Skepticism

AI: Love, skepticism and marriage…

Love is in the air here at Skepchick HQ.  Our fearless leader has succumbed to it and was wed last weekend and we’re still all mostly riding the high of happiness and joy in seeing two of our closest friends decide to spend the rest of their lives together.

But not everyone agrees that marriage is rational, logical or a good thing. In the congratulations thread this week, several folks mentioned thinking that marriage was inherently irrational, outdated, religious and even misogynistic.

The thread, which was supposed to be about congratulating the happy couple, quickly got derailed so I thought I’d use an AI to spur the debate.

What do you think? Is it rational to get married? Is it a skeptical, reasonable action to take?

When responding, if you feel comfortable with it, let us know if you’re married or not. I’m curious :)

 

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Masala Skeptic

Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. She currently lives in Atlanta and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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96 Comments

  1. There are rational reasons to get married and irrational ones. On the other side there are rational and irrational reasons to not get married. I got married for irrational ones: I was crazy about her and she asked me. I probably would have come to the same conclusion sooner or later, but her way was much faster.

  2. Wasn’t this topic hashed out over in Stacy’s thread?

    -shrug-

    I agree with Davew, Marriage, like many things is simple a action with consequences. Skeptism and rational thought are tools we use to decide if we should do it. Some of us use these tools, some of us don’t. Both situations are “not wrong”.

  3. I don’t think rationality has anything to do with it. Lots of animals mate for life. Marriage for me was more about civil rights for my better half so if anything was to happen to me she would have full access to my stuff per say. I also did it for the whole “only spouses and immediate family into the hospital ICU ward” kinda thing as well.

  4. I am married. I love my husband very much, and I love that we have committed our lives and our love to each other. Aside from making a public commitment by taking vows in front of our family and friends, by marrying we are now privvy to rights and privileges saved exclusively for people who are married.

    We know that if one of us were to die while our son is under 18, the other spouse is guaranteed to retain custody and parental rights. If we were unwed, this would not be guaranteed… and while I’m rather confident I would not lose custody of my child, I have reason to believe that certain members of my husband’s family would not allow me to do so without a fight to the finish.

    We get tax benefits… why would we want to give more money to the government to live the same lifestyle?

    If Brian were to decide he wanted to be passive-aggressive and evil to teach me a lesson… for, say, not having a hot dinner ready when he got home from work every night… and decided to sell the house one day without me knowing, under Illinois law, he cannot do that. I am not on the mortgage, and probably wouldn’t be if we were not married, but I am still protected.

    I get health insurance. I don’t qualify for an individual plan (because if you’ve ever once NEEDED health insurance in your past, you are considered “uninsurable”). I don’t have a job. Without being married, I would literally just have to pray that I don’t get sick… and then pray that praying would help me get better because FSM knows I can’t afford medicine or medical care without insurance.

    We are each other’s next of kin. We have the right to make decisions for each other in cases where one of us is unable. I don’t have to fight anyone to do that. My MIL and I have very different ideas about what a “dignified death” is… and she would NOT be willing to let me carry out Brian’s wishes should it ever come to that. Sure, we could duke it out in court or call in lawyers to debate the validity of a living will, but really? No one wants that.

    And… we LOVE each other. We wanted to do this. After being married in the Catholic Church, and later leaving, we had considered having our “Catholic Marriage” annulled while keeping our legal marriage in tact. We later decided that it was a bit too much work to make sure that our marriage wasn’t recognized in the eyes of a god that doesn’t exist.

  5. I believe in my marriage.

    After listening to this week’s Point-of-Inquiry I wonder if I had it all to do over again if I’d do anything differently?

    (Not a bloody, FN thing, Baby! It was sweet then and it’s sweet now!)

  6. @russellsugden:

    But NOW is your time to shine! Now we can have this discussion without anyone derailing a separate one where readers are invited to share in the JOY of Rebecca and Sid’s love and commitment. Here you’re completely welcome to offer your commiserations to those of us who have done the wrong thing by getting married… and we can unemotionally (as much as possible) debate whether it is wrong or not.

    Come on! Bring it! :)

  7. @Rebecca: Have we ever really had a problem with keeping it polite, though? Even when we disagree?

    I must say, Skepchick is the best place to go to have a passionate debate, and then the next day talk to those you disagreed with about your favorite whiskey and puppies, with no ill will.

  8. @russellsugden: Exactly what @Elyse said. I don’t give a shit what people personally think about marriage. What annoyed me (and pretty much everyone else in that thread) was the complete and utter shitting all over an otherwise happy, pleasant thread.

    Rather than try to stop people from talking about something you clearly want to talk about, the Skepchicks decided to provide a more appropriate thread for the debate and discussion. And here it is.

  9. Getting married was a purely rational decision on my part. My partner needed health insurance, which I could provide at a discount through work. We appreciated the tax break I got for marrying someone with a lower income than mine. We recognize that socially, it is much easier to be married than cohabitated. We regret that not all of our friends can have the same benefits, yet.

    We had a completely secular wedding followed by a big party. We got friends and family together that hadn’t seen each other for years. It was no more irrational than a family reunion.

    I honestly don’t see how a mutually beneficial partnership, entered consensually by both parties with an eye towards making life easier can be considered irrational. Sure, we can point to marriages that were a bad idea, but that doesn’t mean my marriage was a bad idea. Just as we can point to scientific inquiries that are a bad idea, which doesn’t negate the value of science in general.

  10. Marriage isn’t rational for me. Also of course is the fact that I really have no desire. I don’t even have much of a desire to “pair up” forever (I think as a whole, our society pushes people to “pair up” far too much).

    But it’s certainly rational for some. Though as was mentioned in the previous discussion, life isn’t always rational. Sometimes you need the irrational.

  11. Personally, I don’t care if it is rational or not. I wanted to make a tangible commitment to my wife to show her that I want to always be with her. Yes, there was a pointless religious ceremony and not as pointless legal contract involved. Not everything in life has to be rational. The best things in life are ridiculous.

  12. Is it a rational, skeptical decision to refuse all of the clear economic and social benefits of marriage (tax deductions, the person you trust most in the world inheriting your book collection, ICU access, etc) just because a lot of people do it in churches? Sorry to answer a question with a question! I agree with davew: there are rational and irrational reasons to get married, and some people’s marriages probably are misogynistic and shallow and irrational, but so are (I’m guessing) a lot of things outside of their marriages. If two people want simply to make a public declaration of their undying love for each other (leaving aside the other reasons), then I suppose that is, yes, about as irrational as LOVE ITSELF IS!!! Pardon my language, but Duh!

    For the record, the rationalist, atheist, spock-like love of my life and I are not married. But I am quite sure that one day we will be, and we both think that makes all the sense in the world.

  13. My marriage, and I can only speak for mine, is both rational and irrational. As I am married to my best friend and we wanted to be family to one another and the best, fastest and most practical way of doing that was to provide $35 to the Clark County Registrar in Vegas, that is what we did.

    As for the other part, his lover of 10 years died of HIV complications 6 months prior to our marriage. He is a gay man, I am asex. We have been married 9 1/2 years. We own a home and do crosswords on Sunday morning and fight about shit like who is not listening to whom. We do not share a bedroom. Most people think that this is the irrational part, but I disagree. I think it is the rational part.

    Overall, I love being married to him. He loves being married to me. We both want what makes the other happy. Neither of us has any intention of leaving. That’s my marriage, whatever people think of it.

  14. @ChaoSkeptic: “The best things in life are ridiculous.” Aw, first COTW!

    To weigh in, I agree with ChaoSkeptic and others. I’m a human, and humans like ceremony. Were my boyfriend and I not on separate continents, there’s a very good chance we would not have gotten married this weekend. The fact is that life is very short and I want to spend it with him, and the easiest way to do that is to be married.

    That said, we could have signed a few papers and left it at that, but where’s the fun? It’s much more fun to surprise a bunch of people with a wedding and then party our asses off. I’m smiling just thinking of it.

  15. I love seeing other people celebrate their love through ceremonies even though I’m a recent convert to the Church of Marriage is for Innocent (we worship through the holy hosts of gin and whiskey, and the more we worship the more we replace the word innocent with idiot). I don’t dislike marriage because of skepticism, I dislike it because I have horrible taste in men. Probably too reactionary, but that’s where I am right now.

    Do it for legal right, do it to profess your love, do it because you dislike spending Saturday nights alone….at the end of the day all that matters is that the two people build a bond that betters them and the world around in some fashion. Otherwise, its as meaningless as the colloquial paper its printed on.

    Btw, congrats again Rebecca. :-)

  16. I personally have no desire to get married. That’s just my personal preference. But I am always so excited and happy when my friends find someone that they want to spend the rest of their lives with. I love being involved, even if it means I have to put on a dress. And wear it in front of 1000 people and Adam Savage.

    I was very honoured to be a part of Rebecca and Sid’s wedding. It made my cold, black, semi-dead heart grow three sizes.

  17. @faith: Okay awwwww!! This is one of the best arguments FOR marriage, I think: True companionship and friendship, which I think all marriage should be based on (even if that marriage also includes passion and sex).

  18. For the first 30 years of my life, it didn’t seem like a good idea to get married. Then it suddenly did seem like a good idea, and it’ll be the 11th anniversary of that idea middle of next month.

    Somewhere in all that mind-changing, I completely forgot to:

    a) analyze the decision from a purely scientific, dispassionate perspective

    b) give a fuck what anyone else thought

    Option B there has been an issue with a lot of my personal decisions :)

    That said, there was a practical component to it as well. That filthy, no-account foreigner who came here to steal jobs from hardworking Americans needed a green card. We had a quiet civil ceremony months before the actual Big Day so we could get the paperwork started. (Maria, do you remember if Adam Savage showed up? I know I saw George Hrab there, but I’m not sure about Adam. )

    Now, I wouldn’t have done the green card thing if we weren’t planning on doing it for real anyway. But at the time, like I said, I completely forgot to give a fuck what anyone else thought.

    BTW, if anyone needs a friendly but mildly corrupt insurance agent, let me know. She coined the phrase “you’re close enough to being married” when adding Maria to my car insurance.

  19. Like so many other things, it depends on the situation, circumstances and people involved. And the laws in your state. Some states make it easier than others to have a marriage-like commitment to your partner (ensuring inheritance, custody, visitation, health care, medical decisions, etc.) without an actual marriage. In cases where you want those rights and privileges and have to marry to get them, of course it is rational to get married.

    But then there are people who get married for the wrong reasons: because they think they should, because people are pressuring them, because one of them badgers the other into doing it… In those cases, marriage is completely the wrong idea. The same goes for couples, married or not, who have children when they should not.

    I am happily and un-regretfully married, but I don’t feel like it was a necessary step to solidify our relationship or prove anything to anyone. It was, however, necessary if he wanted to be on my health insurance or if we don’t want any hassle in an emergency situation.

    So, my answer? Sometimes, and maybe. :-)

  20. @Rebecca: “Keep it polite, people! No matter which side you’re on. Or lo, we shall bitch slap, and bitch slap hard.”

    Can we just take it as read that I wrote something truly unredeemable and the next time I meet a Skepchick they’ll smack me? Hard? I could then die happy…

  21. One thing’s for sure, it is not rational to torment oneself because of the pervasive influence of the entertainment industry, florists, greeting card companies, wedding planners, romance novelists, and the like.

    “Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”
    -Matt Groening

    P.S.: Belated congrats, Rebecca and Sid!

  22. I am unmarried but skeptical of marriage. Weddings in particular are deeply entrenched with sexist notions and stereotypes. Many people, however, have pointed out the practical side of getting married to legalize a partnership.

    Rebecca and Sid are from different countries, with different citizenships. Without getting married, the immigration process would be incredibly difficult. It’s the same with many other benefits that married couples share that would be difficult to obtain through individual petitioning. I knew one couple that became so frustrated with the domestic partnership application process that they chose to elope.

    Such a perspective really brings into focus the difficulties of same-sex couples that aren’t able to take the easy way out and just get married (unless they live in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine — and hopefully soon the District of Columbia). It’s true that our laws are set up to favor married couples. We could change that, but I think it would be an uphill battle.

    I found Rebecca and Sid’s wedding (weird that I watched it on YouTube and don’t even know them) to be rather ironically sweet. They sort of made fun of all the things you “need” for a wedding, but really just managed to bring their close friends and family members together to help them celebrate.

  23. I love my husband and I wanted the world to know he was not only my love, but my family as well. A year ago we had a completely non-religious backyard wedding and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

    There is something fantastic about being in love and wanting to share that feeling with the rest of your family and friends.

    It has a little to do with being rational (forming families) and a lot to do with being passionate. It’s a celebration that brings people together in beautiful ways.

    Celebrations and gatherings are sometimes lost in non-theistic world views and participating in group activities is a lovely part of being human.

    Marriage clearly is not for everyone, but if we are looking for something to celebrate I cant think of anything better than love.

  24. I’m very happily married.

    When Jason and I got married, we had been dating for less than 2 months. We eloped to New Orleans and married in front of two people (unless you count the tour group that happened upon us, mid-ceremony). Our reasoning was irrational: we wanted to and “knew” that it was right for us. The fact that our marriage has survived almost 2 years is rational: we love the hell out of each other, we work well together, and there is nobody else we would want to be with. We also enjoy the perks that come along with marriage like insurance, tax breaks, next of kin and all the other stuff that Elyse mentioned above.

    There are rational and irrational reasons to marry, but the marriages that work out tend to be rational in the longrun.

  25. @Amy: There’s also something fantastic about shocking the hell out of your conservative relatives with a secular wedding. I knew our wedding was a win when one relative leaned over to his daughter and said, “If your wedding is anything like this, I will disown you.” SCORE!

  26. I am going through a divorce right now. The pain of hearing the person you love more than anyone else say, “I just don’t love you anymore,” would make it easy for me to say, that marriage is emotional torture and simply not worth the paper the contract is written on. Especially when you have to subject yourself to this hurt time and time again while you untangle yourself from this person emotionally and financially.

    However, despite all the pain he’s caused me, I still think that marriage is useful.

    When I was younger, a friend of my family died of AIDS. At fourteen, I was too young to understand the reasons behind the trouble that followed his passing, but now everything is clear. His partner had to fight to keep the home they lived in and the belongings they shared. Questions of the validity of his will was brought up by family members that didn’t approve of their relationship.

    If they had been married, there would have been no question as to the validity of his will. His partner would have been able to properly grieve for his loss instead of having to fight to keep the memory of the life the two of them built together.

    I hope this didn’t go too far off the subject or sound too preachy. Sometimes it’s easier to see how reasonable something like marriage can be when you look at it from the point of view of someone who isn’t able to benefit from having that right.

  27. I think it depends on the situation, as most things do. If you get any financial benefits from a marriage, or your spouse is willing to be a household servant for you, or something of that sort (i.e. a long-term benefit), then marry. If, on the other hand, marriage only consumes your energy and diverts you from more important things (such as research work), or you are influenced by emotions that may be symptoms of a mental condition (like romantic love), exercise caution. Of course marriage, like life itself or even a peaceful death, is a right for everyone, but it’s not obligatory – even though both of these attributes are frequently ignored/denied by the theistic population. So you’re free to marry, but face the consequences. It’s a decision that should not be rushed. (Darwin is a great example, according to his journal, where he evaluated the odds for and against getting married quite level-headedly.)

  28. @Golden Girl: I’m really sorry to hear that. I don’t remember who said this but recently I heard someone say, “It should be made much harder to get married and much easier to get divorced.” And I kind of agree. If more people thought it through more thoroughly and had some sort of prep for what they’re getting into, they might not get married or at least be better prepared for marriage. But once you decide that you are finished with it and cannot be in this relationship anymore, it shouldn’t be so prohibitively complicated to end it legally. That can’t possibly do anything but make an already awful situation so much worse.

  29. It looks like the comment thread under the original wedding post has been closed off, so as I’m late to the party I just wanted to say congratulations, Rebecca and Sid. Your beautiful and funny ceremony warmed my grumpy skeptical heart. May you live long and prosper together.

    As for the issue of rationality and marriage – who the hell cares? Life is short. Spend it joyfully with people you love, whether that means getting married or living single or holding a seance at Lourdes. If it makes you happy, for the love of Randi DO IT. As long as nobody’s being harmed or ripped off, any behavior that increases happiness, rational or not, is perfectly fine by me.

  30. I’m twice married and once divorced. I married the first time when I was 20 and I did it quickly. She was pregnant and I had no reason to doubt I was the father. I didn’t want my kid to grow up without his parents being married to each other. I put up with 8 years of hell because I didn’t want my kids growing up in a broken home. When I turned 28 she divorced me. I asked her why and she told me. Honestly I’m not making this up. She told me that it was my fault that she wasn’t rich. I ended up with custody of the kids but it took about 18 months. I married again when I was 33. We had been living together in a house we had bought together for a year. She really wanted to get married. It would be her third marriage and my second. So I decided to marry her to make her happy. Then I was activated and told I was going to the middle east for somewhere between 1 year and forever as they decided they needed me. So we sped up the whole wedding process. I wanted to be sure she would get the life insurance if I got killed.

    Rational. It can be.
    Irrational. It often is.
    A good thing. It can be but isn’t always.

  31. @Rebecca:

    I’d like to take this opportunity to applogise.

    After much reflection and rumination I realise that whatever myopinions of marriage, that does not allow me to inflict my views upon you in not only a thoughtless but also a callous manner.

    I realise that my remarks caused a genuine hurt as you clearly have a genuine belief in marriage and while, I’m sure you’ll agree, no beliefs should be warrented special protection, there is also an appropriate time and place for such scrutiny.

    I allowed my desire to make my point in a striking and hyperbolic way to override not only the accepted social convention of “good manners” but I also crossed the line of appropriate interaction.

    I sincerly hope that my remarks did not, and will not in retrospect, marr what you believe to have been an important event in your life.

  32. @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): I think the Catholic church tries to make it hard to do both. Was anyone here raised Catholic? Don’t you have to go through an uncomfortable interview process to get married and take classes?

    I imagine it’s much like the Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings in which the interviewees uncomfortably sit in front of old, simple men, who have very narrow-minded views of the world and answer their volley of questions regarding inane dogma and the future of the woman’s uterus.

  33. @Rebecca-

    I hope you took my comment about your marriage light-heartedly

    As for the question at hand, I’d just like to point one little fact HUMANS ARE NOT LOGICAL IN NATURE. No matter how logically you think, you are ultimately at the whim of your emotions.

    Am I married? No. Do I want to be married? Yes. I think marriage is awesome. Not because some guy behind a pulpit says so, but because he’s saying to me that I’m the one he wants to come home to every night for the next 50 years. Call me silly, but to rank that high on someone’s list is an honor. And, honestly, I think happy is a paradox. To do something that makes you happy just because it makes you happy is illogical. But, not doing something that makes you happy because its illogical is, in and of itself, illogical. So, if you’re illogical either way, than be happy and illogical. I’d rather be happy than logical anyday.

  34. @Golden Girl: It’s not just the Catholics. My cousins got married in a (very uncomfortable ceremony in a) Baptist church last summer and they’d had to have pre-marital counseling before they were allowed to marry there. I don’t necessarily object to the idea of pre-marital counseling, but I do of course object to the religious nature of most of the counseling that does happen.
    Especially since with this particular ceremony it was as if they were getting married to Jesus, instead of each other, and the priest actually brought up conversations they’d had during the counseling!! Highly inappropriate, I thought.

    Practical, secular counseling is not unreasonable in my opinion. Religious proving-of-worth is something entirely different.

    @Amy: AWESOME.

  35. Happily married for 8 years this past June to the skepchick carr2d2. We dated for about a month or so before I proposed to her (sitting in a Tim Burton’esque tree with the proposal written into a crypto-gram puzzle for her to solve). She is my best friend and my everything and I do not go a single day without making sure she knows how important she is. The first gift I ever bought her when we started dating was a talking Scooby-Doo plush toy and a card that, in French, said something along the lines of “why aren’t we naked yet”.

    We had a totally non-religious wedding on top of a hill overlooking the town she grew up in, and all the wedding dresses were hand-made by Carr. We danced to our song “Walking After You” (the X Files Movie version) for our first song as all the family that doubted we could have a wedding without religion simply smiled teary-eyed at how happy we make each other.
    ~

  36. While not yet married, I am engaged to the woman who really made me aware of the skeptical movement and am ridiculously excited to get married to her. There are certainly both rational and irrational reasons that went into making this decision, but I think that deciding to do something that makes you happy makes the decision itself a rational one.

    As a couple of “born-again-atheists” I do find it slightly ironic and humorous though that we met through a church youth group over a decade ago and the maid of honor in our wedding is an ordained minister.

  37. @Elyse: Because its illogical…that’s where everything falls apart. Besides, Steve was his gay lover, and Lilyth was Eve’s lesbian lover. That was on Apendix C.

    “And lo, Adam cried unto God, “Lord, my wife pleases me, but I hear the cry for carnal knowledge unlike I can gain from her.” Hearing his cries, the Lord God plucked from a tree fruit yellow and slender. From the base, he opened, and another came forth. He spake unto Adam “I give unto thee a companion, for when Eve is cold. Know him, as he shall know his ankles.” Eve cried unto God, ‘Lord, Lord, I yearn for one who understands me as I understand myself.” From the sea, the Lord plucked a lotus, which bloomed into one Eve shall know inside and out.

    Am I going to hell for this?

  38. I think having a standard contract between long term partners is a sensible thing.

    Since the Norwegian law against unmarried couples living together was formally revoked in 1972, quite a few laws have been updated to take into account some of the issues related to “unlicensed” partnerships, but there are still some benefits you can only get by getting married. You can get some of the same benefits by a private contract, but the easy way is to go with the total package agreed upon by society. (Through the imperfect means of elected government.)

    Oh, and as was pointed out earlier, elsewhere, and in different words: Getting married because it makes you happy isn’t irrational. Neither is getting married for boobies.
    If getting married meant _less_ boobies, _then_ it would be irrational.

  39. Like many of the previous posters, I think it can be either, depending on the circumstances.

    As I said in the other thread, I got married for health insurance reasons. I’ve never wanted to get married, and was pretty against it, because it is, in the USA at least, a discriminatory institution. But, I did it anyway.

    Our wedding consisted meeting a Justice of the Peace (who was told ahead of time to leave out any godstuff) at a hotel with two of our friends one Saturday afternoon. The JP was already doing two weddings there, so it worked out well for him. For rings we used one that had belonged to his mother, which was way too big for my finger, and a yarn ring I had knitted for him. (I thought about making a bouquet of broccoli and garlic, but the farmers’ market that morning had neither.) The paperwork took longer than the actual ceremony. Then we went out for Vietnamese food. That was it. No party. No big announcement.

    Generally speaking, I don’t care for weddings, and avoid them whenever possible. The Big, Traditional, American Wedding ™ makes me cranky and ill. And I’m not one to suffer in silence, so I think of my non-attendance as being community service. :) Rebecca and Sid’s wedding looked wonderful, though. I think that’s what a wedding should be–a community event showing love rather than an over-materialistic sideshow.

    The Monday after the ceremony I went over to the Human Relations office to get him signed up for health insurance. It was appallingly easy.

    We didn’t make much of an effort to let people know we made it legal. It’s been almost two years now, and I think most of our circles of friends know. *shrug*

  40. I’m not sure I ever want to get married. I do know that I never want children (perfectly happy to spoil my brother’s rugrats, the first of which is due in a few months) and so concerns about my children are non-existant. I’ve never been in a truly serious relationship where marriage was ever a consideration so I don’t know how I’d feel if it happened. There are some good reasons in terms of legal protections, taxes, etc. that make marriage beneficial, I just don’t know yet if I’ll ever think those benefits are worth it.

    I do know that I’m very skeptical and rather against big showy weddings that cost tens of thousands of dollars that could be better spent on more important things like a down payment on a house. The way Sid and Rebecca did things I think was great, fairly casual and in front of a group of friends, family, and like-minded people. If I get married it will be a small casual ceremony in front of friends and family or at the courthouse.

  41. I’m going to have to weigh in on the side of no. Or at least that it has no business being a legal institution and (obviously) no sense being a religious one. It’s an institution that has a 50% failure rate, a 40% satisfaction rate, can be entered for $40 and takes thousands to end. It’s a theoretically lifelong institution predicated on feelings that our limited understanding of relationship biology suggests undergo big changes on a pretty regular schedule. It’s a legal agreement that a couple generations ago was pretty much indistinguishable from ownership, still cannot be legally obtained by people of the same gender or who want to form groups larger than two, despite the fact both classes stick together longer than their monogamous heterosexual compatriots-even unmarried parents in Europe stay together longer than married American parents, and they don’t have to head to court afterwards if they were staying together for the kid. The decision to have sex with someone not your spouse is still a crime in some states. Considering that you gain no new interpersonal rights, the tax benefits are essentially a subsidy on having more kids in an already crowded world, or a leftover legal impetus to push people into a class of relationship that fundamentally had religious underpinnings. Rational to utilize given that they exist, but probably not rational that they do exist.

    I am certainly happy for people who are happy that they have done it, and acknowledge the fact that for a big fraction of the population, it naturally mirrors the arrangements they already have or desire to have in their lives. None of that changes the fact that it is a de facto state stamp of approval on one very narrow class of interpersonal relationship in a world filled with loving variety, and a stamp that possesses limited utility, and a besotted history. I see no reason why people living together should effectively have to register their sex lives, when they were getting on just fine before- and while I do recognize that it is a convenient way of bundling together all sorts of access rights that effectively designate them as family, there surely is a method of doing so with greater flexibility that encompasses all of the people we truly consider to be our family, romantic or platonic, same or different sex, singular or plural.

  42. Married for 16 years.

    After dating for 3 month, I concluded that probability of meeting someone who would be so close to me is really, really tiny, so the decision was easily made (on my part). Not surprisingly, she had the same thought process, so a proposal conversation was very short and to the point…

    This being Ukraine, a formal marriage is automatically assumed. But later the legal side of our decision was proved right anyway, time and time again, starting with US Embassy in 1994 and ending with health insurance today.

    So logical or not – whatever. I never have any regrets. We live only once.

  43. @Rebecca:

    To weigh in, I agree with ChaoSkeptic and others. I’m a human, and humans like ceremony.

    Amy’s new skepchick post got me thinking about art, ceremony, science, and skepticism. I completely agree that people need to stop seeing science as an antithesis to art, and skeptics/atheists as heartless. What I want, is for somebody to do to marriage ceremony what Amy is doing to jewelry.

    The legal and societal reasons for marriage (or civil union) are completely rational. I think one big move still ahead of the science and skeptical movements is to replace funerals, weddings, gatherings, and other social events, with skeptical versions. The only thing I dislike about marriage is the fact that it has been hijacked by superstition and other undesirable characteristics for millenia — but that’s not an argument against marriage in general.

    Just another reason to applaud our new skepchick!

  44. I’m noticing a definite tendency for those against marriage to only see it as a religious institution related to the common religions in our culture. Fact is marriage is one of the few social institutions that is nearly universal in human cultures. It takes many forms from near ownership of the female(s) to truly egalitarian partnerships, from strictly male/female to same sex and polygamous, from til death do us part to a temporary arrangement.

    Humans like to formalize their family arrangements. Instead of rejecting marriage outright for what religious institutions have done to it in our culture it makes more sense to tell them to stop trying to control the relationships of others. Expand marriage and it’s benefits to same sex couples (as is happening now) and to groups of more than two (which I see happening in the future). Hopefully we’ll also eventually go to a system like France where civil marriage is separated firmly from religious marriage.

  45. @Aristothenes:
    I agree with you. Marriage, as an institution, needs much improvement to be both fair and separate and religion.

    However, I’d also like to point out that humans cannot be rational all the time. Eating, socializing, and sex all make us feel good. And we do them past the point of rationality: nobody needs to eat more than some-thousand calories a day, but plenty of us do. We don’t make always friends based on what benefits we’ll get from them. And if we just had sex to procreate…well, we’d be a lot more frustrated.

    So in a way, I almost don’t understand this AI question. Why does marriage have to be a rational decision? There is nothing inherently false or misleading about marriage, like pseudoscience or some religious doctrines. It makes people feel wonderful and fulfilled. In many ways, I think love is necessary, like food or social community. Having a social institution that allows couples to navigate through life makes sense.

    Also, I’m not married. I feel too young for marriage at this point in my life…

  46. @levp:
    I forgot to mention that we had a completely secular ceremony, yet full of traditions.

    Actual registration was done in a Central Palace of Marriages of the City of Kiev (literal translation).

    Then we went around the city in a limo, laid flowers at the Monument for the Unknown Soldier, and took pictures everywhere (Soviet tradition).

    Came home for a reception (next 3 days straight), where our parents met us with bread and salt (Ukrainian tradition), and we broke a glass (Jewish tradition).

    My family was always agnostic Jews, while my wife’s family is Ukrainian Orthodox (complete with her uncle a priest). I give them credit for not insisting on any prayers and stuff – her uncle limited his participation to drinking alcohol.

    Ah, sweet memories…

  47. @vreify:

    However, I’d also like to point out that humans cannot be rational all the time.

    I think people seem to have different definitions of rational. I think it is rational to do something you enjoy.

    I do not think it is rational to expect rain to fall when you perform the sacred rain dance.

  48. @Tim3P0: Perfectly wonderfully geeky-nerd cool. You’ll make a lot of guys look bad with that story!

    I’ve been haply married to my best friend for 23 years. It works for us and seems rational and reasonable. My wife and I were friends for four years in college before we started dating and being romantic. Living together would not have been an option for either of us at the time and in retrospect, marriage was the only option given my wife is British and living together would have resulted in her deportation after she finished grad school. I like being married and even though we were married in an Anglican church in England we choose the ceremony that was a non sexist more secular version of the marriage service. And my father in law paid for the wedding and reception so it would have been in a median on the M-5 motor way if that’s what he wanted.

  49. @vreify: However, I’d also like to point out that humans cannot be rational all the time. Eating, socializing, and sex all make us feel good

    ———–

    I’m with sporefrog here: the rational response to things that make you feel good is not neccesarily to avoid them except when absolutely neccessary.

    The irony is that the hyper-rationalist types seem to be saying that rationality means living like a puritan… for no good reason.

  50. Marriage is nearly impossible in this day and age. We are not monogomous creatures. Some creatures on earth are , but certainly not the bonobo Monkey … and neither are most humans. Marriage is nothing more than a ceremony that gives a social structure in order to raise children or , in some cases, to conform to a societal norm . We no longer live til just 40, thus we outlive marriage.

    That said, I am very happily married to a woman who allows me the freedom, and has the trust in me,so I can grow as an individual, thus I have more to give to her and my sons. Mankind may or may not be monogomous by nature, but many of us choose to be monogomous regardless of this “nature.” Why?

    Love.

    Now THAT’s irrational.

    But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  51. I have exactly zero interest in the marriage lifestyle. But if it makes other people happy, then I’m happy for them. More power to them.

    Which, come to think of it, is also how I feel about gay sex.

    So I guess my position is this: Marriage is exactly the same as gay sex.

  52. @Ghost of MN:

    Having had entirely the proper amount to drink tonight, I will interpret your post to mean that marriage is freakin’ hawt!

    (though, I proudly kissed many people of many genders at TAM7, and I can proudly say that I think kissing my husband of 6 years is still the hottest)

  53. @marilove: This pairing up is something I’ve been thinking about lately. I am one of those people that does tend towards monogamy and a closer relationship with one particular person than with the rest of my friends. For me it was rational to marry my wife since she is the same way (among other reasons).

    What I find annoying from the voices of convention is the insistence that the form of relationship (heterosexual monogamy) that works well for me is the only correct way. I have polyamorous friends who seem to have sets of relationships that work for them. I have monogamous gay friends who wish they could legally marry. Different people will have different rational options.

  54. @Tim3P0: I LOVE that song. And the X-Files. That is so cool

    I tend to agree with Aristothenes that marriage as it is now has problems and is limiting and carries with it a long sordid past. However, I’d be willing to look past that to have a nice little ceremony with friends and family to celebrate love. As Elyse points out way in the beginning of the thread, there are plenty of rational reasons for getting married. I would certainly like to see those benefits extended to other types of relationships and not just the traditional “man and wife.”

    I’m not married, but would like to be someday. Although I see the whole process of building a life with the man I love to be the most important thing, making a public declaration of that love along the way seems like a nice thing to do. I generally like other people’s weddings. I even like being a bridesmaid! However I could never, ever do the whole “traditional” wedding thing myself. Expect a short ceremony on a beach, followed by a bonfire and kegs…

    And, since I never made it to the original thread, congrats to Rebecca and Sid! Totally teared up at the video. Wow.

  55. As far as rationality goes, my proposal to my wife was preceded by my thinking out loud to her about the various things that made us compatible. I had no idea where I was going as I was rambling, just thinking out loud about why we seemed to get on so well together. After I finished my musing, I realized I had made a good case for getting married, so I proposed, she said “Sure,” and we held each other, trembling about what we had just gotten ourselves into—for all the rationality of the situation, the emotion of fear of the unknown was still there.

    By the time of the wedding, almost a year later, we had had more time getting to see how we worked together. As she was walking down the aisle (it was a church wedding, but the preacher was pretty liberal and knew that we were an atheist and an agnostic), I asked myself if I wanted to go through with it and responded to myself that I did want to live with Julie as my partner for all the reasons I had gone through the year before.

    Basically, I made thinking, rational choices in entering into my marriage. Emotions were involved as well, but emotions are a part of being human, and rationality demands that they be taken into account.

  56. I got married when I was 21, right out of college. That was stupid. A year later I realized that I was totally wrong about that person and was too immature to have figured it out at the time.

    I don’t believe anyone should be married before age 22. You likely have not lived enough to know who you are or what the hell you want.

    Now, I am married 11 years to the best guy. However, there is still too much of the sentiment that women NEED to get married to be supported. Or that you NEED to be married in order to have children. One certainly benefits from joining with another person in order to combine incomes, have a nicer place to live, raise kids more effectively, etc. but I don’t think marriage is absolutely a necessary part of life. I guess I’m hung up on the baggage – the assumption of a religious element, the wasteful spending on designer dresses and a lavish reception to impress people and the idea that society has about a marriage between man & woman as the cornerstone of the nation. That’s irrational.

    I hope that by the time my two daughters grow up that marriage will be the rightful “civil union” and that they will not want the whole Princess & Prince fairy tale version of wedding and marriage. Cause it isn’t that at all.

  57. Mankind may or may not be monogomous by nature, but many of us choose to be monogomous regardless of this “nature.” Why?

    ————-

    Your realize that this sentence contradicts itself, right?

  58. The thing is, this is a question with a definite answer. It isn’t a matter of opinion.

    Marriage is simply a contract between two parties. It isn’t a lifestyle.

    It’s true that in different states, there are expectations in state law that people be monogamous as part of the contract. And it is also true that different states sort of politely imply that if you don’t have sex with your spouse, they have grounds for divorce.

    And to that degree, the contract has a creepy, totalitarian, stay out of my bedroom quality that I am not completely comfortable with.

    But it is still a contract.

    Now, some people may have an irrational view of that contract. And some people may foolishly or irrationally enter that contract. And some people may feel that any contract that has a built in expectation of monogamy over the course of the contract is not appropriate for their own sexual proclivities. And still others (like me) may be of the opinion that the state has absolutely no business regulating sex in any way, and only does so for irrational reasons.

    However, if you are in a relationship with someone, discuss all these issues and others, weigh the issues, and then decide to enter the contract anyway because you want the benefits or financial protections it affords each of you, that is not irrational.

    In other words: while I agree with people who think that marriage law is based on irrational views, and that marriage law needs to change, and change a lot, that is not relevant to the question at hand.

  59. @sethmanapio: I think some of monogamy may have to do with respect for a partner’s feelings. It is easier for me to imagine being sexual with someone besides my wife than it is for me to imagine being OK with her being sexual with someone else. The same is true for her. So part of my monogamy is not wanting to hurt my wife.

  60. There is nothing wrong or irrational with doing something solely because it makes you happy. Yeah, I’m sure there are “downsides” to being married, but I’ve determined that my happiness is worth more than all those negatives. Rationality does not mean that you decide without emotion; rather, it means that you’ve recognized when emotion is an influence. There’s no benefits other than the emotional to eat ice cream versus something healthy. That doesn’t mean you are irrational because you consume Ben & Jerry’s.

  61. I have lurked for a while, but this is the first time I have posted. Hello all!

    Many moons ago, I was madly in love with a girl I knew in high school. We started dating a few weeks after I graduated, and after a couple years at the local community college it came time to move an hour away to complete my education. I was so in love that I went so far as to pick out a ring. Three months after I moved away to college, she dumped me. Later I found that she started sleeping around not long after I moved away and had gotten “knocked up” (if you’ll forgive the crude colloquialism), something she was too cowardly to admit at the time, preferring to let the news reach me via mutual friends.

    Unsurprisingly, this experience pretty much soured my idea of the whole endeavor. This manifested itself in fear of commitment, and I was a right bastard to a couple girls over the next several years that wanted more out of our relationship than I was prepared to give.

    About 4 years ago, I got a call from a friend I had known since the age of 9. We grew up on the same block, went to the same schools, even the same university. She dated one of my roommates. She helped me deal with my tortuous breakup, and I helped her a year or so later when she was unceremoniously dumped. After I graduated we went on our merry ways, until she called to tell me that she heard I moved into the area where she worked. She started visiting, and then something weird happened. We fell in love. It took the inhibition-reducing effects of a few beers while we were watching a sci-fi marathon for me to make the first move, but it was well worth it. We were married almost two years to the day we first kissed, and have been happily married for a little over a year now.

    The point of this long-winded story is that (to me at least) it is quite irrational to be completely against something like marriage, especially when entered into for rational reasons. Goodness knows that, as institutions go, it has more than its fair share of problems. But as far as I am concerned, it was a fantastic decision. I love my wife in ways words cannot express, and I wish everyone could feel for at least a moment the way I feel every time I see her smile. We have known each other long enough to know our boundaries, and that is something I believe is important in any relationship, but essential for a marriage.

    I do understand that not everyone will be inclined to agree with me, and I do not begrudge anyone their opinion on the matter. I just hope that those who are so vehemently against marriage do not let something wonderful pass them by, as I would have.

  62. @PeteSchult: I was really just talking about the legal part of it, rather than monogamy in general. I prefer exclusive relationships myself, but I recognize that other people may have different points of view.

    But I think that that sort of decision should be a personal thing, not a requirement of a standard contract.

  63. Oh.. wait, I see where you were responding.

    My point was that if it may or may not be in our nature to be monogamous, you cannot choose monogamy “in spite” of that nature… whether it is in our nature or not is an open question.

    Also, it is in your nature to care about your wifes feelings, which means that monogamy is a choice that is based on your nature, if you seem my point.

  64. My husband and I just got married last month. We’re both atheist/skeptics. We had a humanist ceremony in front of the family, given by a close friend. Our legal ceremony was in some guy’s back yard because really that’s just signing papers and we already had our wedding “play” for the family 2 weeks before. Anyway, at our “play” there was nothing sexist or archaic about it. Dad walked me down the isle, but there was no “who gives this woman” nonsense. There was no religion involved, no superstitious new/blue/old/borrowed stuff, etc.

    Simply put: A wedding is what you make of it and it’s only one day, what’s important is the marriage. For us it made sense to get married. He’s in the military with a lot of benefits etc that I (and my future children) have access to. But if that’s not for some people, then super. I think either decision could be rational or irrational for a variety of reasons.

  65. Well, I have been happily married for 8 years to a fellow atheist and skeptic. We had a fabulous non-religious ceremony that celebrated the start of a well-thought-out partnership. A partnership that is much like a business partnership in reality. People think I am cold for approaching marriage that way, but I firmly believe that is why our marriage has been successful. We have no expectations of a fairy tale romance. We both signed on to maintain a house together and, eventually raise children together.

    Could we be successful without the certificate? Yes, probably, but the legal recognition adds a bit of welcome security.

  66. @sethmanapio: “But I think that that sort of decision should be a personal thing, not a requirement of a standard contract.”

    Yeah, my response when the right wingers start saying that the next step after same-sex marriage is polygamy is “So?” I observe that different people have different sets of commitments that they can manage, and if the state is going to confer various benefits on families, then those benefits should go to all families and not just one type.

    I also know people who have one committed relationship and multiple short-term relationships. That seems to work for both people in the committed relationship, so it’s OK by me. I would remove any laws against that as well as removing any language about “forsaking all others” from any ceremony used to mark the commitment.

  67. @PeteSchult — There’s a big difference between polygamy (man marries two or more women and women can’t marry anyone else) and polyamory (what’s good for the gander is also good for the goose or any gender variations with multiple partners).

    Neither my boyfriend or I “believe” in marriage. However, we may end up secretly married at some point for the benefits. (Just don’t tell our mothers!) Right now, my biggest problem is the lack of marriage rights for all consenting adults in the US, especially I’d be with my honey no matter what his gender was.

  68. I’m unmarried and unpaired so perhaps I should not comment on marriage. Nevertheless, I can’t really see any difference, other than the various legal incentives, between a married couple and a cohabitating couple (or group – whatever makes you happy). I don’t think that marriage confers any special status on a relationship. It’s just one of many forms a relationship can take so I don’t think it’s rational or irrational. It just depends on what everyone involved wants.

  69. I’ve been (mostly) happily married for 8 1/2 years. When I got married I was agnostic and my wife was Catholic. Since then, I’ve lost all thoughts of religion, and my wife no longer identifies herself as Catholic.

    As far as whether marriage is rational or irrational, I would agree with others that that depends on the reasons. My reasons for asking my wife to spend the rest of our lives together were based on our friendship, common interests, her intelligence, and the passions involved. It boils down to not being able to how it felt if I thought about what my life might be like without her.

    Plus, I do quite a few other things that aren’t rational. I enjoy kayaking, skiing, hiking, playing on the computer, and various other things that are just done for enjoyment. When I go down to visit my parents, I take my dad’s four-wheeler to the top of the mountain behind their house and enjoy the view that still takes my breath away even though I’ve been seeing virtually the same view for 20+ years. Basically, the same thing goes for my wife. We started dating ten years ago, and she still takes my breath away when she smiles at me in that certain way.

  70. @sethmanapio:

    And this isn’t rational because…

    I think of those hobbies as arational (not sure if that’s a word but think about it like amoral). The physical ones provide some health benefits, but there are safer ways to exercise. All of those I do more for fun than any health benefits.

  71. @Berlzebub: All of those I do more for fun than any health benefits.

    ——–

    Sounds rational to me. Is there some reason that it is not rational to do things that are fun? I mean, sure, you could call it “a-rational” but I would disagree there, too. It seems to me that if kayaking gives you pleasure, absent some compelling reason to the contrary, the rational thing to do is to kayak.

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