Splitting Marriage: Love Union

Author: Bagande

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In previous essays I argued in favor of splitting marriage by proposing theological unions (for the religious folks) and civil unions (to cover the legal contract aspect of marriage). However, there does seem to be one aspect of marriage left out, namely the matter of love.

On the one hand, it is sensible to not include the notion of love in marriage. After all, a couple that is getting married does not have to prove that they are in love. People who do not love each other can get married and people who do love each other (in the romantic sense) need not get married.

On the other hand, the notion of marriage for love does have a certain romantic appeal—fueled by literature and movies (if not reality). As such, it seems worthwhile to include a third type of marriage, namely the love union. While the romantic image is appealing, there is also a more substantive basis for the love union.

As noted in another essay, the theological union was proposed to allow people to exercise both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. As was noted in the essay after that, the civil union was proposed to handle the legal aspects of marriage. In the case of the love union, the purpose is to allow couples to create their own relationship bond (and rules) apart from that of religion and the state. That is, this is a relationship defined entirely by the couple. While the couple might involve others and have a ceremony, a love union would not be a theological union and would have no legal status.  That is, the rules are only enforced (or not) by the couple. Naturally, a love union can be combined with the other types. A couple could, for example, get a theological union at their mosque, get a civil union from the state, and then have an event with friends to announce their love union.

Given that the love union has no theological status or legal status, it might be wondered what it would actually do. The answer is, of course, that this would vary from union to union. However, the general idea is that the couple would define the aspects of their relationship that are not covered by theology (which might be all of it) and do not fall under the dominion of the state. This sort of definition might be something as simple as a declaration of eternal love to a fairly complex discussion of the nature of the relationship in terms of rights, expectations and responsibilities. While not every couple will want to establish a love union, this does seem like a good idea.

Love is, apparently, the least important aspect of marriage when it comes to the political debates over the matter. This might be a reflection of the reality of marriage (that it is about religion and legal rights) or a sign of misplaced values. Because of this, I thought I would at least give love a chance.

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  1. Doris Wrench Eisler

    I don’t think the idea of a “love” union is original: we’ve always had them around and they were called “shacking up”. If one partner was married, usually the male, the female was designated “mistress”, a rather horrible and anachronistic word still used. Children from these unions were called ” love child”. But you have to define “love”. Church unions always implied love in the sense of mutual responsibility, which translated into, “keep him happy and he will provide”, and the rule still obtained even in arranged and grossly mismatched (old man, young girl) arrangements. Strange, psychological and subconscious motivations to the side the only reason for a civil marriage is some kind of protection for the more vulnerable partner and any ensuing children. Religious marriages are also based on psychology with added myths and self-delusion and thankfully, they are no longer much of an impediment to divorce if the myths and delusion collide with reality. I’m all for love but it can’t be forced and it must be based on equality. We are moving in that direction but meantime, most people make do with the tolerable. It’s best that way for society as well.

  2. Doris Wrench Eisler,

    I agree-people have been engaging in non-legal (but usually not illegal) informal relationships that could be called “love unions.” for a very long time. My main goal is to split the current Frankenstein marriage into more sensible parts: the legal union of contracts, the theological union for the religious folks, and the love unions for people who are in love. Naturally, people could combine two or three of these: a couple could enter into a legal contract, take religious based vows at a temple/church/mosque/etc., and also profess their undying love.

  3. Scott MacIntyre

    Mike > This is a very interesting idea, if not for any other reason than the discussion disects “marriage” as it relates to different people. I am in Canada and it may be different, but don’t these distinctions already exist, i.e., marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships? What aspects of marriage do you feel is uncovered? Is it the inequality of marraige and civil union as it pertains to the law (tax benefits, possessions, etc.)?

    Doris > I am interested to know why you feel the term mistress is “horrible and anachronistic”? Isn’t it soft for someone who is a key participant in the breaking of a contract? If you and another individual were bound by contract – nuptial, business or other – and a third person assisted in breaking that contract, what pleasant, un-horrible term would you assign to them?

  4. Scott Macintyre,

    As you noted, there is a distinction between civil unions and “standard” marriages that already exists. However, I throw in a theological union as well. :)

  5. The are only two things that distinguish marriage from any other arbitrary relationship for the purpose of securing affection, sex, companionship, love, care-taking, cost-reduction-of-cohabitatin, and a division of labor in child rearing.

    1) When you marry, you form a corporation with shared assets, and a two person board of directors, from which the state must divide assets upon the disbanding of the corporation. Prior to the institution of private property, you could just marry and un-marry by saying so in public. In fact, the western Celts practiced serial marriage this way until the 19th century, and the European jews until the middle ages. In most primitives societies, women were literally property, but in Europe the church granted women property rights back in the 1200’s. So the need to resolve property disputes increased as the complexity and amount of property increased, and the productivity of individuals, and therefore their ability to obtain and use property increased.

    2) We have evolved laws to avoid conflict by stating that the other shareholder has certain powers (of attorney) to act as Voluntary Kin in periods of duress, and it that takes precedence over other involuntary Kinship ties: blood relatives. In this sense when we marry we sell ourselves to the corporation as an asset.

    The state is the arbiter of property disputes – that’s what a state is: a territorial monopoly on the use of violence; and in particular for the use of violence in the resolution of disputes. The moment that you enter into a marriage that produces common property, you force the state into your marriage because only the state can resolve conflicts over property.

    Anyone can form a corporation. A ship captain, a priest, or certain state officials. The formation’s not a state matter. It’s just an exchange like any other exchange. But the state must break it. And if the state must break it then it must of necessity develop criteria for doing so in order to apply a decision that meets the standard of consistent “law” rather than arbitrary judicial decision.

    However, there is no reason that the state must be the arbiter or such disputes. There is no reason churches cannot perform divorces, in which the assets divisions have the force of law. Unfortunately this wold produce two canons of law, and leave the state responsible for resolving appeals, so it would simply result in the state centralizing decision making power again.

    However, an easier solution is that if when we marry we do NOT create a corporation and place ourselves and all our assets into it, but instead, maintain each individual’s property separately, and specifically state ownership percentages on anything else that is split now or future, then the only legal issue is the power of attorney to act as one another in financial matters, and to act as primary kin in the event one is incapacitated.

    The civic and political problem is only that our laws developed as monopolies under control of the state – and even then, largely because the church did not perform divorces and the state wished to intercede in the civil space in order to advance the interests of the feminist political movement on the one hand, and react to the reality that women were becoming active in the work force, earning income, and acquiring real property in sufficient numbers that they required legal peerage to protect them from abuse by rent-seeking males.

    So there is no reason that we must have a monopoly of marriage terms. And there is only one reason that the state should be involved in dissolutions: common property. That is, property of the corporation called the marriage being distributed to various parties in the event of a disbandment of the corporation.

    Further, there is no reason marriages cannot consist of multiple forms, regardless of who makes them.

    1) Corporate Property and Power of Kin
    2) Several property and Power of Kin
    3) Corporate Property without power of kin

    Several Property without power of kin is the normal state of human beings. So that’s the definition of not being married. But one can be in a state of marriage as long as one has either the power of kin (genetic assets) or power of common property (material assets).

    Love and romance have nothing to do with marriage. You may get married BECAUSE of love and romance and all the other factors. But marriage is a change in control of property – including the self – by authorizing non-kin to act as Kin, and to either pool property or not.

    That it is hard to see the binding power of a marriage having any meaning whatsoever without the pooling of assets is enough of a logical constraint that we can define marriage as a property institution, and nothing more.

    That fact may be painful to admit to ourselves. But marriage is a contract over of property rights, with one of the assets being each other. It is, and always will be. ‘Cause nothing else makes much sense. ‘Cause nothing else enforces fidelity like the loss property.

    Humbling. I know.

  6. Scott MacIntyre

    Curt > The legal perception of something is not all that thing is. I think the reason Mike is describing different types of unions is that marriage is NOT only about property-rights. Take my children as another example. My relationship with my children is much more than the legal description of our relationship.

    I was interested by one particular exchange between an interviewer and a gay couple discussing the reasons for gay marriage. The interviewer asked why they were not satisfied with a non-legal marriage ceremony with friends and family, or a civil-union. I thought along the same lines as your post, in that they wanted “property rights”. Their answer was that they wanted the same public recognition and acceptance of their commitment as any straight couple would receive. Perhaps marriage means one thing to the state (property rights), but it obviously means more to the individuals in the marriage.

    “Cause nothing else enforces fidelity like the loss property.” Is this why you do not cheat on your wife? Because your desire to continue owning your house and car is greater than your lust?

  7. Scott,
    Thanks for the comment. :)

    Have you considered what ‘recognition’ means? What would ’cause’ people in society to attribute some status or other to marriage? Why marriage came about?

    This is probably too deep a topic for this context. And I think it is well understood that our sentiments can be constructed into various maps depending upon incentives produced by norms. Despite the fact that those norms vary widely.

    Our social order was based on the concept of the nuclear family, rarely unique in the world, where kinship trust was extended widely because of outbreeding enforced by the church so that it could obtain property. It is a strange status system.

    While I agree that people seek mating legitimacy that is because they consider one another property of a sort. (really). Serial monogamy appears to be instinctual for multiple reasons. And the public notice of ‘marriage’ a claim on the individual in front of the tribe, as a prohibition against interference. I also have seen too much life to confuse loyalty to offspring with loyalty to past mates. Marriage is temporary kinship. Not hard to find data on that. It’s pretty obvious.

    And again, data is data is data.

    So I think my comment above stands on its own pretty well. :)

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