Thursday, 4 March 2010

Shackin' Up

You probably know this already, but it doesn't hurt to read it again, and it's that living together is not the same thing as marriage.

The American Centres for Disease Control have done a study of who gets to their 10th wedding anniversary, and people who lived together before marriage were at a slight disadvantage. And fewer than 30% of bidie-in relationships last 5 years. However, this is in part because 51% of bidie-ins make honest men and women of each other within three years. I suppose the rest simply break up and move on.

I was excited to see that 76% of marriages between people over 26 last ten years, although I am perturbed to see that the standard is now ten years, not, you know, twenty-five years, or "until death." And I was vastly amused to see that people who have babies "at least eight months after" their wedding stay together for ten years. Of all my Catholic friends, I know only one couple who had their first baby fewer than nine months after the wedding, and I'm not even hinting who that was. (When I was dumb enough to blurt, "What, already?", the beaming grandmother said, "We work fast in our family!")

Anyway, weddings and marriage and babies are a messy jury-rigged business, but at least they are real. What do not strike me as real are common law arrangements or living together, except among out-and-out communists. By communists I mean people who have deep-seated, tightly held, agonized ideological DOUBTS about matrimony as a legal institution. I recognize that this is not the correct use of the word communist. The biggest communist in Edinburgh has been married for at least 60 years. But you know who I mean. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins types, only now Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have broken up, which made me sad, actually.

My friend Fishie, who isn't married, once said, "If a man loves a woman, he marries her." I think this is sound, but I would stress the word "man" to show we are talking about a grown-up here. And I'd have to throw in "of certain traditional beliefs". If a man of certain traditional beliefs loves a woman, he marries her. (A boy might love but dither until it's too late.) At best, the man marries the beloved woman before she (or he) moves in. At least, he marries her eventually. But I feel a bit weird about that. The pressure to marry the girl you're living with must be intense, especially if your family really likes her and thinks it's time for you to have children. If you moved in with a girl just because it saved on rent and it's nice to share a bed, marriage is an entirely different ball of wax. Heaven help the woman whose boyfriend likes living with her, but harbours secret dreams of the Perfect Woman.

Fortunately, I know perfectly happy married people who lived together before they got married. Even years and years together cannot wreck the love between some bidie-ins. But for reasons obvious to devoutly religious folk, I still don't think it a good idea. And what I think a perfect destestable idea is settling for living with a man when really you are madly in love with him and want to marry him instead.

Of course, there are women who will settle for much less than this. It makes me very sad, what little women will settle for, and how much they will give to get it. I think it is much better to sleep alone and with dignity than to put up with anything from a man other than 100% fidelity and commitment. And this, of course, is what he promises in marriage.

Update: Here is a memory of bidie-ins that haunts me to this day. I was visiting an unmarried couple in England some years ago. A census-taker or someone like that came to the door and asked for my host. The woman of the house said she was his wife. And then came his voice from the sitting-room, "I'm not married to you, Paula!" It sounded again, slightly louder. "I'm not married to you, Paula!" Blah. It makes me shudder with embarrassment, imagining that ever happening to me.

Update 2: Have you considered joining the Seraphic Singles Fan Page? It was founded by two loyal Single readers. There may be discussions and things... And it will update any Seraphic Singles the Book events as they are arranged!

1 comment:

Dominic Mary said...

feel free to delete this rather than publish it; but - just as a piece of information - did you know that a 'common law marriage' was for a large part of the Church's history exactly what it said : a marriage, and valid in the eyes of the Church at that ?

Ancient Roman law determined that a man and a women living together 'with marital affection' ('affectu maritali') were, if legally capable of matrimony, ipso facto married : and that understanding was also the Church's view of things for a very long time indeed - indeed, for more than half of the Christian era to date.