This ideal holds up the commitment to lifelong fidelity and support by two sexually different human beings — a commitment that involves the mutual surrender, arguably, of their reproductive self-interest — as a uniquely admirable kind of relationship. It holds up the domestic life that can be created only by such unions, in which children grow up in intimate contact with both of their biological parents, as a uniquely admirable approach to child-rearing. And recognizing the difficulty of achieving these goals, it surrounds wedlock with a distinctive set of rituals, sanctions and taboos.
The point of this ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.I think that is right: That is what I committed to when I made my marriage vows. It is the vow I reaffirm every time I tell my Serpentine Friend I love her, every time we go to bed together, every time we solve problems together and even every time we just sit here in this office together. If on our wedding day I had thought "This seems pretty good to me right now but I can't honestly rule out that maybe someday I may no longer feel suited to this person and maybe I'll need to get out," then I wouldn't really be married.
A vow made with our fingers crossed, even figuratively crossed, is no vow at all. A marriage vow is not a vow that I love you now but a vow that I will continue to maintain and cultivate that love until death.
If I can't do that I might fool myself and others into thinking I'm getting married but I'd be lying. I might have a piece of paper from city hall but that would be a moral fraud even if it weren't a legal one. Worse, I'd be doing something awful to the person I'm only pretending to marry.
Furthermore, I would quite bluntly say that if you can't sign on to that, don't get married. Just don't. Go live together because although that may be a sin it is a far lesser sin than marrying someone and not accepting the mutual surrender and the rituals, sanctions and taboos that go with it. If you can't do it, don't get married. If you have the least reason to suspect that the person you are going to marry does not mean to make this level of commitment to you, call the marriage off.
That is not the law of the land and maybe it should not be the law of the land. There is no law, for example, against sexual infidelity, but that doesn't change the fact that sexual infidelity is one of the more horrible things you can do to a human being.