There obviously are a ton of benefits given to married couples over non-married ones. Most of these of course come from the government in the form of tax benefits, visitation rights ect. A lot of this strikes me as a form of authoritarian social engineering. It is by definition giving people with a certain government recognized status, advantages over pairing who choose to forgo it.
Of course, these sort of things are usually defended as needed to protect marriage. Marriage we are told is such an important corner stone of western civilization, that we should do all we can to promote it. It is an institution we are told, that has it’s own intrinsic value. To which I say great, what is this intrinsic value? What is the unique benefit of marriage that is independent of government granted privileges or societal expectations?
I usually find the answers to be unsatisfying. I am told marriage allows people to form long-term committed relationships, pool their resources, and work together in as loving partners. All this is well and good but it can also all be accomplished by people who are not married. Any of these things a married couple can do, so can a non-married one.
All this leads me to wonder what exactly the institution of marriage is that, we are told must defended. Does a marriage need to be recognized by a government, if so why? If not, then what distinguished people who are not married from people who are. If my girlfriend and I start referring to ourselves as married, would that make it so?
Of course, as an institution marriage has changed a lot. It was not that long ago, that women were essentially property of their husbands, marriages were prearranged by one’s parents and had little to do with love. Furthermore, it was also seen as perfectly legitimate for men to have multiple wives and little was made of it, if they had multiple partners on the side.
As such what is defined as marriage seems to be constantly changing, with the norms of the society, but at this point (if we ignore the state granted benefits) it seems it would be hardly distinguishable from any other pairing. Of course, people say that marriages are permanent and unique in that way. But this is nonsense. I have heard quite a few stories of week-long, just-for-fun marriages of celebrities, and I have known quite a few couples who are not married, but have been together as long and are as committed as most married couples are.
So I ask again what is the point of being married?