It probably will not surprise anyone to learn that I’m not a fan of marriage. I believe I’ve said in the past that ill never be married. This statement has been cynically interpreted by some to mean no woman will ever have me, and unflattering to me as that may be, if it’s true, I’ll still be content with the outcome.
In 1970, MS Magazine publisher Robin Morgan wrote about herself and her feminist colleagues, saying: “We can’t destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage.” I don’t know that marriage has been destroyed since then, but it’s certainly been transformed.
Formerly a social and legal institution affording benefits and protections to men and women, It is increasing regarded by men as a bad risk. Certainly, cooperative and mutually fulfilling marriages still exist, but within marriage and in a marriage’s dissolution, an increasing preponderance of legal and social power belongs to women. That power is subtracted from men in a zero sum game.
This is not movement towards equality of legal rights between men and women, but a movement to an increasing imbalance of rights. Men can see this, as can some women willing to view the world without the ideological lens of radical feminism.
I will not bother to point out divorce statistics, or mention other than in passing that women are the principal beneficiaries of court ordered divorce settlements, as well as the major initiators of divorce. Those arguments have all been made before. I will suggest to individuals that whatever religious or spiritual belief you might have, that you consider marriage as a business contract. Whether a marriage is instantiated through civil or religious ceremony, a contract is what it is. I do not pretend here that a marriage’s validity depends on it being between a man and a woman, or pretend that same sex unions are invalid, but I’ll be focusing on male/female marriages for this discussion.
So, in a male-female marriage, as well as in same sex marriages, what is actually going on is that two people enter a business relationship based on sharing of resources including accommodation, income and responsibilities, and physical and emotional intimacy. One of the problems with this is that the particulars of this shared income and responsibility aren’t detailed or formalized as they would be in any other business partnership.
The financial and personal responsibilities within a marriage are mostly assumed based on historical or traditional roles, combined with whatever modern sensibilities a married couple prefer.
Did you spot the logical fallacy in the previous statement?
A couple cannot prefer anything, only the individuals within a couple can be said to have opinions. A collective is not a person. So already we’re talking about two separate people, who, unless they’re extraordinarily fastidious about documenting their expectations, are almost certainly not in total agreement, whether they realize it or not.
Normal business contracts detail rights and responsibilities of participating individuals, as mentioned, but they also include provisions for the termination of a contract. Sometimes after the contracted agreement has been fully satisfied; sometimes after a period of time. “Till death do us part,” is the popular language describing the term of a marriage, but this is fanciful. Fully half of marriages end in divorce, often in acrimonious circumstance. Issues of adultery, finance, child rearing, employment, psychological or physical violence and even personality conflict can precipitate a break up.
These are all equivalent to the breach of a contract in normal contract law, and contracts normally include penalty clauses for such eventualities. The defaulting party in a normal contract might forfeit shares, assets, employment, or rights obtained through the contract.
Family law as presently constituted doesn’t follow this logic. A legal construct commonly known as no fault divorce allows for the contract of marriage to be dissolved by petition of one party, with no evidentiary inquiry or assessment of default. Addressing this in the terms of a normal contract, this means that if one party to a marriage defaults, by committing adultery, engaging in abusive behaviour, abusing the fiscal assets of the marriage, there is no contractual penalty as there would be in a normal contract. The misbehaving partner has nothing to loose by breaking the assumed terms of the contract. The courts will not consider any actions by a defaulting partner, in the disposition and settlement of familial assets.
Looked at from a purely mercenary view, all advantage lies with the partner breaking the terms of the marriage, whether it’s by sleeping around, defrauding the marriage of assets, abusing the other partner or the children or anything else.
If we consider the tendency of women toward hypergamy  it’s understandable that of the 50% of marriages ending in divorce, most of these no fault contractual dissolutions are dissolved by the petition of the female partners.
According to a study published in the American Law and Economics Review,  women currently file slightly more than two-thirds of divorce cases in the United States. In the same study indicated that after the introduction of no fault divorce, among college educated couples, women initiated roughly 90% of divorces.
If a man’s financial status, or his income exceeds that of his wife, then she is actually motivated to dissolve the marriage, with or without adding insult to injury by abusing him, sleeping with other men, or other general jackassery on her part. Equal distribution of assets favors the least contributing party. Except when it doesn’t such as when the woman’s financial input exceeds her husband’s. There are cases where court ordered distribution of a dissolving marriage’s assets works in the favor of the man, but lets be honest – this is not usual. Marriage as it exists presently is a contract of advantage in only one direction. As long as the construct of no fault divorce persists in western law, men are now rejecting it, and should increasingly continue to reject it as an institution.
And this society we’re living in, it’s a patriarchy, right?
1 The Garbage Generation Chapter IX Hypergamy: http://www.fisheaters.com/gb9.html
2 Brinig, Margaret; Douglas W. Allen (2000). “These Boots Are Made for Walking: Why Most Divorce Filers are Women”. American Law and Economics Review 2 (1): 126–129.