I was at a birthday party yesterday for Hannah’s best friend’s brother.  I’ve known the family since both our girls were infants and although we’ve never been close, we are certainly friendly.  I see at least one of them most days as I pick up and drop off Hannah and we commonly spend 15 minutes or so chatting about the kids amongst the chaos OF our kids, before going our separate ways.

At the party I was discussing Kindergarten plans for their daughter knowing that she’d sadly be separating from Hannah when this school year comes to an end.  Hannah will be entering the public school system after 5 years at a fabulous (yet crazy expensive) preschool and her best friend will be continuing at a private Catholic school.  I was interested in why they were opposed to the public school they were zoned for (a different one than Hannah) and if a Catholic education was the motive for this choice.

They laughed as they began to tell me that it definitely was NOT a Catholic education they were after.  “You know we’re not married, right?” the husband asked me assuming this was old news.

Surprised, I told him I had no idea.  Figuring they were just a little alternative and weren’t into the “institution of marriage”, or that one of them had been divorced and didn’t want to go through “it” all again, I just smiled and said, “Oh, that’s cool.”.

“Yeah, it’s totally for tax reasons”, he went on to say.

“Tax reasons?”

“Yeah, we’re saving a SHITLOAD of money by not being married.”  Sounded like a Geico ad.

Thinking of the five digit check we handed over last month, my first reaction was, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  But that thought was short lived.  I really did not want to be judgmental about this decision they had made because who am I to even have an opinion about how a couple handles their affairs, but it just seemed so wrong odd.

I told Tim on the car ride home this new piece of information thinking he’d say, “So what?  Pretty smart if you ask me!” but he surprised me with his immediate reaction of, “Well, THAT’S romantic!”.

He nailed it.  That was exactly what my problem was with this whole thing.  Their reasons for not getting married seemed to just SUCK the romance out of what I, personally, thought was the most romantic part of a couple’s lives.  Beyond the walk down the aisle, and the gorgeous white gown and gaining a new last name in honor of “my man”, it’s the knowledge that we have this “bond”.  This commitment.  This PROMISE.  I wondered if he had ever proposed to her and after wearing an engagement ring they discussed what a marriage would mean to them financially and so she stopped wearing it (I noticed she did not wear a ring).  Or if they had a nonlegal ceremony and celebration that simply did not include the marriage license.  Or.  Or.  Or.

I thought about if their five year daughter old understood their status.  Hannah LOVES hearing about our wedding and dreaming about her own.  She often asks questions about getting married.  How old she has to be.  If she can marry a girl (yup!).  If you always have a baby right after you get married.  She’s already picked the name of her future husband.  Al.  I love talking to her about all of this.  I can’t help thinking that I’d have a harder time explaining if I wasn’t married, if my reason was to save a boatload of money.

There are certain things we do in our lives that aren’t ideal to save money.  Buying used clothes and cars, cutting coupons, buying generic items, buying in bulk, cutting our own grass, painting my own nails and the list goes on. But marriage?  It’s something I wouldn’t skimp on.  I mean I did skimp on certain aspects of the WEDDING.  But not the marriage.  Yes, Tim may have waited until he could afford a ring.  Other couples wait until they an afford the wedding they’ve dreamed of.  But not getting married, not putting your love and commitment in writing because of finances… I have a hard time with that.

Or maybe I should say, I HAD a hard time with that.

Until I thought about it as I lay in bed last night.  And I realized that the romantic part of being married is NOT the license.  It’s not about being able to say, “We’re married”.  It’s not writing Mrs. Tim S___.  It’s not having a new last name.  It’s not talking about it with my daughter.  No, it’s not any of those things that “being married” entail.

It’s the love.  The looking across the dinner table and knowing that person will be with me forever.  It’s looking at my children and admiring the fact that they are a part of the two of us.  It’s knowing without a doubt that this person will there for me, will defend me, support me and cherish me for my life.  It’s TRUSTING that, even without a court, Rabbi, Priest or Pastor confirming it, he will be there for me, with me and beside me.  It’s so much about trust really.  Because if you think about it, why do we even need that piece of paper other than to make it REALLY hard to leave one another if things don’t pan out?  And if you trust that won’t happen, the legal document shouldn’t be necessary.

Romance isn’t about the paper that no one looks at anyway (except apparently the IRS).  Romance isn’t about the public “I Do’s” and vows.  It’s about the private moments.  The vows said as you lay in bed next to one another or as you walk down the street holding hands. The ones that just the two of you share.

And writing that check last month?  Not romantic.  I could use more flowers or nights away instead.



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43 responses to “Mawwiage

  1. I had no intentions of getting married and was very happy living in sin with my husband and Javi. But then he wanted a baby and I had too much baggage attached to having a baby without having a marriage, so we got married. And then I got knocked up.

    As I’ve worked through my demons the past few years, I realized that marriage doesn’t mean anything. The “promise” isn’t sturdier or more important for being documented by our government. I’m not sorry we got married, but I do wish I’d done it because I wanted to, not because I felt I should.

    As for taxes — we saved by getting married. I guess that’s not always the case.

    • Yes, that’s exactly what I realized… the Promise, the Commitment is still just that, with or without the piece of paper. And probably more beautiful without it.

      But society convinces us it’s the right thing to do… even if it’s not something we need to feel committed. But I’m curious, why did you not WANT to get married? I can see feeling, “perfectly fine” not going through it all but was there a specific reason that marriage didn’t appeal to you?

      And that’s interesting that you now save money BEING married… I guess every situation is different. Sadly, I don’t know much about this part of accounting!

      Thanks Kelly.

  2. Nicki

    Well – should I admit this in writing? – my ex, and that is how I refer to him except when introducing him then he is my children’s father, and I are still married. We have been separated for longer than we were married – 13.5 years now. I can’t afford a divorce so unless he is shelling out the money for it none will happen.

    Strangely enough, many people who do not know us well assume we are married. We go to children’s events – concerts, plays, sporting events – together. We sometimes even travel together. Strange, I know.

    • Wow… I had no idea! I suppose the only real reason there would be to get a divorce would be if you met someone else that you wanted to marry. Correct? I never thought of this in the opposite way, not being in love yet keeping the bond for financial reasons.

      I’m just happy to hear that you are able to have this relationship with your ex which I’m sure makes it easier for all of you.

      Thank you so much for your openness and honesty Nicki!

  3. It is about the love, you’re right, but the tax thing? Strange. Really strange. I’m sure that someone could argue the other way around, that getting married improves your taxes or your finances, right? (A guy I worked with masked his homophobia by saying he didn’t support civil unions because of tax reasons. I told him I lost money when I got married. But he had to have some lame reason to back his statement up, I’m sure.)

    There’s a reason gay couples want to get married. They want to share certain rights; they want to be responsible for each other. I can respect people’s decision not to get married, but the tax thing is really weird, I think.

    Except…how much money are we talking?

    • I agree on all fronts. Marriage does give you certain rights but this couple must have done their homework and found they didn’t need them. I thought their whole view was odd at first but as I said, I guess it worked for them. I have no idea how much money but he did say, “shitload” -whatever that means!

  4. Wow, just wow. In Canada, it doesn’t matter if you are married, if you are living together for more than 6 months you file joint, so no loopholes like that. But you are completely right. After my mother passed away, my dad met a wonderful woman who would go on to become my step mother. They’ve been together now for 25 years, but only married 12 years ago. There was never any question of the love they shared for one another before marriage. It was obvious in everthing they did and was the perfect example for us.

    I was married very young. I wanted to be married and even though it’s just a piece of paper, it’s still a commitment and I do think it makes a difference. Maybe I’m just naive. When I made my vows, I meant them and in the saying my life became half my husbands. I said my vows before God, before friends and family. I think the difference is in the willingness…no the WANTING to make the commitment. Whether or not it defines a relationship or not, to me it mattered.

    • I didn’t realize that Canada had that law. Makes sense though. I don’t think you were naive. I think you were committed and felt strongly about voicing this commitment to all. And to many (including me) that is important. I also was such a crazy romantic and could never have imagined not having that Wedding. Sharing my bliss. Doing it the way I always dreamed of doing it.

  5. Thank you. Yes, yes, yes and yes!

    I was married. I did the white dress. The ring. The paper. The forking out of the check. It didn’t work. We moved on.

    And now I’m with another man. We have a daughter. And I’m crazy in love. We see forever with each other. But we’re not married. He’s not really a believer and since I’ve been there and it didn’t provide any guarantees of eternal love for me then, I’m not sure I want to place my trust in that piece of paper again. It’s what we do outside of that piece of paper that counts, and for a couple who just dedicated last ordinary Friday “to being in love and happy”, there’s plenty of romance as well.

    But there are days… – when I’m the only unmarried mom in my mom’s book club, when my girl’s playdates have married moms and dads, when we’re the only people in the babysitting co-op who aren’t married, when the sound of “boyfriend/girlfriend” just does not cut it because it seems to diminish our relationship as it certainly feels like much more than what you’d call your steady back in high school, when my mom the traditionalist told everyone in my family we were married because it’s taboo to have a child and not be married where I’m from – these are the days I wish we had that lousy piece of paper to not stick out like a sore thumb, to not have to explain why we are not, and in my family’s case, to not feel like I’m lying to them.

    But your post reminded me why I should be happy. And that I am. Thank you. I really needed it.

    • I totally get that Justine. Since you were there with the paper and it didn’t work out, I can see why you didn’t feel it was necessary to do it the same way again. When you say your “boyfriend” isn’t a believer, is that because of YOUR history or something that happened with him? Or something else? Just wondering, don’t answer if it’s too personal!

      I also understand how it can be hard in some company to not be able to say you’re married but just like so many other things that are not traditional these days, who cares. YOU know you’re in love. YOU know it’s forever… everyone else will get past it. And I was there with the family/religious issues when I was living with my now husband before we were married. My parents had to lie to their parents because my grandparents NEVER would have spoken to me if they hadn’t!

      • Hey Becca – just saw this. My boyfriend’s one of those “progressive types” – someone who doesn’t really see the value in a piece of paper since we already do what married couples do (same medical insurance/shared finances/home/baby, etc.) He’s also an atheist. Big surprise there I’m sure 🙂

        He’s not against us getting married someday and we might even go down that road but it’s just not a priority. But imagine what I have to say to my mom’s side of the family – hey you’re invited to our wedding… “Errr…WT-?”

  6. I feel the same as Christine in regards to the vows. I got legally married because I wanted to declare my love and commitment to my husband in front of God, our family and friends. The reception was fun but the ceremony is where my heart is.
    (It is helpful in dealing with hospitals etc.. although I don’t know how long your friends have been together but most states have common law marriages by seven years of co-habitation.)

    • yes, the ceremony was most special in my book too. I took it very seriously (which why when the Rabbi “forgot” my husband was Jewish it caused a little problem for everyone… for another post though) and still love watching the video.

      My friends have been together a very long time. I’m not sure what the rules are for common law marriages here. Do all the same rights come along with common law marriages?

  7. Jen

    Great post! I am not married. I do not ever remember dreaming of a wedding or a husband or a marriage. I always wanted to be a mother, but to me being married didn’t seem a necessary first step. I don’t know why, really, because that was the general message girls were getting. I think probably my dad had a lot to do with it. He never ever suggested that I “needed” to get married. He never assumed that I would. He spoke of my choices and successes as my own, completely. I realize now how difficult it may have been to parent with such confidence in me and against the “normal” scripts that so many young girls are held to.
    The only frustrations I have about my non-legal status as spouse are the ones regarding next-0f-kin rights and health insurance. In some ways there is a financial aspect there, although I would never say money ever came in to play regarding my decision to marry or not. There are some legal benefits to marriage that I feel strongly should not be legal issues at all. For me, though, it comes down simply to the fact that I don’t feel the need to be married to the man I am devoted to. I don’t feel I missed out on the romance of a wedding. The idea of me in a wedding makes me quite uncomfortable, actually. I’m not very good with things being all about me.
    People do assume, though, all the time, that my Sweetie and I are married. We are well beyond correcting them, and while we don’t refer to each other as husband/wife, I do still find it curious the assumptions that people make. And I find myself never assuming, which sometimes is awkward as well! This is a great post, Becca. It made me think. (Can you tell?)

    • Jen, there is so much here. So much food for thought about the assumptions we all make about people, their situations, their reasons for making the decisions they make and what is “normal”. Your reasons for NOT getting married make total sense to me. Just like the reasons I DID get married make total sense to me.
      I can say, after reading your and other’s comments that I won’t be as quick to assume anything about people’s situations. And, I certainly won’t judge. Just as I detested, as I was desperate to have a second child and was struggling, when people berated me with questions as to whether and WHEN I’d have another baby, I’m sure you would feel the same if people kept asking you WHEN or WHY you weren’t getting married. Everyone has their story. Their reasons. Their thought process… and it works for them and we need to accept it. Even if it isn’t the same as our own.

      Thank YOU Jen. You made me think too.

  8. Great post! After my divorce I thought that I would never marry again. Then I met my Sweetie. I would have been fine with living together but somehow over the course of two years my views on marriage changed. Ok, maybe they didn’t change. But I realized how powerful a marriage can be when both people feel the same way. In a sense, this is my one true marriage and I’m happy!

    • I think that’s the key. “Both people”. No matter what the choice, if both sides of a couple agree, that’s what matters. And I’m so glad you’re so happy. It’s so evident from all you write about!

  9. Great post! I like knowing that we’re committed – to each other, to our lives together, to growing together. But I can see how easy it would be to have that without the ceremony.
    For me, the public vows was important – it was inviting those I loved to be part of this adventure. But that has nothing to do with any piece of paper.
    I’m pretty sure that living in love is the key.

    • Thanks Kate. I also like the knowledge that we have this commitment to one another. I remember on our honeymoon going for a treacherous hike in the mountains and knowing that this man was now a “part of me” and would do absolutely anything for me as he had promised in front of 200 people days earlier. It may seem silly and superficial to care about that document, but it was special to me.
      I do now have a more open mind though to other’s choices and for that I am grateful.

  10. I guess I can say to each their own, but I can’t imagine not being married to my husband. If we are living together, have kids together, and just not formally married for tax reasons….I don’t know….some how, it would make it seem like it’s okay to do things like decide to date someone else since after all, we’re not married. I know that a marriage license doesn’t stop that, but it just seems like the commitment isn’t really there.

    Just a piece of paper, I know, but I need it.

    • Thanks Shell. You certainly are not alone in your thoughts on this. I know for me, personally, I may question my partner’s motives for not wanting to commit on paper but as other commenters have said, as long as both people are on the same page it would work! Commitment is there, whether in writing or not.

  11. Huh. I’d never considered the “tax-break” incentive. I have several friends who have families together, are great parents and aren’t married. I think a family is something you make together, piece of paper or not. That said, I’m glad my husband wanted the piece of paper.

  12. I am not married. At this point in our relationship it’s a technicality. We live as any married couple does. We are as committed as any married couple I know; neither of us going anywhere.

    We’re not married & neither of us feel the need. We are not religious, so vows to God mean nothing to us. Our family and friends know our status and no one questions it.

    I am pretty unconventional and am not one to ever do something ’cause it’s what we are ‘supposed’ to do.

    You are right – it’s about the moments and the connection and a commitment that no piece of paper can define.

    As for taxes, we don’t get a break. We are considered spouses by common law marriage and file together.

    • Thank you so much Sarah for your thoughts on this and I so respect your decision that you both made. As I said in other responses, as long as you both are on the same page, a commitment is just as special and steadfast. No one should do ANYTHING just because it’s expected. I think it’s LESS romantic to do it just because you SHOULD. What’s the point?

      We all have our special moments, the way we cherish one another and what feels RIGHT. And that is all that matters.

  13. Marriage is very much about love but mostly the paper. It legally binds you to someone who is not your blood. It gives them rights and responsibilites regarding your happiness. It makes you a member of their family. Dating and marriage are completely different. In marriage there is a committment to the other family. You become a sister or brother and son or daughter. It is an intertwining of thread to make a whole new fabric. A fabric that ideally should be a safety blanket for the couple and their children. It should protect them from others who do not have good intentions. It is an unspoken word that means he/she has my back and I will protect them and care for them. Something so difficult as raising a family needs that piece of paper, otherwise people might leave without taking care of what is legally their responsibility on a whim.Granted, marriage may not always be good, and the contract is broken, but ideally the paper is very important. It stands as a testament over time as to whom you chose to spend your life with for all to read.(if it lasts that is). Saying you want to be legally tied to someone is a huge commitment and one that I think reflects my love and trust.

    As for the couple you talked about : I wonder if there is an organized crime involvement or something else criminal in their motives because marriage saves you in taxes. Just a guess.

    • Thanks Joely for this very well thought out comment. I agree that the legal document does bind two people as you so eloquently wrote here. But I do also believe that there is something to be said for holding someone to their “word” that they are committed and will not walk off on a whim and leave a family. I think people question why they need the legal involvement in their commitment. I personally, would question my partner if they didn’t want to make it “official” but that’s my personal choice. Everyone has their motives that work for them and the lives they are comfortable living… and even if they wouldn’t work for me, I respect them for their choices.

      I’m PRETTY certain these friends do not have organized crime ties (the thought of that with them actually makes me giggle), but I guess I can’t be SURE!

  14. I’m sitting here reading all the comments, and I’m so ashamed of myself for just assuming you all were married!
    What a good reminder though, about remembering the love and not the technicalities. Thank you 🙂

  15. LZ

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. I guess it would be a problem for me if Joe didn’t want to get married. Regardless of the commitment, I would be bothered by the fact that there was a step he was unwilling to take. Yes, it is only a piece of paper, but the reasons behind the avoidance would be important.
    That’s only in my own situation. I think nothing of another couple who shares that same life and commitment we do without the official marriage. I don’t think it defines the relationship, but I think both partners really need to be on the same page. A partnership is no less permanent than a marriage.

    • I think how you worded this is spot ON. It’s all about both parts of the couple being on the same page. And as long as they are… to each their own. As long as they trust one another and agree on the commitment… it’s the same either way. Thanks LZ!

  16. I was afraid of marriage after witnessing the disaster my parents had (which by the way, they stayed married for us kids, humph!)

    But, I fell in love. And the thought of publicly announcing my love and devotion and intentions with this man overcame the fear.

    In many ways, marriage has made me stronger, if only because the man who lays next to me every night wants to be there. Because he supports me.

    I guess there is no need for a piece of paper to do this, but for me, it was the ceremony deeply rooted in what we felt and still feel for each other.

    Wonderful post, Becca! It is so easy to assume that people always follow the beaten path, and sometimes, we are surprised for the reasons that they don’t!

    • Thanks Maria. For me, without that ceremony, I’m not sure I would have known my husband wanted to be there. Without it, I would have wondered what was stopping him from wanting it. Without him signing his name beside mine and holding my hand in front of the Rabbi… a part of me would still be wondering.

      But, everyone is different and what is important to me, I guess isn’t important to everyone. And I need to stop assuming otherwise.

      Thank you for your wonderful thoughts!

  17. Thought-provoking, Becca. I’d heard about the tax breaks (not sure what circumstances make it more advantageous to file separately), but I know it was the opposite for us this year — we definitely saved BECAUSE we were married.

    In any case, as Corinne said, love over technicalities. So important to remember.

  18. I agree on all counts. I wanted to get married so badly for so long, and when it finally happened (after much patience and to the right guy), I did feel a sense of peace. I can’t imagine explaining to a child why there aren’t any wedding photos. To me, no degree of money-saving would make a difference. I love being married.

    • Thanks so much for your comment Anne! And I agree. I love being married too. What surprises me is that I know this couple LOVES each other. They have a wonderful family. Enjoy being with one another… but something just struck me as so OFF with this decision they made. I think I need to become better friends to understand better because as it stands now, I just can’t stop thinking about it! And as much as Hannah talks about marriage, I can’t imagine her best friend at school talks about it at home much less. Must be a very different discussion in their house.

  19. I’m a little late getting to this party, but I think that with anything society deems as “the next step” or “the right way,” it’s important to question why the tradition exists and whether it fits your beliefs. If you do that and make a thoughtful decision, you are miles above the rest, who follow along blindly.

    (And please give my congratulations to Hannah and Al!) =>

    • Great point stacia. There is no “right way” when it comes to raising a family and there also isn’t a “right way” to be a couple. As long as they are happy and in love… it Really Doesn’t Matter.

      Thanks for the congrats… I’ll pass it along to the happy bride. :O

  20. Wow, a great post and so many great comments! I truly believe to each their own but I am definitely guilty of assuming that people are married (or “just like me”) when they might not be.
    My hubby and I were together for six years before we were married. Our son, who was four at the time, was in the wedding. Like Justine, I always found it awkward when referring to my guy. “Boyfriend” sounded so juvenile. We were living together and he was the father of my child, for Pete’s sake! I usually ended up calling him my husband (since we were considered common-law anyway).
    I’m glad we got married. It was definitely the ceremony that meant the most to me. We had a very small wedding – only 12 guests actually – so we didn’t have a reception, just a dinner. The vows, promises, and the little piece of paper all make it more “official” to me and it’s easier for my kids to understand. But I don’t judge people for not getting married (unless the only reason is to save on taxes – ha ha!). Whatever floats your boat!

    • Thanks Shannon. I also just assume everyone is like me. When I meet someone, I just assume they are around my age, are married and went on to have their kids. I assume this even though I’ve met so many people who have traveled a different path. It’s just easier to assume than ask too many questions, I guess. After having such a hard time having a second child, the one thing I don’t assume when I meet a couple with one child is that they only WANTED one. Or when I meet a married couple without kids, I never assume they don’t WANT kids. Everyone has a story and situation and so we really just can’t assume anything.

      I don’t judge necessarily when I come across someone with a different situation, but sometimes I’m taken by surprise.

  21. Fascinating conversation here. I’m so curious about your friends’ decision. They’re saving a boatload by not getting married, but are sending their kids to private schools? They had kids in the first place! Obviously financial concerns aren’t the only factors here or they wouldn’t have had children and put them in expensive schools. So on certain matters savings didn’t carry the day. And that’s why I find it so strange that on as emotional an issue as marriage they yielded to their bank account.

    As for me, I love being married. I love the wedding, but mostly I love being married. However, no one else in the world is me, and everyone needs to do what works for them. We’re lucky to live in a country where we all have that option.

    • Gale, I know for certain this couple isn’t hurting for money. They live in a beautiful home, in a wealthy area and yes, send their kids full time to a private Preschool that costs as much as college/year. So, you’re right, their motives for saving this amount of money is curious. Very curious, now that you mention it! Hmmmm…

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