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Our Marriage is None of Your Business

I love the TV show Scandal. In it, the President of the United States is having a longstanding and very steamy affair with the show's main character, Olivia Pope, one of many scandals the title refers to.

Last night, the President addressed a news conference called after his wife announced she and their child had moved out of the White House because he is having an affair. He opened with this: "My marriage is none of your damn business!"

For all the crazy plots these folks have laid on us, this is the first line to get an audible scoff from me.

Because it is. And not just a President's marriage. Every marriage. Marriage is about our relationship to our community, our religious fellowship, our state, and our nation and not just our relationship with each other.

We The People would not give the First Date a platform for world-changing actions nor a budget. These go only to a spouse.

We won't let your cohabiting partner continue receiving your Social Security checks after you die. They go back into the pot for others. We won't cut you a break on the choice between risking perjury and risking loss of shared income if you move in with a criminal, but we will if you publicly marry that same criminal.

In most states, our courts will not help you lay claim to assets from the job your lover works while you care for the house and kids. But if you marry, we will. And we'll toss in a special income tax break for the year your spouse dies. And let you spread your shared income over the two of you in determining which tax bracket you fall in.

Why? Because, for one, marrying significantly reduces the odds your offspring will become a burden on the rest of us. It reduces how much you two will cost Medicare in your old age. It increases the odds you will have income to pay taxes on if you become disabled. And it decreases the chance you will spread or need financial help for treating a sexually transmitted disease. We benefit, so you two benefit.

Married men are statistically more likely to show up for work and perform their jobs well, too. This gives married men a better shot at landing a job than unmarried men.

But there is a downside for the rest of us. When we offer you benefits for marrying, we encourage secrecy when you violate your vows. If you rule a nation, guard our secrets, protect us, or work for any of us, your desire for secrecy could easily compromise our interests.

And this is why your marriage is very much our business, Mr. Made-for-TV President. If you want a more private life, turn down the package of benefits we offer for marrying before you break those vows.

Comments

We often hear it said the marriages of public figures - or anyone's marriage - should be none of our business. But most of us have a gut feeling that tells us this is our business. Thank you for putting it into words so clearly.

Patty,
Really well said! Marriage is personal, but it is also the business of others. As you say, Presidential or not. You really nailed the explanation for the public figures.
But I would add for the common person that's why we take our vows in front of witnesses. That's why, as my pastor explained in pre-marriage counseling, sharing in your community is important in your marriage. He told us to honor each other and build each other up, but also remember like a village raises a child, a community can hold together a marriage. He told us how way back in the old days, women would pick and peel apples (or whatever seasonal chore) but they would do it all together. And they would talk over things together. This girl-time, these friendships, can strengthen and support marriage. So my marriage is other people's business. I am accountable to God, my husband, and myself primarily, but our community is hugely important.

Thanks for adding these great examples, Shanley Rose. I wonder how many of those women peeling apples were aware that their marriage, and all they had learned from it, was a resource for every other marriage in their village. And while few of us peel apples together these days, we do chat over lunch at work, at PTA meetings, and on Facebook and Twitter, where our marriages are still, for better or worse, the resource for every other couple.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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