There has been a lot of talk about marriage lately. It has become the soapbox for many people who feel that marriage is the pinnacle of a loving relationship. Lost within this discussion is the concept of couples who love each other, just as much as those that choose to get married, but decide not to get married.
I won’t try to define marriage here. Everyone seems to have their own definition. We can talk about the practical, the social and the emotional components of it. A word of disclaimer: I will be speaking from the viewpoint of western (US) marriage beliefs. Other countries have various beliefs and traditions and to include those here would be encyclopedic! So if you happen to be from an Asian country, the Middle East or Africa, you may have significantly different experiences than what I will talk about here.
Many US laws include language about “man and wife”. The US tax code gives us a deduction if we are married and filing together. Company policies may reference “married dependents” in their benefits packages. All around us are conditions and opportunities that are available to a couple only if they are married.
A big topic now is same-sex marriage. In the future, references to “man and wife” could be changed to “partner and spouse” but the requirement of marriage to take advantage of some benefits will still be there. It is undeniable that there are practical benefits to being able to mark the “Married” box on a form.
This is the situation where a couple feels the need to get married because “that’s what everybody around us expects”. Friends, family, the community you live in may all have the belief that a couple who love each other, and certainly if they re living together, should get married. I include the religious circles in this category that believe that “God says you must be married”. The beliefs of people in this category can be so strong that they can think something is “wrong” with couples that say they love each other yet don’t get married.
I’m not using “emotional” to mean something bad, but to say that this is something that comes from within the couple. They both view marriage as a milestone in their life together. They mutually agree that it is an important activity and part of the growth of their relationship. They may have little interested in the practical benefit, and care even less what other people think. The couple feels that marriage is something they want to experience on this path together.
The Other, Nearly-Silent Viewpoint
Typically a couple that chooses not to get married simply have the opposing perspective of the marriage-supporters. The practical benefits are not enough for them to “tie the knot”. They are not concerned with what others around them think. And neither feels that marriage holds enough significance to their relationship to take that step.
According to the Alternative to Marriage website (http://www.unmarried.org/statistics.html#households) almost 44% of the adult population in the US is unmarried and unmarried households make up 45% of all US households. With almost half of the households in the US choosing not to get married, this appears to be a very popular choice!
We don’t hear that much from this crowd while pro-marriage gets mentioned in the news often. It’s just an interesting fact of our society and the evolution of its beliefs.
I’ve taken a lot of words just to get down to this simple statement: If you and your partner don’t wish to get married, don’t! You may have others ways to anchor the relationship with each other. People have commitment ceremonies and simple love services if they feel the need to profess their connection with friends and family. Check out the website above and other resources online if you want to have some kind of ceremony to celebrate your relationship.
If others ask why you aren’t married, just say “We didn’t want to”. You don’t need to justify why. Let the other people deal with their own beliefs. It is your relationship and you and your partner will create it as you wish.
Love has its own energy and you and your partner will find the right ways to say “I Love You” to each other. Perhaps through marriage, perhaps not. That’s what makes love a creative force! When you listen to it, magic happens!