Maybe the Real Question Is Why Marry at All?

Instead of thinking up new, creative ways to marry people off, maybe we should be thinking about how to stop pressuring everyone to marry.

All at once, although apparently totally by chance, the Knesset agenda is filled with draft laws related to the need to find new ways to marry. All of them, however enlightened they may be, ignore the main question - not how to marry, but why marry at all. Perhaps, instead of trying to revive the institution of marriage, we should allow it to remain buried under its mounds of dirt.

Why do people get married, anyway? If they're religious, the answer is obvious. But if not, the stock answer is “that's what people do."

From the moment we're born we're subjected to intense pressure whose purpose is to get us to do our duty when the time comes, to make our parents happy and to marry. Otherwise, we risk being seen, by society and by ourselves, as failures. Marriage, we have been taught to believe, is a necessary stage on the path to a life of happiness and prosperity, of stable love and healthy children.

But in fact this belief system is the result of confusing family and relationship with marriage. Women, like men no longer have to marry in order to have their own homes and families, and marriage is no guarantee of a stable relationship.

I find the continuing need to marry bizarre, especially when it comes to gays and lesbians. But it is homosexuals, after having overcome various social stigmas, who seem most interested in marrying and in duplicating the most conservative family structures rather than championing innovation in this sphere.

Granted, it was heartwarming to see the word “married” on the Israeli identity card of a gay friend who married his partner in the United States and then registered the couple's new status here. But then I started thinking, what's the point, what do they get out of glorifying an obsolete tradition?

Gays' insistence on their right to marry is the best evidence possible of the intensity of the social pressure to marry, as a proof of social acceptance. Even gays and lesbians, who could take advantage of the wedding waiver afforded by their sexual orientation, view marriage as a symbol of normal adulthood, even though by definition it is a declaration of principles on behalf of monogamy and sexual exclusivity. More than a few studies claim that it is particularly difficult for a couple consisting of two men to maintain strict monogamy.

In practice, the main reasons for gays, as well as straights, to marry are official ones. When it comes to government benefits and critical issues such as adoption and surrogacy, the establishment still prefers married over unmarried couples - proof enough that in its view only married couples have stable relationship, despite the fact that this is disproved by the high divorce rate. In the case of gay marriages, there is utter hypocrisy: The state, which does not permit single-sex marriages within its borders, nevertheless uses that legal procedure in order to measure the stability of gay relationships.

Since society views people who decide to marry as more serious about their relationship, people often marry not because they want to but because they feel they have to. But no ceremony, civil or religious, can determine the quality of the relationship or the future stability of a family. Only the partners themselves can do that. Instead of thinking up new, creative ways to marry people off, maybe we should be thinking about how to stop pressuring everyone to marry.

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