Marriage in the modern world

Vox over at Alpha Game has something interesting to say on the subject of marital fidelity.

If a wife loses attraction to a husband and ceases to fulfill her marital duties, she has set him free to have sex with other women and he should behave accordingly.

… and followup …

Broken vows mean marital constraints no longer apply.

I have to disagree with the esteemed Mr Day on this issue.  I don’t disagree with every point he makes, but in this in particular, I do.  The issue at stake is, if you see marriage as a marriage contract, then he is correct and the violation of one party invokes the penalties and redress clauses of the contract.  In marriage, as most people understand it today, the only “contract” that most people see is all or nothing, take it or leave it.  So any breach of the “contract” places the whole of the contract into default and effectively ends it.

I argue instead that marriage, to the extent it is a contract, is severable in its parts.  Each part can be exercised or breached independently without invoking breach in the contract in its entirely.  Thus, an injured spouse may chose to forgive a breach.

Personally, I don’t see marriage that way at all.  And I recognize that I am the minority opinion on this so there is no point trying to convince me I am wrong.  I see marriage as a partnership, where both parties experience and accumulate the benefits, costs, and risks of the partnership each day.   Thus, a breach in one area of the partnership may not be severe enough to terminate the partnership.  The couple may continue to gain the benefits of the partnership in multiple areas of life even if there is no sex.

Marriage is not in any sense of the word a contract.  In a contract, the provisions of the contract are known and agreed to in advance and are enforced by a third party.  There is nothing like that in modern marriage.  In modern marriage, the terms of the contract are created on the fly by each party, by their families, by the courts, by legislatures and by other third parties, with retroactive binding effect.  In a contract, the courts enforce the provisions of the contract, not the provisions the court officers think are “best” in their own arbitrary or fashionable feelings that day.

Marriage is a covenant.  Each party takes an oath before God to perform certain actions and to enter into the partnership.  The oath is not to the other party.  Each party depends on the other party to hold to their oath as one who believes that God will judge them if there is a breach.  I know of no modern marriage where sex is an element of the oath.  There are certainly custom and long standing tradition to support the idea that marriage is a partnership that includes sex between the partners.  But there are lots of people, particularly elderly and handicapped people, who are not capable of having sex.  And those reasons are not considered as “legitimate causes for divorce.  The Biblical guidance for husbands and wives to give their bodies to each other are not absolute demands.  They carry no penalty for failure to perform.  Nor is there a third party to enforce that performance or to measure and judge the quality and quantity of performance.     Without each of those elements, that admonition is merely a helpful suggestion, not a command from God.

There is nothing noble about a husband suffering in dutiful acquiescence. That will only cause his frigid wife to further despise him. When you’re given carte blanche, play the damn card!

I understand Vox’s point here.  It is a sensible point of view from the perspective that women are genetically pre-disposed to look down on virtuous men.  But the opposite is true.  There is nobility in a man keeping his oath, despite hardship.  Despite the frigid wife despising him, the virtue is that the man is being true to his own nature, is honoring God, is living according to his code, even though it cost him the affection of his wife.  It would be foolish, counter-productive and weak to suffer in dutiful acquiescence if his only purpose in doing so was to please his wife, his family, or his church elders.  But doing to to please himself is a totally different matter.  It is imminently Alpha for a man to claim, “This is how I choose to live my life.  This is the man I choose to be. I can be no other.”

As Dr Laura once said, “sex isn’t the most important thing in life, unless you aren’t getting any”.  There is wisdom hidden in there if you look closely enough. Humans are not animals.  We don’t need to breed just because the biological clock ticks and tocks.  Fat and ugly people get to breed a LOT less often than everyone else.  The same for the elderly, both because of infirmity, lack of attractiveness, lack of attraction, and lack of desire.  Humans are much more than their sex drives.   Marriage is much more than a contractual obligation to engage in sex on a scheduled basis.   And the failure of a wife to provide sex is not itself justification or even a sufficient motivation for a man to seek elsewhere.  At most, it is a reason to amend other parts of the agreement.

From the comments…

Yet sex outside marriage still goes against the Christian life requirements.

That depends on what you define marriage as.  In our modern society, marriage can be anything you want it to be.  There are no rules.  Back in the Bibilcal days, marriage was a very different thing than it is today.  To compare one with the other is pointless.  To say that we are all bound by Bible rules of marriage, when that is clearly not the case, is not just pointless, it is schizophrenic.   In Bible days, you didn’t get a marriage license. You got two families to agree.  Then it was a done deal.  In some cases, you just went to the slave market and bought one for yourself. She had no say in it.  You could even capture a woman as a spoil of war and make her your wife.  Watch the Moslems.  They are particularly instructive about how things were thousands of years ago.

The same is true about divorce.  In the Bible, a divorce was final and permanent.  Not so today.  If you get a divorce in modern America, the husband normally is expected to continue to provide for his ex wife and children.  So, Biblically, that’s not a divorce at all.  In biblical ways, if he remarries, he is just “adding” a wife, not trading one for another.

Instead of “playing the card”, the virtuous man should simply recognize that the partnership is broken.  Playing the card, will not fix it.  It will likely just add more complexity to the breakage.  I am certainly not in the “Fireproof” camp.  I don’t believe in rewarding bad behavior.  A man in that position would carefully evaluate his options consistent with the demands of his own conscience and pick the best choice.  It is never all or nothing.



About No One

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This entry was posted in Islam, Philosophy, Religion, Theology, Women. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Marriage in the modern world

  1. Heresolong says:

    How odd that a post on Dalrock’s site doesn’t have one single response until now. I’ve never seen that before.

    Oh, wait, based on the post I just assumed …



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