What Makes a Marriage?

I don’t know what’s happening but I’m reading one appalling article after another today:

The reason Schiavo hurt Republicans was probably not so much because the public agreed with the husband (though they did), but because they wondered why the Republican Congress was hot-dogging the issue.

Huh? As far as I remember, nobody was on the side of this so-called husband. The entire issue had nothing to do with the right to die, euthanasia, religion, or anything of the kind. This was all about a jerkwad who was living with a woman and procreating with her as a crazed bunny but who still believed he had the right to decide whether the woman who used to be married to him should be taken off life support. If he’d had a shred of decency, he would have removed himself from the equation legally, just like he had done in every respect that mattered.

There is this guy who can have any number of wives (which he demonstrated in practice) and there are the parents who can’t dump a child in a coma and pick up a fresh one. So who should get to decide whether she should remain on life support? For the husband, she is obviously dispensable. For the parents, she is obviously not.

I was appalled by this horrible case when I first heard about it because, to me, the idea that a man could just kill off a woman because he wanted to marry somebody else was completely shocking. I fully support the right to die and euthanasia. But I don’t support this completely mechanistic and formulaic definition of marriage that considers people “married” when one of them is popping out kids with somebody else.

Loving gay couples – who have actual, living marriages – cannot get their relationships legally recognized. Yet the Schiavos of this world get to kill the women who have started to bore them because, as it turns out, marriage is nothing but a formality, an empty piece of paper.

I keep hearing how gay marriage will devalue the concept of marriage. I find the argument egregiously offensive. I also find it shocking that while this entire Schiavo debacle was going on, nobody pointed out that the real damage to marriage as an institution had been done at the point where it started being defined in terms of a meaningless piece of paper that had little to do with the actual relationship between people.

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47 comments on “What Makes a Marriage?

  1. I have no problem with euthanasia/assisted suicide and may eventually come to “pass” that way myself. Those, like many others, are matters in which our beloved governments should have very little if any involvement beyond attempting to make sure that our voluntary decisions are implemented in accordance with our own wishes, as expressed contemporaneously or previously in writing.

  2. I think the problem is you’re using the modern romantic / companionate view of marriage.

    More fundamentally from what I can gather, marriage is a legal contract about money, property, heirship (important!) and also legal rights to a woman’s body. Before marriage, your parents have those rights; afterwards it’s your husband. This is why in wedding ceremonies the bride is “given away,” etc.

    • “More fundamentally from what I can gather, marriage is a legal contract about money, property, heirship (important!) and also legal rights to a woman’s body. Before marriage, your parents have those rights; afterwards it’s your husband. This is why in wedding ceremonies the bride is “given away,” etc.”

      – Don’t I know very well how true this is. But this is precisely what I’m trying to accomplish with this post: to get people to consider how ridiculous the situation is.

      • If Terry Schiavo had made a living will, this situation would not have arisen. If you don’t make a living will, someone has to make the decision. Her husband loved her, but after years, he had moved on. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Terry was a vegetable, and was always going to be a vegetable. Her husband petitioned the court, and the court held a hearing and determined that she had expressed her wishes before the heart attack, and that her wishes were that she not be kept alive artificially. He could have divorced her, and remarried, he didn’t need to “kill her off”.
        I, myself, didn’t go through a marriage ceremony, because I didn’t feel my relationship with my husband was the business of the state. However, if I was in the condition that Terry was in, I would have preferred it to be my husband, who I chose, make the decision, rather than my parents, who I didn’t chose. And if my husband had moved on, good for him.

        • “Her husband loved her, but after years, he had moved on. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.”

          – Absolutely nothing wrong. But how can you simultaneously move on and remain a husband? It has to be either one or the other.

          ” He could have divorced her, and remarried, he didn’t need to “kill her off”.”

          – He is a Catholic and was later married in a Catholic ceremony. There is no divorce for Catholics. The guy profited hugely from getting rid of her.

          “However, if I was in the condition that Terry was in, I would have preferred it to be my husband, who I chose, make the decision, rather than my parents, who I didn’t chose. And if my husband had moved on, good for him”

          – But after he moved on and is having bunches of children with somebody else, what makes him “your husband”? I don’t get that part. Isn’t he now that new woman’s husband? They live together, raise children. How come their relationship is not a marriage and a completely non-existent relationship that only exists on paper is a marriage?

          After I separated from my ex-husband, I didn’t have money for a divorce for 4 years. I had a life of my own, I didn’t even know where he lived any more. But in case if something happened to me, he would still be able to decide the crucial issues about my life and death. Does that make sense to you?

      • I’m not defending the institution of marriage. I chose not to get married. I think if you are going to get married, one to the things you consent to is that your partner gets to make these decisions if necessary. It doesn’t have to be necessary. You could make a living will. Terri chose not to, so she was in effect deciding to let her husband make the decision. But in fact, he didn’t make the decision, the court did. Did he have to let her die in order to get remarried? I’m not sure. It’s quite possible he could have got an annulment. (The Catholic Church hands them out like candy. Seriously.) I think he was just trying to follow her wishes. I mean, the court heard from many witnesses and decided that she had made it clear she wouldn’t have wanted to be on life support.

        • ” Terri chose not to, so she was in effect deciding to let her husband make the decision.”

          – Maybe she didn’t know – just like I didn’t – that marriage was legally seen as nothing but a meaningless piece of paper. Maybe this guy kept her abused and terrified. I wouldn’t put anything past him, to be honest. He is a horrible monstrous creature with no sense of decency.

  3. I am missing something here. Why is he a horrible monstrous creature? Apparently he lived with her parents after the heart attack and worked on fundraisers and took her to try different therapies, but eventually came to the conclusion that there was no hope, at which point her parents had a falling out with him.

    • I think the unhealthy attitude is actually the parents’ one. But then I might be a barbarian. I think it’s Emilia Pardo Bazan who had her husband embalmed when he died and set up in a study, and she would go in there and talk to him as though he were alive – or as people do when they visit their spouses’ graves.

  4. bloggerclarissa :
    ” Terri chose not to, so she was in effect deciding to let her husband make the decision.”
    – Maybe she didn’t know – just like I didn’t – that marriage was legally seen as nothing but a meaningless piece of paper. Maybe this guy kept her abused and terrified. I wouldn’t put anything past him, to be honest. He is a horrible monstrous creature with no sense of decency.

    Or maybe she didn’t so much “choose” as not think of making a living will. She was young, and it probably didn’t occur to her that the situation would occur.
    My father recently died in a very similar situation, except that he had made a living will asking that we not keep him on life support if he had extensive brain-damage. I believe that both of my parents were motivated to make such living wills because of the Schiavo case.

    • My preference – just my personal preference, nothing more – is that of I become a vegetable, that my body should be kept around as long as anybody can get some psychological or emotional use out of it.

      • One of my fears is that I will be in agonizing pain and unable to communicate and that people will keep me alive because they think that’s what’s best for me. I hate pain. I’m not brave at all. And I hate being bored. Imagine being alive for 15 years and just lying there, not able to read. I know that’s not her case, it’s just my private nightmare.

  5. “Loving gay couples – who have actual, living marriages – cannot get their relationships legally recognized.”

    Marriage comes with role play, each role has unique elements of privilege that translate into power that elemental power is often not shared with a partner. Interestingly in same sex couples the issue of procreation must be shared whereas in hetero relationships it is not the case. The state has a vested interest in giving power to women over men regarding procreation since it represents the states interest in controling its taxation farm and future revenue. It is for this reason I believe that the state does not support same sex marriage, it simply removes the states ability to influence population demographics. It is the reason I believe that male contraception does not exist beyond the condom. For those who think that a vasectomy is the answer, a man can’t get one without the approval of his wife. My body her choice. I know because I tried and was denied. The state does not sanctionn same sex marrige because it cannot affect the power balance in those relationships and any attempt at legislation would result in losing the contol of influence in hetero relationships. Its all about money, taxation, revenue and what is good for the state, not the family or a marrige.

    As far as a bride being “given away” the use of the word “away” does not designate ownership or define the woman as chattel. It is non descript in its tenure and can be equally understood to be recognition of her independance. Chattel or property to be exchanged must describe the two parties in the exchange. While “given” would designate the place of origin “away” does not designate the destination and could be and should be understood to represent her independance from her family.

    A man however is designated as a “groom” as in caretaker. Like a zamboni on ice his job is to “groom”. A woman however has no deignation in the marriage beyond “bride”. Everything beyond that is her choice, not so for a man, his responsibilities are defined in his title as groom.

    Regarding pulling the plug. The state designates the man as caretaker, thats what he did. Rather than romanticize the inequity or ethics of the choice as some evil perpetrated against the wife, why not get the fucking state out of the marriage and families. The real perpetrator is the state and the woman, by placing the man in the caretaker role. But of course when you designate people as their own caretakers and responsible for themselves you loose out on alimony and child support and are left with such atrocities as shared custody and equal parenting. The problem with the law is the interpretation of it is always by the state and the problem with ethics is we only see the side that faces us.

    • Have you turned on the news lately? The state wants to give power to women??? Which state??

      I don’t understand a word of this comment, to be honest. I want to remind you that the position “all women (or men) are bad and horrible (have all the power)” has nothing to do with any society and everything to do with one’s psychological issues.

      • The title of this post is “What Makes a Marriage” from my own observations marriage often reverts to role play. Wife/husband, wife/wife. husband/husband. In the wife/husband category traditional terms such as “bride” and “groom” are roles. From my perspective as a male each role has privileges and limitations attached to them. One of the aspects of being a husband is the role of care taking as a provider and protector. One of the aspects of being a wife is care taking as nurturer of children and home. These are very traditional outlooks of the two roles. These roles are so profoundly entrenched in our psyches that we form laws to support them. You might agree that women have much more power to exercise their reproductive rights over their spouse or you may not. Again based on my observations as a man they do.

        It is what it is and is neither good or bad until it is.

        As an example a wife has the legal authority to abortion regardless of the position of her spouse. Equally that same power provides her reproductive rights that her partner does not have. An indicator of that power is a pharmaceutical industry that develops numerous methods of birth control but not for men. Once male contraception is developed beyond the condom, the current exclusivity of reproductive rights of women will no longer exist. Men having birth control will be able to make choices regarding their own reproduction.

        In the case of euthanasia which can be seen as a male role of providing and protecting in the example you cite, from a male perspective making the choice may be no different than providing support after divorce. If he has no right to fulfill that role and to choose, if you contend that he should have no say would it be less reasonable to say that a woman should have no right to support after divorce. Your suggesting that the end of a relationship should in fact be the end. Although the law does not view it that way. I think it is tragic that he was put in the position to have to make the choice. He may well have been fulfilling a request of his former wife.

        From my own perspective marriage is a seasonal occurrence. People change, grow and mature but not at the same rate. This alone underlines the transience of the institution between consenting adults. Our laws however do not reflect that loose association that may or may not end in five years. The biggest losers are children. I don’t believe in marriage primarily because the law is to intrusive and promotes an adversarial outcome to its dissolution. In the case of euthanasia that you cite it does represent an outcome that I personally do not support. If I was asked if the plug should be pulled on a former partner I would refuse the choice (unless they would let me pull it myself LOL) I simply could not commit myself to choosing to end another life that way.

        I think in this case the institution of marriage as we support it in law also supports the choice that was made to pull the plug. I don’t agree with it but I don’t see the man as a monster, I believe marriage is the bigger monster.

        “all women (or men) are bad and horrible (have all the power)” has nothing to do with any society and everything to do with one’s psychological issues.”

        I’m fairly sure that this is not the position that I was taking, in fact my personal belief is that “all the power” resides in the methods in which we institutionalize our lives and corrupts us in our roles. The traditions of our cultures and beliefs are less likely to coincide with our sense of personal liberty. As for “psychological issues” all I can say is I’m an un-medicated human, speaking from a male perspective.

        In regards to gay or same sex marriage, or what you refer to as a “living marriage” personally I don’t think the majority of people that live outside the evangelical zealot faction of life take much issue with it. In fact I personally have a bigger problem with same name marriages in that when you call one of them they both respond and it feels like swarming. LOL. However I do believe that legislation to govern same sex marriage would erode the governments effectiveness to control hetero marriages. They would essentially be required to write more egalitarian legislation, which would affect the current laws governing marriage. It would obviously redefine the significance of parenting roles to a more egalitarian and equitable outcome for custody and access to children.

        • “These roles are so profoundly entrenched in our psyches that we form laws to support them. ”

          – What’s with the royal “we”? Nothing even remotely similar to the kind of barbarity you describe is entrenched in my psyche. I also don’t know anybody amongst my friends, colleagues and acquaintances who is even capable of seeing the world this way. You take a very small part of the population formed by uneducated, piss poor, stupid people and project their barbaric beliefs onto everybody. Why do you feel the need to do that?

          “You might agree that women have much more power to exercise their reproductive rights over their spouse or you may not. Again based on my observations as a man they do.”

          – Tell that to my friend who was desperately against the idea of having a child and whose husband got her pregnant twice by sticking a needle into his condoms.

          “As an example a wife has the legal authority to abortion regardless of the position of her spouse. ”

          – She also has a right to get her teeth filled regardless of the position of her husband. Her partner has no rights over her dental work. Why are you not appalled by that, I wonder?

          ” Equally that same power provides her reproductive rights that her partner does not have”

          – This is completely untrue. There is no law prohibiting a man from aborting a fetus if he happens to have one inside his body.

          “An indicator of that power is a pharmaceutical industry that develops numerous methods of birth control but not for men. ”

          – They have already been developed and I blogged about it recently. You are tilting at non-existent windmills.

          “would it be less reasonable to say that a woman should have no right to support after divorce.”

          – I am completely opposed to adults supporting other adults before, during or after a divorce.

          “Our laws however do not reflect that loose association that may or may not end in five years. The biggest losers are children”

          – The biggest losers are children whose parents didn’t divorce when they stopped being in love.

          ” As for “psychological issues” all I can say is I’m an un-medicated human, speaking from a male perspective.”

          – There is no male or female perspective, logic, point of view, etc. Perspectives don;t have genitals.

      • I am a little confused about “euthenasia can be seen as a male role of providing and protecting in the example you site and from the male perspective making the choice may be no different than providing support after divorce.” A woman friend of mine had to make the same decision about her husband after he had been in a car accident. Gender roles have nothing at all to do about whether you will have to make the decision.

      • What’s with the royal “we”? Nothing even remotely similar to the kind of barbarity you describe is entrenched in my psyche. I also don’t know anybody amongst my friends, colleagues and acquaintances who is even capable of seeing the world this way.

        If you don’t see the world this way how would you know about anyone else. All I am saying is marriage traditionally has roles. If you are in any way aware of family law and its provisions then it feeds and informs your psyche. The law represents the royal “we”. Against your declarations your friends etc. are also aware.

        You take a very small part of the population formed by uneducated, piss poor, stupid people and project their barbaric beliefs onto everybody. Why do you feel the need to do that?

        Actually I think uneducated, piss poor, stupid people and their barbaric beliefs is a much larger demographic than your suggesting. My need to “do that” comes from my desire and belief in change, particularly in the laws that govern marriage and family. I don’t believe that marriage or divorce for that matter constitutes an intimacy that affords anyone rights over a partner or ex-partners physical autonomy. But the current laws do. You may be incensed by the case of euthanasia but the laws however supported it. Lets change the laws!!!!

        – Tell that to my friend who was desperately against the idea of having a child and whose husband got her pregnant twice by sticking a needle into his condoms.

        Although this may be a nuisance it does not remove your friends ability to exercise her reproductive rights afforded to her by law.

        – She also has a right to get her teeth filled regardless of the position of her husband. Her partner has no rights over her dental work. Why are you not appalled by that, I wonder?

        Stating the obvious inequality in reproductive rights entrenched in the law does not default me to a position of being appalled, in does however inform me. The answer I believe is the availability of more and better male contraception. If that is already available please give me an address of the drug store anywhere in North America and I will be there on Monday morning.

        – This is completely untrue. There is no law prohibiting a man from aborting a fetus if he happens to have one inside his body.

        This may be true, but I challenge you to provide the name of one clinic that offers it.

        – There is no male or female perspective, logic, point of view, etc. Perspectives don;t have genitals.

        Legally, politically, religiously, academically and institutionally they do, or should I say that these institutions impose a perspective that is gender based. Perspectives may not have genitals but they are influenced by them.

        • “All I am saying is marriage traditionally has roles.”

          – You are talking about a “tradition” that existed in a tiny portion of the world for a tiny length of time.

          ” If you are in any way aware of family law and its provisions then it feeds and informs your psyche.”

          – That’s quite a discovery in the field of psychology. :-) You are mistaken. The psyche forms before the age of 3 when the provisions of family law are inaccessible to a person. There has been no research demonstrating that provisions of family law influence the human psyche.

          “Although this may be a nuisance it does not remove your friends ability to exercise her reproductive rights afforded to her by law.”

          – Law of what country, Keith? What makes you think that this happened in a tiny portion of the world where abortion is legal and easily accessible?

          “- This is completely untrue. There is no law prohibiting a man from aborting a fetus if he happens to have one inside his body.

          This may be true, but I challenge you to provide the name of one clinic that offers it.”

          – In economics, demand comes first, as I’m sure you know. Clinics will provide abortions for fetus gestating inside of men when at least one man will ask for the procedure.

      • I am a little confused about “euthenasia can be seen as a male role of providing and protecting in the example you site and from the male perspective making the choice may be no different than providing support after divorce.” A woman friend of mine had to make the same decision about her husband after he had been in a car accident. Gender roles have nothing at all to do about whether you will have to make the decision.

        I agree with you, but legally marital roles currently do. The current laws governing marriage and family do not provide dissolution of the marital relationship to men after divorce. In very many cases a man continues to have legal obligation to a divorced spouse, but it is not reciprocal, neither should it be. The divorce should be equal and bi-directional dissolving all legal and financial obligation.

        I personally believe that default shared parenting and access would afford such an outcome. Because it currently doesn’t other legal anomalies such as this case of euthanasia continue to exist. We can do better, but not until the laws are changed.

  6. The title of this post is “What Makes a Marriage” from my own observations marriage often reverts to role play. Wife/husband, wife/wife. husband/husband. In the wife/husband category traditional terms such as “bride” and “groom” are roles. From my perspective as a male each role has privileges and limitations attached to them. One of the aspects of being a husband is the role of care taking as a provider and protector. One of the aspects of being a wife is care taking as nurturer of children and home. These are very traditional outlooks of the two roles. These roles are so profoundly entrenched in our psyches that we form laws to support them. You might agree that women have much more power to exercise their reproductive rights over their spouse or you may not. Again based on my observations as a man they do.

    It is what it is and is neither good or bad until it is.

    As an example a wife has the legal authority to abortion regardless of the position of her spouse. Equally that same power provides her reproductive rights that her partner does not have. An indicator of that power is a pharmaceutical industry that develops numerous methods of birth control but not for men. Once male contraception is developed beyond the condom, the current exclusivity of reproductive rights of women will no longer exist. Men having birth control will be able to make choices regarding their own reproduction.

    In the case of euthanasia which can be seen as a male role of providing and protecting in the example you cite, from a male perspective making the choice may be no different than providing support after divorce. If he has no right to fulfill that role and to choose, if you contend that he should have no say would it be less reasonable to say that a woman should have no right to support after divorce. Your suggesting that the end of a relationship should in fact be the end. Although the law does not view it that way. I think it is tragic that he was put in the position to have to make the choice. He may well have been fulfilling a request of his former wife.

    From my own perspective marriage is a seasonal occurrence. People change, grow and mature but not at the same rate. This alone underlines the transience of the institution between consenting adults. Our laws however do not reflect that loose association that may or may not end in five years. The biggest losers are children. I don’t believe in marriage primarily because the law is to intrusive and promotes an adversarial outcome to its dissolution. In the case of euthanasia that you cite it does represent an outcome that I personally do not support. If I was asked if the plug should be pulled on a former partner I would refuse the choice (unless they would let me pull it myself LOL) I simply could not commit myself to choosing to end another life that way.

    I think in this case the institution of marriage as we support it in law also supports the choice that was made to pull the plug. I don’t agree with it but I don’t see the man as a monster, I believe marriage is the bigger monster.

    “all women (or men) are bad and horrible (have all the power)” has nothing to do with any society and everything to do with one’s psychological issues.”

    I’m fairly sure that this is not the position that I was taking, in fact my personal belief is that “all the power” resides in the methods in which we institutionalize our lives and corrupts us in our roles. The traditions of our cultures and beliefs are less likely to coincide with our sense of personal liberty. As for “psychological issues” all I can say is I’m an un-medicated human, speaking from a male perspective.

    In regards to gay or same sex marriage, or what you refer to as a “living marriage” personally I don’t think the majority of people that live outside the evangelical zealot faction of life take much issue with it. In fact I personally have a bigger problem with same name marriages in that when you call one of them they both respond and it feels like swarming. LOL. However I do believe that legislation to govern same sex marriage would erode the governments effectiveness to control hetero marriages. They would essentially be required to write more egalitarian legislation, which would affect the current laws governing marriage. It would obviously redefine the significance of parenting roles to a more egalitarian and equitable outcome for custody and access to children.

  7. I noticed then and I notice now: everyone who thinks there was nothing wrong with letting Terri Schiavo’s ex-husband decide to have her condemned to die of thirst (because that’s how she was killed — it wasn’t that she was being kept alive by a machine, she could eat and drink), all, without exception, revert it to “I wouldn’t want it to happen to me, it’s my nightmare, me me me me me.” It’s like they can’t even cope with thinking about anything without thinking “what if it happened to me?” This is a failure of education that goes way back. People are not taught any more that other human beings are separate entities who have a right to autonomy and their own thoughts and feelings that have nothing to do with you and that’s OKAY. No, instead, in some kind of broken attempt to get people to “empathize” with others, we’ve turned people into narcissistic little neurotics who can’t seem to see other human beings as anything but fragments of their own personality. It is very disturbing and one of the reasons I stay indoors so much.

    • Terry Schiavo did not die of thirst. She died of dehydration. She could not eat and drink. The doctors were absolutely clear about that. When she died, her brain had shrunk to half its original size. It was turning into liquid. It makes no sense to talk about her right to automomy, her own thoughts and feelings. There was no Terri there anymore. What happened to Terri was not unusual. People in comas are removed from their feeding tubes all the time, and die exactly the way Terri did. Their loving family members make these choices. What is unusual is the lengths her parents went to prevent it, and how the politicians decided they could win some votes by using her.

      • Do you think it may be more appropriate for medical professionals to make such a decision. I ask this because my oldest sister was taken off life support while in a coma. The decision was ultimately made by her eldest son. It was a very disturbing choice for him to make and live with. Whereas medical professionals have a better insight into the impact of making the choice.

      • It is a terrible choice for a family member to have to make, and not everyone can cope with that kind of pressure, and it can tear families apart. And yet, I am a little reluctant to let medical professionals make the decision. Sometimes people need to let go at their own pace, and I wouldn’t like to see doctors pull the plug before the family is ready and I can see the pressure they would be under by hospital administrators to do so. On the other hand, Terri’s poor parents were completely incapable of moving on and spent fifteen years of their lives on a lost cause. I don’t see a good answer. Everyone should be encouraged to sign living wills. That would take the pressure off the family. But of course, many people wont. Maybe you should have to sign one before you can renew your driver’s licence.

      • I’d like to know what planet is it where “dehydration” isn’t “thirst.” “Dehydration” — lack of water. “Thirst” — lack of water. I realize “thirst” doesn’t sound all medical and scientific and stuff, but it means the same thing as “dehydration.”

    • ” People are not taught any more that other human beings are separate entities who have a right to autonomy and their own thoughts and feelings that have nothing to do with you and that’s OKAY. No, instead, in some kind of broken attempt to get people to “empathize” with others, we’ve turned people into narcissistic little neurotics who can’t seem to see other human beings as anything but fragments of their own personality.”

      – Very true. I agree completely. It is, indeed, a huge problem that I’m seeing, too. And I stay indoors a lot, as well. :-)

  8. Andrea Harris :
    I noticed then and I notice now: everyone who thinks there was nothing wrong with letting Terri Schiavo’s ex-husband decide to have her condemned to die of thirst (because that’s how she was killed — it wasn’t that she was being kept alive by a machine, she could eat and drink), all, without exception, revert it to “I wouldn’t want it to happen to me, it’s my nightmare, me me me me me.” It’s like they can’t even cope with thinking about anything without thinking “what if it happened to me?” This is a failure of education that goes way back. People are not taught any more that other human beings are separate entities who have a right to autonomy and their own thoughts and feelings that have nothing to do with you and that’s OKAY. No, instead, in some kind of broken attempt to get people to “empathize” with others, we’ve turned people into narcissistic little neurotics who can’t seem to see other human beings as anything but fragments of their own personality. It is very disturbing and one of the reasons I stay indoors so much.

    Huh? I know perfectly well that other human beings are separate entities, but in cases like this, where the main individual involved was incapable of expressing an opinion and I’m guessing none of us know the husband or the family, “What if it happened to me?” is probably the best and most useful question to ask.

    • I think the most important question to ask in this situation is, ‘If I removed myself from this person’s existence, what makes me think I;m entitled to make major decisions for her?”

      • If I was Terri Schiavo’s husband, I would answer this by saying, when she married me, she entrusted me with the responsibility to make this decision for her if she was no longer able to make it herself, so it is my duty to do so. I don’t think that saying she didn’t think about it is an answer. There are so many things you don’t think about when you get married. You can’t possibly think of every contingency. But by marrying, you are expressing your trust in that other person. Is this perfect? No. But it is the best option. Better than letting parents make the decision. Because, she chose her husband.

        • “If I was Terri Schiavo’s husband, I would answer this by saying, when she married me, she entrusted me with the responsibility to make this decision for her if she was no longer able to make it herself, so it is my duty to do so.”

          – And she would still be as entrusting if she had the capacity to know that he was procreating massively with another person?

          ” But by marrying, you are expressing your trust in that other person. ”

          – At that moment, yes. But this isn’t bondage. People can easily withdraw from marriages. And I am hard-pressed to imagine a person who would continue entrusting their spouse with anything after that spouse has formed a family with somebody else.

          “Because, she chose her husband.”

          – Based on incomplete information. Something tells me that at the altar he had promised to be there in sickness and in health. Instead, he fell into somebody else’s bed(s) the moment sickness struck. You can’t have the privileges of a marriage without having the responsibilities. Consider yourself married? Stay faithful. Can’t be faithful? Stop pretending like you are entitled to the body of the person who is not entitled to yours any more.

      • I don’t know when Michael Schiavo got together with the woman he later married, but I got the impression it was years after Terri had fallen into a coma. He spent the first few years living with her parents and taking her for different kinds of treatment. He did stand by her in sickness and in health. At some point he realized that she was, in effect, dead. At that point, I think he is capable of honouring her and moving on with someone else. It is not incompatible with loving her, or the memory of her. When she is dead, I see no reason why he can’t procreate “massively” or in any other way, with anyone he wants. And with a brain turning to liquid, she was dead.

      • twicerandom: “If I was Terri Schiavo’s husband, I would answer this by saying, when she married me, she entrusted me with the responsibility to make this decision for her if she was no longer able to make it herself, so it is my duty to do so.”

        Wow. That is so wrong I don’t know where to begin. Okay, how about here: his duty to his wife ENDED when he DIVORCED her and started SLEEPING WITH ANOTHER WOMAN. He was an EX-HUSBAND and no amount of sentimental twaddle about “trust” and the sacredness of marriage bonds changes that fact. He took himself out of the picture, and he should have stayed out.

        PS: I see this sort of maudlin misunderstanding of what marriage means more and more these days, in supposedly civilized America in the 21st century. News flash: wives don’t belong to their husbands, he’s not “entrusted” with any “duty” to “take care” of her as if she were a frail, stupid child. Damn, I’m glad I never got married.

      • Andrea: you have your facts wrong. Again. Michael Schiavo never divorced Terri. If he had divorced Terri, he would not have been allowed any further involvement with her. I have never indulged in sentimental twaddle about the sacredness of marriage bonds. I have said in these posts that I do not defend the institution of marriage, and chose not to undergo a marriage ceremony myself. And I have said nothing at all to indicate that I think wives belong to their husbands. The legal position is that it is the spouse who gets to make these decisions. If there is no spouse, it is the adult child. If there is no adult child, it is the parents. Someone has to make the decision, and I can see that there would be just as many problems if you gave the parents priority over the spouse. I don’t see this as a sick woman who was killed by her husband, I see this as a dead woman who was hooked up to a machine. I think it is entirely possible that Michael loved her but recognized that she was dead, and like other people whose spouses have died, he was able to move on and start another relationship, while still loving and honouring the memory of his first wife. Except in his case, his wife was not buried or cremated, she was hooked up to a machine, and he believed that was not what she would have wanted.

        • “Michael Schiavo never divorced Terri.”

          – I think we have a difference in terminology that cannot be resolved no matter how much we go around it. To me, the moment he started a family with another woman, he divorced Terry. I don’t care what anybody’s paperwork says but you can’t be married to one person and live and have children with another in the meanwhile.

          “If he had divorced Terri, he would not have been allowed any further involvement with her.”

          – In my mind, that’s precisely what happened if marriage is to have even a shred of meaning outside of a piece of paper. He was not married to her in any way that matters (except on paper). And he had the gall to use that piece of paper to make a huge decision for somebody who was not in his life any longer and for whom he had no use. He definitely should not have been allowed any involvement with her, that’s for sure.

          ” I see this as a dead woman who was hooked up to a machine.”

          – If she was dead, then who was it Michael was married to? You can’t be married to a dead person. Ergo, you can’t invoke spousal privilege to make any decisions for such a dead person.

          “Except in his case, his wife was not buried or cremated, she was hooked up to a machine, and he believed that was not what she would have wanted.”

          – That’s the stumbling block we are having here. I strongly believe that he checked out of a relationship with Terri (whether she was dead or alive, that doesn’t matter) as soon as he started a relationship with somebody else. From that point on, he had no right to entertain any opinions about what she would or would not have wanted.

      • OK, (this is a fictional example) let’s say my spouse says to me, I want my ashes sprinkled in the sea when I die, please do this, it is very important to me. And then dies. And then his parents get ahold of the ashes and wont let them go and say We want to keep them in our bedroom forever. And I am fighting with them about this, for years, and eventually find someone else to love, and remarry and start another family. All the while still loving the memory of my first spouse. Do I then just say Ah the hell with it, do what you want with his ashes? Or do I continue trying to fight to get his ashes sprinkled on the sea?

        • “And I am fighting with them about this, for years, and eventually find someone else to love, and remarry and start another family. All the while still loving the memory of my first spouse. Do I then just say Ah the hell with it, do what you want with his ashes? Or do I continue trying to fight to get his ashes sprinkled on the sea?”

          – Of course, you remove yourself from the situation after you remarry. If for no other reason than to preserve the new marriage. How is the new spouse supposed to feel with a partner who is still so hyperinvolved with the dead spouse and his or her family?

          Imagine a person who gets involved with somebody and tells them, “By the way, I’m going to court to sue over the ashes of my dead spouse.” Would anybody stick around such a weird individual? I know I’d disappear in a flash.

          “And I am fighting with them about this, for years”

          – Just this part in itself is evidence of severe psychological issues, in my opinion.

      • I am trying to remove the issue of the body, as I think the existence of the body and what condition it is in is a distraction. But you probably knew this. So, my duty is to my new family, and I just ignore the fact that my first spouse’s wishes are not being met. OK, that’s not what I would do, but I think that it’s a question of values, not about facts, and further discussion wont resolve this, so I can leave it alone now. Whew!

        • “and further discussion wont resolve this, so I can leave it alone now. Whew!”

          – Thank you for such a civil and intelligent conversation!

          The only negative aftereffect of it is that now I keep bugging my husband with, “So if I die and you remarry with some horrible nasty woman. . .” :-) :-)

  9. I would have preferred it to be my husband, who I chose, make the decision, rather than my parents, who I didn’t chose. And if my husband had moved on, good for him.

    I would’ve preferred my mother to decide since I have complete trust in her and understand that I, as many others, may be mistaken in a husband. Besides, he would be in conflict of interests in Israel. Here there is only religious marriage, which wouldn’t worry me, except it has the rule of not being able to divorce without permission of both spouses. So, if your husband ran off to US f.e., disappeared somewhere, is in a coma or is officially classified as missing in action since October 1986 (Ron Arad, see wiki if interested), you can’t get divorce and if you’re a woman, any children born from other men are mamzers and f.e. can’t marry in rabanut, except other mamzers. And their children and grandchildren and … to 10 genertions will be mamzers too. Wonderful, ah? A man can have 1000 perfectly legal children, if you wondered, and at least theoretically can get a permission from 100 rabanim and dissolve the marriage officially too. It angers me very much since I would want to get officially married for legal rights (if you want to buy a flat together, accumulate property, raise kids, etc. marriage does provide some protection), but really really hate the idea of being chained, if a husband decides to be vindictive or, heaven forbid, is in a coma or missing.

    • But many people see the world very differently from their parents. If there has to be one law that will apply to everyone, I think saying that your spouse has the right to make the decision is more likely to get it right more times than saying your parents have the right to make the decision. Best of all is if you make the decision yourself and put your wishes into writing before this happens. I had no idea about family law in Israel. I would be concerned about getting married there, too.

  10. <>

    Planet earth.

    You can be dehydrated even if you don’t feel thirsty. There’s a saying in professional tennis: “If you’re thirsty, it’s already too late.” During tournaments they keep hydrating themselves, day and night, whether they’re thirsty or not. That’s the best way to avoid cramps.

    • Oops, did something weird with the tags. Clarissa, feel free to delete the above post.

      “I’d like to know what planet is it where “dehydration” isn’t “thirst.” “Dehydration” — lack of water. “Thirst” — lack of water. I realize “thirst” doesn’t sound all medical and scientific and stuff, but it means the same thing as “dehydration.””

      Planet earth.

      You can be dehydrated even if you don’t feel thirsty. There’s a saying in professional tennis: “If you’re thirsty, it’s already too late.” During tournaments they keep hydrating themselves, day and night, whether they’re thirsty or not. That’s the best way to avoid cramps.

      • That’s really hair-splitting and you know it. I know that it’s confusing the way people use “dehydration” and “hydrating” in normal conversation these days, but just because non-medical personnel are using medical jargon doesn’t mean the previous non-medical term (like “thirst”) is less accurate.

        And the example you used undercuts your own argument; if being thirsty means it’s “too late,” you’re already dehydrated and going to die, then yes, you can die “of thirst.”

        • Thirst is a subjective feeling. Dehydration is a medical condition. People can be dehydrated without feeling thirsty. If you say someone died of thirst, there is a connotation that she subjectively experienced thirst. Obviously we can never know what she experienced, so it makes sense to say she died of dehydration.

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