Is Getting Married to Make Parents Happy worth It?

We're basically married anyway... so why should we make it legal?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

woman and man sitting together

Q: I know that trying to please others is probably a terrible reason to get married, but hear me out. I’m twenty-nine and I’ve been with my partner for eight years, even though I’d always planned to remain single through my twenties. His parents are Pakistani-American and they had very concrete plans for his life, including that he marry someone within their sect of Islam. He has disappointed those expectations: he’s not religious, he doesn’t have a well-paying career, and like me, he’s not super enthusiastic about the possibility of having kids one day.

He didn’t tell his parents about me for the first few years we were living together because he knew they wouldn’t approve. They found out about me eventually, though, and even though it’s been hard for them, they’ve always treated me with kindness and respect. They’ve made it clear that they want to accept me into their family, but they don’t feel like they can really do that if we’re not married. They mention it almost every time we see them.

I resent the fact that they put so much pressure on us to define our relationship a certain way, and I’ve never considered myself marriage material. I don’t want to be someone’s wife—the idea of that doesn’t make me very happy, even though I’m in a committed relationship. I don’t like the idea of legally binding myself to someone and making a promise to stay with them forever when I don’t know what the future holds. I like knowing that I’m with this person every day because that’s what I’m choosing right now—not because I have some obligation to fulfill.

I also don’t want to assume his debts and responsibility for whatever choices he makes with his health—when I imagine getting married, I start to think of him as property or an investment of some kind. Like, please don’t drink that beer because we’ll both be paying for it down the road? I’ve read the statistics on how marriage leaves women worse off in terms of health in the long term, while married men are generally better off than their unmarried counterparts. It doesn’t feel like a fair trade. Plus, his parents approach marriage from a patriarchal standpoint, even though their sect of Islam is pretty liberal. I just think the inequality and weird property stuff is baked in, and I don’t want to compromise myself that way. It’s really unromantic to me.

At the same time, we basically act like we’re married already. Our lives are intertwined, we share a bank account, and we divide labor in a way that makes sense to us. I don’t want to be with anyone else, and sometimes I look down at my hand and think I wouldn’t mind a nice piece of jewelry there, to symbolize our relationship and how much it means to me. His parents are getting old, and it’s clear that it’s really upsetting to them that we can’t just go to the courthouse and make it official. We could draw up a prenup and make it easy to divorce if it comes to that. We could still call each other “partner” instead of “husband” and “wife” if we wanted to. What’s the difference, really? Maybe we could have a celebration of some kind to make our families happy, and to give my relatives who live on the other side of the world an excuse to come visit and see everyone and be happy. It seems kind of fun and nice, I suppose…

But I still feel deeply reluctant. I’m a child of divorce, and I never saw it coming… you just never know what’s going to happen. We could get married and break up a year later. But we’ve been together this long, and we’re more committed now than we’ve ever been. What’s the point of this weird, rebellious stance I’m taking? Why not just make his parents happy and make it official? Am I being selfish for refusing to give up my single status?

But also, even if we did get married, his parents would likely continue to pressure us to take the next steps: have babies, move to the suburbs, get well-paying jobs, make space to take care of them, etc. If we cave on this, maybe it just opens the door for more disappointment and disapproval down the road. We don’t have conventional jobs and we’re not planning to move to the suburbs to have kids, ever.

But I think just the small step (or is it big?) of getting married would make a huge difference to these people who care about us, and maybe that’s reason enough. They’re never going to understand us and the choices we make, but they can understand marriage, and I think that would be nice for them. My parents are more laid back about things, but I know my mom would love to plan a celebration of some kind if we wanted that. I heard recently that my uncle was upset about our unmarried status, which bothered me because I don’t want to upset people. I think I have good reasons for being reluctant, but I also want to make it easier for our families to accept us and respect our relationship.

So, what do you think? Should we get married to please the parents?


A: Dear Lizzie,

No! No no no, never will I ever tell someone to get married to make the parents happy. And who cares what this uncle thinks about whether you’re married or not? He’s wasting some valuable energy on something that doesn’t affect him at all. Ignore them. No matter your choices, the previous generation might not get you, so you can’t base your choices on what they think. Whether you stand firm on this one, or get married to please them, either choice probably won’t stop them from pressuring you in one way or another.

But be real with yourself. Are you saving yourself any heartache here? Whether you’re legally tied or not, you’re emotionally invested in this guy. Living with him, combining your finances, and just flat-out caring about him all make you vulnerable to some of the things you’re trying to avoid by skipping marriage. Even if you don’t have a wedding, his choices about his own health impact you, too. You’ll still be paying for that beer.

You’re right when you say you don’t know what the future holds. But nobody does! Marriage isn’t about saying, “I know exactly what the next thirty years of my life will be.” It’s more like, “No clue what’s ahead, but I promise to stick with you through all of it.” Which is simultaneously a really scary and really comforting idea. It seems like you’re trying to avoid risk by avoiding marriage, but that’s not how it works. Caring about somebody in any capacity at all puts you at risk. Marriage, if anything, tempers that risk just a bit by giving you the reassurance of a mutual understanding. It’s actually a lot like that everyday choice you mention. I make the choice to stick around each morning not because I feel obligated by my vows, but because I know that he promised to stay, too, and I can count on him to work through whatever garbage is making me consider leaving in the first place.

There are certainly loads more knots to untangle once you get married—legally, financially, etc. I’m not at all encouraging you to get married, or to take the decision lightly. I’ll be the first to say that if you’re on the fence, don’t do it. But make the choice open-eyed and with an awareness of what you’re actually deciding here.

When you say, “the inequality seems baked in,” I can’t figure out if you mean into marriage in general, or into Islam. If marriage, well, you’ve got a whole lot of catch-up reading to do on this here site. If Islam, you might want to check out what this lady over here has to say about that. In either case, you’re painting with a pretty broad brush.

But you know what else we haven’t talked about at all? Your partner’s opinion. How does he feel about all of this? That matters a whole heck of a lot more than what his parents or some random uncle think. Sometimes—like when you’re marrying into a culture that’s not your own—it’s important to compromise with an older generation, and sometimes it’s not. The person who gets to decide this, however, isn’t you—it’s your partner. You get to weigh in, but at the end of the day, this is a complex situation, and it’s not all about you.

Don’t get married because his parents say to. Don’t get married because some lady advice columnist on the Internet says to. If you get married, only do it because you want to get married, and because you’ve decided your partner’s worth the risk.


Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Stephanie B.

    “You’re right when you say you don’t know what the future holds. But nobody does! Marriage isn’t about saying, “I know exactly what the next thirty years of my life will be.” It’s more like, “No clue what’s ahead, but I promise to stick with you through all of it.” Which is simultaneously a really scary and really comforting idea. It seems like you’re trying to avoid risk by avoiding marriage, but that’s not how it works. Caring about somebody in any capacity at all puts you at risk. Marriage, if anything, tempers that risk just a bit by giving you the reassurance of a mutual understanding.”

    Liz, I feel like that paragraph could — and should — be used in wedding vows. Or somewhere in the ceremony. So spot on.

    • Maya Amack

      I am actually writing my vows over the next few days and I am putting that in my notes ;)

    • Bethany

      I was thinking the same thing!

  • Libby

    Over the years, I’ve come to realize that deciding to get married should be a lot like practicing enthusiastic consent before sex: “Uh, sure, whatever,” isn’t yes; “fine,” isn’t yes; “why not?” isn’t yes; “we already have our clothes off, anyway,” isn’t yes. There needs to be a “hell yes, please!” in there somewhere before you go down that road.

  • Mary

    I am curious about the thought that you don’t have to worry if he wrecks his health if you’re not married.

    Does that mean you intend to bail if his health takes a turn for the worse? Because if you didn’t mean that, then married or not, his health will impact you.

    • Abby

      See and I read that as (Maybe because she threw in the bit about the beer) “If he chooses to let his health decline by making bad decisions, etc” then she doesn’t want to be legally bound to him. (Which as a child of an alcoholic, I can totally understand.)

      • sofar

        I understand, too. Even if we weren’t married, I’d stand by his side. But, now that we’re getting married, it almost pisses me off more when he’s irresponsible with his health. I’ve always been very careful with mine, and, when we got engaged, I was like, “OK I’ve got to be even more careful now because this person is pledging to stay with me forever.” The fact that he didn’t also come to this conclusion is one of the things we’re working through. I come from a LONG lineage of women who married men who didn’t take care of themselves.

  • Ashlah

    I’m going to be honest, and I hope this comes across as respectfully as I intend. I’ve never really understood being against marriage. I mean, I get it, but I don’t Get It. I respect the choice (your committed relationship is none of my business!), but on a deeper level, I have a hard time personally understanding. None of the arguments presented in this letter really made sense to me because none of those things are directly tied to the legal agreement we made (or are impossible to make different with a pre-nup). Or, like shared consequences of one partner’s actions, they’re already a part of your relationship regardless of marriage. I sort of get not wanting to be part of a historically icky institution, especially pre-marriage equality, but also…it’s a bunch of built-in legal protections for you and your partner, and that seems like a good thing?

    Marriage is what you make it. I know we wrestle with identity politics here a lot, and that’s a very good thing, so yes, call yourselves partners or spouses, not husband and wife, and don’t expect/let the dynamics of your marriage be any different from your 8-year-long committed relationship, and keep consciously choosing to stay together each day. Make it the marriage you want, not the marriage you feel is required by society. Heck, don’t even call it a marriage if you don’t want to!

    (All that said, I agree with Liz. Don’t get married for anyone other than yourself and your partner.)

    • Danielle

      The legal part matters. Like, when you get married you are responsible for each other’s debt, and so on. This is something I really feel, as someone whose partner is taking on massive student loans. If we break up or he dies (G-d forbid), I will still be responsible for that debt.

      • emmers

        I sometimes get freaked out by that part too, but there are also legal parts I appreciate, like next of kin stuff. Not simple!

        • Danielle

          You’re totally right. Marriage brings with it both the benefits and drawbacks of legal rights/responsibilities.

      • Ashlah

        Of course the legal part matters! I was focused on the legal benefits in my comment, but you’re right, there are potential downsides too. Based on some quick Googling (because I was curious), there are loads of variables determining whether a spouse’s student loans are your responsibility after death or divorce, but I’m sure you already know all about it. Best of luck to your partner in his schooling! (And to you supporting him through it!)

        • Danielle

          Thanks, Ashlah :)

      • toomanybooks

        I believe what I’ve heard is that you don’t have to be responsible for your spouse’s student loan debt? But of course, I’m not an expert (just hoping that’s really a thing lol – since my fiancée has student loans and I don’t).

        • Danielle

          I’m not an expert either! Although I have looked into it for my own situation and believe (at least for my particular circumstance), I am responsible for student loan debt my partner has accrued post-marriage.

          I’ve heard different things anecdotally about couples who didn’t get married because of one partner’s extensive medical-related debt, and those who did and were then responsible for a partner’s out-of-control post-marriage spending.

          My point wasn’t necessarily to get financial advice or complain (ok, maybe complain a little ;) ) but to agree that the LW’s concern about marriage tying her to her partner’s debt is totally valid.

          • sofar

            It depends on the state you live in. In community property states (I live in one, too), a spouse’s debt acquired AFTER marriage becomes your responsibility. Of course, that’s an over-simplified explanation and there are tons of factors. But, in most states, you only become responsible IF you co-signed that debt.

            Living in a community property state freaks me out.

          • BSM

            And I loooooove living in a community property state :)

          • Danielle

            That would freak me out too.

            I did co-sign my husband’s student loan this past year. I’m thinking of maybe not doing that for subsequent years, to protect myself just in case anything happens.

      • Ella Mae

        The legal part is so important. My husband was in an accident when we were engaged and his parents were automatically his legal decision makers. Luckily they stepped back and let me fill the role of primary contact person for the hospital, but legally I had no rights. And I couldn’t take FMLA to care for him either. It was so stressful. I feel so much more comfortable now that we are married knowing that if anything happens I have rights.

    • Amy March

      I’m hugely Team Marriage but I get that not everyone is. Just like not everyone wants kids, or not everyone is ok/not ok with monogamy, or not everyone wants a house. I think marriage does really really matter, so it makes sense to me that some people actually agree about that, and therefore do not want it. There is a difference between divorce and just walking away.

      • Ashlah

        Absolutely! Like I said, it’s just something I’m not personally going to understand on a visceral level. But I’m definitely not going to go on a crusade demanding everyone in a committed relationship should get married! It is a big deal, and should be chosen enthusiastically by those who want it. I guess the thought of people choosing not to get married because they think marriage requires acting a certain way bums me out, so that’s why I wrote the response I did. Obviously that’s not the only concern someone might have about marriage, but it’s the one I glommed onto.

    • Not Sarah

      Other than the Islam/Pakistani/religion parts, this letter rang so true for me. I’ve never wanted to be someone’s wife. I’ve never wanted to be married. I’ve never wanted to bear or have children. I’ve always wanted to be independent and my own person. I’ve never been a big team person either, to be honest. I see nothing wrong with being the aunt in her 90s who never married.

      We’re really lucky in that my family doesn’t put much importance on marriage. His does a bit more, but they’re reasonably accepting too. The difference between us and the letter writer is that we’re willing to stick to our guns and buck the family desires to get married rather than worrying about what they think too much.

      I’ve included the parts of the letter that I could have written myself:
      “I’ve never considered myself marriage material. I don’t want to be someone’s wife—the idea of that doesn’t make me very happy, even though I’m in a committed relationship.
      Plus, [our] parents approach marriage from a patriarchal standpoint […] I just think the inequality and weird property stuff is baked in, and I don’t want to compromise myself that way. It’s really unromantic to me.
      At the same time, we basically act like we’re married already. Our lives are intertwined, we share a bank account, and we divide labor in a way that makes sense to us. I don’t want to be with anyone else, and sometimes I look down at my hand and think I wouldn’t mind a nice piece of jewelry there, to symbolize our relationship and how much it means to me. His parents are getting old, and it’s clear that it’s really upsetting to them that we can’t just go to the courthouse and make it official.”

      • Ashlah

        I appreciate you sharing your perspective! If you care to, would you mind elaborating more? Because those are the exact parts I don’t fully understand. The “idea” of being a wife doesn’t make you happy, but I’m not sure being a wife (or spouse/partner) has any inherent qualities. And why assume inequality is baked in, when your marriage is whatever you make it? Do you feel it’s unrealistic or exceedingly difficult to move beyond societal expectations and make it your own? Are you concerned your relationship and your role would change upon getting married? Do you feel you are able to be “independent and be [your] own person” in your current relationship, in a way that would be hampered by being married?

        I’m really, really, really not trying to be pushy or disrespectful here (tell me if I am, and I’ll shut up), I’m just curious to understand an outside perspective. Please don’t feel obligated to respond if you don’t want to explain your choice to a stranger on the internet!

        • Amy March

          Is marriage whatever you make it? That’s a very baseline assumption you’re making that I think simply isn’t a universal truth.

          • Ashlah

            I guess that’s part of my question. I do believe that marriage is what you make it, just like any relationship, but maybe Not Sarah disagrees and that’s part of why it’s not for her.

          • Keri

            I would bet that inside your home marriage is what you make it, but maybe outside of your home it’s not, otherwise nobody would care if you were married vs. long term partners.

          • Ashlah

            Fair point, yes. Your marriage status certainly affects how others perceive you/your relationship.

          • “I would bet that inside your home marriage is what you make it, but maybe outside of your home it’s not, otherwise nobody would care if you were married vs. long term partners.”
            THIS. YES.

            ‘Was explaining to FMIL how FH will always buy their xmas/birthday/whatever presents, because their his family. And she responds with, “Well, soon we’ll be your family, too.” Like…not on the now-wife-has-to-buy-all-the-gifts-for-all-sides-of-the-family family, though. It’s just…the externally-enforced expectations of you being a wife. It can be annoying. The importance of standing your ground.

          • Lisa

            I am so with you on the presents. I tell my husband that it’s his family, and he knows them much better than I do, which is why he has to pick out and purchase the presents for his family if he wants them to have a birthday/Father’s Day/Christmas gift. I might encourage him to send a Mother’s Day card or suggest a present I think his sister might like, but ultimately, it’s up to him to do the emotional work for his side of the family.

          • raccooncity

            I did this this year and husband’s family ended up getting zero christmas presents. #cautionarytale

            I don’t feel bad about that, by the way. But…yeah, that worst-case-scenario happened in our house.

          • Lisa

            Yes, most of the recent gift-giving occasions have gone without any presents whatsoever. For Christmas, everyone did get a present, albeit with some prodding on my part. (Also we did the holidays with his family this year, which I’m sure helped influence things.) However, he didn’t get his mother or our nephew a birthday present but did purchase something for his dad’s birthday last October and for his sister’s birthday this July. I’m trying not to concern myself too much with that, but I feel badly that his mother didn’t even get a card for her birthday or Mother’s Day this year. I can’t decide if it’s because it’s something that’s actually important to me or because I’ve been socialized to care about it for so long.

          • raccooncity

            oh man, maybe it’s hormones but my first reaction would have been (internally) ‘well, she should have raised him to send cards to his mother, then’.

            Come on, sons of the world! Do better!

          • Lisa

            Oooooo, burn! I was the one who did have the “gentle influence” on my husband to convince him to now primarily respond to his parents’ “I love you”s with “Love you, too” instead of “uh-huh, bye.” It seems odd to me that the man who was the first to say the l-word in our relationship (drunkenly, at three weeks in) has such a difficult time using it with his own family.

          • VKD_Vee

            YES! YES! YES!

            Sometimes MIL will say to me over the phone (she’s in another province) “have you made plans to see [Grandpa-in-law in our town]??” and I just keep saying “No, [your son!] hasn’t been in touch with him yet I don’t think…” I doubt she has mentioned this expectation to HIM ever! She is a truly wonderful woman who is *so* capable with EVERYTHING (she is amazing at cooking, crafting, DIY, and basically anything she tries) but her son could barely make toast when I met him!

          • raccooncity

            I was raised by a labour and delivery nurse who MADE every single father change a diaper (perhaps teaching them how to do so) in front of the baby’s mother before leaving the hospital so they could never feign ignorance later. (she’s a real badass) …so I have zero time for guys ‘not knowing’ things. learn!
            I used youtube to learn how to knit and how to refinish wood furniture to great success, so i know it’s alllll out there.

          • ‘well, she should have raised him to send cards to his mother, then’.
            This. Pretty much exactly…except, old schoolers don’t expect men to send cards, you know? They expect their future wives to send the cards, so it’s deemed not a super important responsibility for a son. I’m afraid FH’s family will be sorely disappointed for the rest of their lives.

            ‘Still trying to convince him that his mom would prefer a shmarmy card to *anything* else he could gift her. But because he doesn’t appreciate cards, he doesn’t seem to get it. A CARD IS SO EASY. A food-gift for an allergy-prone person is not.

          • VKD_Vee

            That’s happened here too. I’ve *really* drawn the line at pestering/reminding about birthday gifts for “his side”. MIL has gone a couple of times without bday gifts and it’s shit (esp thinking – knowing? – that MIL’s expectation is that wifey should be taking care of this) but I’m too annoyed at the patriarchy to take care of this stuff for both my side of the family and his…

          • Lisa

            OMG, I’m so excited to see you in here! I was just thinking about you this morning and wondering how life was in the new home.

            I’m not sure if my MIL expects me to take care of this stuff, but I know she’s the primary organizer, hostess, and caregiver for my husband’s family. I’ve tried to make it a point that all communication goes through and comes from him.

          • VKD_Vee

            you’re such a sweetie! i am still quite homesick – not for vancouver, per se, but generally for “the big city”. on the other hand, being a HOMEOWNER is freaking amazing and makes me think EVERYONE should move to Nowheresville and buy a giant house for no pennies. :)

            I should really follow your lead and bite the bullet to start hinting to MIL more firmly that I expect Mr.VKD to be charged with card buying, birthday remembering, general visitation with anyone in the family who has his surname. I just love her to bits and want her to think I’m sweetness and light 100% of the time! But I barely like being in charge of my own family’s presents and milestones, and it winds me up when I have to nag the husb to do the same…

          • Lisa

            Yes, I completely understand what you mean about missing the big city. Badtown isn’t as awful as it was, but I miss being in a city where there are things to do, more opportunities for jobs, and friends to hang out with. We’re actually going to Seattle for a friend’s wedding this New Year’s, and I told my husband that I want to do a night or two up in Vancouver while we’re there. Anything interesting we should make sure to catch at the end of December? (If you’ll be around for HH, maybe we should move this thread over there so as not to derail this one too too much?)

            So true! I am not generally a gifts person, but my family has the expectation you will at least send a card and possibly a small present for most occasions so, at the very least, I’m sending a card.

          • VKD_Vee

            Let’s just de-rail! Folk can look away!

            December will likely be rainy but Vancouver is fabulous all year round. I really like this Vancouver tourism infographic, so much so I keep it on my Pinterest board…

          • Lisa

            I love all of the outdoor activities I’m seeing! Will they be feasible during winter? (Like the hikes.)

          • VKD_Vee

            Well, hiking the chief at Squamish is out because they shut that trail down in the winter. Up in the mountains there will be snow, but Vancouver itself won’t have any snow unless you’re very unlucky! Wreck can be a REALLY nice place to visit in the winter… Nobody will be naked in December, but it’s still a beautiful spot. The anthropology museum at UBC is VERY VERY VERY good (if you’re into museums, indigenous culture) and it’s close by, so you can knock out two birds with one stone.

            My favourite thing about this pin is the “avoid” list! Esp the aquarium… don’t go there. Huge tourist trap with a long, sad history of captive cetaceans having sad lives and deaths… :(

          • Lisa

            Good to know about the aquarium. My husband loves anything to do with the water so those tend to be high on the “must-see” list for him. We went to the Atlanta aquarium a couple of years ago, and we both agreed it was more of a sad experience than anything else.

            I am a total museum nerd so that sounds up my alley. Are there any markets, fun streets, or anything like that during the winter?

          • VKD_Vee

            Don’t miss the Granville Island Market! It’s *also* a tourist trap but I love it and don’t care. It’s quite similar to the one in Seattle but I think it’s far nicer! There’s a big public market (fish, fruits and veggies, etc) plus artisan chocolates, crafts, indigenous art, kids stuff/crazy toys, the list goes ON!

            There’s also a great improv troupe based there (few dramatic arts performance venues, actually). I could spend a whole vacation at Granville Island….!

          • Lisa

            Ooo, improv and arts events are right up my alley. I didn’t even think to look for those at first!

            ETA: I really appreciate all of these suggestions! I’ve added a sticky note to my phone with trip ideas in it now.

          • VKD_Vee

            Awesome! I look forward to hearing how it went, Lisa! :)

          • Lisa

            Is Vancouver easier to navigate by public transit or car? I bought our tickets to Seattle last night (yay!), and I’m researching whether we’d be better off with a rental car or just using transit most of the time. I saw that there’s an Amtrak that goes Seattle -> Vancouver in four hours, which is having me reconsider my original notion of the rental car.

          • VKD_Vee

            We are thinking about this very thing for our trip (in two weeks YAY!)


            1) Although locals will complain about nothing else, Vancouver has PRETTY GOOD public transit. It can be cramped during rush hour, but it’s pretty timely (especially if you’re staying in the centre and not going out the ‘burbs for some reason). I think it’s 2.75 CAD a ride – you buy tickets beforehand from London Drugs or 7/11 or Safeway. They spent years (*YEARS*) trying to roll out a re-useable/re-loadable farecard system called Compass – I wonder if they managed to finally launch it in the last 10 months I’ve been away? Anyway, I wouldn’t be *scared* of transit. The drivers (with a new nasty exceptions) are really helpful and friendly – Vancouver is the only place I’ve lived where passengers make a habit of calling out thanks to their drivers as they get off.

            2) On the other hand… Vancouver is quite *sprawling*. So, it can be a total pain in the ass to get from, say, a museum at the University on the west side of town to shopping on Main St. or Commercial Dri (that’s about 45-mins on the bus, during heavy traffic). So, if you can swing it, it might be worth it for you! I’d say car is easier and more convenient, but not sure how annoying you’ll find it to be on a busy Sky Train crammed in with all the office commuters!

            As for the trip between Seattle and Vancouver itself, it’s a piece of piss. We’ve done driving, coach, and amtrak between Vancouver and Portland (Seattle is about mid-way) and it’s always easy easy easy no matter what! The wait at the border is often faster when you’re going thru via train or coach too! If you drive across the border at a bad time (IE Saturday morning) you could be waiting in your car at a standstill for 3-4 hours (not kidding – this website is your friend

          • Lisa

            Thank you so much!! I’m sure I’ll be back with more questions as our plans become more concrete. :)

          • I can’t even remind him about family birthdays, because I don’t know any of the dates! Ignorance really is bliss!!

            But yeah. Stand your ground. No sense using up all that headspace to remind him to buy gifts sfor his family.

          • This is exactly what is meant about accepting the negative consequences of refusing the emotional labor. Bad stuff will happen, and you have to suffer for it. So we must decide if we can handle the consequences, if they are not worse than the actual effort of the labor.

            When FH gets his mom-with-a-million-food-allergies a thank you gift of chocolate covered walnuts, I become a little obnoxious and make sure the gift receiver knows that it was picked out by FH, and I had nothing to do with it. I should probably get better at just shrugging whatever, but I don’t want to be blamed for FH’s emotional labor neglect.

          • raccooncity

            OHHHH man. I also would make sure MIL knew i didn’t send that just so she knew I didn’t have a secret plan to murder her.

          • Yeah, I have no problem suggesting presents when asked. I’m pretty damn good at that, but I don’t go out of my way to do it…because it’s so much emotional effort, using up all that empathy and putting myself in others’ shoes.

            …Except in extreme-ish circumstances (i.e., FSIL was having a really rough go of it health-wise, so I pulled the YOU-WILL-SEND-YOUR-SISTER-A-GET-WELL-CARD-BECAUSE-SHE-WILL-LOVE-IT, and no, I don’t care that she’ll know that I put you up to it).

        • Not Sarah

          If I thought you were being pushy, I wouldn’t have responded in the first place :) I’m also always curious about the people who always wanted to be married as it was just never something I wanted!

          I’m not sure I can really fully explain why I don’t want to be a “wife”. I just never have. I’ve never wanted to a Mrs. either, just like some people have always wanted children without any rhyme or reason. Many girls grow up dreaming of their wedding and marrying a wonderful husband and being a wife and having children, but that was never something I wanted. I always wanted a career and a fascinating life of travel.

          I’m sure there’s some part in that I never saw a marriage I would want to have growing up. And yes, you can make your marriage what you want, but as soon as you’re married, there are far more societal expectations of your roles than when you’re unmarried and I prefer the unmarried ones.

          My view of marriage growing up was this: women are Mrs. HisName HisLast, women don’t have careers, women do all of the housework, women make none of their own money (and if they do, it’s theirs to be spent and doesn’t need to go towards the household), men don’t lift a finger to do any housework, women control the man’s calendar, women tell the men what they’re doing when, women are fully responsible for childcare, etc. I have spent the two decades of my life convincing my parents that that is not at all how my life will go. (I started young.) But as soon as you marry, total strangers will have these assumptions and it’s far easier to rebut them when you’re not married as then for some strange reason, you can do whatever you want. I’ve seen more examples of reasonable (to me) marriages in the last few years, but it takes a long time to eliminate those societal ideas that got caught up in your head. My parents aren’t divorced, but they’ve never seemed happy to me either.

          I am not interested in being someone’s wife or someone’s property or someone’s Mrs. I would probably spend more time coming around to the idea of marriage if I wanted kids, but I don’t, so I will figure that out later.

          • Ashlah

            Thank you for responding, I really appreciate hearing your thoughts! Even though I have gotten married, I can definitely identify with some of your reluctance about specific parts of marriage, particularly fighting back against the expectations of people outside of your marriage. And there were definitely pre-engagement moments where I too freaked at the “wife” label. We just came to different conclusions in the end.

        • S

          Maybe it makes zero sense, but I deeply feel a lot of these things too. I can’t explain exactly why it makes me feel so gross to imagine meeting someone new for the first time or chatting to someone at work and “having” to say that on the weekend I did X with “my husband” but thinking about using the words husband or wife just makes me feel…super creeped out. It just doesn’t feel like something I’m meant to belong to. I have married friends and I love them and am happy for them and going to weddings is my favourite thing, but it all just seems way too adult and mainstream and such a f*cking weird thing to want to do, especially in my country where same sex couples can’t marry. I like parties as much as the next person but I genuinely don’t get the hype about wanting the government up in my biz. And sure, in regards to using the word wife and husband, I could just use the word partner instead, but I think that’s a cop out in a way. Not using the term partner, but why I’d be using it. I think using the word partner is a choice but using it because the alternative makes you sick doesn’t feel like much of a choice, it feels like trying to pretend that the marriage doesn’t exist.

          I think for some people marriage is just kind of gross the way some people think olives or the colour orange or whatever is gross. Probably it goes a bit deeper but also its just not something that’s really able to be explained all too well to people who are pro-marriage. Like: maybe people don’t want to sign paperwork and wear rings and don’t care about parties so they don’t see there’s a point and think it’s all actually really pro-establishment when they’re just not that, and thats all there is to it.

          • S

            Oh I should also add: I think there are lots of great genuine smart reasons people get married. Heaps of reasons! With lots of different cultural backgrounds coming into play. And “the establishment” works for people – it’s what gives us benefits if we’re unemployed, for one example. I can see myself getting married to exploit the whole “government up in my biz” thing that I hate so much if, say, I lived apart from my partner and we wanted to simplify a visa process. There’s nothing WRONG with being into the establishment and parties. There’s nothing wrong with being one of the majority whom marriage really does work for, for whom marriage is a comforting institution. I didn’t mean my original response to sound flippant or simplistic.

    • Sara

      I agree with the ‘get it but don’t Get It” part. A lot of the arguments – and I say this with the absolute utmost respect – seem to be a very old school view/opinion of marriage. I know that there are families like that and/or couples where the dynamic is very unequal and patriarchal (I know a couple where the wife comes home from work every day to make her work-from-home husband lunch and then goes back because he wants A Wife (his words) but they’re very happy with their dynamic). But I also know a lot of different marriages with more of an equal dynamic or even women-leading dynamic and I think this website itself shows a lot of other views of marriage. Marriage is what you make it – its not a black and white contract.

      But I suppose because I’ve never felt that way, I don’t truly understand the concept. And I do think coming from a family with a long list of happy marriages skews my perspective in a different way as well. But I agree – don’t get married if you don’t want to.

    • Christina Helen

      Everyone always says “marriage is what you make it”, but I’m not convinced that’s entirely true. Or rather, I’m not sure anyone gets to have 100% control over the menu of options of what they can make their marriage into. For example: I grew up in a very conservative religious household. And so, for me, “marriage” has certain baggage I just can’t shake: baggage that has a lot to do with women taking care of the home while men are the breadwinners. Of course, I totally *totally* get that’s not what marriage means to everyone, and I have married friends who have marriages that don’t fit that mould and I am 100% behind their choice to get married and I know that from the inside marriage means something totally different to them to what it would mean to me if I was in one.
      But I couldn’t possibly get married and just choose to make marriage “mean something” different for myself. We don’t have control over what things mean to us, over the connotations attached to them. That baggage is there, and it will be there for as long as I live.
      And if I were to get married, even if I could shake all of the connotations *I* attach to marriage, I would still have plenty of people in my life (as LW says about her partner’s family) who would interpret my marriage to mean a certain thing I don’t want it to mean, and who would place those expectations on me every day. I don’t get to choose how my community defines marriage, and marriage is after all a social construct.

      I see it a bit like some women from my mother’s generation (though not my mother; see above re: growing up in a very conservative household) just *hate* the idea of taking responsibility for the household’s cooking because for them, the whole idea of the kitchen being a woman’s domain is too close to the bone, too real. They may have friends who are totally happy to do the cooking, and they get that, and they understand there’s nothing intrinsically gendered or sexist about dividing household jobs a certain way, but they just can’t bring themselves to do it because of the meanings they personally associate with it. Marriage is like that for me.

      (I should add though that I live in a country where marriage actually doesn’t confer any additional legal benefits, protections, or responsibilities over what you get by being a live-in couple, so maybe that’s a reason that it’s not really possible for me to see marriage as a purely legal arrangement – because it just isn’t.)

  • CMT
  • Melody Christine

    I was in much the same position as LW, except with deeply religious Christian parents instead of Muslim. But the principle is the same. We live together, share finances, have furry children. Our practical lives will not be changed by marriage (except maybe once a year for taxes) but it is really very hard for my parents to accept our relationship as legitimate.
    This reason made me very reluctant to get engaged. I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. I wanted to prove that marriage doesn’t legitimize anything or make anything more valuable. But I came to realize that I did want to marry my fiancé, and I did want to have a party, and I did want to cement our commitment with our legally binding signatures.
    I expected that my parents would be elated, which they kind of were. But in reality, they aren’t satisfied. They want it to happen NOW (we are living in sin until the paperwork is signed) and we want to wait a year to save for the wedding. They want the wedding to be low-key and cheap, we want to have something a little fancier and more in tune with our life style. The fact is, getting married will not actually satisfy them. So I’m not doing this for my parents. I’m doing this for me and my fiancé. And that helps reassure me that the decisions I am making are the right one.

    • Yeah, I think I’m hating wedding planning for the secret reason that it’s what everyone (not just my parents, but everyone) expects/wants. Like, I do want to marry this person, but I’d be a lot happier about it if I wasn’t just walking straight into what society expects of me. Ugh.

      • Claire

        All of this. I still can’t lie and say the wedding was everything I dreamed of because it wasn’t ever something I really wanted. But I wanted my partner in whatever manner I could get him so we took it.

  • MC

    Oof, I could have written something very similar to this 3 years ago, right before I got engaged. I had been with my partner for many years, we were about to move to a new city together, we agreed that we wanted to commit to a long-term relationship, but the idea of marriage was really, really hard for me to come around to. Now-husband’s parents really wanted us to be married, or at least engaged, before we “officially” moved in together and I really resented the pressure that they put on him & our relationship. And my parents are divorced and I didn’t really have any marriage role models.

    I ended up reading the book Young Wives Tales: (highly recommend!) and reading lots of things on the internet about feminism and marriage and deciding that I trusted my partner & our relationship enough to try to create a marriage based on our terms. Now we’re happily married and even though I really disliked parts of our engagement and wedding-planning process, I definitely don’t regret our decision. Our relationship hasn’t changed EXCEPT that we both feel our commitment to each other was strengthened by saying our vows in front of our loved ones.

    I agree with Liz that you shouldn’t make the choice to make others happy. But I will admit that our decision to get married was impacted by the fact that my in-laws really wanted us to. Would I have preferred to make the decision without the pressure from my in-laws? Yes, absolutely, 100%. I imagine if that hadn’t been a factor we would have waited a couple more years to get married. But the fact that they brought it up forced us both to think really deliberately about marriage & our relationship, and we both came out of that reflection in favor of it, basically for all the pro-marriage reasons the LW listed here. And I tried to remind myself that although there were not-great cultural factors at play, one of the reasons my in-laws wanted us to be married was because they supported our relationship and wanted me to be a legal, official part of their family. Even though I was frustrated that they felt like they needed a marriage for that to happen, their intent was good.

  • The best lesson I’ve learned about marriage is the people in the marriage figure out what that means to them, and that’s all that matters. You talk a lot about what you expect marriage to be, but it doesn’t HAVE to be that. It can be whatever you guys decide, whether you call each other “partner” or don’t have kids or how you divide labor. As long as it works for the two of you, that’s all that matters. So you CAN reject all those traditional things about marriage that you hate, and still get married and have a happy marriage defined on your own terms.

    Beyond the marriage thing, you and your partner should figure out how to deal with pressures from his family, because as you’ve noted, they won’t stop if you guys get married, they will just find something else to nag you about. Figuring out how to deal with that part will serve you well.

  • Amy March

    For the portion of this that is about money and property and economic power, it might make sense to talk to a family lawyer and get a really good understanding of what you are legally doing right now, what marriage in your state would mean, and what pre-nups can do about that. Maybe you already know all these details but just in case, I think it makes sense to be making this decision based on facts, to the extent you are making it about the property side of things.

    • Alanna Cartier

      Also, depending where you live, you may already be legally common-law, which ties you financially in pretty much all the same ways as marriage… something to think about.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    Don’t ever get married unless that’s what you and your person want. Anything else will not bode well. You also sound really scared of uncertainty and the future and how the person in our lives can greatly impact our lives and are trying to avoid that by not marrying. I’ve got unfortunate news for you: you can’t avoid it. Anytime you’re involved with people, they are going to hurt you, disappoint you, their choices will affect in positive and negative ways etc. That’s just part and parcel of having a person and being the person for someone else. If you’re deeply committed to this person like you say that you are, I don’t think that foregoing the legal tie would make failing health less painful or hard or easier to walk away from, frankly. It’s ok to be scared though. And anxious. And it’s ok to not subscribe to marriage and be committed without all of the many ties and significance that comes with marriage.

    • Danielle


  • JenC

    So I was indifferent to marriage until I met my now husband. He knew it was definitely something for him and so that switched me on to marriage a bit more. However, the turning point when we’d been living together for about 3 years, as with the LW we had shared finaces, we shared the workload, we encouraged each other in education and work, in our county we were common law married so we had some rights. However, we didn’t have all the rights available to us that a married couple would. I couldn’t be his next of kin without some legal documentation. Both our parents are at least 5 hours away from us, too far in an emergency. Did we get married just to make each other next of kin? No, we decided that whilst we had built our commitment over the years and it wouldn’t change anything but we wanted a celebration and a formal recognition of our commitment. The fact that we would be each other’s next of kin and the legal benefits were a definite plus though and couldn’t be discounted.

    I don’t say this next bit to try and sway the LW in the direction of marriage but it has changed. I didn’t think it would, we’ve been living together for 6 years now, married for a few months. I didn’t change my surname and I vary my title depending on how I feel (from miss to ms to Mrs) and we still haven’t done some of the paperwork (like let the car insurance people know) so on paper nothing changed. Emotionally (and this is hard to articulate) it did change it just feels like now we’ve vowed to try that it feels like a stronger connection. That may entirely be down to building up to marriage and reading things on here about shaping our marriage the way we wanted or maybe it’s just my imagination but to me it just feels a bit different.

    • Alanna Cartier

      “it did change it just feels like now we’ve vowed to try that it feels like a stronger connection. That may entirely be down to building up to marriage and reading things on here about shaping our marriage the way we wanted or maybe it’s just my imagination but to me it just feels a bit different.”

      THIS. I’ve found this ever since my fiancee and I have gotten engaged. I don’t know if we’re both just on the exact same page now, or whether we’re both making a conscious effort to build our relationship together, but it is awesome. And the fiancee and I have been together for four years before we got engaged,

      • JenC

        People are asking me “how’s married life?” all the time. I don’t really know how to answer because as you say it started to change when we got engaged. It’s not like we’ve flipped a switch but maybe it’s on a dial. So it didn’t change on signing that piece of paper (which it might have read as in my first comment) but it built over time. I find it so hard to explain though, fortunately I’ve had this conversation with my husband and he is the same, acknowledging a change since we got engaged but he can’t articulate it either. Some days it doesn’t feel different, other days I feel like this overwhelming responsibility because I’m his next of kin (straight to the morbid, I know) and other days I’m glad I can just say husband and quantify the relationship, rather than cohabiting-partner-of-X-years-with-whom-I-have-shared-finaces-and-moved-cross-country-for. These and other things combine to make it just feel different (and the last thing I want to do is sway the LW but I feel there’s a narrative that it only changes if you haven’t lived together).

        • Ashlah

          Almost two years later, I don’t get asked “how’s married life?” nearly as much, but it’s a tough question! If it was an acquaintance or some-such, I usually told them nothing really changed, but I definitely talked to other recently-married people (and my husband) about how it felt like there was this subtle, difficult-to-quantify shift in the security I felt.

          • sahara

            We’re still pre-engaged, but as we’ve been going through a year of pre-engagement therapy (pre-marital counseling for over-deliberative people who are into psychoanalysis) after three years together, I’ve felt a shift from *I* to *we*. We’re definitely a team now, actively planning our collective future instead of simply living our individual lives together. I’m not sure how much more will change when we get around to engagement and then marriage, but I entirely believe that vows could make some kind of small transformative difference, even beyond all the understandings we reach leading up to marriage.

      • Amanda

        Yeah, this was us too. A change that we couldn’t really put into words and was almost subtle at times. For me it was more of the shift that we became our own family and thought of ourselves that way rather than only thinking of ourselves as part of our families of origin.

  • Rebekah

    Liz for Vice President!

    • Liz


    • scw


  • +1000 for wanting to know what the fiance thinks about all of this, and how these conversations are happening. is he 100% anti-marriage, for the same reasons you are? Is it possible he’s a *little* more pro-marriage, but it’s easier to say it’s just something his parents want? Does he agree on the stuff about not wanting to worry about your future health or things like that? In general, I think it’s so important for both members of a couple to really hash out what it means to each of them to be married and how they define a marriage and why they think marriage matters (or doesn’t matter).

  • northstar599

    Would you get divorced just to make his parents and uncle happy? Oh, okay.

  • lady brett

    just in the vein of options: we got married 5 years ago at our wedding with no legal trappings (though we did end up getting legally marred a few months ago). even though she chose not to attend, my honey’s grandmother made a clear delineation after the wedding i was now a family member since we were married. no legal strings required (being gay, we got a lot of questions about the legal status of our marriage, but i imagine for a straight couple it would be so assumed to be part of it that you wouldn’t even end up telling anyone if you didn’t care to).

  • Violet

    LW, pretend I’m your friend who’s considering a tattoo. Ready?
    Honestly, I’ve never wanted a tattoo. I’ve never seen myself as a person who’d have a tattoo. Yes, I think they look good on some people who have them. But it’s just not something I ever wanted for me, you know? Plus I think there are some health risks, which, maybe if I researched them a little more would realize they don’t really pose such a big threat. But it seems like, why risk it at all, when I could have no tattoo, and no risk? Except all the other risks in life, but not, you know, the tattoo-specific risks.
    But then, I dunno, this really great image came along. Like, really great image. And the artist feels strongly that if I love it so much, I should get it inked. Which, maybe. I already have it hanging up in a large print in my home and carry a wallet-sized version around. So a tattoo wouldn’t be too different, would it? But I dunno, aren’t I gonna feel sort of *stuck* to my tattoo, in an obligatory way, rather than actively choosing to let the print continue to hang on my wall day after day? Of course I could set aside enough money for laser removal should I change my mind or the tattoo start to look bad with age. So that might make it a little less painful if I change my mind. Lasers, though. Ouch. That’ll probably hurt a lot, too. Plus, should I really get a tattoo if I’m already focusing on getting it removed as easily as possible?
    Okay, now. Would you advise me to get the tattoo?

    • Carolyn S

      Ha this analogy is so thorough I actually am less sure about whether you should get a tattoo than if the letter writer should get married…

    • I don’t think considering a prenup means you should not get married…The comment by Erin down/upstream is a good point on this…

      • Violet

        Nope, me neither.
        ETA: Just meant that a prenup can streamline logistics of a divorce, but it will not erase the pain of it.

        • idkmybffjill

          But unlike a tattoo – a breakup with a longterm partner will still suck and hurt and be painful (even if it isn’t a divorce). And logistically, their finances are already merged, ending that relationship won’t be the same as just never having had a tattoo in the first place. To be honest, a break up in that scenario might be worse than a divorce if it gets ugly, because there aren’t legal protections in place for their relationship.

          • Violet

            I actually don’t feel personally equipped to say which is worse- a messy breakup or clean divorce. I’m sure people have experienced both very differently. My argument is that since either would likely be very painful, I don’t think it factors as much into the decision-making as LW thinks it does. If there was a clear-cut easier way to go, then it would be a point for one side of the column over the other. But I think they’d both likely be painful, so it’s not as helpful in this pro/con debate LW is putting forth.

          • idkmybffjill

            Ah! Gotcha. Totally. I was thinking with the tattoo analogy that it was all about how easy it would be to remove. I getcha now!

          • Violet

            Whoops, yeah, sorry I wasn’t clear. Lasers, man. Ouch!!

  • Erin

    Wow. I totally could’ve written this exact letter at that exact point in my relationship (I was even the same age at that point). This spring I hit 11 years with my partner and two weeks ago we got married. We have been committed to each other since year one, but neither of us were really into the idea of marriage and neither of us were religious (and we’re not having kids), so we told our families that it was never happening. But then around year nine my partner asked this same question of me, should we re-think our position on marriage seeing as it would be so meaningful to our families? Were we not getting married just because we were being ornery?

    And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I actually didn’t have a great reason for not getting married. My position had more been that, “well, we’ve been together this long and we’re obviously committed, so why go through the bother. Isn’t it more romantic to choose each other each day?” But the more I thought about the idea of having all of our family and friends in one place, of publicly stating our commitment to each other, I started to soften. Finally, I came to the position that it was possible that marriage was going to mean more to me than I thought it would and if I wasn’t scared of our relationship meaning more to me (and I wasn’t) then I was in!

    And it was crazy to me how just getting engaged changed our relationship. We really put some big-time work into our relationship in the year leading up to the marriage and talked about all sorts of things that we had kind of just let slide the last ten years.

    We also very happily put together a pre-nup. Because we’re both very practical people and I was bringing a lot of debt and he was bringing a lot of assets to the relationship. It was VERY important to me that my debt stay my debt. And a pre-nup essentially allowed us to define the legal terms of a separation and make sure that they were applied no matter what state we lived in (because every state is different). I read somewhere online (maybe here?) that a pre-nup is like a fire extinguisher, you hope you never have to use it, but it’s better to have one and not need it, than need it and not have one.

    And our marriage and wedding was AMAZING. And it so clearly deeply affected our relationships with our parents and our families in a way that nothing else could’ve. I definitely would not say that anyone “should” get married to please their parents, but I would say that if it’s important to them, it’s not something anyone should push aside without some serious thought.

    Obviously, at two weeks in, I’m still basking in wedding glow, but I am so so so happy that we decided to get married and have a wedding after all these years.

  • Eenie

    We got married for the legal protection. It honestly doesn’t feel any different than what we were doing before. But now if he dies I won’t be kicked out of “his” house when I can’t afford the mortgage. I get to use his healthcare.

    Like Liz said, if you’re risking it emotionally already, there are lots of little things that marriage brings as protection. It doesn’t have to change how you feel about your relationship. But don’t get married just because other people want you to.

    • anon

      Wouldn’t you still get foreclosed upon if you can’t afford the mortgage?

      • Eenie

        I was added as beneficiary to his life insurance policy which covers the balance on the mortgage.

  • 年中快乐!

  • PJ

    From personal experience, I’ve found that people pressuring you into some sort of large life decision like marriage are pressuring you for the sake of outward appearances. Rarely do they say (or mean), “You two love each other so much, and it’s so amazing, we just want to throw a big party and celebrate that love.” Instead they are trying to make you conform to the outward appearances they care about, whether it be for their social circle or their interpretation of God or morality. The problem with this scenario is that family dinners are made no more meaningful or interesting once you’ve ticked the boxes for the sake of outward appearances–behind closed doors, you’re still just people and what you really want from each other is love and respect. Real love and respect don’t come from checking all of the social boxes–fancy sounding jobs with great salaries, marriage, children, expensive cars, big houses, nice clothing, exciting vacations. People who want you to check all the boxes to make them happy are people who have no idea what makes them happy. They are just following somebody else’s script, thinking that keeping up with the Joneses is actually a roadmap to happiness. The reason the pressure never ceases is because at each milestone the person pressuring you still feels empty because just like likes on facebook, superficial milestones are empty.

    My partner and I experienced serious pressure from his mother to get married. The pressure strained our relationship until we made a pact to put the discussion of marriage on the back burner. Only then, when we tuned his mother out were we able to come to a decision to get married and know that it was our own. Do you think a wedding made her happy? Nope. We failed in to make her happy throughout the event; for every 9 things we “gave” her, she only cared about the 10th thing we didn’t. Now down the road, from the outside, it looks like we’re ticking all the boxes, yet she still isn’t happy. We’re still doing it wrong. We’ve stopped trying to do it right because we know there is no right. It’s up to her to join us where we’re at, which by our estimation, is a pretty great place.

    • NotMarried!

      “For every 9 things we “gave” her, she only cared about the 10th thing we didn’t.”

      – This perfectly describes my relationship with my mom. Thank you for giving me the words to describe the feeling.

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  • raccooncity

    Not sure if anyone mentioned this below, but here’s my (lived experience) opinion on that one: yes, get married if you both have the same opinions as you that you’re ‘living as married people’ anyway. It will save headaches, and you’re probably already living the crap parts directed at women anyway.

    Should you HAVE A WEDDING to make parents happy? NO. NO no no no no no. Not unless they’re 100% bankrolling it and you don’t care even a little about planning it or having your vision of a wedding day happen.

    My husband and I are quite happy about being married now, because it literally has made no difference to us on a day to day level. We had an AMAZING wedding day that we loved. Was it worth it though? We still don’t really think it was. We mostly spent allllll this money on one day for because our parents wanted to see it, and see it happen in a particular way. Even though it was literally a perfect day, it still feels like it was the wrong decision.

    • anon

      I didn’t think marriage would change anything either until my FH was looking at quitting his job and I immediately wondered wtf we were going to do for his health insurance because, hey, not married yet so he can’t get on mine.
      woooo usa.

      • raccooncity

        ooooh. I never considered pluses to being married other than saying “husband” rather than “uh….boyfriend guy?” I’m Canadian and I was allowed on my guy’s extended benefits as a common-law spouse…and tax-wise we’d been common-law for years, so I don’t think we really had any bonuses financially to getting married.

        Really the only noticeable benefit for me has been the one alluded to in the letter: old people take my relationship more seriously. which actually pisses me off a lot (we were together six years beforehand), but it’s the truth.

  • Daisy6564

    I will echo what others have said: DO NOT get married to please others, get married only if it is a “Hell Yes!” decision by both you and your partner. That said, I do think you need to reframe your ideas about marriage. This part especially jumped out to me:

    “I also don’t want to assume his debts and responsibility for whatever choices he makes with his health,”

    These I think are some of the best arguments FOR getting married rather than just staying domestic partners and it is really odd how you are framing them. If you are already committed then your destinies are already tied in a way. Would you walk away from your partner if he was diagnosed with cancer? Probably not. As his domestic partner you do not actually have rights in medical decisions (without some additional paperwork). You can actually be barred from seeing him in the hospital if he were to get into an accident because you are not next of kin. One of the things that I value most about being married, and a reason that I think it is so important for everyone to have that right, is having the legal ability to make medical decisions for each other. If I am rendered unconscious in an accident I want my partner to be my next of kin and make decisions for me at this point in my life, not my parents.

    It sounds like you are somewhat financially tied already if you have joint accounts (which you do not have to do even if you are married, btw). Would you kick your partner out if he lost his job and could not contribute to household expenses? Probably not. Do you trust your partner to make good financial decisions and not go into debt? If not, that is a discussion you should have anyway. If you are married, you are the automatic beneficiary of your partner’s retirement accounts and life insurance should he pass away. If I were to die I want my money going to my partner and not my parents.

    Many of those financial and health rights can be accomplished outside of marriage through different individual paperwork. Marriage is the only legal contract that grants them all in one go. Which is one big reason gay people fought so hard for that right.

    • raccooncity

      Depends where you live, esp. in the case of next of kin – she should definitely look into all these things for her place of residence though, I agree.

  • Victoria

    I just want to chime in that I don’t think marriage is entirely “what you make of it.” It’s an established institution which both partners already have lots of experience with. Your parents (probably) were married and they are always a foundational part of your worldview and psyche. So getting married not infrequently tips some wires in both your and your SOs head and rearranges expectations. Not that the relationship your parents modeled doesn’t impact your relationship in any case but the addition of “marriage” is IMO significant. A lot of it is subconscious. And how everyone else treats you also impacts your relationship, I mean, of course it does. Being long term partners instead of husband and wife can give you a little distance in your own heads as well as everyone else’s.

    • Christina Helen

      So much this.

  • Sarah Richards Graba

    As I was reading this letter, all I could hear in my head was “No no no no no.” I laughed aloud when Liz began her answer this way!

    Sounds like LW needs to come to terms with their own views on marriage, with their partner. Whether or not they get married in the future, to me I think there needs to be some team-huddle time before moving forward with what to tell the fam. United front and all that. While also allowing flexibility in the huddle to revisit when needed. This is what partnership is about.

  • Ann

    One of my best friends was conflicted about this two years ago. Except her parents wanted to start the arranged marriage process to someone she had never met. She got accepted into the Peace Corps and they were like “But what about the wedding?!” even though she didn’t even have a boyfriend. I reminded her that her parents will not have to live with her decision as long as she will. They will be dead in about 20-30 years and you will still have decades to live with this person! She did go to Africa instead. I think its easy to pressure people into doing things when you will not have to experience the consequences.

  • Rose Neely
  • MsCosmopilite

    Since your partner’s parents seem to be motivated by religious reasons, I thought I’d weigh in with a religious response.
    Here’s a potential script for your partner to use to his parents: ‘Mum and Dad, I know your faith means marriage is important to you, and you believe it is a promise that God witnesses. Promises are important to me too. That’s why we are not ready to get married yet. We’re not yet sure we can keep that promise. I don’t want to break a promise to Lizzie.’
    I wonder if seeing it in this light will help them see they’re putting you in an impossible position theologically, even if that’s not a framework you share in.

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