The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Why Did You Get Married?

I’ve been reading E.J. Graff’s What is Marriage For?: The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution, which I highly recommend to anyone who’s interested in the history of marriage and how it’s evolved into its current form. Of course, Graff is tracing that history in order to argue in support of marriage equality for her relationship and for all same-sex couples, so some people will disregard it from the start. But those who read it will be intrigued by how Graff traces the changes marriage has gone through:

  • how marriage changed when the western economy no longer depended on familial labor (and marriage was a means of knowing who your main co-worker and employees would be) and shifted to individual labor;
  • how that shift also made marriage a matter of individual choice rather than an arrangement made by families in order to secure labor and/or property;
  • how the Christian church shifted from rejecting marriage (yup, because the world was rotten and J.C. was gonna be back in a minute, dontcha know), to controlling marriage, to finally shifting it to state control;
  • how the “purpose” shifted from being solely reproduction (as the economy shifted to ensure that large broods no longer meant guaranteed labor so much as guaranteed poverty) to include sex as purposeful beyond reproduction (i.e. to refresh, renew, and secure the intimate bond of the married couple), even moreso when the Protestant Reformation rejected celibacy;
  • how the shift to an industrial economy sent men into the workplace and kept women (who had previously been co-workers of partners in business with their husbands) at home, thus creating the romanticized version of motherhood (and for the first time shifting child custody to the mother from the father);
  • how the emancipation of women — in terms of being able to own property, get an education, decide when to have children (thanks to contraception) and earn a living — forever changed the institution of marriage as women had less incentive to get married in order to ensure room and board, and even less incentive to stay in marriages that had become unbearable;
  • how the liberalizing of divorce laws (in the 1860s not the 1960s), evolved out of the idea that love was the primary reason individuals chose to marry (after all, what else was left?);

I could go on and on, and I’m oversimplifying the book already. But having gone through all of the above makes me want to ask a question of my readers here.

It’s the question in the title, of course. Why did you get married? Was it to have kids? If your heterosexual and married, why did you opt for a legally-sanctioned union? If you’re in a same-sex couple, why did you get married given the lack of a legally recognized status (unless your in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages or civil unions)? Would you get legally-married if you had the option? I’ll have my own answers later, but I’m interested in hearing from others.

In the meantime, my reading on marriage isn’t quite done yet. Next on the list is Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz.

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: What You Should Read Since I Have Faux Real Things To Do at Faux Real Tho!

  2. Since our marriage in Canada has no legal status in Colorado, it was mainly a political statement. If it had been legal, we would have married simply to give more security to the arrangements we already have in place regarding medical care, finances, inheritance, etc.

  3. Why did we get married? Well, we got a pretty sweet food processor out of it. Does that count?

    I can speak for myself better than for my husband.

    –There was an aspect of self-direction that was very important to me. I already knew before our engagement that we were going to be together for a long time. But I didn’t want to wake up 20 years from now and discover that I had drifted into a marriage. It’s a big thing, to live with someone for the rest of your life, and I didn’t want it to just happen to me without my noticing. I needed to feel like I was making an active choice–”This is how my life will go. I actively choose to hitch my life to this person.” It’s slightly ironic, considering that so much of marriage is about taking someone else into account and not just thinking of your own desires. And yet, it’s a choice you are making together, to blend your separate lives into your shared life. It’s quite a remarkable experience.

    –By the time we got married, we’d already been through extended unemployment, the death of a parent, two moves, and installing an air conditioner–and we were still together. We are either meant for each other, or we are masochists.

    –I love him. More than anything. He is so special and so remarkable to me that I wanted to stand up and say, Yes, for the rest of my life, this one above all others. I wanted to promise him my devotion and care. And we wanted to do that in the supportive presence of friends and family. Having a wedding was more about sharing the moment (and the passage) with them.

    As far as the legal aspect–and I know this will sound like the callousness of someone who didn’t have to worry about getting rejected–it really did not weigh that much. It was a formality. The approval of our family and friends meant far more than the approval of some anonymous certificate-signer in the county clerk’s office. What surprised me the most was that getting the license was actually rather mundane. You give some information, you sign some documents, and you pay the $40. It was certainly less difficult and time-consuming than getting a new driver’s license. I’ve gotten a more thorough going-over when applying for a credit card. The fact that you and your husband can’t currently do the same is a truly ridiculous situation, and a travesty.

  4. Why I got married when I was 24 years old and why I am still married are different.

    I got married because I loved the man I married and because I needed a husband. At rock bottom I believed my life would be incomplete without a husband and that the lack would be the proof that I was somehow defective and unwantable. I keep hoping that it’s different for young people now.

    Twenty-seven years later I am still married now for a lot of reasons but mainly because my marriage is the richest part of my life. We support each other in growing into our best selves. I’ve done things that felt risky to me but was secure that I had a sanctuary to return to if things went bad and someone to be happy for me when things went well. I find joy in sharing all the little daily doings with him. I am grateful that I am loved as I am by him. I feel so bonded to him it’s really hard to think about life without him. I know this sounds trite but it’s hard to describe a relationship that I live in as a fish lives in water. He is my family.

  5. I’m confident I’m the only reader who has been married four times before forty. I’ve married out of need; I’ve married to legitimize sex; I’ve married for romantic idealism — and now, I’m married out of a profound belief that marriage is the single best vehicle for emotional and spiritual transformation and growth that I know.

  6. I married: 1) Because he asked. 2) Because I love him. 3) Because I did want kids (though we didn’t, in the end, get them). 4) There was a big story in the news at the time where a lesbian couple was parted when one of them became ill and disabled, and her parents were able to take charge of her and separate her from her partner. And so my feeling was, yes, legalities do matter. It matters that the world around you will support your promises and respect your relationship.

  7. It matters that the world around you will support your promises and respect your relationship.

    That pretty much summarizes why I will be getting married. My fiancee and I are committed to being a social unit (in addition to being individuals), and we think it’s both intrinsically worthwhile as well as enriching to our relationship to have our unit-ness recognized by those around us. We’re doing the legal bit ASAP because my fiancee and I just moved to the opposite side of the country from all our family and friends and the legal aspects could become critical if something were to happen to one of us. And then later we’re having a big ceremony back east so that all our loved ones can be witnesses to, and help us celebrate, our commitment.

  8. I got married because I loved her, and believed we both had what it took to stay married for life. The fact that she loved children didn’t hurt, although I was prepared to be married without children.
    The marriage didn’t work out, but I have a wonderful son, whose autism makes each day interesting, and whose love makes each day rewarding. And I remain friends with my ex. We are still married, even though she lives elsewhere, as I want to make sure she has insurance until gets a permanent job, and it saves on taxes. She is involved in her son’s life, even if she can’t take being with him full-time. Members of my family, and some friends, consider my attitude toward her to be codependent. I take the vows I said seriously, and refuse to harm her just to assuage my own ego. When I ever get serious about someone else, we’ll cut the cord.

  9. Again, for a number of reasons. And since we only just got married 6 weeks ago, I imagine these will change over time, but the main ones were:

    1) I love her and want to spend the rest of my life with her
    2) By getting married, it would be self-evident to us and to everyone around us that (1) was true. Public commitment is important sometimes.
    3) For the legal benefits (in UK Civil Partnerships have the same rights and responsibilities as marriage)
    4) To help smooth the way when we need to emigrate. I work for an international corporation — legal status will help with work permits, etc, when I need to take an assignment overseas.

    To be honest though, that last is a bit of a side benefit rather than a reason. The main reasons were 1-3.

  10. My husband is in the military; otherwise, we would have skipped the vows. However, the military makes that very difficult (funding your own – frequent – moves, having trouble maintaining medical benefits due to job instability, etc).

    However, since I got married, I began working in an estate planning attorney’s office and that has shed a lot of light on the benefits unavailable to those who cannot marry.

    Honestly, though, I think the whole concept is completely outdated. But, I am crazy about my husband – would be if we were married or not.

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