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pick
04-18-2009, 04:04 AM
The following is an very interesting question posted by
David C. Maness
Counterproliferation Officer at U.S. Department of State

Why the antipathy toward marriage?

So many French couples who have been together for years, sharing a mortgage, car, checking account, insurance, vacations, sexual exclusivity, children, bath towels, moral outlook, and aspirations for retirement. They care for each others' aging parents. But they never marry. Why is that?

For certain U.S. immigration benefits, marriage is a requirement. For example, if a French investor wishes to live in the United States to oversee his investment, there is a legal channel for that. For his long-term honey to be able to accompany him with the same status, she must be his spouse. When faced with this fact at their visa interview, the couple looks at each other with shock and horror, sometimes as if they have been insulted, then respond, almost speechlessly, to the naive American, as if to say "Marriage? What kind of people to you think we are?!" A common solution is that the woman will elect to live on the the edge of U.S. immigration law by "visiting" him in six-month intervals as a "tourist," although her children are enrolled in school in the United States.

So if they've gone through this much hassle, why not just get married? In three years of asking French people, I never got a real answer. It does not seem to be based on any religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or fear of commitment. What is it? Please don't give me the lecture about Americans being Puritanical, stuck in the 1950s, or naive to the ways of the world. I've already had just about every version.

David C. Maness
Counterproliferation Officer at U.S. Department of State

pick
04-18-2009, 04:05 AM
Comments (11)

1.
Beno*t
Visionary, Multicultural Growth and Change Actor and Enabler
Hi David,
not sure I can give you a good answer, nor share good statistics on % of people married or living together without being married.
Most of the people I know are married, but I know a few who are not. Those maybe divorced ad not willing to repeat a painful experience, and are very happy sharing everything and truly loving each other without feeling the need (nor the envy) to get married (we're not even talking about having to do it twice, legally at the Mairie, and religiously....). Same for others who never got married in the first place.
Let's say it is a cultural difference where you need to take into consideration the evolution of society and its rules and habits, customs and way of thinking/life which tends to "denormalize" some of the traditional things maybe in the quest of more freedom or independence.

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:05 AM
2.
Fabio Release Manager at EDS
Hello David,
I am Brazilian married to a French woman for 6 years now.
We met each other in Brazil, where we currently live and in the first moment we decided not to get married because both Brazilian and French Civil Laws states that if you live together for a certains number of years (3 or 5, I am not sure) it would be considered as a marriage in terms of rights and duties, almost automatically, but still easier to break as it only takes moving out.
We had to decide in which country to live, We decided for Brazil and then, after telling her parents in France, she moved to my flat.
We would keep things this way though if it was not because of the immigration laws.Then we got married to make things easier for her to reside in Brazil. I am eligible for a double citizenship due to my own family background anyway.
Brazilian immigration laws did not differ much of the American though.
Although our first child will come in about 5 months, getting legally married didn`t change much as we are keeping our plans (and our love) exactly the way we first dreamed about them.
Well, this is just my experience with a French woman, my bonnie lass...
What I would thing about what the French in general thinks is what Benoit said above.
But shall I say I know quite a lot a French, in Brazil and in France, and only one couple that are not married... although thinking about to get married in a short term. I think it tends to be a sort of experience before getting married more ofthen then simply deciding to remain "un-married" forever.
Hope it helps a bit.
Cheers!

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:06 AM
3.
Christopher
Communications/Content Management Specialist
I know a lot of people in the states get married for financial reasons, i.e. taxes. The French presumably get the same or similar treatment on taxes regardless of marital status, or of parental status. I've also been told the French weddings are traditionally exorbitant affairs. In this socialist society, such expenses might seem more and more frivolous. In my adult life I have lived in large cities where cohabitation by unmarried partners is more common. I speculate that more Americans would forgo marriage if not for the tax implications.

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:07 AM
4.
David C. Maness
Counterproliferation Officer at U.S. Department of State
I would like to thank Benoit, Fabio and Christopher for their useful insights.

Just to be sure, In this group I'm not approaching this subject from a normative standpoint, i.e. saying that marriage is necessarily better than concubinage (that's for another forum). I am trying to understand France in contrast to the United States, where it is not so common to find couples who have lived together without marriage for more than two years. By that time, they have usually broken up or gotten married.

Perhaps it would be more practical to sharpen my inquiry with the following five questions:

1. What are the benefits, or perceived benefits, of concubinage that cannot be reaped by marriage?

2. What are the benefits, or perceived benefits, of marriage that cannot be reaped by concubinage?

3. Does the French government have a policy on marriage? (I would suspect that there are contradictory incentives built into social regulations and fiscal codes).

4. Where are the trends going?

5. Is there a stigma attached to marriage? Is it viewed as a surrender? Is it viewed as overtly religious and therefore a regressive social practice?

Thank you for your continuing insights.

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:07 AM
5.
Carsten
Entrepreneur
Hi David,

I am an American having lived in France for 14 yrs now. You'll be happy to learn that I'm getting married this year!

The current French view and practice of marriage is determined, I believe, by factors that are both pragmatic and sociological.

From a pragmatic standpoint, marriage involves both high costs and high risk.
Since it is culturally inconceivable to have a "quick and dirty" wedding, you have to be willing and able to find at least $7000 I would say.
In terms of risk, divorce can never be excluded and it is very costly indeed (far more than the wedding!)
Since there is no major fiscal incentive and no social pressure to marry, why take on the cost and the risk?

From a sociological perspective, marriage is no longer the ideal social model. Nor is in any way stigmatized or regressive. My perception is that most people are accustomed to and accepting of both options. There is a preference for living together among young couples, because this allows for more freedom and independance. It is one thing to say: "we'll stay together and try to make things work, but if they don't then we'll part" and quite another to promise "until death do we part".

pick
04-18-2009, 04:08 AM
6.
Jaroslav
Principal, President at Value Team International, Inc.
Hello Mr. Maness,
Not sure if your question is why people want to marry less or are you asking specifically about why French marry less (to be substantiated)?
What the audience has to understand is that you seem to be coming from a Mormon (Latter Day Saints, LDS perspective) as per your group memberships. Mormons are very marriage and classic family oriented and in general of very high integrity. Know few. That does not mean everybody (France, US, ..) is also. Women in LDS circles are wives in classical, traditional sense. Most American women today are not:
Been married to one for 11 years, now "happily divorced" for 16. Actually not that happily, - still paying for consequences of being screwed by the putrid American judicial system. The better part of my life experience is posted at www.DONOTMOVETOIDAHO.com.
As an immigrant and later naturalized citizen (San Francisco, 1990) I was naively unaware of the traps awaiting unsuspecting honest foreigner in the hands of predatory Americans (mostly women) and their scum lawyers.
I am strongly discouraging any foreigners from marrying a US citizen - or at least until they get themselves properly informed. I would be happy to do so and am actually planning to organize something.
People abroad have to know the US is NOT the image so deviously projected in all kinds of ways: The country is lawless - that means the Constitution and the laws based on it are NOT respected, the authorities are pervasively corrupt and do not prosecute crimes committed, the FBI is either incompetent or lazy or intentionally overlooks obvious violations. Local courts are more interested in their cozy relationships between lawyers and judges, school friends than application of the law. The American crime TV series are total opposite of reality, My Cousin Vinny is a laughing misrepresentation of what may happen to you in the real court.
Again, see a significant part of my life story at www.donotmovetoidaho.com and see why my story in this country is titled "American Nightmare" instead of the illusory "American Dream."

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:09 AM
7.
Beno*t
Visionary, Multicultural Growth and Change Actor and Enabler
I think Carsten nailed it pretty well.
we can add that depending on income and # of children, marriage is not always the best taxwise, plus the fact that for a lot of other matters, PACS (forgot what it means) binds and protects people as well as marriage. (inheritance, retirement, leases, etc..)
What would be interesting is to compare Latin (heavily Catholic) countries (Spain, Italy,.) to non latin (Germany, UK, nordic countries..). we might be surprised.

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:09 AM
8.
David C. Maness
Counterproliferation Officer at U.S. Department of State
Thank you for your enlightening comments so far. I am sorry to learn of such a difficult experience, and hope that it is better for other immigrants. I appreciate the allusion that 98% of my countrymen and virtually all French people are not of my particular denomination, so they may see things differently. This difference combines with my affinity to France to make me want to reach out in understanding and inquiry.

Since this discussion is about French people and their views on one particular institution, not about us, I like to reorient it toward the following questions, with regard to France:

1. What are the benefits, or perceived benefits, of concubinage that cannot be reaped by marriage?

2. What are the benefits, or perceived benefits, of marriage that cannot be reaped by concubinage?

3. Does the French government have a policy on marriage? (I would suspect that there are contradictory incentives built into social regulations and fiscal codes).

4. Where are the trends going?

5. Is there a stigma attached to marriage? Is it viewed as a surrender? Is it viewed as overtly religious and therefore a regressive social practice?

It appears so far that there are groups of reasons to discourage marriage, which would include financial (including fiscal) disincentives such as the expense of a socially-acceptable wedding and the risk of a costly divorce settlement. For some a "proper" wedding involves a great deal of preparation, including a month-long wait for the mayor, and perhaps longer for the optional church wedding. As some have explained to me, the "pacte civile" is a much simpler procedure. I would still like to hear more about the desire to maintain one's freedom, which is more than sexual.

To reemphasize, I hope we continue viewing this topic this from a more scientific, open, and non-normative perspective. With all the sociologists in France, there must be some significant literature. Thank you for your continuing enlightenment.

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:10 AM
9. Eduarda
Director of Operations at Charles Aris, Inc.
Why is it about French People? Do you deal with those immigration issues and that is why you think French more specifically are willing to live together without being married?

I bet there are MORE Americans doing the same now...

I was born in Switzerland (French part) with a Portuguese mother (very traditional). I am now in the USA. I have not done anything as my mother would have liked.

I have cousins in France, Switzerland, Portugal and USA that live together and aren’t married (they are in their 20’s).

I think it's too much trouble trying to divorce. I think that when you marry, "untold" expectations come into play... why? Why do you have to set a wedding date the day you get engaged? Why do you have to share a bank account? Why do you have to share a mortgage? I bought my house on my own; I have my own bank account...

I am married now because we want to have kids and this is to protect them (after living together for 5 years). I had to be very clear that expectations should not change because suddenly we are married... We both have careers, neither of us is better than the other, and no chore in the household is beneath the other, either.

We don't share bank accounts, I have my own savings account and a joint one for household stuff, we split the bills in the middle, I am free to spend my money whatever way I wish (after bills are paid), I don't have to ask for permission, etc...

While I do hope things work for the best between us, I need to know that I can live my life without feeling "trapped" in a situation where I have to stay because we are tied in so many ways...

It’s being rational before emotional. It's about being in control of your life and your independence... (personally!)

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:10 AM
10.
David C. Maness
Counterproliferation Officer at U.S. Department of State
Thank you for adding to the information, Eduarda. This has given us a better insight, especially your comments about untold expectations. With regard to bank accounts and bills, I have heard that marriage counselors advise the model you described. I certainly don't understand why anyone would insist on keeping all accounts joint.

Why France? Understanding that for many years the trend has been away from marriage and toward concubinage in most Western countries, I limit my request to France because that's where much of my experience lies, where it seems to be most pronounced, and what this LinkedIn group is about. I don't work immigration issues any more.

I can definitely see the rational/emotional angle you pointed out. I think that the rise in concubinage accompanying increasing pay parity between men and women must not be a coincidence.

So far this discussion has been a lot of useful anecdotes and personal experiences. I hope to be able to enhance it with some hard statistics.

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pick
04-18-2009, 04:11 AM
11.
Eduarda
Director of Operations at Charles Aris, Inc.
Thanks David. Perhaps you should read this http://www.vifamily.ca/library/cft/cohabitation.html

Sweden is actually higher than France in Cohabitation %. Really interesting info!

David
04-18-2009, 06:45 PM
Eduarda,
Thanks for the link.
Norway, Finland and New Zealand is higher than France. I am very surprised to see that Mexico is that high though.

Table 1: Proportion of couples which cohabit
Country Year As % of all couples
Sweden 2000 30.0 %
Norway 2000 24.5
Finland 2000 18.5
Mexico 2000 18.7
New Zealand 2001 18.3
France 1999 17.5
Canada 2001 16.0
Quebec 2001 29.8
United States 2000 8.2
Source: Statistics Canada, 2002

FalconryFriends
06-19-2009, 05:20 AM
Hi,

Here are a couple of interesting links to confuse the issue further. I think one just needs to accept that this is French culture and more than acceptable over here. I am married to a Frenchman, and I find that often I need to accept the differences between their culture and mine (English). It is not a question of “antipathy”, but rather simplicity. One positive thing, I imagine, about the alternatives to marriage is an inevitably lower divorce rate?

http://brittany.angloinfo.com/countries/france/marriage.asp
http://www.france-property-and-information.com/marriage.htm