What is marriage?

Ember, Catalyst, and I all have different views about what marriage is and what it means, and though I know this, I’m still surprised to learn new little nuances about their views.

My view on marriage is a very divided one. There’s legal marriage, there’s social marriage, and then there’s the actual relationship, and they can be packaged together or they can be separated out. For me, legal marriage holds very little emotional weight in and of itself, and I think of it really as just a contract that in our society comes along with a lot of benefits that we have learned to expect from long term romantic partners (or from the process of ending something we expected would be long term). Ember aligns with me here, whereas Catalyst puts a lot of weight on the marriage contract, and honestly, on contracts and laws and things like that in general. He’s the sort of person who pretty much always reads the document before he signs it.

I have a bit of trouble talking about the difference between social marriage and the relationship, and I think that’s because to me, being married is a social role, and the biggest (only?) difference between a marriage and a long term committed relationship that has not been labelled a marriage, is the set of labels that they’re using. Whether they announce to people that they are married or not, there are certain relationships where based on the way they act toward each other, and the way they integrate their partner into their lives, and how they expect those around them to think about their partner, people effectively consider them married.

And that is why, to me, marrying more than one person seems feasible, because it’s all about the relationship, the commitment, and the social declaration. The legal marriage contract does not mean a lot to me, except as a tidy package of useful benefits. And many of the benefits I care about (but unfortunately not all of them), we can draw up our own contracts for anyway, without getting legally married.

That is also why for me, if two people are legally married, but between them they have decided the relationship is over, and especially if they have also publicly declared that their marriage is over, then it doesn’t really mean much to me that they’re still legally married.

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