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In Andrea Westlund’s “The Reunion of Marriage” and Eric Cave’s “Marital Pluralism: Making Marriage Safer for Love” both create detailed definitions and propose a sanctity of foundations for marriage. Westlund’s overture is based on the idea that marriage is candidly a relationship merging mutual love and intimacy with a foundation in “a shared practical perspective” (567). Cave gives a list definition of marriage, characterizing it as a “marriage bond” that involves being sexually faithful, sharing domestic tasks, and supporting the other in times of need (332).
Cave details a foundation in a marital contract, both legally and personally. I, however, propose that marriage should be defined as an integration of passions and intentions with foundations in dedication and compromise.
While Andrea Westlund’s marital definition boils down to a relationship that just merges mutual love and intimacy, she details many aspects of this basic definition. She asserts that marriage is “characterized by a degree of familiarity and mundane dailiness” and that it “combines elements of romance and physical intimacy with something more like close friendship and ongoing companionship” (558).
Westlund also proclaims that marriage involves a strong desire to share experiences and be (and do) together.
Andrea Westlund declares that the foundation that marriage is built on is a “shared practical perspective.” Both partners develop this perspective together and it incorporates many aspects of the couple’s lives together. It helps the couple determine “what’s to be done and why, on what is worth caring about, on what is valuable or important or choiceworthy and what is not” (560). This shared practical perspective is essentially an effective communication and decision making tool: it helps the partners to decide how to live together. While Westlund’s definition and foundation of marriage is believable, it seems to be just too generic and simple: be close companions and share actions and decisions. I’m sure that one could find many essays detailing the same ideas.
Eric Cave bluntly defines marriage through a more checklist kind of manner. As said before, it involves being sexually faithful, sharing domestic tasks, and supporting the other in times of need (332). Cave says, “Call this set of obligations the marriage bond” (332). Cave spends many pages analyzing what he claims is the foundation which marriage is and should be based upon: “Here I sketch a conception of the marriage bond prominent among us, the contract conception” (332). The contract he describes is a binding agent that causes obligations and restricts freedom and could cause resentment and deception among partners. Cave is never exactly clear on what else the contract involves other than the marriage bond, so the reader is to assume that the marriage bond is only part of the contractual agreement.
Not only is there a flaw in Cave’s failure to fully describe and explain concepts, but the vocabulary and sentence structure is too legal and not easily understood by the common person. Cave uses phrases such as “one of these conceptions is uncongenial to a constitutive feature of romantic love” (333), “esoteric philosophical theory” (334), and “extralegal contractual obligations” (335). His overuse of intelligent dialogue is overdone and diminishes the points made by his essay.
While Cave’s theories serve well for those who understood complicated terms and jargon, for me, his dissolution of his ideas was thoroughly confusing. One section of his essay scrutinizes the place of romantic love with marriage. Cave calls it a “shared agency” and gives terms for this type of love: partners must share concerns and act jointly and act independently on a concern the other has (334). However, this idea is never addressed in his analization of the marriage bond and contract. Cave’s essay, spanning sixteen pages, could have made the same, more concise point in five or less: tangents are everywhere, hidden behind the guise of background information or further analysis.
While both Westlund and Cave have crucial concepts that deal with the definition and foundation of marriage, I feel that they both miss out on very important additions. While Westlund touches on the idea of passions and interests, she does it in a very ordinary way that doesn’t involve emotion: her shared practical perspective idea. Cave doesn’t bring up any shared passion other than the need to support one another.
My definition of marriage adds the perception that the union must involve a strong integration of what each party wants into what both parties want. Selfishness in each partner’s passions will lead to a strong division between them and eventually disinterest toward the partner. Interests and future arrangements must be mutual and beneficial for each partner, even if some of each partner’s desires are compromised.
This leads me into my additions to Westlund’s and Cave’s foundations of marriage. Westlund proposes a shared practical perspective while Cave insists on a juridical contract, which is too informal to fit into my proposal. While sharing practicality somewhat fits with my expansion of the definition of marriage, it should not be considered a foundation of the union. The foundation of marriage should be based off the principles of dedication and compromise. Compromise, fitting with my definition of marriage, is essential to making a life-long relationship work. Again, without compromise, selfishness will overtake one as partner and leave no room for love. The pursuit of attainment outside of the relationship will cause coldness and create a harsh, drifting environment that cannot be mended. Dedication fits along with the idea of compromise because each partner, as long as each is committed to the union and the success of the union, will strive as an individual but also as a team. This will foster a supportive, loving environment that will breed all the other qualities that a marriage should possess.
Eric Cave and Andrea Westlund, while providing sound arguments for their definitions and proposed foundations for a union of marriage, just miss the mark. They leave out crucial building blocks for marriage that I exhibit in my analization and nomination, such as the merging of passions, dedication, and compromise. These principles generate all of the healthy after effects that Cave and Westlund draw to the reader’s attention and illustrate in their own essays.
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