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Do you think formal marriage has any advantages over mere cohabitation?

IMO it's just a piece of paper, daily life and issues of living in the same home with another person stay the same whether you are formally married or not. I've seen long-lived relationships which were never legalised, and people who married only to divorce after a few years.

So why do some people say that formal marriage is so important? The only reason I see is religion.
The most significant advantage marriage has over cohabitation is that it changes the telos of the relationship. It goes from two people living together because they are fond of one another to a (hopefully) life-long committed relationship with beautiful children, legacy, and growth. Religion does play a part for many people, but even atheists marry. Traditions stick because they are vestiges of what worked in the past.

This doesn't always work out of course. I'm not trying to make a black and white statement. Many people are not mature enough or ready for that level of commitment and some people simply don't have the personality for it.
 

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I was married and divorced twice. [...] Until the authorities can streamline divorce court procedures and make them more uniform and predictable, I would honestly counsel most adults to think twice before putting themselves in a legal position to possibly end up there.
I'm so sorry to hear this has been your experience. I can certainly understand why you're making this point. It seems like there should be more legalities put into place ahead of marriage so divorce is less contentious. I think the institution sort of needs a revamp... personally I think it would help to split religious/social ceremonies from legalities to help with that. Since you have been through it... do you have any thoughts on what could be a better system?
 

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I'm so sorry to hear this has been your experience. I can certainly understand why you're making this point. It seems like there should be more legalities put into place ahead of marriage so divorce is less contentious. I think the institution sort of needs a revamp... personally I think it would help to split religious/social ceremonies from legalities to help with that. Since you have been through it... do you have any thoughts on what could be a better system?
Not really--nothing concrete. I'm not an expert or an "activist" on the cause. I've escaped that quagmire, and I'm happy just to savor my freedom and never look back. I only jumped into this thread because it was right there, and my own experience tells me: You have to keep your eye on the legalities involved (and their cost) when getting into that arrangement.

At best, I only have the most general of suggestions. As I said in my previous post, there should be more uniformity and transparency in the divorce process. For example:

1) The laws for getting married are pretty much standardized throughout the US, but the laws for getting divorced are vastly dissimilar from state to state. The rules on divorce are set at the state level rather than the federal level, and they vary to the point that if someone from another state wants to divorce, I can't even begin to advise them as to what to expect or what the legalities are. For example, some states standardize rules for marital property splits and how much alimony the primary wage-earner must provide based on percentages of the wage-earner's income and number of years together. Whereas in other states it's more or less a shoot-out at the OK Corral--it's whatever you can get away with.

That kind of variability turns the divorce system into a giant black box. Most married people don't have the slightest clue what a divorce would entail in their state.

2) Also, greater uniformity and transparency would lend itself to a key realization: Marriage is a 3-party contract between you, your partner, and the government.

It's a contract covering one of the subjects that humans are the most fickle about: Relationships.
And yet we sign a contract with our partner and the government promising that our marriage will be exemplary for our entire lives. And if our partner gets bored and wants out, we give our partner the right to use the full weight of the government's guns and courts to wring out money and property from us, or even just to harass us with years of paperwork resulting in high-priced litigation.

And I won't even go into child custody disputes. I dodged that bullet (no kids). But I've heard that child custody cases are routinely ten times worse than divorce cases that don't involve kids.

This all hurts the primary wage-earner most of all, of either sex. (And it really is pretty much sex-blind in this day of working women, stay-at-home dads, and same-sex marriages.) But the primary wage-earner can use it against the other party as well. Either side can drag their feet on the main issues and delay the divorce forever while they drown the other party in ridiculous demands, accusations, and complaints. Eventually it turns into bankruptcy for everyone but the lawyers and the courts--they're the only ones really served by all this.

So again: People sign this rather horrendous legal document without a clue as to what the penalties will be when they screw it up. So I would be looking at more transparency in the marriage process. Maybe have a description of the state's divorce laws on the marriage application, so that people really have to consider what they're signing up for. :) Any other type of legal contract contains a description of the penalties in the event of default. A marriage contract should follow the same rules. It's just one more legal contract.

***************

Of course, this is all pie in the sky. Nothing is going to change. There isn't any particular pressure on lawmakers to do anything about it. There aren't any grassroots organizations lobbying for that particular cause. And it's not something I myself am going to worry about. I'm just happy to be free of that mess.

But you asked, so I responded. :) Having been through the meatgrinder a couple times, I would make a plea for more uniformity and transparency so that people really know the true extent of their legal and financial liability when they sign that piece of paper.
 

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Legal benefits, such as sharing health insurance and filing taxes jointly. That's about it imo. Divorce can put people in financial ruin, especially men, largely because they're usually the higher income earners and women tend to keep the kids and therefore the house.
 

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The concept of declaring ones eternal unity isn't silly. What's silly are the people who declare their unity eternal, then...
  • "I deserved more."
  • "The grass looked greener on the other side."
  • "They held me back."
  • "It was boring."
  • "Our approach on money was too different."
  • "We tried."
 

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The concept of declaring ones eternal unity isn't silly. What's silly are the people who declare their unity eternal, then...
  • "I deserved more."
  • "The grass looked greener on the other side."
  • "They held me back."
  • "It was boring."
  • "Our approach on money was too different."
  • "We tried."
While this is most certainly true, I was with the same woman for almost 20 years (and married to her for 15+). She began to lose faith in the marriage before I did, but we did drift apart. We stopped doing the things that made it a marriage. It did not happen all at once, it was so small and gradual, like a few grains of sand falling here and there. It has been 5 years now, and I'm still missing her, but she is no longer the woman I loved. She has moved on and is with someone else. It seems like she found whatever she was looking for. I wish her all the happiness in the world, but what about me? How do I move on? I'm still trying to figure that part out.
 

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While this is most certainly true, I was with the same woman for almost 20 years (and married to her for 15+). She began to lose faith in the marriage before I did, but we did drift apart. We stopped doing the things that made it a marriage. It did not happen all at once, it was so small and gradual, like a few grains of sand falling here and there. It has been 5 years now, and I'm still missing her, but she is no longer the woman I loved. She has moved on and is with someone else. It seems like she found whatever she was looking for. I wish her all the happiness in the world, but what about me? How do I move on? I'm still trying to figure that part out.
You've been married for longer than I have been sexually active, so my advice would be like sprinkling dingleberries over a glass of vintage port.
 

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I don't know, since I've never been married. But marriage signifies the birth of the family, and is truly meant for the children, not the partners. I think most people have lost sight of that initial goal, and that's why there are a lot more divorces. If you change the context to marriage from my happiness, to my family's happiness, you might find that a lot more people are willing to work out their problems.
Not saying that divorce shouldn't exist, but I think many people who are thinking about getting married, should truly think about why they are getting married in the first place.
 

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It's a commitment of a lifetime I've been trying to keep no matter how hard it gets whereas cohabitation I can simply say good bye and walk away.

All the divorce hurdles aside, in marriage I made an oath to myself and my SO so I have to keep my promise and stick to my choice even if I regret it later there is value in honoring and upholding promises through ups and downs. It makes me more disciplined and focused I guess even though it is indeed a pretty pointless exercise by itself if you come to think of it.

Being an SP I don't see much value in the family ideals, social ties or the "we" thing but I see it as a honorable thing to do for the most part so to honor the sacrifices she made over the years and her willingness to spend the rest of her life with me (at least for now). It's right to say marriage is no different than taking a crapshoot but I think that's exactly why marriage exists to improve our chances.
 

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When my fiance was on his deathbed, his daughter made me leave because I wasn't "family." His relatives inherited our home, and I was homeless overnight. I was told not to come to the funeral because it would be "awkward" (his ex-wife would be there). There was more, but you get the idea.

This experience really brought home to me the difference between being married and not being married. As a wife, I would have had rights; in fact, I would be the one making the decisions.

People who avoid marriage because of legal implications might not realize that, legally, someone is their next of kin. It could be a parent you don't get along with, a sibling who knows little about your present circumstances, or an immature adult child. Would you rather trust one of them, or the person you live with and who cares about you?
 
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