If you take away all the tradition, the meaning, the history of marriage and weddings, what are you left with? Anything worth doing? Is there any reason to get married if you’re not into men controlling female sexuality?
I think there is a purpose to doing something similar to marriage (I’d prefer a different word, but I don’t know what to pick). I think sometimes – not always – people want to live in a joint way with someone else. Or multiple someone elses. If you have kids, you might want to both live with your kids, and you might want to share the expenses of the residence and the kid-raising, and you might want things like banks to understand that. If you’re in lurve you might want to feel that their family is your family and vice versa, and you might want to be invited to parties together, and it would be helpful for your friends and family to understand that. You might also want to easily be able to care for them and take over their responsibilities if necessary and share your benefits with them, and you’d need legal bodies to go along with that.
But you don’t necessarily need to live together, and you certainly don’t have to have kids together, and so on – you might object to or not need any of the things on this list or any of the things that marriage usually means that I didn’t cover.
So I think a marriage-like situation that was not constrained by tradition or based in flawed views of what people are or should be and that didn’t make anyone fit into anything they didn’t like just because the majority likes it would have to be viewed as a constellation of related but separable conditions*, any combination of which could be omitted. These conditions would come from separable and very different (although often coincident) goals, such as the goal to commit to a long-term relationship, the goal to be accepted by society as a couple, the goal to be accepted by the state as a couple, and others. Each couple (or group) would discuss their goals; having agreed on what those are (and aren’t), they would discuss which conditions they want to put into place to help them meet those goals. Lawyers may be helpful here, especially where being recognized by the state is a goal. A contract would be written up to implement the legal conditions (sadly the legal part is probably not as tailor-able as I think it should be); a ceremony and/or party and/or discussion would be held to implement the personal and/or societal conditions.
*I’m using the word condition as in “status” or “situation”, not as in “if you don’t do this, then…”.
So it would look like this:
Determine goals -> determine what conditions would fulfill those goals -> determine what actions are needed to create those conditions -> take those actions.
If it looks sort of like instructions on how to do a project for work, that’s not because it’s cold, but because it’s a very general outline for how to efficiently reach a desired outcome. The generality is good because it makes this applicable to all kinds of different people (as well as work, haha), and the efficiently reaching a desired outcome is good for doing things with a purpose instead of doing them because your parents did or whatever. Although it’s a lot less steps than what I enumerated in my post “Mawwiage”, it’s actually more substance, when you consider that the goals, conditions, and actions are already assumed for you in traditional marriage, and the decisions you make in planning that kind of wedding consist only of decisions on how to take the actions (which flowers, which stationery, which dress, which church, which something blue, which bridesmaids, etc). It also does not require any purchases, at least not necessarily, which gets you out of the wedding industrial complex. It de-conflates unrelated things, avoiding mindbenders like “God is a higher authority than the government, but you need the government, not just God, to get REALLY married.” And it replaces the patriarchal proposal with a mutual discussion of things that actually bear on the viability of a relationship.
Furthermore, it’s based on what you want, not what other people, or God, or the government, think you should do. When we frame a relationship plan this way, arguments from morality and religion lose all bearing. It doesn’t make any sense to say that you shouldn’t carry out this plan with someone of your sex, or with multiple people, or for less than the rest of your life, because “that’s not how it’s done” or “that’s not what marriage means” (what I said when I read about Massachusetts years ago) or “that’s not why marriage was invented” or “that does not fulfill the purpose of marriage” or “that makes a mockery of the institution of marriage” – because there’s no one institution we’re talking about anymore. If I do it my way and that conflicts with your way, you don’t have to be offended, because I never claimed that my way and your way are representative of the same thing. Of course, I don’t see any reason to get offended now, but that’s because I already think that marriage means different things to different people, whereas some people believe that anyone who does it differently is doing it wrong. Then they decide that only some versions of doing it wrong should be outlawed, but anyway. No one (in this country) tries to outlaw certain ways of dating, and this doesn’t even have to differ from dating. It can create a continuum from less committed to more committed, and on other scales as well. Without necessarily thinking about it that way, we all follow the bold text all the time, or at least approximate it. All I’m really doing is defining ‘structuring a relationship’ as a task that you could do like you do any other task – to your liking, for reality-based reasons, rather than “because that’s how it’s done.” If your goal is to follow tradition, okie doke, but at least make that decision for yourself.
But maybe people want relationships to be a litmus test for whether you toe their line or not. Maybe they want marriage to be their way or nothing, not personalizable beyond picking which color bridesmaids dresses you want. Maybe that’s our real problem.
If you want to be in a relationship and want to share, comment on what your goals are/would be and how you might go about reaching them.