What makes a marriage real?

Let’s say I decide to marry a friend, because he has no health insurance, needs it, and I could get him added to mine. I’m female, so SSM isn’t an issue. We’re not related; neither of us is under 18 yrs old. Legally, we are eligable to get married.

If marrying for purely financial reasons, is it a real marriage? What if all of the above is true, but we chose to live in our own houses, across town from each other. How about if we live on opposite sides of the US? Or what if I’ve only ever talked to this friend online, and we meet in person for the first time at the wedding?

So what does it take for you to consider a marriage real? What is the purpose of marriage? Is it to make sex morally correct, or is it a financial contract at heart, usually with sexual side benefits?

A marriage is real when the paperwork is signed off and correctly filed at City Hall. Short of assault, what you do with each other after that is nobody’s damn business.

I don’t know if this is still true (or if it ever was), but I’ve heard that a marriage that was never consummated could be annulled in the Catholic church and/or by the State. So, to make a marriage real, you must sign the legal documents and have sex at least once. :slight_smile:

Someone opens the box and looks at the pair of you. Until then, you are both married and unmarried.

True only if you are Catholic and were married in the Catholic church. Has nothing to do with the State.

I think once the papers are filed, marriage is real if you both say it is.

That’s not true in the United States for immigration purposes. If you are applying for a green card or a temporary residence visa based on marriage, the Federal Government will want to satisfy itself that the marriage is real in other ways, e.g., that the couple is really living together as man and wife. (I know because my wife and I had to do this about 10 years ago when applying for green cards.)

I am reminded of the famous marriage vows from the English Common Book of Prayer:

When I think of a “real” marriage, I think of one in which the two people involved make, and strive to keep, vows to each other that are along these lines (give or take a few details or quibbles about wording).

Thus, a “marriage of convenience” like the one the OP describes, in which there is no love, no cherishing, no intention to stick together through thick and thin, no union of bodies or of worldly goods, is not one I would think of as a “real marriage.”

FWIW, I see nothing in these vows that would preclude a same-sex couple having a “real marriage” to one another.

Why are those the only two choices? I didn’t get married to make the sex morally correct or as a financial contract. Sex was going on and the finances were mixed long before the wedding. I got married because I wanted to make a public and legal commitment to share the rest of my life with my husband, and I didn’t want it to be easy to break.

Yes and no. I can’t stop anyone from marrying someone they’ve never met and then living on opposite sides of the country so that one can get on the other’s health insurance and I wouldn’t want to.

But that couple is not likely to be treated the same as either other married couples or even people in long term partnerships. My sister-in-law was living with a guy for 10 years. We absolutely hated him - but because they actually functioned as a couple, when she was invited , so was he. We’ve got friends where I like the wife, but not the husband and vice-versa. Doesn’t matter. One gets invited, they both do except on the rare occasion of a single gender event. And in that case, the correct gender partner gets invited , even if that’s the one I don’t like. I don’t think that’s going to happen so much with a couple that got married purely for financial reasons or so that someone could get a green card.

In my utopian world, marriage would be a commitment between two or more people to love one another and make a family together (with or without kids), and would be done in the community of their friends and family. A civil union would be a mutual set of legal rights and responsibilities done between two or more people and would be done in the courthouse. Then this question wouldn’t arise.

Of course I won’t get that utopian world, so I’m pretty damned happy with what’s gonna become the next-best thing: virtually anyone can get those mutual sets of legal rights and responsibilities set up in the courthouse under the guise of marriage. The word “marriage” has, in addition to its legal meaning, a different meaning, the one I mentioned above in my utopian setting.

If you ask me what makes a marriage real, then, you’d need to specify which meaning you’re talking about. Currently a marriage can be real relationshipwise but not legally (as in the case of my two lesbian friends who cannot legally marry in our state), or real legally but not relationshipwise (as in the case of twits who get married while on a three-day-bender in Vegas), or real in both senses (as in the case of most of my straight married friends).

Actually, most states have annulment provisions in their laws. They even follow many of the same criteria that religious annulments follow:
Marriage occuring when one party is coerced
Under-age marriage
Marriage under false pretenses

And, as with religious annulments, lack of sexual contact is a consideration, (although, as with religious annulments, it is not the primary factor considered).

Certainly. In fact, I’d say that during human history this has been the dominant reason people got married, up until modern times.

Sure, you are married until one or both of you says differently. You don’t have to live together to be married…hell, I know a few couples that spend most of their time apart, but are still married.

A real marriage is one where both partners want to bond their lives together in some way, be it fiscal, social, emotional, physical, etc etc…or some combination of all of the above.

IMHO it’s simply a social contract between two people and the community. That’s really all it is. The joining of two people and their lives. How they choose to interact with each other is entirely up to them. Wild monkey sex every night, or perhaps an occasional hug once a year…or just an email once in a while. Different strokes and all that.

Social contract between the two people and the community. It can be sexual, of course…and/or fiscal. But it’s just a way for humans to bond two lives together into the fabric of the community. IMHO anyway, FWIW.

I let this percolate for a while, but I do not see a debate erupting.

As it is more of a poll, I am moving it to IMHO.

A civil marriage is real when the paperwork is completed. Any other form of marriage will have it’s own set of rules. As far as I’m concerned, if any couple considers themselves to have a real marriage, they do.

No shit, go tell immigration officials in any country you’re applying for your spouse to get permanent residency, oh and BTW we only got married for financial reasons. Make sure to have a return ticket!

Hell immigration leads me to some interesting philosophical questions, me and my wife have been married close to a decade and have a son and STILL we get the stupid “is your relationship real” questions!:rolleyes:

Assuming it wasn’t, does there come a point where it doesn’t matter anymore? I mean we live together and have sex, we have a child, at what point does it no longer even matter whether we are “faking”? If we are married 50 years with great grandchildren will they still be trying to trip us up and reveal our whole life was “fake”?

Works for me. There should be a useful, fair and equitable definition of what the government considers ‘legally united’, and anything else is up to the individuals. The state should not (probably cannot anyway) audit the sincerity of people’s hearts and minds.

I don’t understand what the OP means by “real.” If it means legal, then sure, if the paperwork is done it doesn’t matter what happens. Sex isn’t important, not anymore. There are cases of people who love one another, have no sex, but still have a real marriage.

I think love has something to do with it myself - and partnership for the long term.

A marriage undertaken for immigration purposes is perfectly real and legal. It’s just not valid grounds for immigration.

I agree with this. We have really different rules in our society for family. We are allowed–expected–to prioritize family over almost anything or anyone. Marriages (and adoption) are the way we deal with the fact that someone can become family and note that fact for both legal and social situations. It’s why marriage are recognized, not created, by the state.

So, for me, a marriage is a marriage if two people are family to each other. It’s not if they aren’t. They can be married but live a thousand miles apart and not much like each other if they see each other as family, and they can be not married even if they live together, think each other are the bee’s knees, and fuck like bunnies each night if they don’t have that familial connection.

This is why common-law marriage makes a lot of sense to me. If two people are family, and there is tons of evidence that they see each other as part of one family, then they are married. That’s what married means.

At common law, failure to consummate was a reason to annul a marriage. Statutes may have changed that now but I doubt they completely ignore lack of consummation.

Two stories. One of the sister of an Irish friend who wished to (unreasonably as it turned out) move to the US with her US citizen husband and 3 children was accused by the the officer in London of having been in a sham marriage. Yeah right? For ten years? And apparently they found there kids in bushes?

Second story is of a friend who was a consular officer at the Pakistan Embassy in Tehran when he was interviewing the Iranian" wife" of a Pakistani national. She did not know much about him, his family or his work, but knew that he had a mole on his ass and did not shave his pubes and other assorted intimate stuff. My friend, disbelieved her.

Tell me, which marriage was a sham.

Right, but nevertheless it creates the only circumstance I know of where an institution sets out to determine whether a marriage is “real.” No one else–neither the insurance company nor the divorce judge–seems to care why you got married.