Marriage/Life Partnerships

My partner and I are not getting married even though we intend to spend the rest of our lives together.  This baffles most people, so I’ve decided to try to explain our rationale, or at least mine.  I am not actively trying to make a statement by not getting married, although I do support marriage equality and it does make me uncomfortable that I can choose to get married or not, but many of my friends can’t.  My reasons for not getting married are more of an absence of compelling reasons to get married.  The cost benefit analysis just doesn’t come down on the side of marriage for me!  I don’t think getting married makes it more likely that my partner and I will stay together or that our children will be more “legitimate.”  I don’t think it would make our love for each other any stronger to have our friends and family witness us vowing that we intend to do xyz (I mean, you can only promise that that’s your intention.  Divorce happens whether or not you vowed that it wouldn’t!)  There could be some tax benefits, but since we both work at non-profits, I’m pretty sure we’re not giving up too much money on that front.  So, that’s essentially why we’re not getting married.

I also get questions about why we don’t just have a big party to celebrate our love for each other and it’s true, I have some FOMA about not having a big, kickass party where my friends and family would all feel compelled to spend lots of money to come see us at the same time, but I just don’t think it’s a rational way to spend tens of thousands of dollars.  Yes, I know, there are ways to make it less expensive, but if you want a big, catered party, it’s going to cost a lot of money and I’d rather use that money to renovate our kitchen and then have our loved ones over for dinner.  Also, I have never actually gotten to spend that much time at weddings with the people getting married, so I’d essentially be paying a ton of money so my friends and family could hang out with my friends and family, not me.  I also feel uncomfortable with people spending money to celebrate our happiness at being in love with each other.  It seems oddly self indulgent – I’m throwing myself a ridiculously expensive party that I can’t really afford because I’m in love, and you can demonstrate how happy you are for me if you buy a $400 plane ticket, spend $200 on a hotel, and buy me a $300 mixer that you can’t really afford.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  I didn’t work hard to fall in love.  Why is marriage the “accomplishment” that is socially acceptable to celebrate ostentatiously?  Why not throw a huge party and get presents when you get the job of your dreams or get into graduate school or create a human being?  So, that’s why we’re not having a wedding party.

I want to be very clear about one thing – I have nothing against people who decide to get married.  In fact, most people I know who are allowed to get married do and I am very happy that that makes them happy.  I just wish people, most of whom have the best of intentions, would be happy that not getting married makes me happy and stop feeling like they have to convince me to get married as if my choice will inevitably lead to my future unhappiness.

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3 Responses to Marriage/Life Partnerships

  1. firebus says:

    If you’re both making about the same amount of money, then getting married will carry a tax penalty – your tax bracket will be based on the combined income, even if you file separately.

    And, of course, breaking up a marriage is a lot more expensive that breaking up a relationship even if it all happens amicably.

    However, there are a lot of things on the plus-side of getting married. If you ever need to be on your partner’s health plan, it helps to be married. Even if your partner’s workplace offers health insurance to partners, that insurance (or the imputed value of the insurance plan) is taxable income if you are not married or a registered domestic partner in CA.

    It’s also really difficult to care for your partner in the case of a medical emergency if you’re not married to them. If you’re relatively young, and have parents or other relatives nearby who you trust to make good decisions then this isn’t a big deal, but I think there’s definitely a point (I think it might be around age 40 🙂 where it makes sense to get married for this reason.

    Of course, you can spend money to set up a lot of trusts and living wills and medical directives and powers of attorneys to give your partner the right to make decisions for you if you’re incapacitated. This is what gay couples have done forever. But it’s a lot more expensive than getting married.

    I think civil marriage with a strong prenup is probably a good choice if you are old and don’t forsee breaking up with your partner.

  2. If you designate your partner as your power of attorney, which is free, there are no issues with making medical decisions (this is my partner’s area of expertise, so he is feeding me answers.) As far as property goes, you can also set up a financial power or attorney or own jointly, which is also free. It’s also not very expensive to set up a trust unless you hire a fancy pants attorney, but it can be done very simply and inexpensively.

  3. FYI – some companies like Google cover the tax penalty from being on your partner’s health care policy. Also, in many states, the penalty is only at the federal level.

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