Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Marriage Dilemma

     Why do homosexuals want to be able to get married to another person of the same sex -- but older heterosexual couples seem more comfortable living together and not getting married at all?

      I'm no expert, so I can only guess why homosexuals want the opportunity for same-sex marriage. For one thing, I suppose it legitimizes their sexual orientation -- that marriage between two gay people makes those people feel "just as good" as two heterosexual people. And maybe there is also a monogamous impulse among gays, just as there is among heterosexuals -- although at least in males, the monogamous gene is counterbalanced by the well-documented urge to have sex with many different partners, especially if those partners are pretty and younger than you.

     However, the monogamous impulse in heterosexual males is supported by the monogamous impulse in females, which is probably stronger, and females influence the males. But I'd think gay males at least, absent the female influence, would feel less of a pull toward monogamy, making them less interested in getting married.

     Anyway, most people naturally (biologically?) feel that they want to have children. In my day, gays typically got married to a person of the opposite sex; produced children, and then "came out" as gay after they'd been married for a while, in their 40s or even 50s. But today, people recognize their sexual proclivity earlier in life. So gays are not as likely to go through that heterosexual stage. If they want children, therefore, they would adopt them rather than create them, either by themselves or with a partner. And in all ways it's easier to adopt a child with a partner than by yourself.

     Finally, there are the economic factors. A lot of gay people want to get married for the health benefits they can enjoy through a covered partner. Plus the life insurance, the social Security benefits, and whatever other economic benefits accrue with marriage.

     So, yeah, I can see how gays would at least want the opportunity to get married. Not the obligation, but the opportunity.

     But why does it work the other way with older heterosexual partners? Why do they not want to get married?

     One reason may be children from a previous marriage. A new marriage might upset the delicate family balance among the children, and in some ways it might be more delicate with older children than with younger ones.

     Some people might simply be gun shy. They were married once or twice, and it didn't work out, so they're reluctant to try again. If you're a widow or widower, there might be feelings of fealty toward the dead spouse. Might some people think it's a betrayal to get married again? I don't know. I've never studied it, and I myself have only been divorced, never widowed.

     Finally, there are the economic factors. Seniors are more likely to lose economic benefits rather than gain them, when they get married. They may lose a life insurance benefit from a diseased spouse; they may lose Social Security benefits.

     In my case, my ex-wife has told me more than once that she will never get married again. I don't think that's because she still has any love left for me, or that her experience with marriage was so terrible she would never think of subjecting herself to that again. I think it's because the Social Security benefits she gets from me are higher than those she'd qualify for on her own.

     There are other financial issues as well. A wealthy person may be reluctant to marry a poorer person -- and I think that situation is more likely to occur later in life. Or, merging two incomes of older, established people might push them into a higher tax bracket. And, obviously, if both people are on Medicare, there are no medical benefits to be gained by getting married.

     I haven't reached any conclusions here about the advisability of marriage, for either gay couples or older couples. But it does seem like a strange situation, doesn't it? I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud. So go ahead, tell me why I'm wrong. I usually am.



Janette said...

I totally agree. I think it is interesting to see the younger generation completely repel marriage, except the gays.

One problem a lesbian friend of mine found- her partner stayed married to a heterosexual to keep the benefits ( retired military). The husband does not seem to have a problem with it. She appears at social occsions. He drops by for dinner. They were "friends". He has no interest in remarriage and their kids are satisfied. Since my friend could not marry, no big deal. Now that they can marry., very big deal.
Do you think all marriages will have the 50% rate for divorce? Do you think opposite sex partners will insist on full benefits with the military by simply stating they are a couple?

#1Nana said...

"those people"...really? "those people?"

I don't think sexual orientation requires marriage to be "legitimized." People have an orientation and it is what it is.

Perhaps a wiser course is to state your own opinion or belief rather than imagining what others might be thinking. Regardless of sexual orientation, some people don't want to get married and others do. I believe that it is a personal decision best left to the people involved.

Okay, rant over. Carry on.

Douglas said...

My proposal concerning gay marriage is simple:
Pass laws in each state (until a federal law supersedes) that all existing marriages will be viewed as "domestic partnerships" or (my preference) "civil unions" without loss of benefits and protections and that all future unions will be treated as "marriages" under the law.

You see, I see marriage as a religious status, not a secular one. And the government has no business interfering with it. the state's concern is, or should be, with the fair distribution of common property if and when the partnership dissolves (divorce), it should also be concerned with the treatment of any children from the partnership. Under my proposal, all any couple need do is apply for a civil union license to be recognized under the law. Laws concerning age of consent, for example, and other social concerns would still hold sway.

Joanne Noragon said...

You're comparing apples to oranges, and maligning one, to boot. It is what it is; no reasons required.

Olga said...

I am currently reading The Sealed Letter by Emma Donohue, set in 1864 England. Here's a quote about the importance of marriage:

"By yoking one woman to one man,it imparts strength to the weaker, softness and moral beauty of the stronger. The blessed companionship of two complimentary natures, whose most potent bond lies in the fact of their difference, enlarges the social sympathies and quickens the spritiual instincts of both."

I hope that view has changed, and I believe that the concept of marriage has to evolve with a recognition that society has changed as well.

have to say, I don't get the Douglas solution, but I do agree there maybe should be a separation between church and state on this.

Retired Syd said...

I'm not sure there is any difference between heterosexual and homosexual couples in the reluctance among older couples to get married. (Although, I haven't really seen any statistics showing this reluctance--is there some?)

I have often said, if I became widowed or divorced I doubt very much I'd ever get married again. I'm just not sure I see the point, I mean unless he really loves cooking and cleaning. Then I see the point.

Tom Sightings said...

Syd, truthfully, I don't have any statistics on the matter; I'm just going by my own observations (but nobody so far has said I'm wrong on that score). The church-and-state issue is an interesting question I hadn't really thought about. But to me the "it is what it is" attitude just sidesteps trying to understand human nature and while I really, truly am not trying to malign anyone I do keep trying to figure out human nature (even if it is kind of a pointless pursuit). Do I have my own opinion? Only that as an older person I might want to get married someday, but don't want to lose income or benefits to do it.

Douglas said...

Olga, my proposal aims to equalize treatment under the law regardless of sexual preference. It allows the state to extend benefits and protections to same sex couples that exist today only for opposite sex couples. It leaves marriage to the church. It does not deny anyone the right to marry, which I thought was one of the points. And allows all the privileges and rights a spouse enjoys to to any legally registered partner that,currently, must be done through various legal documents (power of attorney, medical permissions, and so on).
Tom, I think you did a good job on the post.

Linda Myers said...

Freedom to choose how to live with the person you love. Good idea.

Stephen Hayes said...

Marriage is a religious sacrament and the Government (State and Federal) has no business being involved with this. The Government should only deal with civil unions and folks joined this way should all have the same rights. Personally, I do not feel threatened in any way if gays want to marry.

Janette said...

I would n't mind if my marriage became termed a civil union by the state. Isn't the the term marriage an imposition of church on state? People being forced to get a Rev license on line so they can officiate at a friend's wedding?
I agree, nice article for thinking.

Dick Klade said...

I think Douglas and Stephen have got it, but words are getting in the way.

The government should recognize civil unions between any two people who want one and extend all benefits previously reserved for those who are "married."

If people want a religious marriage with its attendant vows in addition to their civil union, they should be free to do so, whether they are LGBT or straight.

That's what I think would be fair to all.

Anonymous said...

I see no reason two people of the same sex cannot be married..Most people who lose spouses after say 40 to 50 years of marriage rarely marry, why??? now living together after such a longtime married fulfills the need for a companion and one can make out all kinds of legal papers in case the children get all uptight about the arrangement when the sweetheart passes from this earth..I have friends who have lost their spouses after many years of marriage they are fine with a life alone or being with another without the marriage paper. My brother in law was married to a mentally ill woman, lost his 3 kids, lived with a woman who had MD and never could marry due to her benefits from everything when she passed from this earth he was devastated, but he is not the marriage type and only wants a companion, he doesn't do marriage well at each their own I say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tom Sightings said...

Dick, Douglas, Stephen -- Your proposal (get it?) is intriguing, but I'm not quite sure I'm buying it. So marriage would be strictly a religious issue, with no legal standing? And civil unions would work ... how, and for what purpose? Maybe you could do a post of your own to explain.

Douglas said...

Tom, I did post one about this:
Civil Unions vs Marriages