A contract that continues indefinitely, rather than for some fixed period of time, and especially one that is based upon emotional and conceptual foundations, rather than some calculable material criterion, makes no sense to me.
Contracts that have indefinite, enduring effects are commonplace, mcfate
. If you buy a house it’s yours, permanently. You can’t hand it back and demand the return of your money if you decide that you no longer like it. You have to try and find some other mug and enter into a wholly new contract to sell the house to him and, until you do that, the house is yours.
If you don’t want to be in this position, don’t buy. Rent. But don’t buy, and then express astonishment that the sale is permanent.
You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you?
How is one supposed to know their entire emotional and conceptual future? If you get married, aren't you making a promise about conditions that you cannot possibly take into account?
Life involves taking decisions, taking responsibility for decisions, and then living with the consequences of the decisions even if they’re not the ones you foresaw or intended. It’s called maturity. Only children think that you should be able to walk away from the messes you create, so long as you didn’t mean to create them.
Marriage is indeed a commitment that will have to be lived out in circumstances that have yet to unfold. So is having a child. So is migrating to another country. So is enlisting in the army. So is investing all your money in your business, or indeed in someone else’s business. That’s why we expect people to be adults before they make decisions of this kind. But, precisely because they are
adults, we expect that if they do choose to make decisions of this kind, they don’t look to somebody else to relieve them of the consequences.
I know that the purpose of marriage is to conform to the criteria (fidelity, etc.), and I also recognise that many people are very happy with monogamy, and that it is rational, both from emotional and practical reasoning to ask for security over the long term - this seems to be a successful way to build a family. But this is not a business contract - it is the life of two people, and these lives should not be bound to arbitrary conditions.
How are they “arbitrary” conditions? You just said yourself that they are rational in both emotional and practical terms. There is nothing “arbitrary” about that. The notion that I can freely enter into commitments and then just as freely walk away from them at will looks a lot more arbitrary to me.