(N.B.C.) Why do people marry? / Is marriage beyond reason?

By Signe Jørgensen

It seems to me that the reasons people have for marrying these days are not logically convincing.

The only reason that could be convincing is if you are religious, (though not logically, because there is very little logic in religion), and want to be united in the eyes of God.

However, more and more people have civil ceremonies, or only marry in church because it is expected or tradition to do so, not out of any real devotion.

So if God is not a factor, then why bother marrying at all?

The argument that was presented to me, when I asked some of my friends, was that a marriage was a deep emotional commitment between two people. People want to proclaim their love for one-another in front of their friends and have a party.

I can understand that, but what is the difference between just standing up in front of your mates and yelling, ‘We love each other, and we’ll stay together always!’

Yes, there is a marriage certificate that you get to sign and take home (whoopee) and the state will recognize you as a couple. That’s nice, but it is just a piece of paper, and you can get that same recognition without marrying, as in a de-facto relationship.

Even the legal benefits of marriage are not substantial, and are essentially the same in a de-facto.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the idea of marriage is very romantic, and sweet.

But I also think that it is completely unreasonable to expect someone to promise to love you forever.

Even with the best intentions, and I’m sure people who marry have the very best intentions, you cannot promise something like that.

What if you fall out of love with your spouse? Then you would have broken the promise that is the very basis of your union.

At the very most you can promise to try to love somebody, or take care of them, or treat them with respect. And some people believe that this is what marriage eventually becomes under any circumstances; affection and friendship. But that again poses the question: if you think that this is what marriage is going to turn into, then why bother at all?

Surely it is just as fulfilling to live together, build a family together and grow old together without marriage as it would be if you were married. The piece of paper, the official recognition of your union, won’t affect the relationship on a personal level.

It seems to me that it is an old-fashioned ritual, and cannot be argued for in any reasonable sense. Emotions seem to be the main drivers, rather than logic, and people seem quite happy for it to be this way. They want the fairytale; “all is well that ends well”.

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15 responses to “(N.B.C.) Why do people marry? / Is marriage beyond reason?

  1. 1. “more and more people have civil ceremonies, or only marry in church because it is expected or tradition to do so, not out of any real devotion.”

    What evidence do you have for this? I’m sure most people believe they are marrying out of real devotion.

    2. “The difference between just standing up in front of your mates and yelling, ‘We love each other, and we’ll stay together always!’” and marriage is presumably not a difference of intention but a difference of degree. The act of marrying involves much more effort than yelling, and consequently demonstrates a much stronger intention (or resolve?). It takes very little to yell “we’ll stay together always” – very little to yell and mean it. To go through the act of marrying requires much more, and hence is itself evidence of the strength of the commitment.

    3. “if you think that [affection and friendship] is what marriage is going to turn into, then why bother at all?”

    People do not think the love is going to change into friendship. They believe the love is going to change – but change in form, not type, and remain love. There are many forms of love – and many forms of love within marriage. There’s no reason to think that the forms of love present in the later stages of marriage are ‘just’ “affection and friendship”.

    4. “Emotions seem to be the main drivers [behind marriage], rather than logic.”

    Would we want it to be any other way? Surely ‘Darling, I love you. Will you marry me?’ is vastly preferable to ‘Darling, I think it’s logical for us to marry’. I know anyone who proposed to me on the grounds of logic would receive a swift ‘Adios’ in return.

  2. RE: Diesel.
    I agree with you, except I think that Signe’s point about marriage ceremonies not being about devotion any more was talking about devotion to the church, not to each other.
    Also, when she says that it’s no different to just stand up and yell “We’ll love each other forever!” in front of people, she’s talking about how marriage is turning into a symbol of intention, and that it is increasingly so rather than a religious union, or even a legal one.

  3. Thanks Rosie.

    You are right on both counts, in response to Diesel; the example was meant to be over-simplified, to support my point. Of course there is a difference between standing on a table and yelling, and having a ceremony, but it is the basis which is the same. Declaring solemnly in front of a congregation of people that you will always love the other person. The act changes but the intention does not, and it is the intention that I was arguing is unreasonable.

    As for Dielsel’s point 1, you are right, I have no statistics proving my point. The only evidence that I have is my own experience of weddings. I have been to 6 in the past 2 years, and 1 was in a church. When I asked the happy couple why, they answered because that was where her parents had married. So more of a homage to them, than to any real devotion to the church.

    Point 2, “the act of marrying requires much more, and hence is itself evidence of the strength of the commitment.” Nonsense! Any two people with $300,- can get married. Just because it takes more effort to get married, does not make the commitment stronger. It is not the act of marriage, but the commitment that comes in the subsequent years that require strength. And with or without a wedding, people who are truly committed to each other, stay together.

    point 3, If the love changes form, and therefore isn’t the same as when you married, then the vows that you took, based on the form the love was then, isn’t the same. You cannot promise to do something, realizing that what you are promising is going to change.

    point 4, yes that does sound a lot nicer, but it does not disprove my reasoning.
    Look, I am not arguing that people should marry because it is reasonable. I am arguing that logically there is no point marrying at all. There is no need for a piece of paper to prove your commitment to someone.

    I don’t mean to rain on any body’s parade. I am not advocating that people should refrain from marrying, just that logically it doesn’t make much sense.

  4. As one of the only married members of the Socratic Society I feel that I should share my views and experience on this issue.

    Firstly, Signe, if your argument is that marriage is illogical and unreasonable I whole heartedly agree with you and say a thousand amens. A marriage relationship, and any other human relationship, is beyond the category of reason and logic. To force human relationships to be logical would be to exclude the very things that make them human relationships. I think you can extend your argument to say that friendship is illogical and unreasonable. The relationship between the hypotenuse and the other two sides in Pythagoras’s theorem is logical, but the relationship between a parent and a child isn’t. It is contingent, historical, emotional, biological and familial, but not logical. Is it logical that a father should give a child a birthday present? Is it logical that a mother treasures a picture or piece of jewellery that her child made for her, even though she could buy or make herself a much better one?

    All of the great love stories in the Western tradition, and I would assume in other traditions, have been illogical – Romeo and Juliet, Catherine and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), Rodion Raskolnikov and Sonia Marmeladova (Crime and Punishment) or Ariel and Prince Eric (The Little Mermaid) etc.

    So my first point is that I think that you need to build a case for why a marriage should be logical. I don’t believe that this is obvious.

    My second point relates to your comment: That’s nice, but it is just a piece of paper, and you can get that same recognition without marrying, as in a de-facto relationship.

    Whether it is right or not the fact of the matter is de-facto couples do not get the same recognition. I am now in my late twenties and have several friends in de-facto relationships, one of their favourite topics of conversation is the lack of recognition that they get as a de-facto couple. I am not talking about legal recognition, but social recognition. People think differently about people who are married – if they didn’t I wouldn’t always get comments like “You’re married! But you are young” and my de-facto friends wouldn’t need to make comments like “no body takes our relationship seriously because we aren’t married!” A de-facto couple I am friends with recently got married, they were the biggest moaners about lack of recognition, now that they think that there is a qualitative difference to their relationship. I am not saying if there is or not, but that is the way that they feel.

    So my second point is simply that from my personal experience there is a difference in the social recognition between married and de-facto couples.

    My third point is about idea of promising into the future. Signe said:
    But I also think that it is completely unreasonable to expect someone to promise to love you forever.
    AND
    What if you fall out of love with your spouse? Then you would have broken the promise that is the very basis of your union.

    The language of marriage (traditional Christian marriage) uses words like oath, pledge, vow, covenant, commitment or promise, not ‘contract’, ‘agreement’ or ‘negotiation’. While you are using the word ‘promise’, I think you are letting it function as ‘contract’. To have a marriage contract would be completely illogical and unreasonable precisely because a contract is suppose to be logical and risk conscious whereas a marriage is illogical and filled with risk.

    A marriage isn’t a contractual agreement but a vow, a pledge, that (in the traditional form) whatever comes up you will remain committed to that person i.e. for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health etc. So the promise isn’t simply to love (romantically) someone for ever, but to love (ethically) someone forever. This notion (at least in this context) is rooted in the Christian faith, whether such a commitment can be maintained divorced from that faith is another argument for another day.

    As for the idea that love is the basis of the relationship it again depends on whether you are talking about a ‘nominal Christian marriage’ or an ‘orthodox Christian marriage’. For the former love is more likely to be the foundation although is could be money, status or pregnancy, while for the later God is (supposed to be) the foundation – again this is a distinction that needs to made, but probably at another time.

    So my basic point is that the idea of promise/vow is what differentiates a committed and future orientated relationship, from an open and present orientated relationship. The former has traditionally been the Christian marital relationship, while the latter has been the de-facto relationship. But these days it is getting all arse-about. And neither has a monopoly on either type of relationship.

    To conclude – yes, marriage is illogical and unreasonable, but so it should be. Secondly as far as the argument goes there needs to some clarification of what kind of marriage we are talking about here (this difficult as everyone these days like to put there own “individual flair” into their ceremony, which funnily enough is very similar to the way their friends do it and is generally fairly shallow). And thirdly, while you did say that you weren’t going to pay any attention to the ‘traditional’ Christian marriage I think it is unavoidable as marriage as we know it in the West has its roots in the Christian tradition. So like a good botanist, if the flowers are dying above you had better have a look at the roots below.

  5. Thank you so much Chris, for your lovely insight into what marriage could be. I really appreciate your constructive criticism on my argument. I think, we should discuss our different points of view over drinks at the upcoming pubcrawl!
    See you soon.
    Signe

  6. Hi Signe,

    ” If the love changes form, and therefore isn’t the same as when you married, then the vows that you took, based on the form the love was then, isn’t the same. You cannot promise to do something, realizing that what you are promising is going to change.”

    Love is by definition something that is constantly changing and evolving, and I don’t think it is diminshed by this fact. I think that something that constantly changes can still be considered the same thing – the same love that it was in the first place.

    It is like the way that I consider myself to be the same thing, despite the fact that I constantly change – both bodily and psychologically.

    I wanted to offer some insight into the matter from the great man himself – Shakespeare.

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Nor bends with the remover to remove:
    O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

    Despite time and inevitable changes love can still remain the same love.

    A little literary, perhaps, for a philosophical blog, but interesting all the same.

  7. Aww man, that was beautiful =)
    What’s that quote from? *reveals lack of literary knowledge*

  8. Isn’t it. It’ s one of Shakespeare’s sonnets – 116 I am led to believe.

  9. “I am arguing that logically there is no point marrying at all. There is no need for a piece of paper to prove your commitment to someone.” – Signe

    “This notion (at least in this context) is rooted in the Christian faith, whether such a commitment can be maintained divorced from that faith is another argument for another day.” – Chris

    Without the two marrying persons’ commitment to the Christian faith, there is probably no logical reason for marriage (a Christian concept), and I think the two points above agree with me.

  10. Shaz- I think that doing anything in the name of religion without actually believing in the religion seems illogical.
    But then again, if we’re talking about marriage here, Chris would argue that the whole idea is that marriage IS illogical, and that that means that the people being married are being married for the right, illogical, reasons. That is to say, if people were marrying each other for logical reasons, then they would be missing the point of marriage altogether… (I think…)

  11. if people were marrying each other for logical reasons, then they would be missing the point of marriage altogether…

    Exactly.

  12. hehe yeah i got that 😉

    then again, who created the concept of marriage? did it originate from the Bible? can you say that the point of marriage can be assigned to it from a different source? (at a later point, by non-believers in the Bible).

  13. p.s. then again, I think I have to go on to say that, it is not as though those of the Christian faith do not marry for love. I know my parents did! I think that the whole point of the Biblical marriage, from what I know, is that you will commit yourselves to that one person, whom you love, for the rest of your life. The Bible talks about how the “two become one”, cliche maybe, but those are the words. And through marriage in the eyes of God they become one, not to be separated afterwards. That’s what I get from it, anyways.

  14. Our ordeal has aged us greatly. Taking stock of our failed marriage, I feel it would have been better for the children and personal growth had we toughed it out. Couples these days, like us, had no option to stay together – the state enforces the demise of family unity. But for all the good intentions and the politicall conforming cods-wollop I have heard, it remains clear that the children’s best interests would have been for the marriage to continue through the difficulties.
    As I see it, marriage is rooted in the past times when there was no social welfare, women and children needed security of food, housing and protection.
    Civil unions are equal in today’s environment, but what if the environment changes again? I do appreciate that it is almost impossible to make a life long commitment, but then I see the very occasional ancient couple out strollung hand in hand…..

  15. My thoughts exactly. You guys will love my new essay here:

    Seven Logical Reasons Not To Marry – What Society Never Tells You
    http://www.happierabroad.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=12155

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