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An epistle on shacking up

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Why is it, when the past few decades have seen so much substantial social reform, that marriage and defacto relationships remain temptingly simple to enter into, yet present us with legal minefields to exit?  

Let me pursue the courageous idea that the entry requirements should be tightened.  

I bring some small amount of experience to the debate having, 40 years ago, been lured hook line and sinker into a period of unholy matrimony which eventually required expensive legal representation and court determinations to get escape from.

Yet today, anyone over the age of 18 is still permitted to shack up, then accidentally or deliberately procreate, with as much forward planning as would apply to making a selection from the menu at KFC.

The only prerequisite is some cursory determination that the potential partner complies with at least one misty fairy tale fantasy, and/or has been rendered at least temporarily desirable when viewed through the blurry lens of either alcoholic intoxication, post-coital bliss, or both.

Not much prior thought is given to the 50% probability of the union failing, which then legally requires splitting all possessions including the cat and budgerigar down the middle, regardless of whether one partner has been an unproductive, obnoxious, conniving and bludging slob who deserved nothing.

We often do more logical clear-thinking research before buying a used car, by checking it's mileage, fuel consumption, upholstery condition, and diligently interrogating one or several prior owners about the vehicle's foibles and handling behaviour on the road.

There has to be a more practical partnership model available than that currently in use, especially for those bringing children into the world.

A partnership policy that requires a greater investment and commitment by both partners than simply muttering a poorly rehearsed  "I do" before a celebrant.
One which requires more patience, counselling, and mandatory jumping over an assortment of personal-relationship skill hurdles.
 
Perhaps then we could have a greater percentage of enduring relationships where children could look forward to having more than one parent in attendance.

I am almost tempted to recommend New Guinea's "bride price" system, where any instant desire to cohabitat is customarily prevented by the requirement for the man to firstly raise sufficient cash and pigs to afford the transaction with the bride's family.

Having initially invested so much livestock and hard currency in the partnership, Mr Pangu is then less likely to run away from Mrs Pangu with the excuse that she gained ten pounds in weight after childbirth and accordingly was "no longer the girl that I married".
 
When the temptress down the road offers him the prospect of more exciting fringe benefits, he will think twice about accepting them, because ongoing use of those benefits will automatically require him to raise another 20 pigs along with accompanying loot.
 
He will conclude that, in the long run, some things in life are probably just not worth the extra farming effort. 
Mrs Pangu is also adequately deterred from getting into mischief because then her extended family will be obliged to return all the original goodies.

When I seek election as the world's first less-than-benevolent dictator I might adopt as part of my electoral platform the following ancient custom in an attempt to make youngsters think twice before entering into partnership commitments.

This is from "The Last Unknown" by Gavin Souter, concerning
explorer Dr. Sterling's first contact with the Nogullo pygmy tribe
in New Guinea in 1926.

     "The Nogollos were polygamous but there was a shortage of
     women and few men could afford more than one bride price.
     Marriage was not easy.  The bridegroom was expected not only
     to pay for the bride, but also to undergo an hour-long ordeal
     during which he did his best to dodge arrows fired at him by the
     bride's male relations.  As part of the subsequent marriage
     ceremony he was required to chop off one of the bride's fingers
     with a stone axe."

Please excuse me for rushing off like this in the middle of our little discussion, but I am expecting a phone call from the Womens Electoral Lobby, confirming their endorsement of me as their preferred dictatorial candidate.

 

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

17 responses »

  1. I suspect Pauline Hanson has more chance of being elected world's first less-than-benevolent dictator than you do right now! Is the story about the chopping off of the bride's finger actually true? If so I could make a suggestion as to what actually should have been chopped off…
    I often think that many girls don't think beyond the wedding day and think nothing about why or who/what they are actually marrying. I advocate living together before marriage – try before you buy, but no children before that. I have a niece who has been living with her fiance for a couple of years now, became enagaged last year, and is now expecting a planned baby but they are apparently too busy to get married. Or rather too busy to go on a honeymoon so won't be getting married before baby arrives. Too busy to get married but not too busy to have a child? Where is the logic?

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  2. Our high school history teacher taught us that people in arranged marriages, from China for example, actually stay together longer. This is regardless of whether they have a choice to seperate. He said it's because people get to know each other gradually, although I heard more recently that it's because our friends and family are better equipped to know what kind of mate is good for us.

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  3. People should put more forethought into the process but I would not want a government official in the United Sates to decide what hoops I had to jump through before I could get married. That, most probably, is the reason that there are no hoops ,at least in this country. Some ministers insist on marriage counseling before a marriage and that is a wonderful thing! Mr gives financial counsel and has had more than one set of parents very happy with him after he was able to help college students, planning to marry, realize that they know very little about money, real life, and the struggles involved, and they decide to put off getting married πŸ™‚ (Mr works at a college)

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  4. Is the story about the chopping off of the bride's finger actually true? The historian who included this story in his book is highly regarded so I have no reason to disbelieve it. There were barbaric cultural practices in many isolated villages which were stamped out by missionaries and Government. I advocate living together before marriageThis is the same advice we gave to our daughter, and even though she has always shown good character judgement in her selection of boyfriends the advice remains the same.Or rather too busy to go on a honeymoon so won't be getting married before baby arrives.So much for a honeymoon….ever…..once the baby arrives πŸ™‚

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  5. Thanks EmmiOur high school history teacher taught us that people in arranged marriages, from China for example, actually stay together longer. Arranged marriages were traditional in PNG also. The ones I observed were happy relationships which lasted for a lifetime, and there were always lots of extended family aunts, uncles and grandparents around to provide support, childminding etc when needed.

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  6. I would not want a government official in the United Sates to decide what hoops I had to jump through before I could get married. I agree….what a horrendous bureaucracy that would become.Pre-partnership counselling sessions covering all the life skills necessary to maintain a successful relationship should however be a minimum requirement.Plus giving kids in secondary schools some realistic social skills and information to take forward into early adulthood.

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  7. he did his best to dodge arrows fired at him by the bride's
    male relations. I have two sons and then a daughter – she feels that potential boyfriends face similar challenges.I laughed about your KFC menu analogy – when we were in a town outside Nanjing in China after 2 weeks of 3 traditional Chinese meals a day I wanted something western so we went to KFC (they are everywhere). The menu was in Chinese and no-one spoke English……… it didn't really matter what I got as long as I could eat it with my fingers. πŸ™‚

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  8. Good point, GOF! Life skills would be a wonderful thing for the young folks to learn!

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  9. he did his best to dodge arrows fired at him by the bride's male relations.
    I have two sons and then a daughter – she feels that potential boyfriends face similar challenges. Our Globet apparently mentioned to at least one boyfriend that GOF keeps a shotgun handy at ALL times. πŸ™‚ Same principle…different weapon.Nice picture you paint about dining out at a Chinese KFC.

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  10. Bravo GOF. You've hit the nail on the head. Lest I be accused of being patronising (oh go on, do it anyway), people really do need to tale marriage a lot more seriously… or at least the idea of being partners for life. It's just mind-boggling how people treat each other (especially those in so-called steady relationships) like used goods. Don't like things anymore? Move out and start up somewhere else where the rent may be cheaper.I have rellies on the Queen's side where the blokes bolted long ago and her cousins grew up thinking that fathers were an optional extra. And hey, it ain't always the blokes fault, too.So the Queen's cousins now all think that if their own partners are not cutting it anymore (you know, like mustard), then it's ok to up and leave. Nothing unusual at all. Or really?Call me old-fashioned but those things they make you say at weddings in front of everyone and the minister (vows, that's them)… they're pretty important, no-bullshit things to be saying. But instead, we see them hollowed out with each passing generation. Very soon, we won't be saying them anymore. Whatever happened to stickability, commitment, growing a spine and taking responsibility to watch each others back, come hell or high water? What happened to guts to make things work between two people? What happened to being un-selfish?

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  11. I can attest to that Emmi.Mine was a virtual arranged marriage by my Grandmother. At her renewal of marriage vows Liz and I, the only singles invited, happened to be sitting opposite one another at the reception. 32 plus years later we are still making each other laugh.Mind you I have never had enough pigs to buy an upgrade.

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  12. How lovely! πŸ™‚ If only this validation was more widespread, I honestly believe we could have a much lower seperation rate (and just think, it's like an extra holiday if there's a dowery…)

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  13. Thanks Ninja, I agree with all your sentiments.people really do need to take marriage a lot more seriously… or at least the idea of being partners for life. It's just mind-boggling how people treat each other I am quite in favour of couples living together to test the waters before making deeper commitments. After all we now live much longer than previous generations, so making a wrong initial choice would entail living in misery for a longer period of time ;-)Once children are being produced however, it then becomes a different ballgame which requires much greater commitment.Personally I don't put a great deal of emphasis on "ceremony". Mrs GOF and I were married beside a swimming pool out the back of a cheap motel in Townville with a celebrant, my Mum, and one other witness dragged in from among motel guests. Our marriage survived whereas that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana who were married at the same time did not.Thanks for the story from within your own family Ninja

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  14. Mine was a virtual arranged marriage by my Grandmother.Great story Pete. Thanks.Mind you I have never had enough pigs to buy an upgrade.There are some things not even ten thousand pigs could buy….like someone who can still make you laugh after 32 years.

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  15. Mrs GOF and Mc should recognise a class A compliment here.I'll tell Liz when she lets me out of the dog house.

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  16. Lovely tale of your ceremony. I'm not married, but in my group of extended friends, none of them had big weddings. Popular reality shows and the like love showing "Frankenbrides" (a sexist term, of course) freaking out and sobbing because the wedding cake has pink instead of red flowers or something like that. Then there's the exorbitant cost and family fights.
    After all that my friends chose to either elope and / or do the ceremony with under 5 guests. No crowds, no flowers, no $1000 wedding cake. The wedding was usually at a mountain summit or by a lake or something. Echoing your sentiments, all are still married to this day. πŸ™‚

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  17. Echoing your sentiments, all are still married to this day. :)Great story Emmi…..insistence on lavish wedding ceremonies is a good indicator of fairy tale expectations for the future. Life rarely turns out anything like a fairytale.

    Reply

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