How to Win the Argument for Marriage
There are very few "arguments" - read excuses - against marriage and marriage traditions that I haven't heard. Heard, analyzed, and rejected for the weak excuses that they are. Many people are either scared yellow by marriage or else just don't like it, and will go to extreme lengths to sound moral and intelligent and philosophical in their attempts to convince the rest of us to agree with them. They get away with it, too, because so few of us ever have hard and fast answers to the rhetorical complaints they pitch at us about marriage - and I aim to change that.
For all of you out there who value marriage, who seek it for yourselves but face opposition from your partner or other authorities on the subject, below you'll find the most common 'arguments' against marriage - and how to answer them. I want to stress that nothing replaces thought, that each person owes it to him or herself to think out these ideas and come to a real understanding of why these principles apply. If you do this, if you develop a true, rational philosophy towards marriage, the answers to these asinine arguments will become like second nature to you. But until that happens, here are some ideas to get you started and to help you defend your values.
"Marriage is just a piece of paper."
This is such a ridiculous statement I can't believe people actually get away with using it as an excuse. If it's just a piece of paper, if marriage really is so "meaningless", then why are these people so terrified of it? Why not do it, if it's just a meaningless piece of paper? What difference would it make?
Marriage is much, much more than a piece of paper, and that the act of saying vows to each other and committing to lifetime love is what's important, not the certificate you can hang on your wall later. It isn't as simple as mumbling a few words and having someone pronounce you husband and wife, it's a serious symbolic gesture you make to each other that elevates your relationship to the ultimate level - and that's what people who call it "just a piece of paper" are afraid of.
Whenever someone uses this line, tell him or her straight out - You know it's more than that, otherwise you wouldn't be so afraid of doing it.
"Marriage is a religious thing, only bible thumpers preach marriage."
It's unfortunate that the only people advocating a return to marriage these days are religious people, not only because their reasons for advocating it so strongly are wrong (they see it as a duty to God, devoid of selfish interest, instead of a joyously human experience that has nothing to do with faith) but also because it gives the impression that anyone who encourages marriage must have a religious or ultra-conservative bent to them.
This isn't true, but aside from this site, I have yet to encounter a pro-marriage website that doesn't mention The Lord in the first paragraph. In answer to this point, I would stress again that the primary nature of marriage is not to reign in human desire, or make it respectable, or to establish morally reigned-in families, but rather as a private, personal celebration of romantic love, of choice, of personal freedom and reward for being the best person one can be. The fact that some religions use it as a means of control, a way to cleanse the "sin" of sex, or a method of passing their doctrine to the next generation has nothing to do with the real meaning of marriage.
No one religion invented, practices or advocates marriage, and given that monogamous pair bonds have existed in human society long before any organized religion sprang up is proof that marriage is a fully human, secular relationship that will continue long after religions lose their ground.
"I'm too young to get married. I want to live a little first."
Live a little? What you mean is you want to spend ninety per cent of your time alone, and ten per cent of your time trying to enjoy unpleasant, meaningless sex that doesn't nearly live up to your fantasies - if you're lucky enough to even get it. That's not what I call living.
People who use this excuse are living under the delusion that a string of unsatisfying sexual encounters is somehow more exciting than a permanent, constantly available dream lover who satisfies your every need, in every area of your life. Whenever you hear this excuse, call it like it is - tell them they don't want to "live" at all, they want to remain a stunted and sexually frustrated adolescent forever, and no one will ever admire and respect them for that.
"Monogamy isn't natural. Animals aren't monogamous, why do we expect ourselves to be?"
This is another old favorite, spouted by pseudo-intellectuals who watched a Desmond Morris special once and decided his studies in anthropology give them all the excuses they need to be wildly and irresponsibly promiscuous. You'll hear this line offered up time and time again, with a sly look in the eye of the speaker, who feels as though resorting to science is all the justification he or she needs to outwit you.
There's an easy answer to this: we aren't animals. While we have physical characteristics in common with some animals, we have something no other species on the planet has - a mind. We have a brilliant mind capable of reasoning and thought unparalleled in the natural world, and it is this mind that sets us apart from - and above every other species on the planet. We don't behave like animals, which must adapt to their surroundings - we adapt our surroundings to us. We build rockets to the moon, fly when we haven't wings, extend our own lives and have awareness of our own mortality. We have complex language, we have skills to cure illness and injury, we have humor and beauty and the power to choose what we do. Why on earth would we consider ourselves mere animals?
Animals mate indiscriminately because their instinct guides them to - some species of spider, for example, even orchestrate their own deaths in order to mate. Animals don't choose not to mate, they don't discriminate between this antelope and that antelope based on complex value choices, or decide they're not in the mood after all, they simply obey their programming and attempt to procreate. A human being's primary sexual organ, on the other hand, is his or her mind, which determines who, when, where, how and even if mating will take place, based on complicated values, thoughts and wishes and regardless of biological imperatives or hormonal fluxes. Human beings are monogamous because that is the kind of sexual relationship that best suits a complicated mind in search of far, far more than a mother or father for children. Human beings want the whole spectrum of emotion and experience in a mate, and it is insulting to reduce human beings to rutting animals driven by their reproductive cycles.
All you have to say to this is the following - "Monogamy is natural for human beings, and I am a human being. If you want to consider yourself no better than a dog in heat, go ahead - but consider this: why should I listen to a dog in heat?
"Living together is the same as being married."
No, it isn't.
Anyone who says this knows what a fallacy this statement is. Living together is not nearly as intimate, is not nearly as romantic or serious as being married, and everyone knows it. Like the excuse about marriage just being a piece of paper, this excuse pre-supposes that marriage must be better or different or somehow more special than not being married, or else those against it wouldn't be so afraid of it.
Living together is experimental, it is the necessary first step towards commitment, but it is nowhere near as good as marriage. It lacks the emotional connection, the intimacy, and the sense of togetherness and oneness that marriage brings, and it is far more precarious. Knowing that you don't love each other enough to get married, that one or both of you could walk away and be done with the whole relationship over night, cannot possibly lead to the security or depth of feeling that marriage brings.
Answer this statement simply: No, it isn't. Marriage is completely different, and much better, and something people who truly in love aren't afraid to do.
"If you loved me, you wouldn't pester me about marriage, you'd just be happy to be with me."
This reminds me of the line a high school boyfriend once tried on me, and likely many other girls; if you really love me, you'll sleep with me. Whether regarding sex or marriage, this statement is designed to be unanswerable. It is meant to leave you feeling guilty about not viewing sex, or love, as an end in itself and as the only thing that really matters.
In answering this, if you insist that you want to get married, you will end up looking like some scavenger who doesn't really value the individual you are in love with but rather some idea of matrimony that means more to you than he or she does. But if you if you grant this argument, if you say "I know love is the most important thing, I know marriage isn't nearly as important as love", then you haven't got a leg to stand on.
Everyone knows that, rationally speaking, love ismore important than marriage if you absolutely had to choose one over the other - a loveless marriage or a lifelong love affair without a marriage ceremony - but since we seldom if ever have to choose between the two, there's no point in reducing it down to such all or nothing alternatives.
You can answer this by saying "If you loved me, you'd be happy to marry me.", because it's absolutely true. Someone who loves you, who really wants to be with you, won't try to make you feel like a "pest" or won't try to talk you out of marriage; they'll know that marriage is the next natural step in any profound love relationship, and that asking you to settle for "just being with me" is tantamount to saying " I don't want to get too serious, do you?"
Or you can always try this kind of thing: "What if I said to you 'we don't have to have sex all the time, do we? I mean, if you love me, you'll be happy to just cuddle with me, won't you?'" This is another unanswerable question they will find just as frustrating as the question they put to you. Cuddling is great, they'll say, but let's face it, sex is an important part of a love relationship.
So is marriage.
"Marriage ruins the romance of a relationship."
Excuse me, I'm too busy having mind-blowing sex with my husband to respond to that.
"My parents' divorce (or mine) put me off marriage for good."
With all due respect to people who have survived childhood trauma, bad parenting, or a miserable experience with marriage, I think that respecting this attitude does more harm to the individual than good.
Look at it this way - if a female friend was sexually assaulted, and then swore off men because of it, wouldn't your reaction be to sympathize with her suffering but to remind her that all men aren't rapists? And wouldn't you say this because you knew what potential happiness she would be denying herself by tarring all men with the same brush? The same is true for the gun-shy, those who have let themselves believe that marriage is flawed or a source of unhappiness based solely on one bad example of it.
Without being confrontational, without trying to force someone to be ready for something they aren't ready for, you can answer this argument gently by reminding them that one bad marriage, or even a million bad marriages, says nothing about the value of marriage itself, but rather the subjective experience of those involved in it. Because someone else failed at marriage or had a miserable one does not mean you will.
"Marriage is bad for women"
I'm not sure where this one ever came from, but it's a popular one. Feminists like to claim that marriage ruins women's career advancement, that it subjugates them, that it is a throwback to a time when women were treated like property. I believe it stems from images and stories of the mid-twentieth century, when many women stayed home and raised children, ran a household and complained.
Marriage is in no way bad for anyone. Women have every right and every privilege men have, they have the right to work and support themselves, they have equal protection under the law, they have the chance to do whatever they want with their lives and their careers and face absolutely no impediments of any kind - so what the hell are they still screeching about?
If they want to marry and share their lives with someone, it in no way has to detract from everything else they choose to do. At the very least, they are perfectly free to divorce if they find their husbands too controlling or too stifling to their ambition.
Some women, I'm sure, resent having to work. Whether working at a career or working in the house to care for children or keep the house running, many women feel justified in complaining about their "subjugation" at the kitchen sink. This is nonsense. Life takes work, no matter how you look it. Keeping a roof above your head, whether you work to pay for it or work to keep it patched, is hard work, and both men and women have to do their fair share. The fact is, it's easier to manage life when you have a dedicated partner. It's hard for any single person to manage everything alone, both sexes benefit from a partnership with a spouse. Yet millions of women still complain heartily that their husbands don't do enough around the house when they get home from work. Imagine if men started saying "Although women are putting in x amount of hours in the home after their workday, they are still falling behind in house and car repair, which still falls predominantly on men to perform." Men don't say things like this because they don't whine about how much work life takes. Women shouldn't either.
This answer is also simple - "Marriage is good for everyone, it helps to have a trusted partner in life. But even when those partnerships go wrong, there is nothing preventing a woman from leaving and making her own way alone."
"Changing one's name is a sexist idea perpetrated by men who want to control women."
This one in particular is a pet peeve of mine. Feminists have been so successful at convincing women and men of this that now men sheepishly bow their heads in shame at the mere suggestion that women ought to change their names, and feel guilty for ever having thought about it.
Women are the complete equals of men. But sexually speaking, a woman likes to be submissive to a dominant male, to be taken, to be made love to, to be overwhelmed by the love and lust of a safe, loving and respectful man. Taking his last name as hers is a simple, symbolic gesture, an acknowledgment of this special sexual bond and of her love for him. It is a nice tradition, something that should make a man feel proud of having earned the love and respect of such a woman.
Anyone who thinks that a name somehow diminishes a woman or makes her weaker is out of his or her mind. It is just a name, after all. The gesture of taking it - or of not taking it - is the significant thing. When a woman decides to keep the name she received as a baby, from another woman who gave up her name, and refuses to accept the name of the grown man she supposedly loves, she is making a very bold statement - I value my father more than you, since I'm happy enough to accept his name. I value my childhood over my adulthood, since I would rather be known by my childhood name than by an adult one of my choosing. I am not fully married to you, since I cling to the single person I was before I met you and insist on maintaining that persona.
You can answer this question by reversing it - "Not changing one's name is a sign of mediocre commitment, lukewarm love and belligerent feminism perpetrated by women who want to emasculate men."
These are just a few of the more obvious excuses - you'd be surprised how many more of them there are, and how subtle some people's logic can appear to be.
In case it sounds as though I advocate bullying people into marriage, let me say this: sometimes, a person is genuinely not ready for marriage, has legitimate reasons for postponing it, and really needs more time to think it through. Everyone has the right to his or her own soul, and no one, not even his or her lover, has the right to manipulate that.
It has been my experience, however, that if a person has a genuine issue around marriage, he or she will tell you what it is without resorting to the above excuses. An honest person will tell you that he or she is unsure about your relationship, or will be straight with you regarding how profound their love is. Someone who is genuinely uncertain about what marriage means, or who has real fears about how it will alter the relationship, will want to talk to you about this so that you can reassure them - they won't brush you off with sly platitudes and berate you for not being as cynical as they are. Don't tolerate excuses but do listen carefully and lovingly to thoughtful concerns - you'll both be better off for it.