An except from Glenn Cambell’s Non-Fiction Book The Case against Marriage.
You are probably not going to listen to me, but I am going to give it a shot anyway. You have been considering marriage, and I am here to dissuade you. I’m not against love, mind you, or even against bonding for life if that’s the way things turn out. It is only the public contract I object to. Why does a private relationship need a public sanction? Why can’t you negotiate your relationship on your own, as it unfolds, just between the two of you, without the social or governmental license?
Instead of enhancing your relationship, marriage might screw it up permanently, replacing true attraction with a dull institution. At the least, it reduces your flexibility, making it harder to respond to inevitable changes in yourself and your partner.
There are plenty of married people out there, and I am not saying they should get unmarried. We all have to make the best of our current circumstances. I only want to address you, the naïve young dilettante, while there is still a chance to save you.
Let us think this thing through together, shall we? What does marriage really mean, and what are its practical effects? Is it really going to help your relationship or hurt it? What are the legal, social, economic and psychological ramifications of walking down the aisle? Why do people think they need marriage, and how are they deluded?
Gays and lesbians are often complaining because they cannot get married in many jurisdictions. I say they should count their blessings! It is like women fighting for the right to join the military and go to war. Before you make a big deal about it, you ought to think through the personal implications: “Do I really want to go to war?” Why should gays fight to join the same prison everyone else is trapped in?
Gay relationships, in fact, may be leading the way to an enlightened future that heterosexuals ought to embrace. Think about it: If gay couples cannot legally marry, what do they do? They piece together the elements of marriage á la carte, deliberately, as it suits their needs. If they want to share death benefits, they make up wills. If they want to share a bank account, they open one together. They don’t try to share everything all at once from this day forth, which, legally, is what marriage makes you do. Gays have to negotiate every act of sharing on a case-by-case basis, which is the essence of a healthy and dynamic relationship. In the absence of specific negotiated sharing, they remain free and independent individuals.
I know something about marriage from having been there once. I have also seen the tail end of the institution as an unofficial observer of Family Court in Las Vegas. Las Vegas, of course, is the marriage capital of the world, but you learn far more about the institution by studying divorces as they pass through court. There is a Yin and Yang between marriage and divorce. The first thing I learned in Family Court is that the nastiness of the divorce is proportional to the unreality of the original delusion. You can’t fall madly in love without expecting to fall just as madly out. Divorce proves that nothing is free in life, even if love seems to offer it.
When you go through a divorce, there is plenty of blame floating around, but in the end, you have to acknowledge that it was your own damn fault. You were the one who bought into this fantasy. Before you got married, you believed the fairytale nonsense—that marriage was really going to change your relationship for the better and make it more “secure.” Security cuts both ways: In trying to lock out the uncertainties of the world, you are locking yourself in a cage that reduces your freedom. Because you can no longer easily step away, you may have lost much of your ability to negotiate with your cellmate. Instead, you make accommodations and more accommodations and sweep problems under the carpet until—Kaboom!—things finally blow up.
The urge to merge with someone else can be huge, but there is a practical limit to how far you can go. If you get too close to anyone for too long, there are bound to be problems. It is like being handcuffed to the one you love: After the novelty wears off, it is going to be a pain to get anything done. The person you are trapped with is bound to fray on your nerves. Once you have already shared everything you can share, you hunger for new experiences as an independent being so you can maybe come back later and share again.
The healthiest base position is one of discrete individuality. We should each be self-contained entities with our own careers, assets, goals and relationships. We should come together with others only as it suits us, negotiating each engagement on its own merits. Over time, we might share more of ourselves, and this is fine, as long as it happens naturally. You never have to take any “Big Step” to make a relationship work. Instead, a lot of little steps could conceivably lead you to the same result. If you negotiate your boundaries slowly and incrementally, what you will probably have in the end is a more solid and stable relationship, because everything was carefully built stone by stone to suit your needs, not purchased as a prefabricated unit built for everyone else.
The institution of marriage replaces an independently constructed relationship with a single social contract that attempts to compact years of development into a two-word sentence: “I do.” It is a waving of the magic wand that is supposed to build everything all at once. It is like buying your diploma from a mail order company rather than actually going to college. You stand before all your family and friends and say, “This is all I am ever going to want for the rest of my life.” Do you think that by saying this you are really going to make it happen?
If it does happen—if you do remain attached to each other for life—how do you know it was really a free choice? Did you stay together because it was truly the best arrangement, or was it because you were imprisoned together and escape was too painful? If you are married, you are never really going to know.
In this book, we will explore marriage, relationships, sexual attraction, law, contracts, loneliness and fear. What are people afraid of when they get married? No institution can be all positive; there have to be demons under the surface, and we will try our best to dig them up.
Glenn Campbell, The Case Against Marriage
Glenn Campbell has worn many hats over the years, including programmer, photographer, philosopher, perpetual traveler and agnostic UFO researcher. In the 1990’s, he was an often-televised expert on “Area 51”, the secret military base in the Nevada desert. In the 2000’s, Glenn shifted his attention to family court in Las Vegas, where he has became the “Family Court Guy,” studying divorce, delinquency and child welfare cases as an outside observer.