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Copyright (c) 2001 Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law
Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law

COMMENTARY: Law, Marriage, And Intimate Commitment

Fall, 2001

9 Va. J. Soc. Pol'y & L. 116


Milton C. Regan, Jr. *



Does society have any interest in the stability of marriage per se--that is, apart from any concerns about the impact of divorce on children or financially dependent spouses? Should law try in any way to reinforce an ethic of commitment in marriage as a good in and of itself?

As an introductory illustration, consider the story of Alex and Caitlin. They meet when he is a twenty-seven-year-old engineer at a telecommunications start-up and she is an associate at a law firm. They fall in love. Alex feels that Caitlin helps him break through the emotional barriers that he constructed to deal with growing up as the oldest child in a household with an alcoholic father. Caitlin finds that Alex shares her strong political commitments, and that he is willing to drop everything and really listen to her when something is on her mind. They both believe in marriage as an expression of their mutual commitment, so they marry, promising to stay together until "death do us part."

Three years later, things do not seem so rosy. Alex derives great satisfaction from his work but finds that he cannot talk to Caitlin enough about it because she seems neither to understand it nor appreciate its importance. Indeed, she barely seems able to operate her computer for simple word-processing tasks. Furthermore, she displays little enthusiasm for his musings about launching his own company someday. Caitlin begins to worry that Alex possesses neither the sensitivity nor the sense ...
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