On changing names - about as OT as you can get

Jacob Proffitt Jacob at Proffitt.com
Wed Mar 12 22:39:13 EST 2003

---Original Message From: johanna
> > Eh?  It offers a *lot* of extra information.  First, it 
> tells that you 
> > followed societal convention--you may not feel like that's a good 
> > thing, but it *is* information.  Second, it tells that you have 
> > certain specific legal obligations to each other.  Third, it tells 
> > anyone who wants to date you that doing so will involve significant 
> > complications (even if you are willing), including that a legal 
> > relationship has to be legally dissolved before a new one can be 
> > instated.  Fourth, it represents the foundation of a familial 
> > unit--one likely to include a desire and plan for children. 
>  Fifth, it 
> > indicates governmental approval of your union--again you might feel 
> > that government has no business approving of your union, 
> but it *is* 
> > information. And finally, for us religious types, it signifies a 
> > religious covenant that involves us and God and specific 
> promises and 
> > obligations.
> And for your third point, I guess I would add the assumption 
> then that people are following monogamous conventions; there 
> are lots of polyamorous people, for example, both married & 
> not, for whom that point would not apply.

If someone refers to a spouse, husband or wife, monogamy is a perfectly
valid assumption--i.e. something you assume to be true until provided
contrary evidence.  It isn't a given, but then, categorical assumptions
don't have to be universal to be true.  And you gloss too quickly over the
legal hassles of trying to enter a formal relationship with a married
person.  The fact they are currently married will present not insignificant
problems should you desire marriage with that person later on.

> Also, for point four: hm. I think I wouldn't assume more or 
> less a plan for children based on whether or not a couple was 
> married.

Oh I would.  By far.  Most people who plan on having children plan on being
married before doing so.  Frankly, having children is a huge pain and a
sacrifice--causing many to desire a partnership bound by convention and law
beyond their current emotional bond.  Indeed, for many having children is
one of the few reasons for marriage they consider valid.  This in addition
to other factors tying formal marriage to having children such as religion
(which teaches self-sacrifice as well as sexual prohibitions outside of

Additionally, some couples will get married once they have children for a
variety of reasons (conformity to neighborhood expectations, government
benefits, or, as with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, because their kids ask
them to).

Which boils down to my reaction when I hear someone refer to a "partner" vs.
"spouse" is that I then am less inclined to expect children to enter the
conversation at some point.  And even *less* inclined to assume that any
children mentioned are the product of that person and the "partner".

Again, it isn't a universal fact, but it is a useful assumption until
provided contrary evidence.  I hesitate to use you as an example because I
can't speak to causality or motive, but it doesn't surprise me when someone
with a partner also expresses a lack of desire for children.  The pressure
to get married when you are living with someone is a puff of breath in a
hurricane compared to the pressure to get married when you have/plan to have

> I'll give you points one, two, & five. ^_~ I guess I don't 
> tend to find them v. useful bits of information, but yes, 
> they can be inferred.

Can and are inferred.  That's why the terms will continue as long as those
characteristics remain.  It's causative and will persist no matter what you
try to use in place of "spouse".  Others won't adopt the terminology because
they really do connote different relationships and thus communicate
different shades of meaning.  As Melissa said, we're not talking about
commitment, we're talking about communication, connotation, and assumptions.

Jacob Proffitt

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