Marriage of convenience

A marriage of convenience (plural marriages of convenience) is a marriage contracted for reasons other than the reasons of relationship, family, or love. Instead, such a marriage is orchestrated for personal gain or some other sort of strategic purpose, such as immigration. The phrase is a calque of French mariage de convenance - a marriage of convention, or marriage of suitability.

Marriages of convenience are often contracted to exploit legal loopholes of various sorts. A couple may wed for reasons of citizenship or right of abode, for example, as many countries around the world will grant such rights to any wedded resident.

Another common reason for marriages of convenience is to hide one partner's homosexuality in cases where being openly gay is punishable or potentially detrimental. A sham marriage may thus create the appearance of heterosexuality. Such marriages may have one heterosexual and one gay partner, or two gay partners. In the case where a gay man marries a woman, the woman is said to be his "beard". Oscar Wilde, Cole Porter and Rock Hudson are said to have had marriages of convenience to hide their homosexuality. See also Lavender marriage.

The phrase "marriage of convenience" has also been generalized to mean any partnership between groups or individuals for their mutual (and sometimes illegitimate) benefit, or between groups or individuals otherwise unsuited to working together. An example would be a "National Unity Government", as existed in Israel during much of the 1970s or in Second World War Great Britain. More specifically, cohabitation refers to a political situation which can occur in countries with a semi-presidential system (especially France), where the president and the prime minister belong to opposed political camps.

Such partnerships are often referred to jokingly as "marriages of inconvenience", particularly where real co-operation between the parties is absent.

Arranged marriages

Historically, marriages were frequently arranged between families in order to protect wealth, title, inheritance, or similar issues of property. Such marriages went forward with little or no consideration of love or affection between the people to be married. However, arranged marriages are not necessarily marriages of convenience. Arranged marriages remain common in many parts of the world, including India and other parts of East Asia.

Historically, European royal families would arrange for their children to be married into other European royal families. The most famous example of this was Queen Victoria, whose children married into different royal houses, and earned the nickname of "the Grandmother of Europe". This type of marriage served several purposes. In many nations it was unacceptable for nobility to marry another social class. Other purposes included forging alliances between two nations or staving off the threat of war. The downside to these marriages is illustrated by accusations that Russia's Tsar Nicholas II's German born wife was a German spy and was sabotaging the Russian war effort during the First World War.

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