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When marriage is viewed as a civil union...

Updated on October 26, 2012
Even in marriages, you often get what you pay for. If you want greater security, you may have to make greater commitments.
Even in marriages, you often get what you pay for. If you want greater security, you may have to make greater commitments.

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.

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  • Admiral Murrah profile image
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    Admiral Murrah 5 years ago from Texas

    Having grown up in a divorced family, and working for over twenty years with couples going through marriage problems, I have developed some strong biases regarding marriage and the types of marriage relationships that work best. I may be missing a great part of relationships since I view the contract as not having the 'bonding' power of covenant relationships. You can choose to 'honor' one another with a civil union, in which case, it will last as long as both spouses continue choosing to honor each other and the relationship.

    Given the nature of the question which the hub was in response to, the differences between the civil union and other forms of marriage were addressed, more than the similarities. There are many similarities as well, yet I saw that as not relevant to the question I was addressing.

    I have not seen the statistics to know if the civil marriages last longer than church marriages. I do know that it is easier to get out of a contract than a covenant. The stronger the bonding element, the more secure the relationship is. There are strains and stresses that come along with marriage. The stronger the glue that holds the couple together, the greater the likelihood the relationship will survive the stresses that come along.

    In terms of my skepticism regarding 'children reared in a loving home', I did not address the civil union issue from that angle. I was instead looking at the stability and security concerns based on the strength of commitment and type of marriage relationship structure. I limited my scope to the comparison of structures.

  • MobyWho profile image

    MobyWho 5 years ago from Burlington VT

    Boy, if that's all you think of contracts, you are sadly missing a great part of interpersonal relationship. What happened to 'honor'? You seem to imply that a civil union is less honor-bound than a church marriage...any church. Why are you so skeptical when many civil unions last far longer than an equal number of church ones, and any resulting children are reared in a loving home, held together by mutual respect instead of vows which are frequently broken?