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Should everyone wish to get married?

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Short answer to the title topic: No.

 

Excepting situations in which circumstances such old age make it unrealistic, if romantic love is one of the essential values in life, should everyone hold getting married as a long-term goal?

The qualifying phase in this question is, "if romantic love is one of essential values." Romantic love, in the truest sense, is quite rare. There are far too many loveless marriages; people carry on their lives together out of habit, or fear of what it would be like to be independent of their spouse.

 

How does marriage necessarily enhance or improve romantic relationships?

I concur with Eiuol. Two people in love can have all of the joys of each others commitment without the legal contract. However, I would add that the contract binds property rights and grants a couple tax benefits. Where children are involved, the situation may be different. In any event, a life is not complete without having had at least one great love affair, if not many.

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Excepting situations in which circumstances such old age make it unrealistic, if romantic love is one of the essential values in life, should everyone hold getting married as a long-term goal?

 

Age is no exception to romantic love, but marriage isn't for everyone.  Marriage, like any other contractural agreement, provides a form of security by explicitly declaring a committment to sharing long term goals.  Not everyone benefits from that kind of committment, but for those who do, a golden wedding anniversary shared with family members is a truly golden moment and a source of pride and achievement.

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...

 

I concur with Eiuol. Two people in love can have all of the joys of each others commitment without the legal contract. However, I would add that the contract binds property rights and grants a couple tax benefits. Where children are involved, the situation may be different. In any event, a life is not complete without having had at least one great love affair, if not many.

 

Two people can built a car together without a legal contract too, but only one will retain ownership should they later decide to go their separate ways.  Marriage, as a contract, provides security but not love.  A good marriage is a working relationship in which the partners love their job.

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All good points so far. It occurred to me that if it wasn't so taboo, a practical approach to marriage as a regular old contract would yield loveless marriages as a non-embarrassing norm. "Oh, they were married years ago. They've lived there for over ten years I think, but at the end of next year I believe she's selling her portion and moving away with her lover. Him? Apparently he's converting part of it into a bigger work room for his model planes. I don't know, it's just what he likes!"

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The same way contracts do as an explicit statement of commitment witnessed by others.

Too vague. You didn't describe what improves the nature of the relationship. Why does a statement of commitment improve a romantic relationship? The legal relationship certainly changes, but how does the romantic relationship change in a way unique to marriage? I don't think I need to draw out further how legal aspects of a relationship don't necessarily change the romantic aspects, so I'm only asking what about one changes the other.

Edited by Eiuol
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Too vague. You didn't describe what improves the nature of the relationship. Why does a statement of commitment improve a romantic relationship? The legal relationship certainly changes, but how does the romantic relationship change in a way unique to marriage? I don't think I need to draw out further how legal aspects of a relationship don't necessarily change the romantic aspects, so I'm only asking what about one changes the other.

 

In a word, security.  That is what "contractual animals" benefit from; knowing in advance that ones future partner is explicitly and publicly committed to working together for mutual benefit towards shared goals.  In terms of marital security, it allows individuals to experience their romantic relationship further removed from fears of rejection, abandonment, or unwanted interference by others.

 

In simple terms, marriage is the objective evidence of two individuals choosing to share a long term monogamous relationship with each other because that improves the nature of their romantic relationship.  As I half jokingly suggested to Jaskn, other individuals prefer the practice of catch and release.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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In a word, security.  That is what "contractual animals" benefit from; knowing in advance that ones future partner is explicitly and publicly committed to working together for mutual benefit towards shared goals.  In terms of marital security, it allows individuals to experience their romantic relationship further removed from fears of rejection, abandonment, or unwanted interference by others.

Yeah, that's what I'm getting at and questioning. Contractual promises are good. But we're not talking about  the legal or monetary consolidation that marriage typically is about. We're talking here about emotional security, and you've explicitly mentioned fears or other things that indicate uncertainty of trust. Sure, it is fine to take contracts to assure you what happens with the distribution of property or money in the event anything bad happens. It is not fine to use marriage as a promise that you'll be with no one else as a way to assure them you won't suddenly vanish. Talk about controlling! If marriage is a means to improve relationships because they're further from rejection, that sounds horrible - are the people otherwise jealous more often before marriage? If they are, something is wrong.

 

You seemed to assume right away that "promising" relationships will last is a good thing. I see it as delusional at worst, or naive at best to expect that relationships based on emotions can be promised. Contracts based on emotion is a terrible thing, and even if you only mean a symbolic promise, that's bad for the reasons I stated above. It's only a modern development that marriage as an agreement became connected to love.

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... It is not fine to use marriage as a promise that you'll be with no one else as a way to assure them you won't suddenly vanish. Talk about controlling! If marriage is a means to improve relationships because they're further from rejection, that sounds horrible...

 

But "controlling" is exactly what contracts are about, and why individuals choose to freely enter into them.  To have the ability to exercise some control over the uncertainty of having a significant other (trading partner) back away from whatever committments are being depended on to pursue ones happiness.

 

...

 

You seemed to assume right away that "promising" relationships will last is a good thing. I see it as delusional at worst, or naive at best to expect that relationships based on emotions can be promised. Contracts based on emotion is a terrible thing, and even if you only mean a symbolic promise, that's bad for the reasons I stated above...

 

I assume that promising to deliver on ones committments is a good thing, which is primarily why we are contractual animals and not lone wolves.  As I stated in post #7, "Marriage, as a contract, provides security but not love", meaning sheltering oneself from emotionally driven actions produced by love/hate/indifference is as valid a form of security as sheltering oneself from emotionally driven actions like theft/dishonesty/malfeasance.

 

... It's only a modern development that marriage as an agreement became connected to love.

 

That is an interesting perspective and I think accounts to some degree for the more recent decline in marriage as a viable form of contract.  As contractual expectations shift from agreements of trade based on principle, to agreements to trade as long as one partner feels like it, the absence of necessity for such emotional contracting becomes apparent.

 

Happiness may be pursued, but not guarenteed.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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any long-term romantic relationship usually involves the promise of exclusivity, even if only implicitly. i think Eioul's point is that getting married as a way to have extra assurance that your partner won’t leave you or cheat on you is unhealthy.

 

the problem is not so much that it’s controlling to obtain an official promise of fidelity, it’s that you should already be so confident that you don't have any anxiety about that in the first place. getting it in writing, backed by the state, does not improve the situation anyway. marriage does not shield you from "emotionally driven actions produced by love/hate/indifference", since divorce is always an option. your security against that is the value of the relationship and the character of the person you're with.

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...

 

the problem is not so much that it’s controlling to obtain an official promise of fidelity, it’s that you should already be so confident that you don't have any anxiety about that in the first place. getting it in writing, backed by the state, does not improve the situation anyway. marriage does not shield you from "emotionally driven actions produced by love/hate/indifference", since divorce is always an option. your security against that is the value of the relationship and the character of the person you're with.

 

 

Contract law doesn't prevent breach of contract, it only enables one to pursue compensation for breach of contract.  In this matter, marital contract provides as much security as any other form of contract.  As an Objectivist, to argue against such forms of security calls to question ones agreement with Ayn Rand's description of man as a contractual animal.  If one claims that marriage, as a contract, is of no value then one assumes the position that contracts in general are of no value.

 

Is this your position?

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Marriage as a contract absolutely provides *material security*. i am not arguing against that and neither is anyone else here. Eioul said: “Contractual promises are good… it is fine to take contracts to assure you what happens with the distribution of property or money in the event anything bad happens.” —“But we're not talking about the legal or monetary consolidation… we're talking here about emotional security… fears … uncertainty of trust.”

 

what marriage should not have the function of providing in a relationship is emotional stability. having that contract in your hand does not increase love or trust, it does not make the romance itself more intense or more enduring. marriage should not be used as “a means to improve relationships” by putting you “further from rejection”, as a way to calm your fear and mistrust. that would be similar to trying to get pregnant in order to make a failing relationship last.

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the point is put very well by an Objectivist psychologist here: http://drhurd.com/if-you-dont-feel-loved-maybe-this-is-why/
 

“There’s an old saying about marital relationships being a ‘ball and chain.’ Today we use the terminology of prisons and involuntary psychiatric hospital stays to describe relationships: ‘commitment.’ Yikes! By what horrific turn of events or concepts does something as beautiful, spontaneous and nonobligatory as romantic love turn into imprisonment or enslavement? What does it say about the way many people approach romantic love—and human association more generally—that it so often comes to this?


“From a rational perspective, you don’t want someone to love you unless they freely and willingly choose and allow themselves to do so. What else can reside beneath a connection of love or friendship other than willingness, spontaneity and authenticity? If your spouse or friend doesn’t love you because of sincere, personally held motivation—then what is to be the motive? Duty? Obligation? ‘You loved me five years ago, so you’ve got to love me now. You must love me now.’ ... What’s even in it for you—selfishly—to have someone love you merely out of habit, obligation or duty? Don’t you want it to be real, most of all?

 

If John Galt’s oath is true—and I maintain that it is—then it’s likewise true that nobody is obliged to love you or care about you, just because you want it or need it. You must earn that love—not only in your own conclusions and practice, but also in the other person’s eyes. This is true not only on the first date, or in the first year, but for all the years of your romantic association (or any other kind of association) together."

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Splitprimary, your paraphrase of what I was saying is right, and I agree with what you said. Or also like Bluecherry said, the supposed emotional benefits of marriage aren't even unique to marriage.

 

Ayn Rand's description of man as a contractual animal.

That's your description. It'd only be fair to say Rand described man as rational, and a trader of values. Your point seems to be that contracts are fundamental to any trade, even emotional trades. The problem with that is simply emotional trades, like love, can't be contracted. If you attempt to contract it, you will not be able to measure properly when that contract is broken. The only possible standard to the terms then is as long as one partner literally feels like it. So, you're back where you started, the risk of them someday falling out of love didn't go away. What could you possibly contract about emotions on measurable grounds?

That's why I brought in the word "control". Yeah, contracts are about control, except attempting to control emotions is not proper. You know, like a "controlling relationship" where one partner makes unreasonable demands without taking into account what the other can reasonably control.
 

meaning sheltering oneself from emotionally driven actions produced by love/hate/indifference

 

Actions like what? Don't be so abstract, concretize!
 

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...

 

That's your description. It'd only be fair to say Rand described man as rational, and a trader of values. Your point seems to be that contracts are fundamental to any trade, even emotional trades. The problem with that is simply emotional trades, like love, can't be contracted. If you attempt to contract it, you will not be able to measure properly when that contract is broken. The only possible standard to the terms then is as long as one partner literally feels like it. So, you're back where you started, the risk of them someday falling out of love didn't go away. What could you possibly contract about emotions on measurable grounds?

...

 

Here's the source of "my description":

 

"Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men; living in a human society is his proper way of life—but only on certain conditions. Man is not a lone wolf and he is not a social animal. He is a contractual animal. He has to plan his life long-range, make his own choices, and deal with other men by voluntary agreement (and he has to be able to rely on their observance of the agreements they entered)." ~ ARL, Man

 

Yes, my point is that "contracts are fundamental to any trade", and that traders are not unemotional beings.  Do we pursue happiness, or just material assets?  Every relationship between individuals requires time and effort, i.e. an investment being made with the expectation of some agreed upon return on that investment.  Emotional relationships are no exception such that contractual animals become something else when pursuing love interests.

 

...

That's why I brought in the word "control". Yeah, contracts are about control, except attempting to control emotions is not proper. You know, like a "controlling relationship" where one partner makes unreasonable demands without taking into account what the other can reasonably control.

 

...

 

Contracts record terms of agreement, i.e., who is responsible for what.  When individuals freely promise to love one another forever, then yeah they ought to be held accountable for having a change of heart later on.  If you can't do the time, don't sign the line.  In any case, imagine the value of contracts if every one had an emotional escape clause such that one becomes exempt from contractual obligations because one no longer feels like providing them.

 

...

 

Actions like what? Don't be so abstract, concretize!

 

This seems to be the major source of your objection, so I'll attempt to clarify here what is meant by sheltering oneself by contract from emotionally driven actions.  Let's say two couples fall in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together.  They can:

a) live together freely without obligation

B) marry and formally hold each other accountable to specific kinds of behavior, e.g., no lying, cheating, theft, etc.

 

Couple 'a' and couple 'b' both have children and at some point later on, one partner from each relationship initiates an extra marital affair.  Both partners are discovered and sent packing.  Neither of the remaining partners were primary wage earners, so both are left raising children with insufficient funds.  The remaining partner from couple 'b' recieves alimony, while the remaining partner from couple 'a' goes on welfare.  Which couple made the more rational decision regarding their future?

 

Wait a minute... what about that emotional sheltering bit??  It's more commonly referred to as peace of mind knowing that one has taken steps to limit hardships resulting from trading partners who later neglect their previously agreed to obligations.  That's the best concrete I can pour at this point in time (going to be out of touch for a few weeks), and in any case, my argument has nothing to do with contracting for love and everything to do with contracting for security, which is what all contracts, including marital ones, are intended for.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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Here's the source of "my description"

I stand corrected. I think you take the description too far, though. Agreements are made over choices. Agreements can't be made over the state of your emotions which are not choices. You can't be held accountable in a contractual sense for having a change of heart. Indeed, why you want to make an agreement goes with an emotional motivation underlying your goal, but you wouldn't make a contract where the terms include a change of emotion. What would you say about this dialogue I made up?

Jill: "You promised you'd love me!"

Jack: "I do love you!"

Jill: "Then why did you go hiking without me?!"

Jack: "Because I wanted alone time."

Jill: "Liar. You don't love me, you broke our contract; see you in court!"

How would a judge determine if in fact Jack broke the contract, assuming that promising to remain in love is part of the contract's terms?

 

When individuals freely promise to love one another forever, then yeah they ought to be held accountable for having a change of heart later on.  If you can't do the time, don't sign the line.  In any case, imagine the value of contracts if every one had an emotional escape clause such that one becomes exempt from contractural obligations because one no longer feels like providing them.

But it is not possible to make that into a contract because emotions aren't something you decide. That's why trades of emotion can't be contracted.

Your example is an example of contracting for purposes of property or money and is not about emotional connections.

Look, you said "[marriage] allows individuals to experience their romantic relationship further removed from fears of rejection, abandonment, or unwanted interference by others." I am not disputing the value of agreeing how to deal with money and property. I'm disputing that marriage can possibly improve a relationship compared to before marriage. That is, unless there are baseless fears and jealousy in the relationship, which is hardly a rational reason to marry.

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Jill: "You promised you'd love me!"

Jack: "I do love you!"

Jill: "Then why did you go hiking without me?!"

Jack: "Because I wanted alone time."

Jill: "Liar. You don't love me, you broke our contract; see you in court!"

How would a judge determine if in fact Jack broke the contract, assuming that promising to remain in love is part of the contract's terms?

I view the contract issue as strictly about property, and probably about property concerning children, also. In my very limited understanding of the matter, I believe prenups already mitigate marital property disputes between couples, but the court does a lousy job with children. On the one hand, I could see a contract specifying that a spouse cannot move before a child is grown -- but on the other hand, I can't see a spouse contracting the possibility of living with someone in misery.
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if all you mean to say is that, knowing you have legal recourse to secure material compensation in the event of something like infidelity, provides some peace of mind, then i could agree. but you keep trying to smuggle in the idea that the contract is also, “individuals freely promis[ing] to love one another forever”. that’s the "emotional" part we’re trying to isolate. if your argument has “nothing to do with contracting for love”, then what is that?

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Eiuol & splitprimary,

 

You remain concerned that contracts (like money) can't buy you love; that love is somehow beyond the realm of choice.  If this were the case, then pursuing happiness (an emotional state) would remain an exercise in futility.  The fact remains that happiness is not only achievable by choice, but that the odds of achieving happiness are increased by making agreements with others, and holding oneself and others accountable to those agreements.  Another way of stating this is to say that contracts minimize the risk of becoming unhappy as a result of interactions with others.

 

To assert that one cannot make someone love you jumps over a critical element;  love you for what?  There are any number of reasons one might love another.  When individuals fall in love, those reasons form the foundation of their relationship.  Marriage is the means by which individuals attempt to assure each other that each is committed to defining and maintaining their relationship according to those reasons.  In this respect, marriage is like any other contract entered into willingly for the purpose of achieving a mutually beneficial goal.  And like any other contract, should either or both parties become unhappy with their relationship, there remains a legitimate means of escape, e.g., divorce. 

 

So again, one does not contract to create love because presumably one is already in love.  One contracts for security (peace of mind) that the love being acted on is genuine and enduring and can be maintained long term, even in the face of hardships and uncertainty.  Finding and contracting with a reliable parts supplier is essentially the same.  And to respond to how this makes a married couples' love better than shacking up, one only has to consider interacting with others without any expectation of reliable performance, e.g., a vow to behave consistently.

 

That being said, marriage or any other contractual obligation is serious business and not for everyone, and particularly not for those who don't care to be held accountable for their actions or promises to behave consistently.  In summing up, I will say that it is not in the nature of fallible beings to have perfect marriages.  But that fallible beings even choose to attempt to enter into and maintain long term mutually beneficial relationships is an attempt to live as a heroic beings ought to live.

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