Unmarried to Each Other

There’s some interesting movements, books, and articles about how being unmarried to each other is the new social action.  I applaud this movement, mainly because it’s an expression of freedom.  Moreover, marriage is an evolving idea that has shifted the means and ends over time.

For example, in this New York Post article, a woman explains why being a non-wife was important to her:

Ever since I was young I knew I wanted children, but that didn’t necessarily mean marriage. I was never one of those girls who fantasized about a big wedding and as I grew up and started dating, I realized that marriage wasn’t for me. I’m not religious, so a religious ceremony would be hypocritical. As for a civil ceremony, why do I need the validation of the state or the government to recognize my right to be with whomever I choose?

Indeed, the idea of being unmarried to each other seems to suggest that the commitment is stronger because what keeps the people together is their desire to be together, not some legal contract inscribed on a piece of paper:

In fact, I think my commitment is actually deeper than someone who has a legal contract certifying her relationship. Michael and I work at our relationship because we want to be together, not because there’s a legal contract that makes it hard for us to leave each other.

And again, in this Times article:

Is marriage on its way to becoming the relationship equivalent of our appendix (in that it’s no longer needed but can cause a lot of pain)? “You’re looking at the vanguard,” sociologist Andrew Cherlin says of CUs like McCauley and Hathaway. A Johns Hopkins professor and author of The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, he notes that unmarried parents in Europe stay together longer than married parents in the U.S. “Marriage is a more powerful symbol here,” he says. “It’s the ultimate merit badge of personal life.” And if it doesn’t fulfill people’s (often overwrought) expectations, they leave.

In other words, people have looked at marriage, love, and relationships as finding the “perfect other half.”  On top of that, marriage is considered a high note on a relationship hierarchy where a “true” commitment is where one is in not only in a relationship, but is also married.

Marriage can always end, and the protection it once offered offspring is now covered by child-support laws. Add that development to the gains made by the domestic-partnership movement, and, Cherlin says, “the legal advantages of marriage, the benefits that one would get, are eroding.” This is one reason CUs like Charles Backman, 44, a commercial real estate developer in New Hampshire, see marriage as outdated at best. Backman wants no part of what he calls “the government stamp” of approval on his relationship to his partner of 15 years. “People mistake the government sanctioning your marriage for commitment,” he says. The father of three girls ages 1 to 7, Backman finds marriage not only unnecessary but also tarnished by commercialization. By not marrying, he says, “I saved $50,000 on a wedding, money I can use to help pay for the kids’ college.”

Of course, there is a caveat: this only works if the people involved are equally going to be committed to each other.  But that seems like what you’d want in a relationship in the first place.  After all, would you want to be married to someone who wasn’t equally committed as you were?

We have these “Do-It-Yourself” relationships and “designer relationships” where you get to pick and choose what sort of relationship best fits for you.  Marriage is no longer a defaulted position where you are now part of a same social group, but the hope is a call for a “minimal marriage” where we can think of a relationship in what we want.  We often take marriages, relationships, and sexuality as a “one size fits all” ideal.  However, I take these ideas much like appetites.  Not in the sense of desires, but in the sense that appetites vary.  We all have different appetites toward different foods.  Some people are vegetarians.  Some people really like seafood.  Others find stinky cheese the best.  Some people prefer beer.  Others prefer scotch and soda.  Some people like cookies, others like ice cream.  We all have different flavors to go for.  We may experiment with different tastes, but we all have what is considered are favorite food, our standby food, the food that we can make easily when short on time, and then there are foods that we just can’t stand.  And yet, hardly anyone I know makes fun or criticizes people’s taste in food.  I don’t hear people say, “you like ice cream?  That’s so disgusting.”  “You don’t like brussels sprouts?  What’s wrong with you?”  Ok, so I do hear them, but the criticism isn’t deep or cutting.  There is no shame or stigma associated with liking or disliking food.  We simply accept others tastes as their own and leave it at that.  Couldn’t the same be said with relationship and sexual styles?  We all have different tastes in what we want in a partner.  Yet, we have to follow the same sexual or relationship path.  If we don’t, then we are are on the fringes of society, which can be cutting and deep to our identity.  This is wrong.  Relationships and sexuality is not following the yellow brick road; it is more like the variety and spices of our particular palates.  We have our own taste palates.  Certainly we have sight and auditory palates.  We seek/avoid certain sights and sounds.  I’m sure the same could be said with olfactory and tactile palates.  The same could be said with sexuality and relationships.  We have our particular sexuality palate and a relationship palate.  Admittedly, this is something I need to develop, but it is a far cry from following a certain path that one must follow.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Culture, History, Love, Monogamy, Relationships, Sexuality and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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