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When marriage is viewed as a civil union...
Issues with civil unions
It is ironic that civil unions can have so little civility. There are many reasons for the lack of civility in such relationships. Civil relationships allow the couple to join together for legal purposes, yet the full nature of their relationship bond often remains to be worked out.
When your marriage is viewed as ‘merely’ a civil union, the strength of the bond is not strong enough to endure many of the challenges that occur in relationships.It amounts to a committed cohabitation. In the course of your marriage, both parties have to confront their own selfishness and work toward loving their spouse. Confronting and letting go of your own selfishness is often a difficult task. It amounts to learning how to say ‘no’ to yourself and your wishes. For some adults, this is made more difficult, since they now have the money to indulge in their fancies and they do not want to say ‘no’.
Another stressor for the civil unions is the whole idea that your union can be easily dissolved. Like ending a business relationship, your marriage can be terminated. When marriage is a civil union, it amounts to little more than a business partnership. Some partnerships are able to adjust and accommodate change. Other partnerships weaken as the nature of the relationship changes. In marriages, you will change. You may have health problems, there may be accidents or your interests may change and go into different directions. When a business can not adjust to changes, the relationship dissolves.
A secondary issue associated with the easy dissolution of civil relationships is the insecurity you experience. When a partnership is easily dissolved, your sense of security is up for grabs everyday. Although life does not promise you security, when your marriage is a civil union, you do not have even the promise of security. When the business conditions change, or economic conditions or health conditions, the relationship can end. Although you may have inserted many caveats into your civil union contract or have good intentions, they do not provide you with a solid sense of security.
When the nature of your marriage is civil, a government authority approved the contract, and that same contract can be ended just as easily. When your relationship can end in such an easy manner, an atmosphere is created that you have to create and generate good feelings about the marriage on a daily basis. Just because you or your spouse has a bad day or gets depressed could potentially end your marriage.
When the marriage is civil, there is also the sense that it is a business arrangement or contract. When you view marriage as a contract, the quality of being special is not there. Your marriage contract is just the latest contract that you signed. It technically has the same status as your car note, house note or other contractual obligation that you signed up for. Such an arrangement may work for you. It allows you the benefits of marriage without having to make serious life long commitments. If you are hesitant about making commitments, having a civil union may be the best option for you.
Since the nature of the bonding is more of a contractual obligation, you have little power to keep your spouse from straying. When they are window shopping, you can not stop them. You have no grounds to stop them from looking at others or preventing their affections from being drawn to others.
Stronger bonding is available when you want stronger commitments. The idea of a marriage covenant offers a greater sense of security than the civil union. When you bring God into your marriage, there is an added dimension. Part of that dimension is recognizing that you will have to answer to God as well as your spouse when you stray. Cheating on your vows now becomes a matter of lying to God and not just a matter of lying to your spouse. The strong bonding provided by covenantal marriage provides greater leverage to prevent straying and a stronger guilt component.
This is a major contrast with a civil union where straying is a matter of a business deal gone bad. Straying in a covenant marriage has more serious consequences. Along with more serious consequences, there is a greater sense of security with a covenant based relationship. Since it is no longer just a contractual obligation, but rather a life-long commitment, there is a different frame of reference you use in responding to the changes that occur in the marriage. You promise to love, honor and cherish, in sickness and health. Although you may have used those words in a civil union, it remains a contract. Being a contract, it is always subject to interpretation and revision.