Liz is working on her PhD in Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas. She works as a research assistant…the Topic: Marriage and Relationships. You can read about some of the research she does here. She is a regular Oprah, and just like I’ve said to her, while I may favor the legal contract, it is pretty romantic (and ballsy) to choose to do life with someone else every.single.day. Choosing to not walk out when it is so easy to…that to me, is just, well, OPRAH! (noun, verb, whatevs).
As Katie alluded to in my introduction, I do not now nor have I really ever (at least in my adult life) wanted to get married. That’s right, never. No white dress for this gal. I can hear your reactions through the screen. “It’s because your parents are divorced, isn’t it?” “Oh… are you a lesbian?” “You’ll change your mind when you meet the right person.” “Hippie!” Although I’ve heard all of these things before, none of those assessments are true… ok, maybe I am a bit of hippie! I’ll try to clarify what my reasons are for this decision in this post. As Katie also mentioned, this is not because I am anti-love or a man-hater. I have been with a truly amazing guy for over five years, and I can say that both he and our relationship continue to surprise me all the time with how incredible life can be when you have a supportive, fun, and caring partner.
Let me begin with one more qualifier: I have a deep respect for marriage. I genuinely look up to people that have healthy, happy, honest marriages. (Katie actually has me in constant awe of her and Bryant’s marriage, as I’m sure is the case for many of you!) Marriage can absolutely be a beautiful and, as we can see from the posts before mine, a life-changing experience. However, just like running a marathon, or living out in the country, or eating carrots (I feel you, Josh!) are just not for everyone, I also strongly believe that being married is simply not everyone’s idea of a happy, healthy relationship or of a fulfilling life. This is a hard idea to contend with for a lot of people I speak to about this topic. I think that this might be because we grow up being taught that there are certain milestones that you will reach when you get big: drive, drink, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids. Even more than that, marriage is slated to be the best part of all that. You get to meet, be swept off your feet, fall madly in love, do the romantic proposal, have the fairy tale wedding with your friends and family, and then live happily ever after. But why is it that people get married? Beyond that “it’s just what you do!”, when I began to consider the reasons for getting married, I was hard pressed to find one that I felt applied to me personally.
For love. Why can’t I have an epic love story complete with a happy ending without the cake and dancing part?
To commit. Why couldn’t I make a resolute and steadfast personal commitment to someone without it being legally binding? I can’t say that I know how I’ll handle every hard time, but I have experienced enough valleys and I know myself well enough to know I won’t just walk away when things are difficult. Chase and I have been through enough in our relationship (cross-country moves, months apart, changing jobs, etc.) that I know we can withstand life’s curveballs. That said, I also accept that if things drastically changed, if Chase and I somehow became miserable together (as many couples unfortunately do overtime), I would like many others want a ‘divorce’- an end to the long-term commitment I had made. This would inherently be easier (practically, not emotionally of course) if we never married. However, I hope that the commitment we’re making to one another, already facing the challenge of going against the grain, will make us as strong as if we were to make it legal.
To have children. Countless children are raised by unmarried or divorced parents today- it’s now the norm and not the exception. I think a child raised in a loving family with two parents (even if they’re not married) will be better off than a child whose parents got or stayed married out of obligation and are miserable. There’s no tit for tat here- kids should be loved and cared for, and that can be done in or out of marriage. Chase and I certainly talk about having children in a few years, and we don’t feel like we need to be married to start a family.
For the religious union. Although I greatly value a spiritual connection in relationships, I do not believe you need to be wed in a church by a pastor to be together forever in this life or the next.
For practical reasons (AKA money, taxes, homeownership, etc.). This is the one that really gets me. People tend to bring this up after I’ve explained how I feel about the points above like this will be the one to break my argument. “Don’t you know you can save money if you get married?!” I simply have no desire to combine my finances with another person. Don’t get me wrong; I completely understand the practicality (and for some, the necessity) of being able to draw from the same bank account for shared bills or for childcare expenses. I just personally am not comfortable with this. This might be because I am extremely independent- like change my own tires in the rain kind of independent. Leaving it to someone else (however much I love them) to decide how to spend money I’ve earned just has never sat well with me. I’m happy to consult and agree to both save for a trip, for instance, but not to contribute to my partner’s debt pay-back. You might see this perspective as cynical, but I truly see it as practical. I want to spend the money I work hard for in the way I want to spend it. And unfortunately, people do break up. Every day. And while I truly do not believe that will happen in my relationship (and I’m sure you don’t either), EVERYONE has said that at least once and then broken up. Or gotten divorced. The independent and practical woman in me just wants to make sure that I am prepared financially if a turn of events that no one could predict does occur and that I could continue to take care of myself.
I’m happy to discuss more of the ins and outs of this life choice in the comments to follow. I.e., Will you still call Chase your boyfriend after you’ve been with him for 15 years? What would your children’s last names be? Do you still want to have a party or commitment ceremony? How do you pay bills/make purchases together? Your bio said your topic of research in graduate school is relationships and marriage! How does this affect your relationship? How does Chase feel about this?! But for now, here’s the skinny, borrowing Katie’s verbiage:
The true: I love Chase in an all-encompassing, unconditional way I didn’t know was possible. We are unbelievably, incontrovertibly, and some might say disgustingly happy together. I wholeheartedly want to be with him for the foreseeable future. (I actually think he’ll look super hot when his hair turns grey.) I just don’t want to marry him. And yes, I am sure. The questions: I’ll never know what life would be like if we got married. Would we be happier? More committed? I can only speculate, no. But there’s no way to tell. I could be missing something and never know it. The resolution: When I come home from a long work day and he greets me in our teeny tiny apartment (a sacrifice he made so I could go to grad school) with a hug and kiss, has made us dinner, got my car a check-up, updates me on only the world news stories he knows I’ll care about and won’t upset me, and somehow the conversation about our days develops into a silliness that results in him playfully chasing me around while doing his Avatar impression, I am even more resolute that not having a title for our relationship does not matter. I am incredibly lucky to have the love and the life that I do.