The Case for Delaying Marriage

Marriage…

That wonderful institution where you commit yourself, for better or for worse, to another person for the rest of your life (well, in about 50% of the cases). I’m not against marriage…not at all. But I was also never the little girl who dreamt of her wedding day. I wasn’t some sort of feminist super-child. I played house, and with Barbies, I guess I just never considered a wedding worth my imagination time. Some things never change πŸ˜‰

For those of you who have been around the blog for awhile, you’ll likely be familiar with at least some of my story, but I’m going to recap for the newbies (welcome!) I’m 31 and have been dating the same guy since I was 19…that’s 12 years of non-wedded bliss (mostly bliss, nobody’s that perfect). We own a house together, along with two dogs and two cats. Almost all of the big purchases I’ve made in my life we’ve done together. When you move out of your parents and in with your boyfriend, you don’t exactly bring a lot of stuff with you. So we’re committed and all common-lawed up, and that means there’s no easy way out (emotionally, financially, legally).

Have we talked about marriage?Β 
Absolutely, and we’re on the same page. It will happen one day, but at this point, we’re happy with how things are and don’t see the need to have a marriage certificate to make things feel more real. It is important to me that we are married before we have kids, but that’s also something that’s not in the cards right now (and I’m still undecided if it ever will be). I don’t like the idea of not having the same last name as my children. Did you know that it’s recommended to get a letter of permission from your husband to travel with your own children if they have a different last name from you? Maybe it’s for selfish or lazy reasons, but I don’t want to have to deal with that.

So, until there’s a trigger, why change anything?

My Biggest Problem w/ Marriage

Honestly, my biggest problem with not being married is that it’s really weird calling your partner of 12 years your boyfriend. He’s more than that, and it feels so high school. But what’s the alternative? My common-law partner, my spouse, my significant other? Not great options. Depending on the situation I alternate between a few, but it always feels awkward. My friend always refers to him as my husband because it’s easier. You know what though? If that’s my biggest concern, then I don’t really think getting married is the solution.

Why Not Just Do It?

When there’s a decision to be made, I make it, fast. I’m not the kind of person who can handle having a big decision hanging over my head. For example, we bought our first house within a week, and it ended up being the first house we looked at. I also bought my car on the same day I decided to start looking. I weigh my options and don’t consider my decisions rash, I just don’t delay them a second longer than necessary. Unless it comes to choosing somewhere to eat for dinner, the bf (see, awkward) will attest to the fact that I’m hopeless at that. Big decisions are kind of my jam, small decisions, not so much.

You’re probably wondering why I’m procrastinating about the whole wedding thing. Well, I don’t see it that way. I have made a decision that I don’t want to get married right now. I’m allowed to change my mind in the future, but for now, it’s not a choice that’s hanging over my head.

Weddings are Hella Expensive!Β 

The biggest reason I’m not ready to get married is the cost. Even a small, low-key wedding will cost thousands of dollars. I see it all the time. Those Pinterest posts that brag about how someone got married for only $2,000 (here, here, and here). That’s still TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS! And I’m not exactly the person who is going to go as cheap as possible for my wedding; I have kind of splurgy tastes.

Plus, the best way to keep wedding costs down is to DIY as much as possible, and I’m not that crafty and just don’t have that much time (patience).

You know how sometimes you grow out of things? One day you are playing with Barbies and the next you’re learning to put on makeup. Or you start out thinking Smirnoff Ice is delicious but then figure out that beer is more your jam. Or you think you want a big lavish wedding but realize a small backyard ceremony is more your style.

That last one is me (ok, they’re all me). If I got married 10 years ago, I would have been 21, and it would have been more about hosting an epic party than about what I said in my vows. I’ve grown-up and matured, and even though I’ve done that with the same person by my side, I’m a different person now. Back then I would have spent probably $20,000 on a wedding and gone into debt to do it. Now I would spend maybe a quarter of that and save up the money before I took one step down the aisle. Waiting until you know who you are and have a handle on your life makes you more prepared for the challenges that come with being one-half of a relationship.

Divorce is Scary

A staggering 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce. I’m not going to assume that I’m immune to a break-up because I’m not officially married, but that stat freaks me out.

It’s also expensive. For an uncontested divorce (aka best case scenario), the average cost is $1,353, and if things don’t go quite so smoothly,Β then that average cost jumps up to $12,875. I don’t know about you, but I have much better things to do with my money than pay lawyer fees.

Being Un-Married is Kind of My Thing

Honestly, I feel like being the girl that hasn’t gotten married has sort of become a part of my personality. I’ve been tackling those ‘when are you getting married’ questions for almost a decade and I don’t even hate it anymore. It’s a little like how I don’t watch Game of Thrones and have never seen Back to the Future…I’m kind of proud of it.

If I go and get married now I’ll be another one of those married 30-somethings, instead of being an un-married 30-something who’s been dating the same guy forever. We might be a growing group but we’re still a rarity. Weird? Probably, but I’ve never claimed to be normal πŸ˜‰

It could be argued that marriage is the next logical step for us (and trust me, it has been), but I don’t see it that way. The timing doesn’t feel logical or right to me, and I’ve never really been one to listen to other people anyway πŸ˜‰

Let’s talk relationships in the comments…are you married, single, couple up, divorced? What is your experience and how has it impacted your finances?

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20 comments

  1. I didn’t realize it until I read this post, but moving in with my partner was a big step for us. Now, when I hear my in-laws call me the ‘girlfriend’, it irks me. Sorry, but we live together and we have a cat. We are more than BF/GF. Professionally speaking, we call each other partner and I prefer that to any other label. I also don’t have a desire to get married. I never have. For lots of complex family and financial reasons! Financially speaking, we haven’t taken that leap yet, mainly because everything works fine now as is. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  2. No reason to change things if you’re both happy. I don’t agree with not watching Game of Thrones or Back to the Future, though. It may be true that 40% of married couples get divorced, but 100% of Game of Thrones viewers stick with the show.

  3. All great points. I think my long-together non-married friends are so rad and have some of the strongest relationships of anyone I know! I could totally see how that becomes part of your identity and I say keep rocking it. Although, I totally see your point on the descriptor – boyfriend/partner/spouse/etc (though if that’s your biggest concern, it’s a good problem to have!) I have been with my current partner for only two years and call him a partner just because he is more than a boyfriend to me. We lived together for some time, which started the whole partner/spouse thing. Then we decided to move back into our own separate places (you’re not the only unconventional one!) but now, it feels disingenuous and weird to go back to saying boyfriend? The fact that we chose to no longer cohabitate has definitely kept things – including labels – interesting! Loved this post and thanks for sharing a peek into your relationship.

    1. Very interesting indeed! Whatever works best for you and your partner (we’ll go with that!) is exactly the right call. And I wouldn’t say ‘only’ two years, that’s a long time and definitely worthy of more than just boyfriend status.

  4. I got married at 23 and it was the best decision for me. πŸ™‚ I know that seems kind of young by today’s standards, but we were both committed and ready for it. Marriage is a personal choice for anybody, so kudos to you for doing what works best for you and your partner. πŸ™‚

  5. My girlfriend and I have lived together for about three years, and we both refer to each other as our “partner”. She would love to get married, but I don’t honestly have a strong desire to do so, which makes things interesting!

    Just a question about the cost of divorce being a reason to not get married…My understanding in Canada is that once you become common law, you have the same legal entitlements/responsibilities as married partners. Would this not mean that the cost of separating from a common law relationship would be as high as an actual divorce? Or am I missing something?

    1. As far as I know you do have certain rights to joint property, support, etc. if a common-law arrangement is dissolved but you don’t have to go through the actual ‘filing for divorce’ proceedings. You could split assets amicably and have no associated legal costs. That’s my understanding, at least of the situation here in Alberta.

      It’s hard when you’re on the opposite side of a decision like that, I guess who ever feels more strongly about it will come out on top? I think if either one of us wanted to get married we would just do it.

  6. You don’t have to have a wedding if you get married! I totally respect your decision, as marriage does seem like one of those “life steps” that you just check off. And if your situation is working, why change it?

    As you know, I just got married, but it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. It made me feel more “full circle,” I guess, and we’re so private, a wedding was a nice way to recognize our relationship. I also had always refused to move in with boyfriends before. It seemed like something tons of people did, but I was afraid of how complicated it could be if it didn’t work out. Also, I thought it was too easy to “slide” into marriage. It was important to me that marriage was intentional. So we talked about marriage a lot. It wasn’t just a surprise he sprang on me.

    In terms of finances, I definitely get penalized more! I can’t contribute to my Roth IRA anymore because of income limits. So for me, getting married for financial reasons wasn’t much of a factor.

    1. I like how you said you wanted marriage to be intentional…I completely get that, and don’t feel that way at this point.

      I think my problem is that if I did get married I would want a wedding, at least a small one. I’m an only child so it’s my parents only chance to have a wedding and I’d like to give them that.

      We don’t have Roth IRA’s here and I’m not in a situation where household income impacts any of my finances…and if there were a case it would already be a problem because it wouldn’t matter if you were married or common-law.

  7. I feel like this view is a lot more common with our Canadian friends than our American ones, at least until it comes time to have children. My husband and I are Canadians living in the US and we were in no rush to get married until I was laid off from my job and we were on work visas which meant mine was gone! I feel like we’ve spent our first year of marriage doing things that people would normally do while they’re engaged in terms of rearranging our financial philosophies.

    We had also been delaying marriage because we were not in full agreement on children long-term. (Namely one of us was staunchly never and the other one was staunchly not right now.) We still haven’t solved that one. I picture either the “not right now” person never becoming a “now” person or them becoming the “now please” person when we’re in our late thirties and having a discussion about it. Last names are a hill I’m willing to die on and I don’t see how I should have to go through pregnancy and childbirth and not have my last name be part of the kid’s name and thankfully my husband agrees on that. On that train, I really miss the “When are you getting married?” questions – they felt way less intrusive than the “When are you have kids and how many?” questions we get now. Sigh!

    Don’t listen to other people – you do you! πŸ™‚

    1. That’s an interesting perspective, I’ve never really considered that the sentiment could be different on either side of the border. Obviously your situation surrounding getting married is different, and if we were in the same boat it we would have absolutely done the same thing I’m sure.

      I feel you on the ‘when are you having kids’ questions, I think our families have just written off marriage and have jumped right onto the grandkids train. Kids are such a tough one for us too, I think we’re on the same page right now but I also think that either one of us could change our mind at any time…and not necessarily at the same time as the other person. You hope you’ll always be of the same mindset but that’s not always the case!

  8. You might need to travel with a letter from your husband if your child doesn’t have the same last name as you?! THE GODDAMN PATRIARCHY STRIKES AGAIN.

    You do you, baby. My husband and I dated for eight years before we got married, and for the last three or so years of that we just casually referred to each other as spouses since it was simpler. Anyone gives you shit for your perfectly healthy way of life, you just remind them of that crazy divorce rate.

  9. I got married in my early 30s and it just felt right because we were both ready to be committed and be supportive of each other.
    Everyone has different situations and I support your decision to not being married. Right now you don’t feel it’s time maybe the few months or next year or 2 you two feel its time to get married. Whatever feels right is the best decision.
    I’m not a Game of Thrones viewer either and I’m kind of happy I’m not. I dont understand the hype behind it and maybe never will.

    1. Thanks Kris, I’m only just in my early 30s so I still feel like I have time to make decisions about getting married and having kids. No reason to rush things (although I don’t think waiting 12 years will ever be considered rushing!)

      Team anti Game of Thrones.

  10. I definitely use the term “partner” and “girlfriend” interchangeably. Selfishly, I sometimes use the term “girlfriend” just to see what someone’s reaction will be (haha). But I think partner is the best term. My girlfriend and I want to get married, and I honestly think that’s partly because same-sex couples have been denied that right for so long, but it’s not a rush for us at all. It’s important that we have the cash beforehand, and it’ll be small and affordable. I think even after we get married, I’ll most likely stick with “partner.” I appreciate your perspective!

    1. Hi Jen, thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      Seems like partner is the most popular term, I think I’ll have to start adopting it. Your reasoning for wanting to get married is completely justified, obviously I haven’t been in that situation but I am absolutely the type of person who would be motivated by that.

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