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JLeslie's avatar

What does "traditional marriage" mean to you?

Asked by JLeslie (47091 points ) August 23rd, 2012

I was talking to a woman today who I see all the time, but I don’t know her very well. She talked a little about her job, a possible promotion, but was leaning towards not taking the promotion while her son is still young. He is a teen, but he can’t drive yet. She still takes him most places, including school, and the promotion would mean more hours at work. She also talked about how she let’s her husband make a lot of big decisions, she doesn’t even want to make the decisions, he is much better with money and dealing with the finances in general. She has a master’s degree, does pretty much what she wants within the bounds of what most parents have to do in terms of raising their children.

Anyway, she said some of her coworkers criticize her because she has stated she believes in “traditional marriage.” I asked her what that means? Does she mean marriage between a man and woman? Turns out no, she is fine with gay marriage. She means basically what I described above. That to me sounds like a “normal” marriage. I can’t figure exactly what her coworkers are criticizing, and I can’t quite figure what an untraditional marriage would be? The terms elude me. Is it some sort of Christian lingo I don’t understand?

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27 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

To me, it means two people make an exclusive commitment to share their lives together.

Sunny2's avatar

Traditional marriage usually refers to a man and a woman vowing to be married and all that the law implies. I understand your confusion. I’d ask her to clarify what she means. I wish it just meant any two people promising to be together, but, unfortunately that isn’t traditional . . . yet. We’re getting there, little by little.

digitalimpression's avatar

“Traditional marriage” instantly makes me picture a man marrying a woman, providing for her and the family and together they discuss decisions.. with the ultimate choice being left to the man as the leader of the family.

Nowadays though, traditions are changing. I have no foxing idea what to say about this modern generation.

tinyfaery's avatar

Man goes out to work. Mom stays home, raises kids, takes care of the house, get’s hooked Valium and never fulfills any of her dreams. Man comes home and spends his time worrying about everything and leaves his wife and kids lonely and depressed. You know, the classic 50’s housewife and working husband.

I’m for non-traditional marriage.

FutureMemory's avatar

Man and woman, with the man working at least full time (more likely 10–12 hour days), and the woman being a ‘housewife’.

In other words, too much stress for the man, and too much boredom for the woman.

ETpro's avatar

Depends on whom you ask. To the God of Abraham, it meant any of this summary of different biblical positions.

ragingloli's avatar

A contract between families to create political or economic alliances with the exchange of property.
The man can have multiple wives, the wives are property of the man, have no say, can not own property, daughters can not inherit but can be sold into sex slavery.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Is it possible that she has simply told the co-workers she believes in “traditional marriage”, not expanded upon that like she has with you, and they have assumed that she meant she was against gay marriage?

Shippy's avatar

I think it used to mean the guy wore the pants and made all the bigger decisions. He was “stronger” and often the breadwinner. So he could carry the trash out! My ex husband is very much into traditional marriage, he looks after his wives (he has had a few!!). They don’t work outside the home, they are in charge of the meals at home, even if it is ordered in. He is the “boss” though. It sounds horrendous as I write it here, but he seems to have plenty of women wanting to marry him.

My parents also had a traditional marriage, however, my mother always worked and contributed to the household. But my father made bigger decisions.

These days I doubt there is such a thing, just like traditional families. Often families are composed of different members. The grandparents may be the “parents”, or gay couples may be. Plus whoever has the financial brain takes over finances and whoever can cook, cooks that sort of thing. We studied families in relation to society in sociology, and it is always society that changes and decides what is traditional or not. But ultimately so do the people involved just some get more support from society and others do not.

jca's avatar

My assumption is that she means the man is the boss of the house, and the woman obeys him. “To honor and obey.” My first thought was that this woman meant marriage between man and a woman, but you said she specified that’s not what she meant, so then I assume it’s man is boss. Me Tarzan, You Jane.

filmfann's avatar

A Traditional Marriage would be between a man and a woman (not more), the man works while the woman tends the home and the children they will have, and immediately prior to the ceremony that the man and woman are virgins.
I do not believe in Traditional Marriages, but I see their value. I always feel a bit odd going to a wedding when the couple has been living together for 5 years.

keobooks's avatar

@YARNLADY summed it up. Two people making a lifelong commitment. Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing The Sims all these years, but gender doesn’t come into my definition.

Nontraditional – I think of polygamy or open marriages. Traditional – I think exclusive monogamy for the sake of being together – instead of for a green card or something like that.

Qingu's avatar

According to the Bible, marriage was an economic arrangement between a groom and the bride’s father. The groom purchases his bride from the father for a “brideprice”—usually a little more than the cost of a slave. This purchase is very much a transfer of ownership, from the father to the groom.

If the groom finds that his new wife is not a virgin on their wedding night, and her father cannot prove her virginity, the bride must be stoned to death on the doorstep of her father’s house.

In a traditional marriage society, adultery is a property crime (like theft, punishable by death). Rape is not a crime in of itself, but rather interacts with the property crime of adultery. For example, if someone rapes your wife, and she doesn’t scream loudly enough for others to hear her, both her and her rapist are killed. Because, if she didn’t scream, it is assumed that she must have “wanted it” and therefore that she must be party her own adultery. (Leniency is given for rape victims in the countryside—they could have screamed without anyone hearing her).

If someone rapes an unbetrothed virgin, there is no punishment for the rape. The rapist just has to pay the victim’s father the brideprice, and then marry his victim. And he cannot divorce her for as long as she lives. “You break it, you buy it.”

(most of this is from Deuteronomy 22).

Tradition! You still see traditional marriages like this actually legally enforced in many societies today, like in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

geeky_mama's avatar

When I hear “Traditional Marriage” I think of the Christian people I know who believe the man should be dominant.

There is a particular segment of Christianity that interprets Ephesians 5: 22 (which reads:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” ) to mean that men should be dominant and women submissive in their marriage.

It depends on the denomination and their pastor and the couple’s own application to their marriage..but for family members of mine (and in churches I’ve attended in my youth) this meant things like:

- the husband controlled all financial accounts and provided his wife with “shopping money” or “pocket” money. Women were completely in the dark about things like what accounts, investments and income and expenses the family had—because it was handled by the husband only.

- the husband could tell her to not cut her hair, for example. I have a family member who enforced this with his wife (and she works in management in a large pharmaceutical corporation) ...once again quoting scriptures 1 Corinthians 11:15
King James Version (KJV) : “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.”

-the husband takes the lead in all decisions – things like whether to have another child, whether to buy a new car or not, etc.

You can read all about this if you google “Surrendered Wife” or “Submitted Wife”
..there are even lots of women who keep blogs about their beliefs and struggles as they attempt to remain “submitted” to their husbands.
The most popular book (in Christian bookstores) on this topic is by Laura Doyle:
http://www.surrenderedwife.com/

If you read these sites they give various reasons for why this is religiously supported and best for a marriage. Personally, I could never stomach this…although this is how many of my family members (including my mother’s) marriages work.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, since she didn’t mean gay people can’t marry, I would also assume she is not meaning the man has the final word. One example of her “traditional” marriage was she really wanted a particular house that was out of the price range they had discussed. Her husband said it was too expensive, but she really really wanted that house. One day he came home with the keys (the sale was not closed at that point, but he had negotiated the price and the ball was rolling). She said, “he is better at figuring out where to find the money.” That to me just means she is clueless about money and he wanted to please her. She may have been annoying about it? I have no idea. Whined about it? She doesn’t seem like the whiney type to me. He isn’t stopping her from the promotion.

@Aethelflaed I did think it might be a miscommunication with her coworkers. Now I am not sure. One of the comments she made was they have said to her she should pursue her career and let her husband stay home more with their son. He makes much much more money than her. It isn’t a logical decision to do that. If she was very career oriented she can pursue her career and hire some help around the house. Her son does not need to be babysat. I don’t know why her coworkers are so gungho on her pursuing her career? She works in her field part time, and also teaches zumba as a side thing making a little cash from that.

I think her marriage is very nornal from the little I hear and see. She works in Mississippi, you would think they would eat up the phrase traditional marriage down there.

She is very active in her church, so I thought maybe she needs to feel she is in a traditional marriage and say it in her community so she fits into their expectations. At least fits in terms of what she declares. She doesn’t live in MS, she lives on the TN side near me.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

GQ. I’ve never thought about it before. My first thought was about the type of wedding ceremony.

Like others have said, that one partner is the bread-winner. Yet there are a few personal examples of when the person bringing home the paycheck was female or of the same gender. In those cases, does it fit into the definition of a traditional marriage?

From what I’ve witnessed, every marriage is different. If successful, the partners take on different responsibilities. There is discussion about it. They come to an agreement. It may get changed over time. That’s the way it should be.

Qingu's avatar

You know, I don’t judge women who want to be submissive to their husbands. (I also don’t judge husbands who want to submit to their wives.) If both parties agree to that kind of arrangement, and if the arrangement can be freely exited, whatever. I even sympathize. Sometimes it’s a pain to make decisions, like “where should we go for dinner” or “should we get a TV” and maybe for some people it’s just easier to outsource decision-making to their partner.

This is the rationale I’ve seen Christians and Muslims use to justify God’s apparent sexism—that having a single decision maker with final authority actually helps marriages be more stable. Of course in reality a lot of husbands are abusive (and I suppose the same can be said for some dominant wives), so the idea that we should enforce this kind of arrangement strikes me as sociopathic. But if it works for some people, then good for them. Marriages come in all shapes and sizes.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Qingu Now you have me curious. What constitutes submission? In my experience, what is perceived by outsiders is not necessarily what happens in the household. And are a lot of partners abusive to their spouse? I haven’t witnessed that. As for ‘sociopathic’, that is a strong term to use when it comes to marriages. Sure, there are a few, and they make the headlines, and some don’t. But for the majority of marriages to be this way? I’m not buying it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu There was a similar point I made during the conversation actually. My husband, who works very hard at his job, he doesn’t want to make decisions about things he doesn’t have to at home. Dinner decisions he wants me to decide the majority of the time, unless he has a craving, which he would just tell me, he doesn’t really want a question asked to him. When I plan a trip, he wants me to decide everything if I can. I don’t usually, I usually make him pay attention to me for a half hour and listen to the various choices for the trip once I have narrowed everything down (which can take hours of research, depending on the trip) but he would prefer to just show up and have everything planned.

Traditional to me could mean not being swingers. LOL. I thought/think of my marriage as traditional, nornal, typical. A woman being completely submissive to their husband I would not use the term traditional myself, but I was aware that might be used by the Christian community, but they define things in ways I don’t expect all the time, so I never know with them. When a wife is not treated as an equal in a marriage to the point she is completely controlled with no voice, I don’t even know what to call that? I just think of it as some sort of religious extremism or the people need some therapy. I am not talking about women who wind up in a role of wife and mother and eventually think what the hell has happened to me? I mean when it is the demand of the one spouse that the other be in a certain role with no way out, no comrpomise.

Qingu's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer, I think you are under the impression that I said something that I did not?

“Traditional marriage” often means that the wife is submissive to her husband. The husband gets final authority in all decisions, etc.

My point was that I don’t have a problem or judge people who enter into such marriages of their own free will. But I don’t think society should enforce this understanding of marriage. Because in the case of marriages with an abusive husband, the woman has no recourse. (In Saudi Arabia, for example, you cannot divorce your husband without his approval! So if a wife enters into (or is sold into) an abusive relationship, she is fucked.) I never said “the majority” of marriages are abusive, though. But obviously they exist, and are not actually that rare.

And I do think it is sociopathic to call for enforcing this kind of marriage—as some Christian conservatives and many conservative Muslims do—arrangement because it shows a complete lack of concern for the abused wives who would have absolutely no recourse.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Nothing. It is a meaningless buzzword used to exploit people’s prejudices. No single version of the institution of marriage has been spread widely or lasted long enough to call it the traditional form of marriage.

wundayatta's avatar

I think she simply meant a traditional marriage where the man is the undisputed head of household. In other words, that the partners are not equal, but are partners with division of roles and responsibilities, with the burden on the tradition husband being that of making more decisions and doing more planning. The traditional husband has the final say, even if “he” is a woman.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, I actually totally understand her co-workers reasoning. I mean, it’s not surprising he gets paid more; that’s sort of how the wage gap works. And while I certainly don’t think she has some kind of obligation to do anything she doesn’t want to on behalf of the feminist cause or whatever, the wage gap is perpetuated by childcare being assumed to be the woman’s job and not the job of both parents and the pressure on women to “have it all” but not on men, by the damage her resume and thus future career prospects take from taking time off and/or working part-time to raise a kid, the onus on her to hire help if she needs it but not on him or them together, etc. I don’t really know her or her personal inclinations, but I totally get the reaction her co-workers have of not wanting society’s pre-existing structure to push yet another working woman into the home (full or part-time) when she’s not dying to be in it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed I don’t see it the same way as you. She makes less money because of her career choice. She is a social worker and her husband has some job at a company that researches, creates, and manufactures medical devices. I don’t know if he is an account rep, trainer, biomedical engineer, I don’t know. He isn’t just an administrative assistant, because I know he travels as part of his job. Part of the wage gap is the actual jobs women do in the workplace. I understand that also jobs that were traditionally held by women were not paid as much as maybe they would have been if men occupied them, so there is a leftover from that, which we still battle somewhat, but I can tell you in many many companies women are paid the same for the same work. But, that’s off topic a little.

What holds her back most from taking the job is having a child, moving to a house that makes it impossible for her to carpool. Living in a place that publics schools aren’t very good, or maybe she would want her son to go to religious school anyway, so her kid goes to private school, so there is no bus. Her somewhat easy life she has, and not wanting to give uo teaching zumba.

Men have the burden of the assumption they will work, they will support the family, they don’t get to take a few years off if they feel like it because of societies judgement and expectations. There are negatives and positives for both genders.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie I really don’t want to actually get into the whole wage gap issue with you, because it’ll take over the whole thread. I’m just saying, I understand the train of thought that these coworkers are having and how they are using “traditional marriage”; it’s extremely common usage within feminist theory.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

When I hear traditional marriage then I think monogamy then kids.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed Can you sum up how a feminist defines traditional marriage? First you brought up a miscommunication possibly thinking gay marriage is not traditional. Now you have brought up a feminist definition of traditional marriage, and I guess how feminists think it is horrible?

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