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charlie, computer cat

November 2017

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An Open Letter

Dear politicians all,

Tell me this. Why should I get married? What difference will it make to my relationship? How will society be enriched by me signing a piece of legal paperwork with my boyfriend?

We've been together for nearly 10 years, we're committed to each other and we're in love. We both know these things. What else is there to it?

Of course, to a certain extent my relationship is not related to the discussion you're having because I don't want to have children. Leaving aside the discussion of the fact that all the language I'm hearing on the news assumes that all couples, married or cohabiting, are also parents I would dispute the idea that getting the paperwork would make any difference to any putative children we were going to have either.

Yes, children benefit from stable long-term relationships with adults who can give them love, stability and care. In most cases these are their parents and it's difficult to do on your own because it's such a commitment. I don't believe that our choosing to register our relationship with you would make us any more or less likely to provide that care to any children we had. Now that marriage is a purely voluntary institution, many more of those embarking on it will have the kind of relationship which enables them to provide this but the bedrock of that is the relationship itself, not the status. You won't create more genuine partnerships of people who can love and support each other by offering £20 per week to those who've been in and signed their names.

Marriage is not what makes some families special. Love is.

Yours disappointedly,
Jo

Comments

Well, I am married, and I was very close to posting a similar rant myself. I chose to get married and wanted the legal security for my relationship. But I don't think that makes me in any way deserving of the extra £20 a week. If there's capacity for a tax break, it should go to the lowest-paid in society (bring back the 10% band!), or to households that include people who can't contribute financially (kids, elderly relatives, disabled people). Not us.

And the thing that strikes me whenever they compare average lengths of marriages and cohabitations is that the cohabitation average is going to be brought down by relationships which barely get off the ground...
Exactly! It's a singularly pointless tax break as for most people who qualify, £20 per week is nothing.
Oh, I'm sure that there are many married couples, with or without children, for whom £20 a week will make a difference. But there are plenty more for whom it won't.

Don't get it

Gang members don't get tattoos purely for the police to log in a database, but as long as they keep getting tattoos you can't expect the authorities not to make use of it. Same with marriage: there are inferences the authorities can make from a marriage certificate they can't make from not-a-marriage-certificate, and my willingness to publically declare my P45 to the Job Centre was not the reason why I was allowed Unemployment Benefit.

Re: Don't get it

Yes but you won't reduce the crime rate by closing down the tatoo parlours either. If you encourage people who otherwise wouldn't to marry you'll just dilute the usefulness of marriage as an indicator of anything in society such as it is (which I think is actually pretty minimal).
I agree with you, but I also think that people making commitments to love one another through their whole lives (and I don't just mean marriage, but any commitment, public or private, legal or not) regardless of the whims of their emotions is a good thing...

I guess people think that the act of declaring publicly the intention to commit to another human being can help to consolidate that. I'm not saying it does, but this is the theory behind it, and I can see some logic in that. People stop being in love with each other the whole time -- but that doesn't mean you have to stop loving someone, because I think that to love someone is an act of care and unselfish nurturing that transcends feelings.

I'm not supporting the Tory policy plan; but I do think that relationships that involve children should be based on more than feelings. You can't promise to feel the same way about someone their whole life, but you can promise to love someone their whole life. And maybe encouraging more people to commit, in some form, might make for less disturbed and feral children, such as the ones I taught this morning in East London!!



I tend to go along with that - it's a fairly elementary syllogism. Broadly speaking, kids are best brought up by two (or more) adults who are essentially permanently committed to each other and to the children. Marriage is an announcement of permanent commitment between previously unrelated adults, who in most(? certainly many) cases have or will have children - hence a Good Thing. It depressed me immensely when a (working class and black) woman of my acquaintance was stunned by my good fortune in finding a man who was prepared to marry me and then have children with me, and then stay around to raise them.

That is not to say that I think that the Conservative plan is a good idea, or indeed that the state should have any views about the "right" state for childless couples.
Marriage is an announcement of permanent commitment between previously unrelated adults

Yes, at the moment and I'm happy for people to get married - that doesn't bother me at all but by encouraging people who otherwise weren't planning to to get married you won't actually get more good stable relationships because it's not the ceremony that makes the relationship work or not.
I also think that people making commitments to love one another through their whole lives (and I don't just mean marriage, but any commitment, public or private, legal or not) regardless of the whims of their emotions is a good thing

I comletely agree, but the important part there is any committment. What I don't think is that encouraging people to make that committment for the wrong reasons is going to improve society.

People stop being in love with each other the whole time -- but that doesn't mean you have to stop loving someone, because I think that to love someone is an act of care and unselfish nurturing that transcends feelings.

I'm not sure I understand this. I would agree that you can remain close friends after you stop loving someone and have a platonic bond and also that you can, in that state, decide to continue to live together in order to bring up shared children but I think perhaps we're using the word love for slightly different concepts here.

maybe encouraging more people to commit, in some form, might make for less disturbed and feral children

Not if the only reason they commit is because they're going to get more money. That's not going to help their relationship last any longer or improve it's quality.

maybe encouraging more people to commit, in some form, might make for less disturbed and feral child

Not if the only reason they commit is because they're going to get more money. That's not going to help their relationship last any longer or improve it's quality.

Particularly when the next-government-but-one goes back and removes the tax break in question...
I'm not sure I understand this. I would agree that you can remain close friends after you stop loving someone and have a platonic bond and also that you can, in that state, decide to continue to live together in order to bring up shared children but I think perhaps we're using the word love for slightly different concepts here.

I think a lot of people expect that they will always be "in love" with their marriage partners, in the sense of gooshy feelings and melting when they kiss you and so on. People sometimes talk about these feelings with words like "romance" and "passion" as well. It then comes as a surprise to them when, a few years down the road when they have kids and are always tired and stressed, they realize they don't feel that way anymore, or only feel that way rarely.

Of course, if they maintain a close, caring, and respectful relationship (that is, they continue to treat one another with love, even if they don't have those "in love" feelings), they will likely find that those romantic feelings wax and wane over time.
Holy shit, did that crap get exported across the pond? I'm sorry....
Oh it has history over here too - the last conservative government got voted out partly because they went on about "family values" all the time and then were all discovered to be having affairs with their secretaries :)

The Reality is in the Small Print?

The real point about the certificates is about pensions and financial commitments and, largely because it's played such a big part in my life last month, death. What you're really after is a certificate that says "This person is my other half; they get everything they should get in law in the event I'm not around any more and they support me just as I support them while we're both alive" (and there are many better ways of writing that too, I know, but that's a quick, inelegant version.) In other words, you want a Civil Partnership, which grants both you and your partner married rights in every respect but without the historic complexities of "marriage" (though I always call a Civil Partnership a marriage and a wedding, which it is, though not necessarily a "Marriage and a Wedding"). What's wrong is that heterosexual people can't enjoy the benefits of a Civil Partnership and that's pretty unfair it seems to me. The love part is spot on - that isn't something to which certificates contribute one iota!