Monday, March 23, 2015

In Defence Of "Marriage Of Convenience"

I'm probably going to shock you all with my suggestion that we should give the marriage of convenience a chance. Marriage of convenience has acquired an extremely bad reputation throughout the ages, especially with the Romantic movement rising into prominence. Women marrying out of convenience have been universally stigmatised as gold-diggers and worse. The only true marriage we are told, is one based on romantic love, pure and undefiled. Is it really so?

What is the greatest problem with marriage in our modern society? I believe it's the high divorce rate. Yet even in the 19th century divorce was still considered outrageous by the society and in many cases prohibited, or at least, severely restricted, yet nowadays we have no-fault divorce and most people find it perfectly normal. How did we come to this?

Well, it all started with changing the meaning of marriage. Since people in the West came to believe that the only true and sacred marriage bond was the one based on the feeling of romantic love, the next logical step was to conclude that if one of the partners stopped experiencing this feeling, it would be immoral to force him or her to stay with some they didn't love any more.

Marriage used to be viewed as a contract, or a covenant, if you prefer this word. It was like joining the army. You exchanged solemn vows in the presence of witnesses, to stay together for better for worse, till Death do us part. It was considered despicable to break one's vow, in the same way it was considered despicable to be a deserter.

If you exchanged the vows in a proper way (which was somewhat different in different countries), you were considered married before God. Once you consummated your marriage, you were married before men. Whether you felt properly in love during these ceremonies or afterwards, didn't legally matter at all. Once you gave your word, you were in for it.

Since feelings weren't considered the centre point of marriage, something else was, and more often than not, I'm afraid, it was very unromantic pecuniary considerations, especially among society's better circles. You married someone who belonged to a good family and well established in the world. For a woman, it meant a man capable of providing a decent living, on the level she had been accustomed to, or better if possible. Most women didn't marry the Prince Charming of their dreams and didn't expect to, and because they had no unrealistic expectations, they were seldom disappointed.

Nowadays women are taught to "follow their heart" (which, I'm afraid is a polite euphemism for following one's lust) and then once married, to expect their whole life one exciting adventure. What is worse, they are taught that it all depends on the man, not the woman, and their overworked husbands who come from work and are more often than not met with honey-to-do lists, should treat them as the princesses they are. It's not the wife's job any more to keep her husband, it's the husband's job to keep his wife.Yet those modern sophisticated egalitarian marriages fall apart with the rate of about 40% (in my country).

In the marriage of convenience, on the other hand, both parties discuss beforehand what they expect of each other. A woman knows very well she got herself a good provider and that there are other women who'd like to have him,too, so she'll do her best to keep him. I personally know several such marriages which are quite successful, while all those love matches are falling apart left and right. Because "I love you, you pay my rent'' goes a longer way than "I'm a strong independent womyn with my own paycheck, hear me roar" and the disinclination to divide and thus diminish common property is often a darn good reason to overlook those small faults in your significant other.

And before you all start attacking me for promoting gold-digging, well, it was written tongue-in-cheek, but only partly:) 


  1. I completely agree with you Sanne! I lost my mother in 2009. My father was distraught and extremely depressed. He told all he knew about my mother's death. In the correspondence, he reconnected with an old school friend who had known my parents. She had lost her husband 13 years before. After one year, they had a marriage of convenience. They had loved their spouses, but both were very lonely and in their friendship they decided to wed. Both were in their late 70's. What a blessing it has turned out to be for both of them! They have been married almost five years now, and they are so happy and do everything together. It started out to be friendship and helping each other. Now, I wouldn't call it 'romance', but there is a deep and abiding caring for each other and a joy they could not experience being alone.

  2. Vicki, what a beautiful and touching story!

    On a less serious note, the idea is, of course, to marry out of convenience but then gradually fall in love with your spouse:)

  3. Housewife from FinlandMarch 24, 2015 at 5:16 AM

    I think Love is important and so is Lust, but Reason should make the final decision.

    What confuses me is that women claim to marry for love, but then they do not treat their husbands the way one should treat your loved one. Everything should go woman's way or else...

    I must be traditionalist by nature, since before I had ever heard the word I thought it is my duty as a wife to make my hubby happy, and that way my happiness would follow. (if you want to take it calculating way, happy men are usually more helpful etc. than unhappy ones...)

  4. Of course, love is important! I'm right here with Lizzy Bennett, when she told her sister Jane she just should take care to fall in love with a man of fortune:)

    Seriously though, yes, I do agree it's the wife's duty to make her husband happy, women used to be taught how to keep their men and their marriage together, but not any more. Nowadays people tend to think good marriages just happen, like magic.

  5. My grandparents marriage was one of convenience. When they said their vows, they meant "commitment and respect". Because of the way they treated each other, they fell in love and were married for over 50 years. My opa and oma did everything for each other. A lesson in life!

  6. I think the older generations simply viewed marriage differently than people are doing now. Marriage is an institution designed for providing for women and getting legitimate children/heirs. People also used to be more formal and were taught not to mouth off, it was considered extremely low class behaviour. Familiarity breeds contempt.

  7. Why is it her job to make him happy? Or his for her? Each partner should feel an obligation to make the other one happy. Also, if you're going to refer to Jane Austen, I suggest you remember The Rev. Mr. Collins and his wife, who did her best to avoid ever having anything to do with her husband. That marriage, of barely concealed contempt, was far more typical of a marriage of convenience.

  8. Karen, why don't you go read some other blog? You are not welcome here, I suggest you go troll somewhere else.

  9. And I will delete your next comment, too.

  10. Marriage of convenience means marriage of established rules in advance. In our society people marry according to romance issues, but there still are categories of people who want their future spouse to do or not to do various things and if these things lack they don't marry. For instance a friend of my husband's wants to get married and is searching for a future housewife, he has a very clear rule for her to accept before marriage. He also wants his future wife to have strong religious beliefs and love is not very important for him. Until now, nowhere could he find his future wife just being eager to stay at home and limit herself to what he provides (he is not poor but not rich). I admire this person for his beliefs and I think he will certainly find a good wife. I must confess when I got married I was very busy with talking and making acquaintance with my future husband's beliefs and convictions, because I was asked to marry after a very short friendship of 2 weeks, my husband being some distant acquaintance I was familiar with in the past but nothing more. I felt honored that he had trusted me and proposed marriage with confidence despite the short period of relationship. I remember the wedding day when prayers were uttered and sung and I was thinking: How can I feel so happy if I am not in love actually? I felt very safe and happy but I had no romance in the middle of my decisions. Love is a very deep and durable sentiment, that develops in time within responsible family life and it has nothing to do with irrational and spontaneous instincts. But it is important that the future spouses like each other from all perspectives, it is a matter of reciprocal acceptance even if the strict rules fit the expectation of each side.

  11. I think it's very important to discuss certain issues beforehand, and to set standards, for both men and women. Modern people often simply drift into marriage, they meet each other, start dating, then having sex, then they move together and hope "things will work out somehow". Well, sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. If folks would put half as much thought into choosing a good marriage partner as they do while searching for a job, I'm convinced we'd see much less divorce.

    And as I said several times on the blog, since the modern standard is a two-income family, if the woman wants to be a homemaker or a man expects his wife to stay home, they'd better make it clear beforehand. It's going to be much easier for them in the future.

  12. I agree about liking each other, btw. A woman who marries a man she can't stand purely for his money and social status, is a gold-digger and deserves all the misery she will get. Sharing each other's values is very important, too, especially when it comes to raising the children. I just wish people would use reason more when choosing a marriage partner.

  13. Housewife from FinlandMarch 25, 2015 at 7:00 AM

    What I find disturbing nowadays is disloyalty. Ladies seem to think, that it is ok to tell all intimate details about your husband to her friends. And attitude is like: "Men come and go, but friendship is forever." In my opinion there is something wrong if friends are more important than your husband! And talk like that would never be allowed to men. If men would concider his friends more important than wife, that would mean war...

    I think husband and wife should be companions and allies against the world. :) When there is loyalty and trust, love will follow if one has chosen wisely. But choosing wisely seems to be too much to ask nowadays. As Sanne sed, people just drift to marriage.

  14. Men can come and go, but the marriage is intended to be for life. In the end, it's your husband who is out there for you, not your friends. People nowadays in general treat their own family as disposable, and ties of blood aren't supposed to mean anything at all.

  15. As for disloyalty, it used to be shameful and dishonourable to break your vows, and yet nowadays people treat it as nothing special. "I just wasn't in love" any more is sufficient grounds to destroy the family. Imo, divorce is the ultimate form of betrayal.

  16. I have been around many marriages that were arranged but they said they were happy and grew to love and depend on each other too. their families knew each of them well and the families knew each other. they weighed their recommendations well before making arrangement for the marriage. Both the people to be married knew all about it and agreed as they had witnessed this happening before and the outcome. I have also in my family had those who were widowed marry again very very late in life. They are lonely and talked it through and they made a wonderful couple till the day one of them died. I thought you brought up many good points in your post.
    The person who commented who mentioned women who talk about their husbands to their friends. That grates on me. That is so disloyal. Can you imagine what the wife would say if she caught the husband doing the same to his friends!!!! Personal and private is just that. Also friends are just that. Husbands are above that in life. There is time for friendships but not at the expense of time with your husband or family.
    Yes I can see where we over romance the thought of marriage and when our spouse does not live up to this unreasonable example we think They are to blame! I have heard some people say that reading romance novels..even christian based ones...can make us think that there is a perfect man out there. They are novels... not real life! It frightens me that so many young people view x rated movies and such and think this too is what real life is like!! They are changing their perception of married love and life before they even have one. What are we doing to our young ones? Marriage is not a casual relationship. It is one for life and we should treat it with seriousness. Thanks again Sanne. Sarah

  17. You are welcome, Sarah! Modern people often don't understand what privacy means. And yes, they seem to be unable to distinguish between books/movies and real life.

  18. I know this is an older post, but this is the first one I tried to comment on, and your recent post on "The Sacredness of the Marriage Bond" reminded me of it. This is an excellent post. Marriages of convenience often seem to be stronger than those based on romantic love.

    ~Lady Virtue