You Don’t Have to Get Married

As promised in my last post on why you don’t need to have children, I’m going to give you my reasons why you don’t need to get married either. Another writer here already wrote about some of the archaic sexist aspects of traditional weddings. And I would argue that, for some of us, the institution of marriage itself is outdated and unnecessary.

Let me start by flipping the question around: why would you want to get married in the first place? I actually love to ask my friends this question. Usually they start talking about love and commitment. “Well, we love each other, that’s why.” “But,” I reply, “won’t you love each other just as much if you don’t get married?”

Then, typically the conversation turns to commitment. “I want to know my partner is committed to sticking with me even when times get tough. I don’t want to worry they might just leave someday.” Okay, fair point, this is a reasonable thing to want. But, I ask, do you really want to be with someone who would prefer to leave you and is only with you because you’re married? And if the situation is reversed, do you want to be stuck with someone you’d rather leave if it weren’t for the complicated divorce process?

Marriage makes it difficult to part ways even when both people would rather do just that. It gets the state involved and makes you go through the courts and a whole messy, painful and often expensive process just to walk away from each other. It can give one of you leverage to use the system against the other to get something from them. It’s a massive constraint designed to make you stay with a person, even when it’s the last thing you want. That’s kinda the whole point.

Again, I ask, why do you want that? Of course, we have all heard stories of that couple that wanted to get divorced and stuck it out and twenty years later fell in love again and are so happy now. That might happen. There are many more stories of people stuck in loveless marriages, though. Do you really want to roll the dice hoping you’ll fall back in love in twenty years?

And don’t even get me started on the tax breaks and hospital visitation rights and inheritance matters. You can make all those arrangements yourself (except the tax breaks, which at least in the U.S. are not a sure thing - there’s also the possibility of a marriage penalty). Hospitals today typically allow you to designate any visitor you want, and - whether you are married or not - you should always have an advance directive granting your loved ones power to make decisions on your behalf when you cannot.

When it comes to splitting money upon death or separation, you can formalize any arrangement you want without getting married. If one partner works while the other raises the kids, it would make sense to agree that money will be split evenly on death or separation. You can (and should) write that into your will and into a separation agreement. It might seem a little more work at the outset than simply getting married, but it’s a lot less messy than trying to figure it out later during a divorce. And in a divorce, the state gets the final say - it may not be what either of you want.

I’m all for love and long-term commitment. I intend to be with my partner for the rest of my life, or - as a friend recently put it in his wedding vow - as long as there is still love in our hearts. I’m all for having a wedding and celebrating that love and commitment in front of everyone. These are beautiful and sacred traditions. I’m just not for signing the marriage contract. If you really want to make contractual commitments to each other (which can be a beautiful thing), take the time to sit down and write them out exactly how you want them. Don’t just blindly take on the obligations and constraints of the marriage contract, which no one completely understands.


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