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What is a Marriage of Convenience?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated May 16, 2024
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A marriage of convenience is considered any union that is not based on either love or the goal of establishing a loving relationship between the partners. Marriages of convenience have been occurring since the beginning of time. In ancient times, royalty would arrange marriages to create political alliances with other countries. In ancient China, "heqin" was practiced, which involved a Chinese princess being married to an aggressor of China to dissuade the warrior from attacking. In modern times, a marriage of convenience may be entered into for social reasons, such as hiding one’s sexuality, for financial gain, or for the right to stay in a country.

While becoming less common, some homosexual men and women enter into a marriage of this kind with a person of the opposite sex. This is typically for social or business purposes. In the U..S, it is believed that this is especially common in the military. Heterosexual members of the military are provided with increased benefits and pay if they are married. Some homosexual members of the military marry a person of the opposite sex, often another homosexual member of the military, so they can enjoy the same benefits. As homosexuality continues to become more accepted in society, the instances of this type of marriage of convenience are decreasing.

Much like in ancient times, people often get married for financial reasons rather than love. There are many civil rights afforded to married couples in countries around the world. These can include income tax breaks, social security benefits, and inheritance rights. A marriage of convenience usually occurs to access these benefits. In some countries, for example, two families will arrange a marriage between their children to combine family assets. Unlike a traditional arranged marriage, this type of marriage of convenience is done without the expectation that the couple will eventually fall in love. In many cases, the two people live in separate homes.

Possibly the most frowned upon type of marriage of convenience is when a citizen of a country will marry an illegal immigrant to establish residency. In most places, this is illegal and referred to as a sham marriage. In many countries, it is punishable by a hefty fine and jail time along with deportation of the non-citizen. Due to possibility of immigration fraud, those looking to marry someone from another country typically have to undergo government scrutiny including interviews, home inspections, and background checks, and must provide documents from friends and family proving that the relationship is legitimate.

The majority of people do marry for love or with the expectation of finding love. Marriages of convenience, however, are much more common than many may think. These types of marriages are not illegal and, in some cultures are the norm.

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Discussion Comments
By Grivusangel — On Mar 03, 2014

There are many people who marry for financial reasons. Perhaps two people are a little older, are good friends and could use the benefits of marriage. Perhaps one person has good insurance benefits and the other has a nice home, or something similar.

In these cases, marriage benefits both parties. Both have a nice home to live in, good incomes and good health insurance.

Diplomatic/dynastic marriages were the more common marriage of convenience for many years. Sons were heirs, but daughters were marriage pawns. Frequently, if a girl refused to marry, she was bundled off to a convent until she changed her mind.

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