So, what’s wrong with these trends? Whatever we may think about the morality of sexually open marriages, or multi-partner marriages, or by-design-temporary marriages, the social costs will run high.
If a man doesn’t commit to a woman in a permanent and exclusive relationship, the likelihood of creating fatherless children and fragmented families increases. The more sexual partners a man has, and the shorter-lived those relationships are, the greater the chance he creates children with multiple women. His attention and resources thus divided, a long line of consequences unfold for both mother and child.
We need to define marriage correctly if we want marriage to do the work it must do.
At its most basic level, marriage is about attaching a man and a woman to each other as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their sexual union produces. When a baby is born, there is always a mother nearby: That is a fact of reproductive biology. The question is whether a father will be involved in the life of that child and, if so, for how long. Marriage increases the odds that a man will be committed to the children whom he helps create and to the woman with whom he does so.
Marriage, rightly understood, brings together the two halves of humanity (male and female) in a monogamous relationship. Through vows of permanence and exclusivity, husband and wife pledge to each other to be faithful. Marriage gives to children a relationship with the man and the woman who made them, their mom and dad.
But ideas and behaviors have consequences.
The breakdown of the marriage culture since the 1960s made it possible in this generation to consider redefining marriage in the law to exclude sexual complementarity. But if the law redefines marriage to say the male-female aspect is arbitrary, what principle will be left to retain monogamy, or sexual exclusivity, or the expectation of permanency?
What these new words and redefinitions have in common is that they make marriage primarily about adult desire, primarily an intense emotional relationship between (or among) consenting adults, regardless of size or shape. And why should relationships among consenting adults be exclusive? Or permanent?
If justice demands redefining marriage to include the same-sex couple, will some argue that it demands including the throuple? Or the wedlease? Love equals love, after all.
Ideas once whispered only in obscure academic journals now secure prominent billing in mainstream outlets. But if we redefine marriage to say that men and women are interchangeable, that monogamish relationships are just as good as (better than?) monogamous relationships, that throuples are the same as couples, and that wedlease is preferable to wedlock, then we’ll witness more broken homes and broken hearts.
— Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon fellow in religion and a free society at the Heritage Foundation and the editor of the online journal Public Discourse. He is the co-author, with Sherif Girgis and Robert George, of the book What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense.