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Should everyone wish to get married?

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happiness (and love) are the results and rewards of good choices. you don’t just choose to be happy or choose to be in love. that is why you can enter into a contract stating actions you will and will not take, but you don’t contract how you will feel in the future.

 

i’m currently engaged, i believe in marriage. but no part of my reason for getting married is to make the relationship more emotionally secure, to give assurance or to get assurance that the love is genuine or enduring. i already know that it is. if i didn’t already know that, i would not be getting married. that is a precondition for marriage, not a result of it.

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happiness (and love) are the results and rewards of good choices. you don’t just choose to be happy or choose to be in love. that is why you can enter into a contract stating actions you will and will not take, but you don’t contract how you will feel in the future.

 

i’m currently engaged, i believe in marriage. but no part of my reason for getting married is to make the relationship more emotionally secure, to give assurance or to get assurance that the love is genuine or enduring. i already know that it is. if i didn’t already know that, i would not be getting married. that is a precondition for marriage, not a result of it.

 

 

We can agree that emotional states are the result of choice, what Ayn Rand referred to as an emotional barometer of the effacy of ones actions.  Yes, one doesn't just choose to be happy, one chooses to pursue happiness and contracts to effect that goal.

 

Congratulations on your engagement.  As one who has lasted 30 some seasons of marriage, I wish you well but warn you that what you "know" is subject to revision by practice.  In any case, I wish you well in your pursuit of happiness.

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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.

 

Delimiting contracts to property certainly fits the historical context of marriage, and accepting Locke's view of ones person being their primary property fits the more contemporary view.  Two individuals freely vowing long term ethical behavior towards each other meets the standard of Galt's vow and agrees with the Trader Principle, therefore is consistent with Objectivism.

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i didn’t mean to derail the conversation by personalizing. congratulation and condescension aside, you have not addressed the charge that you are mistaking cause for effect.

 

 

Fair enough.  Please elaborate on my mistake that one chooses to pursue happiness and contracts to that effect.  And please explain exactly how you know today that you will continue to be happily married, say 30 years from now.

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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.

 

How can a contract provide security of emotion? You say it does, but I'm saying it is impossible to make promises of emotion that would hold up in a court of law. What is possible, though, is to interact with people you judge to be honest. But what you cannot explicitly choose cannot be contracted. Further, you didn't address my example of one party claiming a marriage contract is broken. You say marriage itself is peace of mind, so how does marriage secure you emotionally from impulsive breakups as in my example?

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How can a contract provide security of emotion?

 

Consider the contract a citizen has with government to provide security.  When a citizen feels safe (an emotional state), is that not the result of having a contract that provides security?  Obviously the government cannot make one feel safe by acting without any commitment to provide security.

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first of all, having been married for 30 years does not add weight to your position. that is a form of argument from authority. first-hand experience is not necessary to be able to understand these concepts. and longevity, by itself, says nothing about the value of a relationship or the participants anyway. one couple might stay together because they have remained each other's highest value through consistent self-improvement and shared philosophy, another might be miserable but stay together by default, because they're afraid of being independent, or out of a sense of duty to a mystical entity. there are all kinds of reasons a marriage might have lasted.

 

but what we're getting down to is what marriage actually does. either "marriage is the objective evidence" and public declaration of a relationship that already existed and could exist without the external symbols, or making it official somehow fundamentally changes the nature of the relationship itself. maybe you can explain how signing a legal contract in any way increases the likelihood of your staying satisfied with a romantic relationship in the future. the way i see it, the legal part only deals with what happens in the case of dissolution, it doesn't help the relationship along otherwise.

 

i have another question for you too. are you in favor of no-fault divorce? is it valid to divorce for no other reason than that you no longer want to be in the relationship?

 
you said earlier, "should either or both parties become unhappy with their relationship, there remains a legitimate means of escape, e.g., divorce." but seem to view negatively the "shift... to agreements to trade as long as one partner feels like it", and say that the marriage contract is a case where, "individuals freely promise to love one another forever" and "ought to be held accountable for having a change of heart later on." plus, " 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." isn't being unhappy with a relationship a case of "no longer feeling like" fulfilling your "promise to love one another forever"? does marriage impose a duty that you wouldn't otherwise have in a committed, long-term relationship? what is the extent of that obligation? what should you do when it conflicts with your self-interest?
Edited by splitprimary
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Consider the contract a citizen has with government to provide security.  When a citizen feels safe (an emotional state), is that not the result of having a contract that provides security?  Obviously the government cannot make one feel safe by acting without any commitment to provide security.

You're right. But you couldn't add a clause that says "feeling secure will be guaranteed". It is also possible to promise continuing protection. That possibility adds for peace of mind by contract. It is impossible to promise continuing love, so marriage wouldn't provide peace of mind.

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You're right. But you couldn't add a clause that says "feeling secure will be guaranteed". It is also possible to promise continuing protection. That possibility adds for peace of mind by contract. It is impossible to promise continuing love, so marriage wouldn't provide peace of mind.

 

There's no guarantee that the pursuit of happiness will achieve happiness, so it follows that being married cannot guarantee enduring love any more than government security guarantees enduring safety.  A vow is only a statement of intention, e.g., I intend to love thee until death do us part.  Marriage provides peace of mind because ones declaration of love becomes as firm a commitment as is possible for one emotional trader to make with another emotional trader given that both remain fallible beings.

 

The alternative is to love someone until one doesn't feel like it, which presumes enduring love cannot be maintained.  I believe a heroic (but fallible) being would aim higher.

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I'm yet to hear a good argument for marriage. If you love someone, you stay with them. No contract required.

 

And I have yet to hear a good argument for how a contractual animal (Ayn Rand's definition of man) requires the observance of all agreements they enter except marital ones.  Couldn't you as easily state that, "If you want to work with someone, you work with them. No contract required."

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And I have yet to hear a good argument for how a contractual animal (Ayn Rand's definition of man) requires the observance of all agreements they enter except marital ones.  Couldn't you as easily state that, "If you want to work with someone, you work with them. No contract required."

For most people, the contract with their employer is pretty month-to-month. Th long term clauses tend to be of to types: first, you have multi-year contracts for senior employees [these are declarations of intent, but when things sour, they are effectively promises to pay a certain amount to buy out the remainder of the contract]; second, you have non-compete clauses, which employees tend to resent when things sours, and seldom keep them in the job.... mostly have them scheming of ways to work around the clause.

 

BTW, a vow is not a contract.

Edited by softwareNerd
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The alternative is to love someone until one doesn't feel like it, which presumes enduring love cannot be maintained.  I believe a heroic (but fallible) being would aim higher.

Of course you love someone if and until you you no longer feel like it! Just like any emotion. That's why it is senseless to contract feelings. Commitment is great, but not all commitments are contracts.

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i think i have been more than reasonable. post #30 is a blatant misrepresentation of my position. i never said that i “know today that i will continue to be happily married 30 years from now”. the contract you have doesn't give you knowledge of the future either. and it doesn't have the power to magically prevent you from falling out of love.

Edited by splitprimary
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The answer to the question "Should everyone wish to get married?" is obviously "no."

But is it ever rational for anyone to get married? I believe so.

Here's how I look at it:

The commitment one makes in marriage is based upon what one knows to be true about 1) himself, and 2) his partner. In marrying my wife, I said that I knew her to be of such a character that if love means what I think that it means -- if love has the nature that I believe it to have -- then I will have no choice but to love her not only today, but tomorrow, and the next day, and so on, because that is how I'm constituted. I respond to my wife with love, just as flowers follow the sunshine.

I believe that I will love her twenty, thirty years from now, and I'm not afraid to say so. By committing to my wife in any fashion at all, I'm speaking to this recognition that I have -- this belief that I maintain, about the compatibility of our fundamental nature, that will continue to provide the basis for a loving and happy relationship. And while I recognize that "people change," I do not expect for either me or my wife to be fundamentally different -- even twenty years from now -- again due to my beliefs about who we are and human nature more generally. I might develop a taste for different foods twenty years hence, or find myself getting into opera or soccer, but I am unlikely to become a communist or reject reason for faith.

It's an important understanding, I think. It helps us to plot and plan our lives, knowing that we have certain relationships we can rely upon (which is why I believe that we also develop certain understandings like friends and "buddies," who are maybe somewhat superficial friendships, and "besties," and girlfriends/boyfriends and the like). Certain decisions, like whether or not to buy a home together, raise a family, and etc., require a high degree of confidence in the underlying stability of a relationship. A "commitment."

Marriage is a formal recognition of that sort of commitment. Does the formal recognition itself add anything? Again, I think it can. Maybe this is due, in part, to the history of marriage in our society -- that it is a "custom"? Or maybe it is largely symbolic? I believe that we often do things that are customary or symbolic, per our culture/society, and that there is nothing necessarily wrong with such participation. For instance, business men wear ties. Why? Does that strip of fabric dangling from one's neck add to one's business acumen? I doubt it. Yet the tie communicates something to others, and possibly has some effect upon the wearer (though I recognize that this is another possible conversation, and thus I may be begging the question here). So too does the wedding ring.

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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?

You haven't participated in the thread after your initial post. When you posted, were you thinking specifically of marriage, or were you using marriage as a short-cut common-term for a long-term relationship that two people enter into, intending it to be life-long? In other words, are you asking about marriage as such, or are you asking if everyone should aim to be in a life-long relationship with a soul-mate?
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...

 

BTW, a vow is not a contract.

 

Insofar as vows and contracts fall under the category of agreements, as used by Ayn Rand in her description of man as a contractual animal (see post #21), I think the differences are marginal in terms of this topic.  Whether verbal or written, ones integrity is used as collateral to back a pledge of performance, a loss of integrity being a serious impediment to negotiating future agreements.

 

My premise remains that marriage represents the same kind of contract contractual animals rely on to effect the happiness they pursue.

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i think i have been more than reasonable. post #30 is a blatant misrepresentation of my position. i never said that i “know today that i will continue to be happily married 30 years from now”. the contract you have doesn't give you knowledge of the future either. and it doesn't have the power to magically prevent you from falling out of love.

 

Perhaps I misunderstood you,

 

 

happiness (and love) are the results and rewards of good choices. you don’t just choose to be happy or choose to be in love. that is why you can enter into a contract stating actions you will and will not take, but you don’t contract how you will feel in the future.

 

i’m currently engaged, i believe in marriage. but no part of my reason for getting married is to make the relationship more emotionally secure, to give assurance or to get assurance that the love is genuine or enduring. i already know that it is. if i didn’t already know that, i would not be getting married. that is a precondition for marriage, not a result of it.

 

 

When you state that you know the love you share with your fiancée is enduring, did you mean something other than you know you will continue to feel the same years from now?  You say this is a precondition for marriage, but it sounds more to me like a precognition of marriage.

 

I see the basic difference in our positions as you believe agreements aren't necessary because one knows how relationships will turn out, and I believe agreements are necessary because one doesn't know how relationships will turn out.  Is this correct?

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Of course you love someone if and until you you no longer feel like it! Just like any emotion. That's why it is senseless to contract feelings. Commitment is great, but not all commitments are contracts.

 

Let's try this one step at a time.  Do you agree that making agreements about behavior, e.g., not committing adultery, would increase the likelihood of enjoying a long term romantic relationship?

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enduring simply means lasting, or long-term (as opposed to fleeting or casual). the word does not specify precise duration. maybe you meant to say “eternal” or “life-long”, but you didn’t. my relationship would already be considered a long-term relationship, and neither of us have any reason to believe we will stop wanting to be together.

 

DonAthos above stated it perfectly, better than i would have been able to. his view of marriage is mine as well.

 

———

 

this conversation is specifically about the contract of marriage, not “agreements” in general. couples who are not married can, and usually do, make explicit agreements about their relationships.

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Insofar as vows and contracts fall under the category of agreements, ..., I think the differences are marginal in terms of this topic.  

A contract is an agreement with the force of law. That's no marginal difference. There's good reason a marriage is a contract. Ending of the relationship often leaves at least one of the parties with financial damage or with financial obligations. So, there has to be a way to resolve the financial issues. The marriage contract is all about what happens when it it breaks up, plus reasons that allow one party to break it up on better financial terms. 

 

Meanwhile, the vows to love and to cherish etc. are not contracts, but a friendly agreements to try one's best to stick together long term, and not to let short-term problems or temptations undermine one's longer-term happiness. However, it often happens that -- after some time -- one reaches the conclusion that one's long-term happiness does not lie in the marriage. In that case, there is no breach of the friendly agreement, because at its base was an assumption that is no longer true.

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softwareNerd & splitprimary,

 

Verbal agreements such as promises to love can become legally binding when certain conditions are met.  Typically a promise to love leads to sharing of material assets, and in those cases one would likely not find oneself exempt from ones obligations just because one no longer feels love for their partner.  That is consistent with Ayn Rand's description of man as a contractual animal, and supported by legal concepts historically, and more recently as in common law interpretations.

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