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Marriage By Love or by Law

Synopsis: Who’s really married; fighting legal love wars; let us remember ill-legalities of the past; not what you have been led to believe; the big comprehensive question; where are we headed; what matters to and for you.

Really Married?

Who’s really married?  Some answer only those who are deeply bonded together with true love.  Others say only those who hold a valid, governmental, marriage license.  Still others argue only those who have been sanctioned as married according to religious law and its authorities. 

Then there are those who reject the religious law viewpoint but hold that the truly married are those spiritually bonded together with divine power.  Of course, there also are those who use a sociological or cultural anthropology checklist to answer the question of who is really married and who is not.  There even are some who hypothesize that, in the future, possible psychoneurological phenomena measured as present or absent in behavior and/or in the brain could be used to analyze who’s really married and who’s not.

Legal Love Wars

Did you know that there are ongoing court battles over who gets to call themselves married and who does not?  Involved in some of those disputes are arguments about whether or not the litigants have marital type love for one another.  Calling yourself married and not having a license is legally punishable fraud, some argue.  Not being ‘in love’ and getting legally married also is considered legally fraudulent by some authorities.  Then there are those who propose that the state ought be legally banned from having anything to do about who is and who is not married, and that the government should be kept out of love relationships in general.  They argue that both love and marriage are private matters about which the government has no good reason or right to regulate or interfere.  Of course divorce lawyers, various political and governmental groups like those involved with family law, and especially immigration authorities tend to vehemently disagree with that position.

Throughout history both secular and religious law has had a lot to say about both love and marriage as well as the often related topic of sex.  Actually it is thought that long ago people got ‘love married’ to one another without any governmental or formal religious involvement at all.  Some think we ought to return to those days.  Others think we are indeed progressing or, depending on your point of view, regressing toward that very thing.

Did you know that how courts come to rule on who is married and who is not may influence how over 1000 federal rules, rights, benefits and crimes are adjudicated in the US alone?  In some other countries the numbers are even higher.  All over the world love and marriage questions are being legally struggled over and new trends are emerging.  In some lands parents who said they no longer loved each other and could not live together were not allowed to legally divorce and their children were awarded to the father, in other lands they were awarded to the mother, in still others to the grandparents, and in some cases to the state.  In the developed world this is giving way to ‘joint custody’ but that arrangement is by no means a universal option.

Can same-sex couples marry or even call themselves married.  The answer varies from country to country, and within some countries from state to state or province to province.  In some jurisdictions certain people are afforded the right to behave married in every way known, except they do not have the right to call themselves legally married.  There is a movement which proposes that all legal, romantic, partner unions be legally termed ‘domestic partners’ and the term ‘marriage’ be totally dropped from legal usage.

Let Us Remember

It is worth remembering that the battle over legalized, interracial marriage is still being fought in some places and that it was illegal in some US states until 1967.  At various times and places (and still to this day in some locales) battles were fought concerning banning people from being married legally if they were disabled, retarded, mentally ill, of different religions, different ethnic groups, different nationalities, too closely related, too old, too poor or in debt, were in slavery or indentured servitude, were in certain occupations, certain classes, certain casts or were already married to too many others (4 being a common limit).  Remember also the French Courts of Love once held that people married to one another could not love each other because marriage was essentially a relationship of unequals, while romantic love necessitated equality.

Not What You’ve Been Led to Believe!

Many people have been misled into believing romantic love and marriage have always been pretty much the same thing they think it to be now.  Factually who is really married is a question with vastly different answers throughout history and across the world’s many cultures.  Giving birth to a child has been a prerequisite for marriage in some places and times.  There were times and places in which commoners could not marry and only the Royals and the rich were allowed to wed.  Women marrying sets of brothers, men required to marry their wife’s sisters if the sisters became available, siblings marrying each other, parents marrying their offspring, some married to various deities, time-limited marriage, being more married by way of having sub-wives and sub-husbands and many stranger (to us) and more different customs all have been part of the world’s ‘who’s married’ picture.

Loving a left-handed person, an orphan, a redhead, a person whose middle finger was shorter than another finger, anyone born with any deformity, along with people who possessed full-length mirrors and full immersion bathtubs were forbidden and condemned because they were obviously under the influence of Satan.  If you married a person who was later discovered to be any of the above, or of a different race, nationality, ethnicity or religion, of a lesser cast or under-class annulments were easily obtained because no true marriage could have existed with such a person.  Slowly in most parts of the modern world love has won out over these restrictions and democratic inclusiveness has pushed autocratic exclusiveness aside in the world of who can love and marry.  Unfortunately in some parts of the world attempting to love or marry the ‘wrong person’ still can get you ‘honor’-killed (even without there being enforced legal or religious sanctions against it).

The Big Question

Do you believe or suspect that true marriage really is best understood to primarily be love-based, psychologically-based, spiritually-based, religiously-based, societally-based, biologically-based or legally-based?  What people come to think about this is perhaps going to determine the future of marriage in the world.  There are people preaching, teaching and proselytizing for each of the above positions.  There are people arguing for each of the above positions, putting forth public policies related to each, proposing and attacking laws related to each, and shaping their own personal lives according to each.  You, or your children, or your grandchildren and the community you live in are likely to be effected by this issue.  The very structure of society may become shaped by how people align themselves according to the answer to this question.

Where Are We Headed?

All over the developed world fewer and fewer people get married, stay married or live in what is called traditional marriage.  Various religious and political groups are fighting to reverse these modern world trends.  It seems they hope to take us back to what they suppose was the way things were a century or more ago.  These regressive and sometimes repressive forces try to deny the great historical tenet that says ‘you can’t go back’ or at least not successfully.  But what will progress look like?

Egalitarian marriage is already replacing male dominant marriage in much of the world.  Will that continue or will people living single dominate the future?  Will a majority of people float in and out of various temporary married-like living arrangements as their life situations ebb and flow?  Will most mothers and fathers have other lovers as they carry on parenting as is so common with current divorce rates being what they are?  How many people will come to live communally or semi-communally as is common in retirement communities?  Could polygamy, polyandry or polyamore lifestyles someday proliferate?  Would we ever adopt having primary, secondary and tertiary spouses copying a people who live in southern India.  What about the Eastern sect that allows for temporary additional spouses?  Might we someday become like a people of southern China who have no form of marriage whatsoever?  Might we eventually have all of the above and more, as yet not invented, forms of doing love-bonded relationships?

What Matters To and For You?

Are you ready for the coming changes whatever they may turn out to be?  Or are you going toward the future of love and marriage blind and unaware?  Are you afraid of the future and want to go back to your childhood understanding of how marriage and love should work?  What will you do if you come to love someone who sees love and marriage very differently than you do?  How will you react if your offspring experiment and explore love and marriage outside the traditional box’?

Currently there seem to be lots of parents getting upset because they are hearing their offspring say
things like, “We are going to live together but not get legally married”.  The core of some family counseling I once supervised was epitomized by the statement “We might marry someday but if we do it won’t be until after we have a child”.  “I’m going to legally marry and live with Xavier so he can stay in this country and finish his degree, but after that I’ll probably move in with Tom”, initiated another set of interesting family sessions for one of my colleagues.  “Mom and Dad, will you attend if Sarah, Lester and I have a wedding ceremony and non-legally marry each other next summer?” was a question that lead to some fairly intense, extended family and parent guidance counseling I am aware of.

Sometimes it’s the parents upsetting their offspring that brings forth the ‘who’s really married’ issues.  Here are a few examples.  “After retirement next month we’re going to start co-habiting but we will not be getting legally married because it would be bad for us financially.  We hope that won’t be a problem for you bringing over the grandchildren, will it?”

Another: “We have started sharing our bed with Rosalind every so often because she lost her spouse a while back and she’s lonely and misses making love, cuddling and hugging too, and, well, it just seems like it’s the kind, loving thing to do.”  Also:  “Its better here at this swanky, old folk’s home than I thought it would be.  The custom here is called roaming.  Every night I can be in someone else’s bed if I want to, and it’s not always about sex but if it is we practice safe-sex.  I think I’m coming to really like and maybe even actually love some of these people here.  Also I need to let you know Larry and I may move in together.  That way we can afford one of the cottages they have for couples, and we’d have more room and it just would be nicer all in all.  We both agreed we will let each other keep roaming, at least some of the time, because truth be told we both like it”.

Another: “Your father and I won’t be babysitting for you as often as we were now that we’re both retired.  Frankly, that’s because our sex life has picked up now that we have more time.  Also our social calendar is looking a lot more full”.  What will you do if your parents, aunts and uncles, or other older family members tell you things like this?  What will your offspring or younger family members do if messages like these are your messages to them?  You see, love and marriage-issue culture shock can go both up and down the age continuum.
Seeing your options provides freedom.  I like to suggest that people see and study their own possible opportunities.

The many points and life style options presented here are not to advocate or disparage any particular choice or custom but rather to put forth the many ways human beings have behaved, are behaving and might behave in regard to love, marriage, bonding, and marital law.  Some get upset when they are faced with new or different options concerning marriage.  Let me suggest the guidance message (see the entry “Dealing with Love Hurt: Pain’s Crucial Guidance”) of ‘feeling upset’ is a warning about vulnerability requiring some study and strengthening.

So, dear reader, how do you think and perhaps even more important emotionally how do you feel as you contemplate these issues?  Do you want governmental law, religious law, scientific law, societal ‘law’ or the natural law of love to provide the dominant answers to the question ‘who’s really married’?  All these different situations and scenarios are put forth as important to think about, not just to accept what you may have been conditioned to believe in regard to marriage by love or by law.

As always, Grow and Go with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Concerning love and marriage, for yourself and those closest to you, which do you think will give you more trouble, being more old-fashioned traditional or being more New Age progressive?

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