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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Can marriage be rationally defended?

Can marriage be rationally defended?

A former member
Post #: 7
I do not believe that marriage can be rationally defended. If I can remember correctly, Ayn Rand thought it was an important institution, but I don't think she gave reasons why.

Here are reasons why marriage to me doesn't make sense:

Where else in life do you agree to a lifetime contract?
Answer: No where else -- not even for something insignificant like the brand of pen you use. Outside of marriage no one would ever even consider agreeing to a lifetime contract for the obvious reason that it provides no flexibility in case you change your mind, which is more than possible over the course of a life.

People are more likely to take each other for granted if their relationship is legally binding and difficult to terminate.
Even decent people often let themselves go, at least a little, both intellectually and physically after they get married. This only increases the likelihood of them splitting up. Not getting married may have actually kept them together.

The divorce rate is 50% or so.
And how many people who are married should be divorced. I would guess at least 30% based on my observation. Clearly with failure rates like this, marriage (over a lifetime) is simply impractical for the vast majority of people.

I am certainly open to arguments on how marriage can be rationally defended. But so far I have not come across any despite my efforts to find them.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.

And if married people are offended by this post, I can only say that my objections to marriage are honest and well meaning.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 533
Hi Nick,

I don't have time to make a coherent response right now, but we had a topic a while back that included some discussion of the meaning of marriage here: http://aynrand.meetup...­

There might be some ideas there for us to consider.

-- Todd
David V.
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 109
I think that there are just three reasons for marriage: to establish a legal foundation which will ensure that children are cared for, to allow two people to share their assets, and to give spouses the right of medical consent.

I think you (Nick) hold the view that that marriage carries some kind of lifelong obligation beyond the selfish interests of both parties. If two people are no longer romantically attracted to each other, they shouldn't stay together. Life's too short not to be happy.

By the way, a rational person keeps himself intellectually and physically fit because he values his life, not because he wants others to like him.
Plano, TX
Post #: 489
Here is a simple definition:
Marriage is the legal union of two people where one is willing to cook, and the other is willing to clean up afterwards.
A former member
Post #: 8
Todd, thanks for that link to the earlier thread. There is some good info there and I will read it all.

David -- isn't marriage a lifelong agreement or contract to stay together? It is not something for a limited amount of time or until the couple does not like each other. Marriage says you are to stay together forever no matter what.

In regard to your three reasons supporting marriage, why is marriage (a lifelong agreement to stay together) necessary to accomplish those things? For example, raising a family usually takes no longer than 20-30 years.

In short, my problem rationally defending marriage is that I cannot defend the lifelong aspect, which is essential to marriage. Like I said, no where else would anyone even consider agreeing to such an arrangement. So what makes marriage different?

Thanks for your thoughts.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 535
Hi Nick,

Here are a few more of my thoughts, which may overlap a bit with the other thread.

I think marriage is a special type of partnership.

In general, a partnership is based on an agreement as to what each person will contribute to the partnership. Usually, the purpose of the partnership is fairly specific, like: "Let's pool our resources, build a ship, hire a crew to explore the new world and bring back treasure, and, if successful, split the profits according to the proportionate value of the contributions." Usually, each partner agrees to contribute only a portion of his assets and/or time. The loyalty expected in a business partnership may be high, but it is usually limited to the agreed-upon contributions and the scope of the objectives.

A true marriage is a total partnership, including a commitment of all each person's property and time, and even body. It contemplates full dedication and effort to the partnership, a joint voyage through a hopefully happy, but ultimately an uncertain life and future. It is open-ended as to time, and even contemplates " 'til death do us part, for sickness and in health." In principle, it contemplates all of each person's loyalty and fidelity.

Partners in a marriage, like in any other type of partnership, work toward common goals and agree to share in all the risks and all the rewards of the partnership -- not just to share in the rewards, risking little or nothing.

Observe that a husband or wife is often referred to as a person's "partner" in marriage.

A good justification for terminating a partnership -- in business or in marriage -- is that the other person is not contributing/doing what he promised in the beginning. Thus, a good justification for terminating a marriage partnership is that the other person is not continuing to do his best under the circumstances. If the other person becomes sick, his best may be little or nothing and even become a burden. But the understanding is that in the face of such risk, which hopefully will not -- but might -- befall either one of them, one would take care of the other. At the beginning, we do not know which it may be.

In contrast, it is not a partnership -- in business or in marriage -- to agree to be "only fair-weather friends" with nothing at risk. That's called going out on a lark. It would not even count as serious dating. Imagine saying: "Oh, bummer that you tripped and broke your leg tonight on the dance floor. It's been so much fun for me 'til now, but you have a cell phone, call your own ambulance. The night's still young for me to keep partying! Be sure to call me when you get back on your feet!" Don't hold your breath for that call.

A partnership -- especially a marriage partnership -- is more than that -- it is an agreement to share not just profits or a few laughs going to the movies, all of which and much more is hoped for and expected -- but also sharing risks and actual losses and even pain. Partners -- in business or in marriage -- don't quit each other at the slightest sign of adversity. That is the deal. And it is to each of the partner's mutual advantage as best he or she can see into the future at the time of making the deal.

A true marriage -- one that I would want to be in -- does not merely contemplate exchanging the following vows: "For so long as I continue to feel like it, so long as you don't get too fat, and so long as you don't get too sick." If that were all the other person would be prepared to commit to me in response to my marriage proposal, I would rather keep my own assets (and other body parts, too), give medical consent to my brother, and certainly not undertake having children with such a fair-weather friend.

-- Todd
A former member
Post #: 22
Especially in the light of the current gay marriage controversy, I believe in the separation of "marriage" and state. Of course, I believe in the separation of everything and state, but I digress. smile

I believe that legal contracts can be made between two people, and that they can be customized to the binding parties' desire. Want to bring the contract up for renewal and reappraisal every seven years when that "itch" comes along? Put it in the contract. Want to stipulate critical care and living will arrangements? Put it in also. Want to stipulate the care and financial considerations of any children that pop out during the marriage and after the marriage terminates? By my guest.

The point being that this very personal voluntary contract between two parties can be much more flexible than currently is realized and not subject to rigid state statues and interpretations. Plus such contracts can also occur between two same-sex or opposite-sex persons who wish to live together in a family-type relationship which is neither sexual nor romantic. For a fictional example, consult Robert Heinlein's Friday and the group family the title character contracts with.

News articles have noted the decline in the desire for men to get married due to the current prejudical nature of divorce settlements. Another strong reason to separate marriage from state decree.

Here is an article reflecting my point of view by Wendy McElroy:­

This opinion comes from a lifelong bachelor, so I'll allow you to take that into consideration. biggrin
A former member
Post #: 22
For a fictional example, consult Robert Heinlein's Friday and the group family the title character contracts with.

I read the book a while back and I find it fascinating. Is it possible that society will move away from monogomy and into polygamy now that both parents often work, and children are not expected to take care of parents in old age.

A polygomous arrangement is more efficient in that it may be quite possible for two men and two women to live together with three of them working and one taking care of children. The arrangement is much more layoff proof because it isn't nearly as big a problem if one of three get laid off as if one of two, and it makes it easier when one of the parties needs to travel or has a surge that requires long hours. For example my wife and I have always been travel restricted because we have no local family so we have no one to leave the kids with. A two couple arrangement would solve this problem. Sexual arrangements could run the gamit from conventional to any sort of mix depending on the disposition of the participants. Logistically it may be something like one couple marrying a second couple and establishing a contract on social and financial obligations of each of the parties.

My wife and I are planning to retire in China with a freind of hers (happens to be a male) and live in a three way arrangement that will be financially more efficient, and we think more secure if one of us should become infirm. He and I both have pentions and savings and between the two of us we become quite comfortable where as either of us alone would struggle. We are even thinking of adding a fourth.

I do think there needs to be a clear understanding of the rights and obligations of each of the parties in this sort of relationship, and I'm not sure most people are emotionally up to it.

Plano, TX
Post #: 498
I wouldn't find polygamy efficient overall, because to me, marriage is a lot more than financial arrangements, and co-parenting.
I would find it quite annoying to have to share with another wife - even if there was another husband in the picture. To me, going into a marriage type arrange is about devoting yourself to another person in many aspects: be it financial, sexual, emotional support, and being a best friend.

To sum it up, I find polygamy the extreme of multi tasking. And, if the person that I chose to commit to couldn't commit only to ME for the duration of our marriage, civil union, common law marriage or whatever you want to put it under, I would find that it was impossible for that person to really value me.

Now, if you and your wife welcomes someone else into your marriage, well that is your choice. I hope it works for you. But, I can honestly say it would never work for me. I have a bit of what I like to refer to as "righteous jealously".

Good luck with that - I do hope it works out for you, but I am just stating why I would never consider it. If I wanted to have more than one partner, I wouldn't bother entering into a committed relationship to begin with. Nope, just keep my own money, and find a few toy boys for fun.
A former member
Post #: 95
Marriage: A state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two. - Ambrose Bierce, The Devils Dictionary.

Personally I find marraige most efficient when she has her own income and career...and lives in another state.


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