The Marriage Promise

Elizabeth Brake

in Minimizing Marriage

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199774142
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933228 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

The Marriage Promise

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This chapter examines the marriage promise. What do spouses promise, and under what conditions might they be excused from this promise? The answers to these questions have implications for the morality of divorce, as well as sexual exclusivity and other marital obligations. Here I emphasize the diversity of marriages, arguing that the promise made in marriage depends on spouses’ intentions – but not all intentions are promises. A vow sometimes taken as central to marriage – to love, honor, and cherish – is not a possible subject of promise at all. Likewise, promises to take on spousal roles presuppose a robust and shared understanding of the moral content of that role – something many modern spouses may lack. Many wedding vows are thus not promises but failed attempts at promising. This casts doubt upon the idea that the distinctive moral significance of marriage is promissory.

Keywords: marriage; promise; obligation; wedding vows; divorce; spousal roles; role obligations; love; promises to love; duties

Chapter.  9199 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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