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Barriers

“The world of pure reason knows no compromise, no practical limitations, no barrier to the creative activity.” -Bertrand Russell

The Daily Dish has been having an ongoing discussion about pre-martial sex and cohabitation. It’s been an interesting discussion and it led me to a piece by Rob McNiff, which appeared in Relevant Magazine, a Christian publication. (Wanna guess which side of the argument it’s endorsing?)

However, it isn’t the piece that struck me. It was one comment in particular. The Friendly Atheist points out the “romance” of staying together in his piece on the subject.

“I’ve been married for 12 years now, and we got married VERY young, but we meant it. We almost split up 3 or 4 times, and what kept us together was not love, it was our public alliance. We couldn’t just say “it doesn’t work out the way we thought it would” because of our friends and families.”

Economists call obstacles which make entering a market difficult “barriers to entry.” They might be tariffs on importing goods or licensing requirements for opening a business. I call marriage a “barrier to exit.” Signing that legal document makes exiting the relationship more difficult. Joint ownership of property, shared possessions, and, in some places, a fifty-fifty split of wealth makes someone think very hard about exiting the relationship. Not to mention, as the commenter mentioned, the pressure from society, family, and friends to avoid divorce.

Barriers to exit in marriage make for a shitty marriage in the same way that barriers to entry make Comcast a shitty company. When there is no hope for competition, you don’t try as hard. The stereotypical (and heteronormative) complaints of “he used to buy me flowers” and “she used to give me blow jobs” comes to mind.

Personally, I’d prefer few “barriers to exit” from my partner and them from me. I don’t want to stay with someone because the idea of splitting the 401k and arguing over who owns the Playstation is too much to bear. Nor do I want someone to stay with me for those reasons. I want my partner to remain with me because they love me and value my presence in their life.

Perhaps it’s the free market economist in me, but I feel more secure in a relationship in which both parties want to be there rather than have to be there.

  • Svet

    Very good. But the institution of marriage is created to be a barrier for exit. If you think that the cost of divorce is too high when one spouse wants out and the other wants to stay, the solution is to increase the cost of staying in marriage for the spouse that wants to stay married and voilà.
    Dividing the property is expensive, but it would have been the same if the couple separated even without marriage. Acquired property during cohabitation will most likely be joint anyway.
    The post is really good though.

  • Katie

    1) heteronormative ;) 2) I very much like this post.

  • Neamhspleachas

    I’d argue that you’re not really in a marriage anymore (in the emotional or psychological sense) if one person wants to exit. If you want to argue that marriage is about property transactions or raising children, I see the value in making exiting difficult. But I don’t think in this day and age it is.

    While I see your point about joint possessions, it’s way easier to pack up and leave before you’re married because it’s really hard to prove whose shit was whose to begin with and get it back. You’d end up in civil court. In a marriage, you’re gonna end up there anyway, so it’s much easier to fight over the food processor.

  • Neamhspleachas

    Katie, the heteronormative remark was all for you.



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