My treatise on marriage is in the making. In the meantime, here are further responses.
Ms. Tuan: Legality makes a relationship harder to break up which is hardly an issue for happy relationships. Whereas for an unhappy one, is there really value in keeping it going?
Mr. Stolyarov: Alas, if it only were so. Consider the following case: two individuals are in a generally happy relationship, but without legal safeguards. Though they are greatly compatible in terms of value-premises, they enter a fight over a trifle (say, over whose turn it is to pick the kids up from school). Then, to make up for the confrontation, the male invites the female over for a date at a fancy restaurant, immediately after work. The male prepares extensively for the event, but, due to the sordid weather and the rush hour, gets held back in traffic. The woman, in the meantime, arrives at the restaurant and waits for a futile hour, not knowing her “non-husband’s” situation. She returns home filled with spite, thinking, from the precedent of the previous fight, that her non-legally bound companion has deliberately staged his non-appearance. She leaves immediately and takes half of her “non-husband’s” property. She has no reason, so she thinks, to stay, even though she has fallen victim to a misunderstanding that could have been clarified had the couple had the guarantee of possessing the time to sort it out, time that a marriage would allow precisely by means of the inherent difficulty in severing the relationship.
Even the best relationships have their unhappy moments, as even the case of Ayn Rand and Frank O’Connor demonstrated. Nevertheless, the standard of perfection is not one that many human beings ever manage to actualize. Some bitterness will result between the most compatible of people, and the question becomes, “How can it be prevented?” Prudent individuals who can foresee this for themselves, but still observe significant compatibility between each other can quite voluntarily enter into a marriage agreement in order to provide a mechanism that will cause the relationship to prevail, even if arguments over trifles exist. No government should have the option or the right to deny these individuals the opportunity to enter into such a contract, but should rather dutifully enforce the will of these persons to perpetuate their bond through acceptable degrees of turbulence.
Ms. Tuan: It's only those who no longer value their relationships find it necessary to constantly remind themselves of how they should behave, because they don't naturally want to.
Mr. Stolyarov: I emfasize once again: people’s memories are not perfect! There may be the fullest intent on the part of both individuals to preserve the relationship’s integrity, but they may at times forget the proper means toward such an end. Thus, it is entirely possible for either party to commit an honest mistake once in a while. So long as the mistake is not deliberate (like adultery) or devastating in caliber, referring to the marriage contract and any other contracts pertaining to the relationship could assist the erring party in correcting it and returning its behavior onto the proper path.
Ms. Tuan: People grow and change with time in different ways, even when exposed to the same environment. Most people get married because they think they are compatible and have every intention of having a great life together. But what holds in the future is by definition unforeseeable. Once a couple no longer finds joy in each other's presence, it is only beneficial for both parties to break the chains and set themselves free.
Mr. Stolyarov: This almost seems to be a statement that the breakup of any relationship, even the best, is inevitable. Not so. In any culture that has embraced marriage, most relationships have lasted successfully for life, even under the worst of circumstances, like a totalitarian dictatorship. As an example of this, I bring forth observations of my own childhood in a crumbling Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union cannot be put forth as a model for just about anything, but one of its hallmarks (and the reason for its survival for 74 years) was a class of bourgeoisie intellectuals forced into service to the government and the Communist Party (and treated despicably, I must add). These were the best of Russians, tremendously educated, well-intentioned, and, in a land of proletarianism, refined and “culturally conservative.” I grew up surrounded by adults of this order, and one of its hallmarks was an extremely stable family structure. Though divorce was accessible, almost everyone was married only once and stayed married for a lifetime! There were occasional feuds and disagreements, but the very permanence of the relationships seemed to deflect them so that, on the next day, matters would proceed as usual, as if no interference had occurred. As a matter of fact, until my teens, I had thought of this as the sole possible arrangement, only then having been exposed to the post-hippie-era epidemic of careless relationships and divorces that had been seeping into the former Soviet Union from the West. Until very recently, I used to pay occasional visits to Minsk, my home city, and have heard disturbing stories about youths engaging in relationships outside of marriage that are replete with rape, teen pregnancy, abandonment, alcoholism, and hosts of other irresponsibilities. The one-time cultural elite has mostly emigrated, and a new line of dictators has emerged which keeps the masses appeased by tacitly sanctioning easy beer, easy fysical intercourse (the former USSR has the highest AIDS rate in Europe), and, of course, by bludgeoning Neo-Communist, Slavic Chauvinist doctrines into teens in the schools. Having fewer stable family structures to act as a counterweight against state indoctrination (as the divorce rates have soared, since relationships among the new generations are not intended to be permanent; they are a mere hedonistic indulgence), the new generation has continued to elect dictators like Lukashenko (Belarus), Kuchma (Ukraine), and Putin (Russia) into office.
Is it any wonder that leftists of all colors are seeking to abolish marriage?
G. Stolyarov II