience of a relationship so I know I’m speaking from a certain - massive - ignorance here.

First off, we have had a massive increase in human longevity. Second, we have a massive improvement in childbirth, both maternal survival and infant survival.

Should we not recognise that people fall in and out of love, above and beyond divorce?

Should we redefine marriage as a partnership between A and B? Sex of the partners being irrelevant as both are striving towards the same goal?

Should we redefine marriage as a contract between A and B for procreation? With a simple financial provision for support? How do we differentiate between the benefit/utility to the male to the benefit/utility to the female?

How do - or can - the above two interrelate?

Should we go back to arranged marriages? After all, marrying for love is a relatively recent affair and our parents re presumably much wiser than we.

The problem with arranged marriages is that people (women even!) aren’t property. So unless you want to end marital rape as something bad, I’m not sure how one can proceed with that method.

And cutting out arranged mariages, I’m not sure there is a third method to consider…

Before the age of modern communication and the Internet, you would come into this world as a child of your religious parents. You’d assume their belief system and grow up in the Disney World of “heaven” and “marriage till death do us part”. Some would question these parentally inherited belief system and re-define their own belief system, taking a second look at the traditional concept of marriage.

Today, people know about prenuptial agreements as a more practical and realistic contract than the traditional marriage. Here are two wake up calls for those who are contemplating traditional concepts of marriage.

1- As you grow up, especially if you have had a long relationship with someone (Z), you begin to realize that Z cannot possibly have all the attributes you’d like to see in a “life partner”. As for yourself, you may also not posses all the attributes that Z would like to see in a “life partner”. Now, what is wrong in recognizing this fact before entering into a prenuptial agreement. Why not have a clause that would allow for other relationships simultaneously while you continue with your “primary relationship”. By planning for these issues in advance, not only you address your jealousy instincts, but you become more realistic about the fact that neither of you can have or develop ALL the attributes that the other one would like to have. And for those missing attributes, your partner may have another simultaneous relationship with someone else. No surprises, no fighting, no “cheating”, no heart-break, no divorce.

2- Unfortunately, there is a “black widow” instinct / tendency among majority of women to drive a love relationship into a traditional marriage, with most of these marriages leading to having children. Some of the guys willingly go along with this scheme, for whatever reason. Other guys see this scheme as a “black widow” inert desire to trap a man and restrict his freedom and, eventually over time, kill the very love which attracted the guy to the woman at the first place. I’m told women tend to do this because of their “biological clock”, and the man tends to go along with the trap as the “marriage web” will insure that the woman would become only his.

Hopefully in the age of Internet and exposure to other ideas, people would become more aware about the post-marriage realities such as the above issues. Why not go for realistic and workable prenuptial agreements as opposed to traditional Disneyland concept of marriage, with all its potential disappointments and pains as shown in the OP’s link?

You’ve begged a question here. You’ve assumed that to be happy one must have all one’s dreams fulfilled, if not by one partner then by multiple partners. I don’t think that’s a tenable assumption. Why can’t we simply learn to accept that life isn’t perfect? Why are we entitled to having all those “perfect partner” attributes?

Not to be a GD dick, but cite please.

And again, cite please.

I agree that the “traditional Disneyland concept” is unworkable . . . but again, I don’t see how I’m entitled to a life free of disappointment and pain. No prenup is going to eliminate those anyway.

Sure, some people have a silly notion of perfect partnerships and a life full of roses, but I don’t see how prenups will solve that. ISTM the problem lies in the persistence of that pipe dream, not in the concept of marriage itself.

Governmentally-recognized marriage should be rethought. If it is retained at all, it should indeed be a partnership between two persons of majority age, capable of being dissolved as per standard divorce proceedings.

Why just two? Legal issues would probably be too thorny, although in the case of persons wishing to enter a multiple marriage no one should prevent them from seeking legal help to draw up the proper paperwork and recognizing it once it has been entered into.

Fewer things, in my mind, that go farther toward a separation of church and state would be as easy to implement as stopping the governmental sanctification of Christian Marriage. Whether we call this new governmental system “marriage” or not is of no concern to me. Even if I were in a committed homosexual relationship I wouldn’t need my own government to tell me I’m married.

And it’s a bonus to most hardcore religionists as well. After all what Caesar giveth he can take away as well. But most aren’t really all about protecting everyone’s freedom of religion: just their own.

The one area in which this new paradigm of governmentally-recognized marriage would run into problems is areas with common-law marriage. Common-law marriage should be done away with in the first place: the new, open paradigm for marriage would ensnare more than just committed, same-sex romantic unions. In fact I hear that it is indeed a problem sometimes in Canada, with one same-sex non-romantic roommate sometimes trying to jack the other for support money claiming common-law status. It would be even worse if the government officially didn’t even care if the couple were romantically attached, opposite sex, or what have you.

What’s the current paradigm? The OP asks about redefining marriage, but first, how is it defined now?

Is it really marriage that needs to be “redefined” or is it more like people, young and old, need to accept that they were never looking for “marriage” in the first place?

Marriage always has a few variations depending on where you go, but I think it’s safe to say that the general concept is that two people (typically male/female), are joined together, declare they will have a monogamous relationship, to have and to hold, till death do you part, blah blah blah. Somewhere in between that there is supposed to be love. Of course, we look across the world and find that a majority don’t have any of that.

Is that because marriage has a terrible definition, or is it really just that a lot of people don’t want to be bothered with marriage. we just do it because that’s the religious justification for sex and coziness with a person we’re sexually attracted to.

Part of the problem in the past was the Disney Land approach, but even with the internet that premise still exists today. Everyone goes in with the “this’ll be roses” perspective, and then they go through disappointment and it’s hell for them. I mean, come on, you’d think with the internet that this “marriage” problem would be fixed, but all it’s really done is that people get more picky with who they choose (a good thing), but then assume their good choice will be perfect (a bad thing). Despite the internet, and literature, that exists detailing and explaining how marriages can turn sour, and how one can go about communicating (read, not going to war) over the problems, we instead still have the terrible rocky relationships that our parents before us might have had, only we see fit to separate and dissolve them.

It’s not marriage that needs the redefintion. It’s people that need to redefine what they’re truly looking for, both in themselves and in their partner.

No amount of redefining marriage concepts will make “marriage” better or more suitable for society. It doesn’t matter how much rationality we have amassed. Relationships are irrational. They are not built upon logic. They do not survive on logic either. Marriage as a concept has seen some changes over time, but those changes really come from the people that have those marriages.

Women’s “black widow” effect is well documented, such as inthis research.

I also recommend the book “Feminist Fantasies” by Phyllis Schlafly (Spence: 2003, 256 pages). Here is a quote from the book’s last chapter:

And finally, hereis another cite. This one may not be a credible reference as it is a dot com link. However, it puts up a pretty good argument against getting into the traditional marriage.

Not all the world lives in the age of modern communication and the Internet. From a Hindu I know, Internet access is unknown to most in India. Welcome to 2005.

I’d like to see marriage defined as a two- or three-year contract that expires at a predetermined date unless it is renewed by both parties. Or the terms of the marriage can be renegotiated at the end of the contract. “We didn’t renew the contract” probably sounds a lot better than “We got divorced.”

I think the idea that someone could or should enter into anything for life is rather insane. People change…what you like in a person five years down the road might not be what you like or need right now.

I’ve always seen marriage as sort of like accepting a job for life at a fixed salary with absolutely no opportunity for advancement. Who the hell would take that deal?

How is that an improvement in any way? If, at the end of the 3 year deal, the husband wants to stay together but the wife wants out, her refusal to renew is EXACTLY the same as a divorce, and just as devastating to the husband.
In any case, it’s worth pointing out that increased human longevity is NOT a factor in divorce. When you read some factoid like “the average lifespan in medieval England was 35,” that does NOT mean most people keeled over at 35. In general, it means that a huge percentage of the population died during childhood, and didn’t live long enough to get married. People who survived childhood ailments usually lived into their sixties and seventies, just as they do today.

So, if you want to redefine marriage, fine- but do NOT do so under the mistaken impression that, in the old days, “til death do us part” meant only “til we’re 35 or so.”

That paper defines the “black widow effect,” but does not support your claim that it occurs in a majority of women. And the author defines the term quite differently than you.

This also does not seem to support your assertions.

No, it doesn’t. It puts forth an awful lot of anecdotal justifications to support the assumption that “marriage = bad,” along with out-of-context and misrepresented “facts.” It’s not because of its URL I find it lacking in credibility so much as because of its obvious and virulent bias against marriage and women. Who wrote that crap, Al Bundy?

I agree with having limited-duration marriage contracts, though i do not agree with “redefining” marriage as such.

:shrug: Those with successful and fulfilling marriages would suggest that two people might not necessarily grow apart, but together.

No one. But I believe you’re incorrect about there being a fixed salary and no opportunity for advancement.

You’re right. I meant to say you’re stuck at that job at that salary and can never, ever accept a new position anywhere else. A better job comes along? Sorry. You signed a contract.

Marriage is, at its root, a contract addressing property concerns (and the legitimacy of offspring, which is a property concern – specifically, “who gets the property when mommy and daddy kick it”). It contains elements of alliance between families, at least historically speaking. Culturally speaking, a recognised marriage is the marker of a family unit that the surrounding society has some level of obligation to acknowledge. (There is also sacramental marriage, which I won’t speak about beyond mentioning it because a) it is not a tenet of my religion, so I don’t actually subscribe to the notion and b) I have had about four rants about people presuming that marriage is fundamentally religious in origin/meaning in the past week, and I’m tired of repeating myself.)

At this point, in the subcultures where I spend the most time, the most important factor into the definition of marriage is the societal recognition of family relationship. (And this doesn’t just mean governmental stuff; it includes everything down to flashing a wedding ring and a reference to one’s spouse at people who are hitting on one to make them go away.) Property distribution is the secondary concern. Alliance between families is pretty much dead except in those cases where people actually get along well with their in-laws.

The rise of import of social recognition (though really, I think it’s much more a drop in the importance of other factors) means that family units that weren’t recognised before are pushing for access to the social recognition token. And this is meaning the need to think through what forms of social recognition are available and whether or not people should be allowed access. In some cases, granting access is straightforward – there’s no real difference in practical effect that has to be worked out to let a same-sex couple marry, only the lump of people who don’t want to feel obligated to grant recognition to a same-sex couple as a family unit. In other cases, it’s complicated: multi-adult systems. The sorts of family structures that develop from amicable divorce and remarriage. Sharing responsibility for the upbringing of children but not property distribution as per the standard ‘marriage’ package. Etc.

In the long run, most people will probably want fairly standard packages; the standard marriage “deal” will do for most. I’d like to see more flexibility on the contract terms, myself, for those people who don’t like the standard, but this will take a lot of work. I’d also like to see a legal way of declaring siblinghood, though that’s tangential.

I think legal marriage should be renamed, basically forming a legal partnership between 2 (or more?) parties, which traditional (religious) marriage would fall into as well as others like gay marriage, marriages of convienence, etc.

I think a lot of you are trying to fix problems that don’t really exist. Aside from making sure homosexuals are free to marry I don’t see any major changes that need to be made. Change the civil term of marriage to something else? A role by any other name and all that. Expiration dates on marriage licenses? Extremely silly, when it expires how do you suddenly divide the property and figure out who gets the kids and dog?

Some people just aren’t cut out for a serious long term relationship.


I can scarcely imagine how nerve-wracking it would be to be in a “marriage” whose contract was coming up for renewal. Or to be a child in such a marriage. (Note: Any discussion of “redefining” marriage must take into account the effect on the children.)

So how do you explain the popularity of tattoos?

I think part of what it means to be a person of integrity is that who you are fundamentally, at the core, does not change. But that, in itself, could be a great debate.

I do believe that people shouldn’t get married while they’re still in the process of growing up and figuring out who they are.

Even granting that analogy, I’m not sure the “fixed salary” and “no opportunity for advancement” parts hold up.

I see marriage as joining with another person to form a family unit. From that standpoint, “trading in” a wife or husband for one you think is better suited to you is kinda like trading in your parents or brothers or sisters or children for others.

No opportunity for advancement?

When you say “I do”–that doesn’t end your thinking, feeling or growing as a person. Heck, it’s supposed to be just one more step on the journey of life. Some couples get into a lock step and seem to thrive, others find that to be suffocating. Each couple makes their own journey–and some don’t make it, but I cannot see where the no advancement comes in–you are supposed to work on you-your mate is not supposed to fulfill all your needs or even make you happy ever moment. That is an immature view of marriage.

The term “Fixed salary” is even more disturbing and less true. To what does that refer, exactly? The fidelity bit? The lack of variety or spontaneity or freedom within a marriage? Is it a swipe at those who would meet the criteris for that lovely phrase, “the dining dead”? (said of long together couples, whether married or not, who have nothing to say to one another while out for dinner.

I would not say that marriage is tantamount to “a job for life with a fixed salary and no opportunity for advancement”.

I would say that SOME marriages do resemble that a great deal, but that marriage in and of itself does not meet that definition.
I would prefer that the Gment get out of the marriage business (at least in deciding who can and cannot). But I see nothing wrong with the institution itself.

Cite, please? I’m thinking death in childbirth, blood poisoning, syphilis, and other such diseases that you don’t just get over with as a child. In fact, I remember reading somewhere that, without modern medicine, women don’t live any longer than men, because of death in childbirth.