Free choice—free choice of Social Constraint?

 After reading the casebooks on “Marriage: What Is Its Future?” it inspired me to have my essay written on marriage. There are many different opinions about marriage necessity and in this essay I want to explain my point of view and show my attitude to this question. According to the title of this work we can see that the purpose of this essay is to understand is marriage a free choice for people or it is free choice of social constraint. I want to begin this research paper from my own story that will help you to plunge into situation and understand my position. I have been with my significant other Daniel for approximately 10 years without being legally married. Together, we have a house and two wonderful boys; Ruben, 6 years of age and Elijah who is 4 years old. There are many reasons why I didn't get married and choose not to. I have been with Daniel since I was 19 years of age; one of the reasons for me has been, I have been scared and afraid of commitment at such a young age.  Some people might ask me “why after so long haven't you got married yet?” I say, I am now so comfortable not being married. And it was a true answer, because it is really comfortable to live with beloved person without officially marriage. I hear so many stories on people who were together and get married and end up getting a divorce after so many years. I strongly believe, as long as all people on earth are split into men and women, they live together, forming families, many couples are not officially married but have been together for 7 years plus the common law should be applied. Many couples do not get married for various reasons as well as many couples for various reasons, take the decision to get married.

Let’s look at marriage reasons more attentively and find the most popular of them. We know that decision to get married has many visible and invisible reasons. In many cases people afraid to show true reasons of their decision to get married and vice versa. I think it will be interesting to research these reasons and become closer to the answer on the main question of our essay. There are many reasons why couples nowadays don’t get married. I believe, the most common example of a family is a union consisting of a man, a woman and children.

Marriage traditions also have a rather long and rich history; however, today not all couples decide to register their family relations officially and just live together, not being married officially. Some are afraid, like I was that marriage would inevitably lead to divorce, others are simply not interested in ceremonial formality and paper confirmations of their relations, the third I say would be people develop bad associations with marriage and so on. The result of such cohabitation is, however, not always positive, as such couples do not have the same rights as people, who are officially married. In addition to this discussion it will be necessary to say that “cohabitation offers some of the advantages or functions of marriage in terms of economies of scale, companionship and sexual relations. Sotirios Sarantakos emphasises that, while structural and ideological conditions have created the environment conducive to establishing cohabitation as an alternative to marriage and justifying this, still: The reasons for living together unmarried”¦ can be reduced to one major reason, factor, or cause: namely convenience. Legal, economic, social, personal, or sexual convenience is the driving forces which lead to cohabitation. Marriage is avoided because in this lifestyle convenience is coupled with legal responsibility and commitment, which cohabitants want to avoid at all costs” (Morgan, 2000).

  In this paragraph it is necessary to answer on a simple question: What is Marriage? There are many definitions of the term marriage and in different sources we can find various explanations. I want to present you the next definition of marriage: “The social institution under which a man and women establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc. the state, condition, or relationship of being married.” ( There are various reasons, due to which people take the decision to get married. Usually, these are social, legal, religious, economical and so on. Sometimes marriages are arranged by the parents of the couple, although nowadays such cases are not often.  Marriage traditions as well as laws, related to marriage are different in different countries and cultures. Any official marriage can be recognized by state and church, in the first case- legally, in the second- spiritually, in some countries the second is not possible without the first.
Based on all the above said, we could come to the conclusion, that marriage is economic contract, legally supported and prescribing some limitations and rights to the people, who enter it. In reality, marriage should not be an institution this is rather union of two persons, who want to live together, have common house, household, finance, children, sharing most of the life problems and joys and so on. If we consider merely this description of marriage, we can conclude, that there is not much difference, if people got married officially, or chose just to live together. We are to answer a rather simple question here. Researching the main reasons to get married we found other question that is important to answer in relate to our topic. We know that there are some differences between official and non official marriage and that's why the next question will be: What is the difference between official and non official marriage? The first difference is concluded in fact that official marriage is registered on paper and the surname of a woman is changed and nothing more. As soon as people start to live together, work together at creating their household, give birth to children, they have mutual responsibilities and problems. A man fulfills all the duties of a married man and a woman, all duties of a married woman. Then it is not quite clear, why these people can not enjoy the rights of officially married couple. If two persons were able to create a family, take care of a household, raise their children, then what changes when they sign official marriage documents? Probably not much, apart of economical, taxation issues.
 There was a moment in history of marriage legalization, when it seemed, that laws could be changed. This was exactly when the government addressed the Law Commission, asking to investigate the issues of cohabiting couples rights, if such couples should get the same rights as the officially married ones, like for example property rights after the relations end, or in case of death of one of the partners. The result of it was the decision of the Law Commission in 2007, which concluded, that laws should be changed, but still not giving the same rights as to married couples. “They suggested changing the law to give courts more powers to make things fairer by redistributing shares in the home, savings, pensions, and debts etc when a couple splits up if: they have been together for a minimum period of time, or had children together, and where one had made a significant contribution to the relationship that left them out of pocket” ( Finally, even such changes were not accepted by the government, as it was declared in 2008, that it would be better to wait for the outcomes of the similar changes, which were accepted in Scotland.
A wish to get married has a long history and nowadays we more often think about this because we see many problems in relations inside families and we are looking for the right solutions. Most issues, having to do with human relations are not an exception. There are a lot of definitions of the notion marriage as we mentioned in previous paragraphs and one of the most inclusive ones is the definition of Confucius: “Marriage is a union (of the representatives) of two different surnames, in friendship and in love, in order to continue the posterity of the former sages, and to furnish those who shall preside at the sacrifices to heaven and earth, at those in the ancestral temple, and at those at the altars to the spirits of the land and grain” (Soons & Kalmijn, 2009).  This definition precisely describes what should be considering a marriage. At the same time it is evident, that there is not a single word said about legal or official side of this matter. Along with development of the society various legacies and laws were worked out, logically for solving disputes and providing order among members of the given society. There are various reasons, due to which people take the decision to get married. Usually, these are social, legal, religious, economical and so on. Sometimes marriages are arranged by the parents of the couple, although nowadays such cases are not often.
 Treating the issue from the opposite position, we could consider the example, when a man and a woman get officially married only due to economical or immigration or some other reasons, not related to the wish to live together and create a family. Such relations are considered to be marriage, because there is a paper confirming this fact, but they have much less to do with a marriage in its initial meaning, than simply cohabitation or common law marriage.

Official registration of marriages has a rather long history, however, it was actually aimed at blind and implicit obedience to church and government. Nowadays, when so much attention is paid to personal freedom of any individual, there is probably the need to reconsider marriage laws as well. There are many questions asked about children in no official marriage and I have read a brilliant answer “You said born outside marriage”¦ What’s that got to do with anything? There are no statistics whatsoever that suggest marriage””that piece of paper””makes any difference at all. What matters are relationships?” (Thomson & Colella, 1992). Thus, people should not be restricted only to obtaining the marriage license from the state in order to enjoy the rights of a married couple. Certain factors, as for example the length of the period of cohabitation, the presence of children and general possessions and property, should be taken as the basis for identification of provision of certain rights to people, instead of official paper only. Then it is up to a concrete couple to decide, whether they want to sign a contract, to have the wedding ceremony, to get married in church or simply to move to a common house and live as a family. This choice in this case won’t be influenced by any outside reasons and would purely depend upon their wish.

Overall, I would like to conclude here, that ten years cohabitation of a man and a woman, having common children and household should be seen as a sufficient ground for considering them to be a husband and a wife, even without official license and they should have the same rights as officially married couples do. I think that in our society the wish to get married is not a free choice in many cases. Young people are afraid of social blame and that's why they decide to officially register their family relations, but it is not a right position because when people register their relations it should be their free choice and sincere wish to be together and not a result of social constraint. I'm not proclaim that such couples should life in non-official relations but I want people who decide to have a family without marriage to have the same rights and be confident in their future. Freedom of choice in decisions to get married or not is itself a positive, social accomplishment that will have a brilliant future if the marriage laws will be reconsider and people will be really free in their choice.



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