What makes a marriage real?

That’s actually the question I was working towards. We have 2 versions of “real” when it comes to marriage, they can be applied in totally different situations, and we have no vocabulary to seperate them.

There is the legal definition - valid when the paperwork is filled out, and no commitment required. It’s about the legal and financial effects.

Then there is the cultural definition - in my experience, requiring a level of emotional committement to each other, and for some, present even if the legal requirements aren’t met. MY SO and I have been together for 20 years, without bothering with the paperwork. Our friends and family treat us as a married couple.

How can we expect to have a country wide discussion about marriage, when we don’t have a working definition?

And married to a cat, much less.