Traditional Marriage: An Outmoded Institution
Kirsten Uhler, Cogitations, May 5, 2009
Kirsten wrote a brilliant paper on marriage for the sociology course in which she is currently enrolled.
None of the “benefits” of marriage require marriage. Children can be conceived and reared and sexual satisfaction can be had without any legal contract or public vows of commitment. I’m glad the proclivity toward marriage is waning.
In the newly Christianized countries of Northern Europe marriage was essentially a business deal between the bridegroom and the bride’s father. The symbol of a successful “bride sale” was the ring (a form of down payment) which was given to the bride herself. Acceptance of the ring constituted betrothal. The full payment of the “bride price” was made on delivery, when the actual wedding took place. Since then, the ring has acquired many other symbolic meanings and is still used in our modern marriage ceremonies (Haeberle, 1983). It still signifies to me that a woman has been “bought,” the price of the ring indicating her value.
I’ve long argued that wedding rings are a superficial waste of money. I haven’t wore mine for years.
The common laws turned the married pair legally into one person—the husband. The husband was enlarged, so to speak, by marriage, while the wife’s giving up her own name and being called by his symbolized her relinquishing her identity. This legal doctrine of marital unity was called coverture (Cott, 2002). This meant that a wife could not use legal avenues such as suits or contracts, own assets, or execute legal documents without her husband’s collaboration. The husband became the political as well as the legal representative of his wife, disenfranchising her.
Coverture is fucked up!
I am in a wonderful relationship with Brent. We are only married to receive the legal benefits we would not otherwise have. We are still together because we make each other happy. We have history together. We have insight into each other. We agree on important philosophies and values. We enrich each other and affirm the best in each other. We challenge each other and make each other want to be a better person. We communicate; we’re open and honest with each other. We appreciate each other’s uniqueness and value. We have regular and exciting sex. We show affection. We don’t keep score or compete with each other. We share responsibilities. We have children together and agree on parenting styles. And we are best friends. All these things keep us together and happy. Our marriage does not.
I love you, too, Kirsten.
Promising to love someone tomorrow is puerile. The subjugation of women is immoral. An expectation of sexual fidelity is insecure, unreasonable and selfish. Traditional marriage should, like religious myth, be relegated to history.