Marriage: The Way Forward Is Not The Way Back


“I don’t know if it is just me noticing this or has infidelity become an epidemic out there?”

There were multiple replies all basically saying “oh yes it has”. My answer was a slightly different… here’s the cut and paste with some minor edits…


The answer is that marriage is no longer the finishing line for the sexual marketplace. Once upon a time when you married it was extremely clear that you were being joined together as sexual partners and no one else was allowed in. Men and women all jostled for position to nab the best member of the opposite sex they could, and then settled down for a long life together fairly secure in the idea of being faithful to each other.

Thanks to the copious and serious changes to marriage and divorce law, the current legal definition of marriage is utterly different than the recent historical one. It’s not even clear if there can even be “infidelity” as there’s usually no mention of sexual rights or agreements in the marriage / divorce / adultery laws in most States. There’s usually no definition of sexual “fidelity” in the marriage contract to even fail at. Most people just assume sexual fidelity is a requirement of marriage simply because it used to be. It may be the spirit of the agreement, but it’s not the actual legal agreement.

Likewise most people just assume that marriage is intended to permanent. It’s clearly not intended to be permanent thanks to no fault divorce law, it just may be permanent should both partners maintain interest in staying together. Permanency may be the spirit of the agreement, but it’s not the actual legal agreement being made.

In short nothing your partner says to you either verbally or by wedding vows actually matters in terms of something they can be held to. As we all know on this board, spouses can do utterly heartless cruel things against the intended spirit of their marriage… and it’s all completely legal.

So in our brave new world, the sexual market place never ends. Marriage is merely the beginning of a long round of courtship where both partners need to continue to attract, satisfy, please and actively court the other. Meanwhile others outside the marriage have minimal qualms about jostling their way in, or jostling you totally out.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it’s more work than most people expect. Marriage is always an active commitment.

End quote.

All that being said, obviously there have always been extra pair couplings and the endlessly long partnerships of 50+ years are something fairly new due to longer lifespans. Much of our social change has come from the development of cheap and effective birth control solutions. DNA paternity testing is the next one coming and despite the drama of day time TV simply has not truly impacted society as much as it ultimately will.

I am pro-marriage. By which I mean a serious pair bonded couple setting out to make and raise children, a shared life together, a home together, an alliance of two. Unfortunately the laws on the books regarding this do not always appear to support these goals as well as they could. In this sense marriage sucks.

Whether the laws regarding marriage are good, bad or indifferent, maintaining a long term relationship will always require dedication and ongoing effort. It requires compromise, resilience, creativity and fun. As a single married couple you hold what amounts to trivial control over marriage law, so you must ultimately decide to find your own way together either with the assistance of marriage laws, or despite them.

The marriage of the past is gone, it’s not clear what the marriage of the future will be, but it is inconceivable that men and women will not seek to form sexual unions with each other. It’s our Prime Directive. But the way forward is not the way back.

Comments

  1. Demonspawn says:

    So does this mean you're going to reverse your stance on the idea of "marriage 2.0" ?

  2. Athol Kay says:

    I'm not exactly sure what you're asking here. I've been fairly clear from the beginning that marriage law is daft.

    Dershowitz And Feinstein And The Legally Binding Threesome was back in February and even refers back to the very first post of the blog.

    There's two different aspects to "marriage", the first is the relationship itself and relationship skills, the second is the laws and social construction of marriage.

    I tend to to focus more on the first aspect because that is something that an individual man can have a strong influence on. If your marriage is in trouble lobbying your State lawmakers to make changes to the law won't help you. Understanding the difficulties of the law just makes the problem more frighteningly real, but for the individual man having marital problems it offers no practical solution.

    The other reason I tend not to write about the law is that every time I do, I get a good number of hateful comments and email from men. Usually their main point of issue is that I am; married which invalidates my entire argument / I am ignorant / I am a mangina cunt / I will learn the truth when my wife cheats on me / I will learn the truth when my wife divorces me / I am a traitor to men for suggesting all women aren't raptor bitches / I'm sleeping with the enemy.

    A couple of comments and emails of this ilk have been fairly threatening in tone. I am posting on my real name and I have some mild safety concerns for posting about these issues. There are some men that have been badly injured by marriage law and posting as happily married I suspect I am on occassion perceived as nothing but salt in open wounds. I'd prefer not to be a lightning rod to that rage, so I post on this topic infrequently despite the obvious need.

  3. Athol Kay says:

    And importantly I live in Connecticut – which has fairly benign marriage laws. I would not advocate marriage in Massachusetts for example due to it's lifetime alimony laws where even the income of the second wife is possible to be assessed for the alimony payment to the first.

    I don't understand why MRA sites don't breakdown marriage law on a State by State basis and publish that as a project.

  4. Anonymous says:

    "I am posting on my real name"

    It should have been obvious from the start that this is probably a very foolish idea.

    "Usually their main point of issue is that I am; married which invalidates my entire argument / I am ignorant / I am a mangina cunt / I will learn the truth when my wife cheats on me / I will learn the truth when my wife divorces me / I am a traitor to men for suggesting all women aren't raptor bitches / I'm sleeping with the enemy."

    Well, weren't you hostile as well? Were you actually expecting a different response after having stated that "MRAs want your marriage to fail" and are not different from feminists?

    "but it is inconceivable that men and women will not seek to form sexual unions with each other"

    False. Women don't seek sexual union with 80% of men if their hypergamy is foolishly given free reign, as it is today.

    Moreover, the desire fo sexual unions in itself is no guarantee that long-term monogamous pair-bonding will ever be revived in the West. Men and women in Western Africa and the underclass ghettos of Western cities also seek sexual union, yet all these places have been wallowing in matriarchal squalor forever.

    Höllenhund

  5. Athol Kay says:

    "Well, weren't you hostile as well? Were you actually expecting a different response after having stated that "MRAs want your marriage to fail" and are not different from feminists?"

    I started thinking that after I was repeatedly crapped on by MRA commentors. Some of my earliest posts reflect my MRA sympathic thinking, but that apparently isn't enough to a small segment of people. After I'm repeatedly called a mangina cunt for simply being married, I assume those calling me such don't have my best interests at heart.

    Posting on my real name is a moderate risk, I never expected to be attacked by men though. I largely assumed a feminist onslaught would happen though. Ultimately if any change is to be made of value, real names are required.

  6. Anonymous says:

    "Ultimately if any change is to be made of value, real names are required."

    I'm not sure what you're suggesting here.

    Höllenhund

  7. David Collard says:

    Athol, I think you do a great job. I am not a young guy like you, but I am still happily married after 25 years and my wife and I still have sex. So what you write resonates with me.

    I have also found that being happily married, or at least coping OK, and wanting to use "game" or whatever to make your marriage better just enrages some MRA men. I have given up posting comments on The Spearhead partly because of this. And this is despite being quite "chauvinist" a lot of the time and not keen on feminism at all. I just found that anything at all positive about women or marriage will get you called all sorts of nasty names by some MRA types.

    Also, divorce laws are kinder to men in Australia, where I live. And my wife is hypergamous, but she is not insane. After a long time, you tend to just bond and you don't have to play as many games.

    I think you are brave using your real name. I use a pseudonym.

  8. Athol Kay says:

    "I'm not sure what you're suggesting here."

    Because politicans don't respond to internet non de plumes. The manosphere marginalizes it's concerns by hiding behind non de plumes and "anonymous".

    Thanks David you describe exactly the same thing that I've experienced.

    I'm 40, so younger than some and older than others.

  9. David Collard says:

    If I could have told my 30 year old self what I now know as a 55 year old it would be something like this:

    Don't forget you will probably be sleeping with and having sex with your wife at 55. She will look better than you imagine, unless you have totally unrealistic preferences for nubile young women. You may not want it as much, but you will want it. If you achieve any worldly success, it will feel like a good way to celebrate. Sometimes sex can be a comfort when things aren't going well, too. You will still notice girls. Unless you have some major health problem (cardiac, for example), you should have no trouble with impotence. As you get older, your knowledge of sex will become deeper and more intense. You will just know more about what is out there, and what you can do. You will have to decide what is OK for you morally, and what your wife will tolerate. Young men are sexual gourmands (they want lots and don't care what). Older men are sexual gourmets (they want less but are more discriminating, and may have developed some esoteric tastes).

    I work with some men who are older than me, men in their sixties, and it is clear to me that they still have sexual thoughts.

  10. Demonspawn says:

    "I'm not exactly sure what you're asking here."

    What I'm asking is if you can realize what you've written: When the rules change, behavior changes. Yes, even under marriage 1.0, men will still need some level of "marriage game" but not near the same level that is required now to keep a good marriage. What I'm asking is if you can realize that marriage, and what is required of a married man is very different now from from what I used to be. That there is a very real "marriage 2.0".

    "If your marriage is in trouble lobbying your State lawmakers to make changes to the law won't help you."

    Correct. But were those laws never changed in the first place, perhaps your marriage wouldn't be in trouble? Or, put another way, if you write this blog you help the men who read it. If you spearhead a lobby to get the laws changed to be more fair and equitable, you help all men in the state/nation/whatever your sphere of influence.

    That's what I mean about "marriage 2.0" and your previous post where you commented you did not desire to link to sites where "marriage 2.0" was an idea. What you've posted here, that behavior changes when the rules change, pretty much proves that you understand what marriage 2.0 is even if you didn't previously want to admit it's existence.

    Are you willing to admit it's existence now?

  11. R. Stanton Scott says:

    I don't think infidelity has become any more common than it's ever been. I think we just hear about it more because norms against doing so openly have broken down–less shaming of cheaters–and the expansion of media and the need to fill 500 channels.

    More interesting to me is that if I am reading this correctly you think marriage law should include sanctions against sexual infidelity in marriages. Do you think the State should have a role in regulating consensual sexual behavior between adults?

    I'm also intrigued with your suggestion that the marriage contract should be legally unbreakable. Do you think the State should force people who to remain legally tied to each other forever when they would prefer to part ways?

    This will probably not keep them from participating in what you call the "sexual marketplace." But a look at the statistics on "covenant marriage" suggest that it would keep a lot of people from entering into marriage contracts in the first place.

  12. R. Stanton Scott says:

    @Demonspawn: Behavior certainly changed as divorce law changed: people are now less likely to stay in bad marriages. This is a positive change, and I would be interested in hearing your thoughts if you disagree.

    I'm also curious about how you would change divorce law to make it "more fair and equitable." The state should not treat men and women differently when it dissolves these contracts, but from what I've read it seems that the real problems arise from the subjective judgments surrounding the care and treatment of children (e.g., custody, visitation, who pays support). How, exactly, would you make this more equitable?

    I think Mr. Kay gets one thing exactly right: a happy marriage for men depends on a mutually satisfying sex life. This has always been so, however difficult divorce law makes it for women to leave.

  13. Demonspawn says:

    "I would be interested in hearing your thoughts if you disagree."

    It's not just bad marriages, more people (women) are willing to bail on marginal marriages rather than working through the issues. Also, women are more willing to separate children from their fathers, which is indicative several problem-child behaviors. Because of those factors, many women now see marriage as a temporary thing, rather than a life-long commitment. Our society is becoming one of serial-monogamy, which is one of the worst social structures to be in.

    "How, exactly, would you make this more equitable?"
    1) Eliminate no-fault divorce.
    2) Eliminate alimony.
    3) Make 50/50 child custody the the default unless either parent is proven unfit (and eliminate child support).

    That's as far as we can go in the laws, we'll need society to start viewing marriage as something other than a disposable relationship as well. Unfortunately, law alone cannot change that.

    "This has always been so, however difficult divorce law makes it for women to leave."

    A woman who less able to leave is more willing to work on things to make the relationship mutually beneficial. If a woman is "stuck" in a mediocre marriage, she's more willing to make the effort to make things good. If she is in today's culture, she has the choice between a lot of work to overcome the problems/issues or walking away with his money, their children, more of his money from child support, and their house. Basically, or modern laws incentivize divorce. On top of that, in the poorer incomes, our laws incentivize never marrying in the first place.

    One point I'll strongly agree with Athol is that marriage is important. Marriage is a giant driving factor to the advancement of society. Unfortunately, our current society is destroying marriage, both it's meaning and the willingness of our men to become married. In that manner, it is destroying itself. But unlike others I won't blame the men… I'll blame society for being self-destructive.

  14. R. Stanton Scott says:

    Demonspawn…

    Thanks. If I may, a few more questions–I'm trying to get a sense of where you are coming from. Your focus on the woman's side of the issue suggests that your real concern has to do with women taking advantage of men.

    First, I would ask why people shouldn't bail on marginal marriages if that's what they want to do? Why should women–or men, for that matter–be "stuck" in a marriage, mediocre or otherwise, they no longer wish to pursue? And how, exactly is serial monogamy "one of the worst social structures to be in?"

    What exactly makes marriage a "giant driving factor to the advancement of society?" How, in other words, does forcing people to "work out the issues" in bad marriages advance society?

    How is society "destroying marriage" except in the sense that it no longer functions as you think it should (if it ever did)?

    I suspect we disagree, but I don't mean to snipe at you. I am genuinely curious about just what you think marriage is and why you think it is so important.

    My own view is that religious groups and patriarchs use the State, through marriage rules, to protect male privilege and a particular set of social norms. At fault divorce simply allows abusers of both genders to punish their spouses by forcing them to remain married against their wishes. Alimony creates a disincentive to take advantage of a spouse (e.g., dumping them after they put you through law school when they should have been there themselves). Joint custody is the default today, and who complains about supporting their own children?

    So why is marriage important, what exactly should it look like, and what do you think the criteria for ending a marriage should be?

  15. Demonspawn says:

    "Your focus on the woman's side of the issue suggests that your real concern has to do with women taking advantage of men."

    Actually, no. It has to do with solving the problem. We need to change the rules of society to change the behavior of women. Once we change the behavior of women (how they select men) we will change the behaviors of men. Society controls women, women control men; that is the way it works.

    I recognize that in some societies, men control the society (usually via religion) and a full circle loop is created. That is actually desired as it is the best form of social construct.

    "First, I would ask why people shouldn't bail on marginal marriages if that's what they want to do?"

    Do you want marriage to have meaning or not? If you want marriage to have meaning, you must incentivize people to stick with marginal marriages and have them work through the problems. This has to direct effects: It makes marriage more of a lifelong commitment, and it changes women's behaviors when selecting a husband. Both are positive effects for a self-sustaining society.

    "Why should women–or men, for that matter–be "stuck" in a marriage, mediocre or otherwise, they no longer wish to pursue?"

    Because being "stuck", again, will change how people enter marriages. No longer will it be "I'll marry him because I know that if I get bored or don't like him, then in 5 years I can divorce and find another guy". Instead, women will be much more selective in who they marry (and men will respond to this increased selection criteria).

    "And how, exactly is serial monogamy "one of the worst social structures to be in?""

    The affects it has on children in the society where fatherhood is often absent, and the affect it has on them men in said society. Fatherless children are, well, the reason for the term "Bastard child"… fatherless children are much more often problem children, in the past and currently. As for the men, serial monogamy disincentives personal advancement for the majority of men, and places men back into the "mate seeking" mode later in life.

    "What exactly makes marriage a "giant driving factor to the advancement of society?""

    http://no-maam.blogspot.com/2008/02/questionators-should-women-have-right.html

    Or if you don't want to read that, it's as simple as this: Men who don't get married don't have to work nearly as hard to sustain themselves. Men who do get married work harder, and (in a non-serial monogamy society) will work to become "marriage material" which will advance society by the collective over-achievement of these masses. When men no longer desire marriage, or no longer work to achieve "marriage material" status, society advancement as a whole declines and slows.

  16. Demonspawn says:

    "How, in other words, does forcing people to "work out the issues" in bad marriages advance society?"

    By making marriage mean something. By creating a society where women are more likely to require marriage of their men, and therefore men more likely to work towards marriage status.

    "How is society "destroying marriage" except in the sense that it no longer functions as you think it should (if it ever did)?"

    The the two main thrusts are removing the sexual selection restriction on women (Her body, her choice, his responsibility) and changing the laws of divorce such that very few men wish to enter the institution of marriage.

    What marriage "IS" is an institution for ensuring the best possible advancement of the children of the marriage. It did this in several ways: When marriage has real consequences, women want men of marriage material (and will require it since they are "stuck" in said marriage) so men will respond by rising to expectations. By ensuring the influence of the father on the child, the children are raised in the best environment possible. Despite today's society which thinks fathers are just pocketbooks and replaceable, the truth is children without fathers run substantially higher risks of bad behavior, bad outcomes, and bad futures (strangely enough, I have not seen a study which cites the same of motherless children nor do I expect any ever will).

    "I suspect we disagree, but I don't mean to snipe at you."

    Yer asking questions, I've never got a problem with that. You can even disagree, I've got no problem with that. You seem to be a person driven by logic and reason, so I'm not wasting any time by typing these long responses ;)

    "My own view is that religious groups and patriarchs use the State, through marriage rules, to protect male privilege and a particular set of social norms."

    It's not so much male privilege as creating a self-sustaining society. Patriarchal (male head of family) societies advance, Matriarchal societies decline. These Patriarchal religions are the current surviving religions because Patriarchal societies advanced quicker and overcame the not-so-Patriarchal societies.

    Another good read to explain this: http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

    "Joint custody is the default today, and who complains about supporting their own children?"

    1) No, it's not (as in 50/50 shared custody). In fact, the NOW fought AGAINST several version of the shared parenting bill (default 50/50 custody) in several states.
    2) It is true that 33% of men under child support orders do not pay. However, were you aware that 75% of women under child support orders are in total default? And that's not even counting the fact that non-custodial mothers are less likely to be ordered to pay child support as non-custodial fathers.

  17. A "patriarchical" society gives men a stake in the future. If a man can point to his own children, he has reason to plan for the future.

    A "matriarchical" society gives men less stake in the future. If a man's sister's son inherits, that's less motivating than if his own children do.

    Actually I think Western civilization was *family* oriented. The parents guided the marriage choices of their children, attempting to ensure the best quality grandchildren.

    Look at all the marriage customs where a suitor has to meet the girl's parents and get permission to court. Think of the custom of asking the father for his daughter's hand in marriage.

    I think a good case could be made that the rise of Western civilization is the cumulative result of men's courtship displays. A man would work to prove himself a good provider, with status in the community. This was to impress the decision makers, the girl's parents.

    Unfortunately, the things that impress the parents have rarely impressed the girls.

  18. Demonspawn – "That's what I mean about "marriage 2.0" and your previous post where you commented you did not desire to link to sites where "marriage 2.0" was an idea. What you've posted here, that behavior changes when the rules change, pretty much proves that you understand what marriage 2.0 is even if you didn't previously want to admit it's existence.

    Are you willing to admit it's existence now?"

    I think you misunderstand my viewpoint somewhat. This entire blog is predicated on the change in the way marriage works these days. You're asking me to admit to a central theme in the blog. So yes. I suspect I'm just not presenting it with the standard MRA tone of rage.

    I cut links to a few blogs that do espouse concerns about marriage 2.0, but did so because they also either advocated violence as a means to sexually arouse women, or didn't appear to want to do anything other than act as a point of complaint about any individual woman as something indictive of all women. I don't believe that approach is helpful to the cause.

  19. Demonspawn says:

    "I think you misunderstand my viewpoint somewhat… I cut links to a few blogs that do espouse concerns about marriage 2.0, but did so because they [x, y, z]"

    I did misunderstand your lack of desire to link to blogs exposing the idea of "marriage 2.0". I had thought it was because you didn't believe in the idea.

  20. Stanton – "I'm also intrigued with your suggestion that the marriage contract should be legally unbreakable. Do you think the State should force people who to remain legally tied to each other forever when they would prefer to part ways?"

    You're misreading me. I have plenty of posts suggesting divorce is acceptable and even make it clear that by using my overall approach that it is not 100% and divorce is a potential outcome.

    The problem is that currently perfectly good spouses can be duped or dumped without cause. The intention of the majority of people getting married is that of a lifetime commitment and sexual fidelity. One spouse may devotedly supply that and be rewarded by the other simply deciding they want out.

    Likewise some outside your marriage have no complusion about actively stratergizing to steal or seduce your spouse. It's not "something that just happened", weeks and months of planning can go into this.

    Certainly in some States divorce and alimony laws represent an incentive towards divorcing.

  21. Demonspawn – Have you read my bullet points under the "Marriage" tab at the top? I put them in place in the first week or two of posting.

    http://www.marriedmansexlife.com/p/marriage.html

  22. First, I would ask why people shouldn't bail on marginal marriages if that's what they want to do? Why should women–or men, for that matter–be "stuck" in a marriage, mediocre or otherwise, they no longer wish to pursue?

    The whole debate over whether people should/shouldn't be so easily allowed to bail on a marginal marriage gets quickly bogged down due to a key difference in assumption: the definition or rationale for what constitutes a "marginal" marriage.

    Of course one should be permitted to leave an unfixable destructive marriage. …But the criterion of what's "destructive" and "unfixable" has come to include, "it's become boring", "not the fairy tale I imagined it to be", "not as exciting or gina tingling as it once was", "more work than I imagined it to be," or "not meeting to my own interests right now." The whole perception that one is in a marginal marriage is not independent of a culture that has come to marginalize marriage.

  23. R. Stanton Scott says:

    @Athol: Sorry, but I meant to direct that comment to Demonspawn–I did not mean to suggest that you believe divorce should be legally unbreakable. Given your response, however, it looks as if you see marriage more in terms of an agreement to do or provide something, and see divorce law as a way to protect the party that holds up his or her end of the bargain against abandonment or outside "theft" of affections. I see it more in terms of an agreement to work together for some purpose (e.g. procreation, wealth accrual, sex, general happiness among others). Whether or not I have dutifully provided commitment and fidelity, I cannot see any reason to force involuntary participation in a marital arrangement. The dutiful partner certainly deserves some sanction on the cheater, and the system should apply sanctions without regard to gender as an incentive to fulfill the conditions of the contract.

    In any event, I don't agree that some "divorce and alimony laws represent an incentive towards divorcing," though recent changes may have reduced associated disincentives. But I think these changes have in fact kept marriage relevant in an industrialized, more educated, and much more mobile society filled with humans who live longer. It seems to me that more stringent divorce laws would create disincentives to marry and lead to the construction of other contractual tools for binding couples for the purpose of child rearing.

    @Demonspawn: Thanks for the lengthy response and the links–you gave me a lot to digest. I plan to respond later today after I ponder the readings at the two links you provided, but for now let me please just ask: do you agree with the No Ma'am characterization of marriage as an economic transaction of labor for sexuality?

  24. R. Stanton Scott says:

    The general "marriage is a contractual promise" tone here has me sort of speechless. One of the essays Demonspawn pointed me to characterizes marriage as an economic transaction: the husband purchases reproduction services from the wife with his labor. I'm frankly having trouble believing that anyone holds such a reductionist view of an institution they value as a foundation of civilization.

    But I think DS really wanted to back up his point that men who don't get married are simply not as productive. This is a very interesting social science claim, and one that researchers have spent time on. My cursory reading shows that most of them use wages as a proxy for productivity, and find that married men do indeed earn more than single men. But they find support for conflicting explanations, including "married men work harder" and "men who succeed are more likely to get married." Both explanations seem to support DS' view.

    One of the explanations, however does not: that employers simply pay married men more because they are married–perhaps with a stay-at-home mom for a wife–and employers wish to support their normative choice. This article makes a case that the "marriage premium" is declining–and that this is happening because households no longer specialize (e.g., the husband holds a job and the wife cares for children), and with wives working the norm of paying married men more is breaking down.

    Whatever the root cause of the marriage premium, it has declined since 1980. This correlates with the timing of changes in divorce law and the nascent acceptance of the "serial monogamy" version of marriage DS worries about. This means we must at least be open to the idea that serial monogamy makes men more productive, perhaps because they anticipate a limited time with a particular wife and continue producing so they can attract new wives when the time comes.

    What if this happens because men are wired to ensure that they reproduce with more than one woman to create a variety of genetic offspring? This is an EvoPsych explanation if I ever heard one.

    Given all of this I would ask: do you still support marriage if you know that a society built on "serial monogamy" would make men more productive? Since this is the criteria you used to evaluate the importance of marriage, I would have to think the answer is "yes."

  25. Stanton – "The general "marriage is a contractual promise" tone here has me sort of speechless."

    Isn't that the basis of what most people think a marriage is? Two people exchanging a vow of lifelong committment.

    This is one of the disconnects between "the vows" and "the law". Jennifer and I for example exchanged vows for "until death do us part", but CT law allows no fault divorce. So our actual legal aggrement is "until someone files for divorce". Which seems a flimsy aggrement to enter into.

  26. R. Stanton Scott says:

    No, Athol, I don't think most people think of marriage as a contractual promise. If they did, homosexual marriage would not be an issue.

    There's a difference between a "vow of lifelong commitment" and a "contractual promise," especially when the trade is an economic swap of labor for reproductive services. I don't imagine very many people think of how easy divorce is even as they get married–as this construction implies.

    Framing marriage as the simple result of rational choice to enter a risky contract–the spouse might cheat, after all, and others will try to steal her–reduces it to a cost v. benefit decision that discomfits me.

    I prefer to frame marriage as a choice to work with each other as a team bound by an emotional, intellectual, and physical connection. The marriage vow certainly constitutes a promise, but not one of perpetual involuntary association. Not all choices work out, of course, and the system must include rules for managing the results of bad decision making.

    But that's just me.

  27. Marriage exists on two levels: the purely legal level, which no one really thinks about too much when they get married, and the "emotional, intellectual and physical" level described by Mr. Scott. The latter level is what most people getting married think about. Unfortunately, when people get divorced, the second conception evaporates into smoke, and you are left with the purely legal marriage. In that case, it comes down to a division of property and of child custody, if applicable.

    The current no fault system penalizes men more than women because 1) men tend to make more than women, so in divorce they must give up a disproportionate amount of money or property, and 2) they are seen as lesser beings with respect to child custody.

    Wedding vows are an unenforceable moral promise, nothing more. How we determine what marriage is is best tested under a worst-case scenario, not idealized circumstances. Just like a booming economy will paper over a company's bad decisions, an economic downturn will quickly reveal their flaws and can cause bankruptcy. Was the company fundamentally sound? No. It's soundness was the result of favorable circumstances beyond its control. Same with marriage. Changes in marriage laws have caused changes in perception, and people are less inclined to want to deal with the "for worse" part of the wedding vows than they might have been in the past.

  28. Athol Kay says:

    Homosexual marriage opposition is based on bigoty and not much else.

    I think you're trying to pull apart something that isn't so easily broken into it's component pieces. A marriage can be an economic swap of labor for reproductive services AND a cost benefit decision AND a team with a special connection.

    Economics, sociology, psychology, biology et al don't invalidate each other.

    I'd be interested in your view on paternity fraud Stanton. That's very much the hot button issue.

  29. R. Stanton Scott says:

    The fact that bigotry drives opposition to homosexual marriage suggests that few people think of the institution as a contractual promise to conclude an economic transaction. Since they think of marriage in terms of social units, and they don't want to let homosexuals join the social fabric, the bigotry matters.

    And it is not I who wants to "pull apart something that isn't so easily broken into it's component pieces." I see marriage as a complex institution composed of social interactions on several levels, as ASF points out. I am criticizing Demonspawn's reductionist view of marriage as little more than a trade of labor for children, which focuses on one of these "component pieces" to the exclusion of the other important elements.

    Men who doubt the paternity of children women claim they fathered should have a right to establish paternity conclusively. And no man should be forced to care for, or pay child support for, another man's children. But I can think of several scenarios where doing so would be wise. And I wonder about the true nature of the problem–whether it's really all that common–and it's relationship to marriage or divorce law. By that I mean that I don't think eliminating no-fault divorce would address this problem in a meaningful way.

    This is so because divorce adjudicators rely less on the letter of the law when they force men to accept dubious paternity than the normative imperative to ensure the well-being of children. As long as this norm remains strong, judges will attempt to force men to care for the children their wives conceive with other men. I sympathize with those who protest the inequities here, but rejection of this kind of collective action is nonetheless an attack on this norm.

  30. @Athol

    "Homosexual marriage opposition is based on bigoty and not much else."

    The opposition to homosexual marriage may also result from a certain reluctance to throw out the baby along with the bathwater. It's hard to tell one from the other in social policy.

    Understand that few people anticipated the huge growth in income tax rates once the constitution was ammended to allow individual income taxes, the huge growth in the number of children born out of wedlock after AFDC was passed, and the huge growth in divorce rates when the laws were relaxed.

    http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005244.html

  31. R. Stanton Scott says:

    To be sure, any social policy change will bring unintended consequences. But you provide interesting examples.

    Expansion of the role of government generated increasing income tax rates, not the tax itself. As citizens demanded more services, and the simple operation of government cost more and more (e.g., the military-industrial complex), someone had to pay for it. And I would argue that AFDC had very little to do with the increase in the number of children born out of wedlock–few women decided to have a child for a $40 increase in welfare benefits. Note for example that out-of-wedlock births were highest in states with the lowest welfare payments but also the weakest sex education systems–this probably offers the best explanation. And finally, I would think that policy makers intended for relaxed divorce laws to increase the number of divorces since the whole point was to make it easier for women to leave abusive husbands and generally increase human freedom to make marriage choices.

    At any rate, all three examples point to specific outcomes that you see as negative. What specific outcome do you think homosexual marriage opponents fear that is not based on bigotry?

  32. kris.kraft says:

    I don't think you being married can inherently disqualify you from commenting on the sorry state of society and marriage today. In fact, the burgeoning Men's Rights Movement needs this gestation of ideas.

    I hope the MRM can be focussed and simple, instead of breaking up into camps. Sure, this would make us harder to tear down, but unified vision is preferable to blindly shining lights in the dark.

    Keep up the good work.

  33. "few women decided to have a child for a $40 increase in welfare benefits."

    Wrong – the correlation between increased benefits and increased single mother births is pretty robust.

    http://ideas.repec.org/a/ucp/jlabec/v11y1993i1ps201-23.html

    http://ideas.repec.org/p/udb/wpaper/90-23.html

    http://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/aecrev/v69y1979i3p369-79.html

  34. I could only see one of those links was going to lead to a functional article to view, and the one that worked cost $14 Anon.

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