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Against Marriage Hybrids
Way back when I was buying my first modem & router, I saw a modem/router combo. It was cheaper than two seperate things, took up less space, and was overall simpler. I asked why not buy that, and was given advice that, over the years, has rarely steered me wrong:
The trade-off of combined-function products is that they do both job shittily.
The TradFam marriages I spoke of in my last post are objectively awful for many people. Launching a startup is a massive project, and many people don’t have the resources and/or energy and/or entrepreneurship to do it.
However, many many people fall in love. Deeply in love. They want to formally announce their state of love, have their relationship acknowledged as stable and long-lasting, and not be treated as a second-class couple. They also should have all the rights that spouses are granted (medical, power of attorney, joint finances, tax benefits, and myriad others).
If they drift apart or discover a very late irreconcilable difference, they haven’t done much harm to anyone but themselves. They should have the freedom to dissolve the union without ostracization and the burden of shame and dishonor.
Marriage law in the USA (and much of the Western world) is a complete mess, because it tries to split the difference between a Lovers Marriage and a Startup Marriage. If a Lovers-style couple splits, current marriage law can be used as a weapon by either side to maul the other. In fact, that is the primary and nearly singular use of marriage law for childless couples. It is simply an implement of torture handed out to people without redeeming value.
But it’s also useless for people who want to launch a family. In the USA, courts will enforce child support regardless of marital status, making marriage superflous. Alimony from marriage can add more income on top of the child support, but both child support and alimony are an incredibly shitty stop-gap measure. The amount of funding the children will receive is a pittance compared to what they would get if the parents stayed together (not least of which is due to the extra expense of multiple homes). The amount of care and attention they would get is likewise drastically reduced. The startup has had both its VC and its Founder massively crippled, and yet it cannot be unwound — the kids are there for good.
The marriage contract doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism strong enough to disincentivize divorce. It can be used to harass, and it can act as a bandaid, but it is relatively toothless. Or at least, very weak-toothed. Most people who want to found a family don’t want reassurance that if the partner leaves they’ll get either A - a paltry stipend, or B - losing more than half the assets and losing a large majority of their access to their genetic/emotional assets. They want reassurance that their partner is as dedicated as they are and will not leave short of the direst of circumstances. One framework that offers this assurance is sinking enormous costs into the TradFam social model.
The Western marriage is overly draconian for a Lovers Marriage, but far too piddling to serve as a Founders Marriage. It’s a hybrid compromise that does both things shittily.
Ideally, two marriage options should be available.
A Lovers Marriage reifies a loving relationship and gives it communal acceptance. It grants a host of legal powers and permissions the parties have to each other, as legally-acknowledged life partners. It includes mutually-agreed-upon sexual restrictions (if any), social and personal obligations (if any), and financial mergers (if any).
It also includes a vow to not produce children. (What penalties/procedures to implement if this vow is broken is to be speculated upon in a future post) [Edit: A reader convinced this is a stupid idea. Kids happen, and sometimes it’s a normal outgrowth of what began as a Lovers relationship. Simply default to a the Lovers Marriage becoming a standard western marriage as we know them today upon the birth or adoption of a child]
A Founders Marriage can be entered into by any parties, and cannot be denied by the government as long as the proper paperwork is done.
A Founders Marriage is a significantly stronger binding. It requires the production or adoption of children within a set time period, with nullification of the marriage after that period passes if this isn’t done (with extensions possible). Sexual restrictions must include no production of children with any partner not included in this Marriage (with later additions possible, for poly households). Obligations must include dedication to raising children by at least one partner, and dedication to providing a certain level of funding by at least one different partner. Finances must be merged to some degree.
A Founders Marriage must be proposed, and can be rejected if it is unsound. A Founders Marriage can be sponsored by almost any individual or organization, with such sponsors putting their own reputation and assets on the line as collateral if the marriage fails. If a Founders Marriage fails, not only are there strong financial penalties, there are significant social and legal penalties as well. Failed Founders are placed on a publically available list. The broken marriage is added to their criminal record. Any sponsors lose collateral property, and have similar strikes placed on their public records. Discrimination due to breaking a prior Founders Marriage is permissible. Government employment, contracts, or benefits may be curtailed or suspended. There is no no-fault Founders Marriage dissolution, all such failures are investigated.
A new Founders Marriage cannot be entered into for at least five years. [Edit: a different reader convinced me this is ENTIRELY too punitive for a female in prime reproductive years. 12-18 months may be more appropriate. And as mentioned below, can be waived/reduced via rehab.]
Rehabilitation is possible. Routes to rehabilitation should be clear, and difficult. Even post rehabilitation, the broken marriage isn’t stricken from one’s permanent record, merely amended with a note of rehabilitation. However legal and social penalties are rescinded.
This is pure speculation on my part. And it doesn’t affect people who simply procreate without any marriage at all. Those would presumably still fall into the child-support safety net. However, for people who WANT a marriage, of either the Lovers or Founders varieties, it would finally actually meet some needs. Maybe enough that lovers living together wouldn’t find marriage so fraught, and that people wishing to found a family would actually have the legal support to do so, rather than relying on religions rife with bigotry and supernatural beliefs.