We want to be together for life - but we think marriage is weird. Help?
September 22, 2009 7:21 AM   Subscribe

To wed or not to wed: that is [sort of] the question.

This will be kind of long. I thank you all in advance.

I've been with my SO for nearly four years. I love her immensely and am absolutely sure I want to spend the rest of my life with her. She feels, or so I believe, the same way. The issue? We're pretentious 20-somethings who consider ourselves Lyotard-ian, anti-social narrative, fuck the man sort of people. i.e. - if we love each other and are committed to each other, what's the point of the whole marriage thing, other than the tax break and the wedding gifts?

Part of the issue, as you might imagine, is my family. I was raised a fundamental Christian, which I have since rejected, though my family remains so. They really do like my SO and care about her, and yet when we visit my family we have to sleep in separate rooms, my nephew can't call her an aunt, my family will only refer to her as 'the girl I'm dating' (even though it's far beyond dating), etc. I constantly have to side-step the fact that my SO and I (who live on the opposite side of the country as my family) live together, even though I am sure my parents suspect as much (though we can never speak of it). My family will never recognize my SO as a true member of the family until we are legally wed. It really doesn't matter, in the end, if it's a Christian wedding or not - I suspect my parents would be pleased enough if we simply stood before a judge. We, of course, think this is quite strange - why should some silly ceremony and/or some legal documents be necessary to 'justify' our relationship?

Her parents are much less concerned about the issue - though her grandparents continually ask her when we are going to get married (often with the subtext of 'we're not going to be around much longer and we want to be at your wedding'). We are trying to straddle the fine line between our own philosophical/moral ideologies and our desire to appease our parents/grandparents.

For us, going through the marriage motions feels quite false. It feels as though we are giving into some silly custom because our own love for and commitment to one another, though professed to one another in private, is somehow lacking. The idea of marriage makes us feel not only weak but hypocritical to our own world views. It sounds, admittedly, a bit ridiculous - but in a certain sense we have a sort of Sartre/De Beauvoir fantasy of being able to love each other unconditionally without all the social niceties (and in fact we are concerned that such niceties might, in a sense, undermine our commitment to one another).

So my questions are:

1) are we just being ridiculous 20-somethings trying to be way too cool for school thinking we are "too intelligent" or "above" marriage, traditionally conceived, as a cultural institution?
2) even if we are justified in our skepticism of marriage, should we go through the motions in order to make our lives - at least with my family - pragmatically easier?

We recognize our youth and self-righteousness in all of this. Anecdotes, advice, personal insights, philosophical points very welcome.

Thanks in advance Hive Mind!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (82 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered having a non-legal ceremony instead? It doesn't have to be anything particularly big or fancy, and in some cases it will please family members without having to submit to the whims of "the Man." Granted, they may still have problems if it is not, in fact, a religious official officiating, but perhaps that is an option you two can look at!
posted by DiamondGFX at 7:24 AM on September 22, 2009

The Commitment by Dan Savage deals with this very topic. While it's framed in the context of gay marriage, the issues he discusses surrounding marriage itself apply across the board. (Plus, it's a good read.)
posted by corey flood at 7:27 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Since there are people who enjoy weddings and even some who want to give gifts to wish newlyweds well, maybe have a justice-of-the-peace wedding and in lieu of gifts, let it be known that donations to a worthwhile charity would be welcome? That way you'd be selling out for a good cause.
Best wishes to you & your love no matter what you decide.
posted by pointystick at 7:28 AM on September 22, 2009

I felt the same way before getting married (my wife, however, has a traditional view of marriage) but now "after the deed" I recognize what a contract marriage is. Living together and acting as if married is one thing, but being contractually bound into a deal is a lot different, I've discovered. I can't pin down whether it's a good or bad thing though but it's worth considering that beyond the idea and tradition of marriage is a contract after all.
posted by wackybrit at 7:29 AM on September 22, 2009 [11 favorites]

If you don't feel it, don't do it. You live your lives for yourselves, not others.

That said, there are certain things that you get with being a married couple. One is a tax break, the other is not having to testify against the other in court, yet another is getting to make medical decisions as next of kin. So, it's not all meaningless.

But really all that matters is the meaning you ascribe to it. If you think the ritual is hollow, it is to you.
posted by inturnaround at 7:33 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

if we love each other and are committed to each other, what's the point of the whole marriage thing, other than the tax break and the wedding gifts?

There are other practical reasons as well. Such as hospital visitation rights if one of you lands in the emergency room.

If the narrative means nothing to you then think of it as a government document you have to go sign which expands both your rights.

I married my wife because it was the only way we could be together (citizens of different countries and all that) We didnt have a big wedding. We met in Gibraltar, spent a few minutes in front of a clerk. Signed some papers. Our witness was a local barmaid.

I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. And I did what I needed to do.

Have you considered that by over-thinking it this much you are actually more concerned with the act of marriage than you would like to think you are? That is, if it means nothing (from a committment sense), and makes your life easier, then why not do it?
posted by vacapinta at 7:33 AM on September 22, 2009 [21 favorites]

I think worse cultural institutions are upheld every year that you pay your taxes.

Further, you can get married with whatever emphasis feels right to you-- in our case, it was a giant party (children invited, all single guests get a +1) to celebrate love in general and the delight of having found each other (9 years into the relationship). There were no vows. That was important to us. We wanted to emphasize that the wedding had no bearing on our relationship, but was just a chance to have our families together for the day and to give Grandma a thrill. That the conservative members of the family no longer had to worry about possible illegitimate children, bed-sharing and legal protections was a nice bonus. I wish gay couples had the same options.
posted by xo at 7:36 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am as self-righteous and pretentious as it gets, so here's my two cents:

1) irrelevant question. Maybe, maybe not.

2) I think you should, for pragmatic reasons.

I think the question you want to ask is what do you need to do to ensure that your relationship continues to be as wonderful as it sounds going forward. What seems really heavy about your description above is that you and your SO have been together for four years and seem to share the belief that you will be together for good. So that's a big damn, deal, no?

Through their own social lenses, your parents, her parents, your larger family is asking you how you are going to promise them that you two are an item for good. Some freaks like it when you do that religiously; others enjoy a small public ceremony.

For some people, its a very important thing for people to know, your level of commitment, and there is real economic and social logic to it. I mean, do they send a birthday or Xmas gift to your SO? Do her parents help you out financially at all, and should they if you are "just shacking up?" Do they tell their co-workers and friends that their daughter has a "boyfriend" or a "husband"?

So my advice is that you find a way to demonstrate to your families that you are "married" (ie together for the foreseeable future), like getting that piece of paper from City Hall, having some super cool hipster party in the woods, or even just telling your families that you are now "married."
posted by RajahKing at 7:37 AM on September 22, 2009

I tend to view marriage as being what you make of it. It doesn't HAVE to be any one thing in particular. I mean, yeah, it's a legal state, to be sure, but...what YOU guys make your partnership is up to you.

As a recently separated guy, I have actively tried to NOT become cynical about the idea of marriage. I do think lifelong partnership is a hell of a thing to shoot for, but I thought that at the outset of my marriage too. If you two are committed to working on it, it's attainable, I'd say.

Also, I think I can recognize myself in some of what you are saying. I also didn't feel any need to marry, but it was important to my wife's family and I could not see any reason NOT to get married. So...we did. I guess all I'm saying is...if it will save you money, or make your life smoother, and you are planning on being together anyway...why not?
posted by Richat at 7:38 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

From a practical perspective: other legal/paperwork/etc. things happen if you are legally married (i.e., it's easier to get on each others' health insurance policies, it's easier to inherit property from each other, it's easier to name each other your medical representative, etc.). I hear where you're coming from, however it just strikes me as a practical response - say one of you gets seriously injured in an accident next year and is unconscious for several days. Being married means that the other would be the primary contact and decision maker when it came to discussing treatment, etc. Or if, God forbid, one of you dies next year -- the other one would face legal hassles if you hadn't made out a will expressly designating "my SO" as the beneficiary. If you were married, and hadn't made out a will, however, a lot of the inheritance would go to your spouse by default.

I'm sorry to use such dire examples, but they're important things to consider (they're also the kinds of things you don't always think about when you're young and full of vigor).

What you could do is just do a kind of civil-service partnership thing (check the legal verbiage in your area), to take care of the make-the-lawyers-happy-and-make-sure-we-are-legally-acknowledged thing, and then have a small commemoration for the benefit of your family. In some states you can pick a person and declare them the official state representative for the purposes of your specific "wedding" (my cousin named a family friend the officiant, largely because he had a zany sense of humor), so you could make one of your friends the officiant, and just gather a small group in a park and do a low-key service and call it a day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. yes
2. yes

The benefits accessible only by way of a marriage license are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death. The department states that “hundreds of statutes” are related to marriage and to marital benefits. With no attempt to be comprehensive, we note that some of the statutory benefits conferred by the Legislature on those who enter into civil marriage include, as to property: joint Massachusetts income tax filing (G.L. c. 62C, § 6); tenancy by the entirety (a form of ownership that provides certain protections against creditors and allows for the automatic descent of property to the surviving spouse without probate) (G.L. c. 184, § 7); extension of the benefit of the homestead protection (securing up to $300,000 in equity from creditors) to one's spouse and children (G.L. c. 188, § 1); automatic rights to inherit the property of a deceased spouse who does not leave a will (G.L. c. 190, § 1); the rights of elective share and of dower (which allow surviving spouses certain property rights where the decedent spouse has not made adequate provision for the survivor in a will) (*324 G.L. c. 191, § 15, and G.L. c. 189); entitlement to wages owed to a deceased employee (G.L. c. 149, § 178A [general] and G.L. c. 149, § 178C [public employees] ); eligibility to continue certain businesses of a deceased spouse (e.g., G.L. c. 112, § 53 [dentist] ); the right to share the medical policy of one's spouse (e.g., **956 G.L. c. 175, § 108, Second [ a ] [3] [defining insured's “dependent” to include one's spouse] ), (see Connors v. Boston, 430 Mass. 31, 43, 714 N.E.2d 335 (1999) [domestic partners of city employees not included within term “dependent” as used in G.L. c. 32B, § 2] ); thirty-nine week continuation of health coverage for the spouse of a person who is laid off or dies (e.g., G.L. c. 175, § 110G); preferential options under the Commonwealth's pension system (see G.L. c. 32, § 12[2] [“Joint and Last Survivor Allowance”] ); preferential benefits in the Commonwealth's medical program, MassHealth (e.g., 130 Code Mass. Regs. § 515.012[A], prohibiting placing lien on long-term care patient's former home if spouse still lives there); access to veterans' spousal benefits and preferences (e.g., G.L. c. 115, § 1 [defining “dependents”] and G.L. c. 31, § 26 [State employment] and § 28 [municipal employees] ); financial protections for spouses of certain Commonwealth employees (fire fighters, police officers, and prosecutors, among others) killed in the performance of duty (e.g., G.L. c. 32, §§ 100-103); the equitable division of marital property on divorce (G.L. c. 208, § 34); temporary and permanent alimony rights (G.L. c. 208, §§ 17 and 34); the right to separate support on separation of the parties that does not result in divorce (G.L. c. 209, § 32); and the right to bring claims for wrongful death and loss of consortium, and for funeral and burial expenses and punitive damages resulting from tort actions (G.L. c. 229, §§ 1 and 2; G.L. c. 228, § 1. See Feliciano v. Rosemar Silver Co., supra ).

Exclusive marital benefits that are not directly tied to property rights include the presumptions of legitimacy and parentage of children born to a married couple (G.L. c. 209C, § 6, and G.L. c. 46, § 4B); and evidentiary rights, such as the prohibition against spouses testifying against one another about their private conversations, applicable in both civil and criminal cases (G.L. c. 233, § 20). Other statutory benefits of a personal nature available only to married individuals include qualification for *325 bereavement or medical leave to care for individuals related by blood or marriage (G.L. c. 149, § 52D); an automatic “family member” preference to make medical decisions for an incompetent or disabled spouse who does not have a contrary health care proxy, see Shine v. Vega, 429 Mass. 456, 466, 709 N.E.2d 58 (1999); the application of predictable rules of child custody, visitation, support, and removal out-of-State when married parents divorce (e.g., G.L. c. 208, § 19 [temporary custody], § 20 [temporary support], § 28 [custody and support on judgment of divorce], § 30 [removal from Commonwealth], and § 31 [shared custody plan] ); priority rights to administer the estate of a deceased spouse who dies without a will, and the requirement that a surviving spouse must consent to the appointment of any other person as administrator (G.L. c. 38, § 13 [disposition of body], and G.L. c. 113, § 8 [anatomical gifts] ); and the right to interment in the lot or tomb owned by one's deceased spouse (G.L. c. 114, §§ 29-33).

Where a married couple has children, their children are also directly or indirectly, but no less auspiciously, the recipients of the special legal and economic protections obtained by civil marriage. Notwithstanding the Commonwealth's strong public policy to abolish legal distinctions between marital and nonmarital children in providing for the support and care of minors, see Department of Revenue v. Mason M., 439 Mass. 665, 790 N.E.2d 671 (2003); Woodward v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 435 Mass. 536, 546, 760 N.E.2d 257 (2002), the fact remains that marital children reap a measure of family stability **957 and economic security based on their parents' legally privileged status that is largely inaccessible, or not as readily accessible, to nonmarital children. Some of these benefits are social, such as the enhanced approval that still attends the status of being a marital child. Others are material, such as the greater ease of access to family-based State and Federal benefits that attend the presumptions of one's parentage.

Goodrich v. Mass, 798 N.E.2d 941, 955 (Mass. 2003)
posted by lockestockbarrel at 7:43 AM on September 22, 2009 [14 favorites]

why should some silly ceremony and/or some legal documents be necessary to 'justify' our relationship?

Because you are in some ways letting your family set the terms of justification. Tell them you are at the level of commitment where you are living together, stay in a hotel when you go visit and refer to your partner as "Aunt" as much as you want.

Or, just go before a judge and get married. There are many, many more legal/economic benefits (outside your family situation) besides "the tax break."

You can avoid the "cultural institution" stuff - no one has to change their name, you don't have to refer to each other as husband/wife in public, etc. while taking advantage of the very boring, non-cultural yet exceedingly practical government institution stuff.
posted by mikepop at 7:43 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Marriage, in addition to religious and social implications, has legal implications. You should consider them carefully.

Also, consider that trying to live outside the box of society's rules doesn't actually make you live outside of those rules - you are reacting to those rules by rejecting them. I recently read a saying that one should pay no attention to critics, not even by ignoring them - think on that in the context of the marriage question. Consider how much of your rebellion against the system of marriage may be just another way of reinforcing that institution in your own mind, as part of the other rules that you live within or react to each day.
posted by lorrer at 7:44 AM on September 22, 2009 [9 favorites]

I see an interesting tension in your assertion that you have a "fantasy of being able to love each other unconditionally without all the social niceties", and yet you're concerned with the degree to which she's integrated into your family - being called "aunt," etc. If your philosophy is consistent, why wouldn't that simply be one of the social niceties you're not concerned with? The fact of the matter is, when you reject "social niceties" there are consequences (which doesn't mean you shouldn't do it - just be aware that this is the case).

Understand that I'm rather sympathetic to your position on weddings - I don't like them and I'm not interested in having one myself. But I would have some negotiation to do with my family on similar points if I were to enter into a committed partnership. Personally, I'm hopeful that my family would accept a commitment ceremony as sufficient evidence of my seriousness about someone to include them in the family. Have you talked to your family at all about your commitment to your partner, or have you just assumed that they should understand that the two of you are deeply serious about one another?
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:45 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

If the goal is to be cool and original, you should keep in mind that this whole PURE LOVE VS UGLY PRAGMATISM dichotomy is pretty damn trite. It's been done, you know?

What's more interesting is finding a middle ground between those two untenable extremes — a way of being together that's both sincere and practical. That middle ground might involve marriage, and it might not. But either way, finding it will demand all your intelligence and creativity, and will lead to a balance of emotional honesty and solid practicality that's uniquely yours. On the other hand, as long as you assume that middle ground doesn't exist, your options will be limited to this unsatisfying, black-and-white, totally played out pair of clichés. You don't want that, do you?

(Another thing — this isn't just about your love for your partner, it's about your love for your family. I have no way of making loving your family sound cool. It's basically one of the dorkiest things out there. But it sounds like you do love them. And if you love your family and you love this girl, then it behooves you to find a way for your girlfriend to be a part of your family's lives. Again, that might involve marriage and it might not — but it seems to me that if you do get married to bring the people you love closer together, that's pretty damn noble and not really a betrayal of your principles at all.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:45 AM on September 22, 2009 [27 favorites]

wackybrit has it. If every person considering getting married listened, and believed, and learned from, the stories of their divorced friends, they would give it a second thought. Marriage is for the serious, not for the romantically swept away; it inherently makes a relationship more serious.

Bad marriage is hell - but the divorce process is even worse.

OTOH, every LTR has bad spots. Most even have some hellish ones, eventually. If the choice is pack your bags and go, it's an easy choice.

If the choice is lose half your worldly goods a/o future income, pay lawyer's fees, and let a stranger decide what of your life you are allowed to keep, the two of you have real incentive to work it out.

And if you can work out those inevitable rough spots, and stick together, there have been kings, sex symbols, and rock stars who would trade their worlds for yours, if only they could.

Finally, and this is not a trivial point: a wedding is a tangible, exact, public moment of affirming your intent to devote your life to another person's wellbeing. Friends will remember your wedding day; not so much that time at the bar you promised to love him/her forever. Parents will weep. Grandparents will feel completed. Great-grandparents overlucky. Children, alas, bored & uncomfortable, which is why we serve cake afterwards.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:47 AM on September 22, 2009 [13 favorites]

If you can't tell your family that as an adult you are living with your girlfriend than yeah, you seem too young to get married - Sartre/De Beauvoir didn't hide their relationship. And no, she isn't anyone's Aunt if she IS just the girl you have been dating (since as far as they know you haven't made any commitment to each other so in a couple of years your nephew may have another Aunt). A lot of your reasons against marriage seem to be in rebellion to your family, I think a more adult choice would be based on what you want - you seem to want the families approval (and to make the grandparents happy) so what do you lose if you get married - a little bit of your cool?

I'm married, happily, but I didn't do it as a statement for society, we did it as a statement to each other that this was for reals, for life (plus we were already parents together). I wonder if our relationship would have survived some of the worse times if, deep down, we didn't have that security of knowing that we HAD made a life-long commitment. It also made labelling each other easier in conversation (regionally, partner is reserved for same-sex couples and he ain't my baby-daddy). Depending on where you live, living common-law is legally considered marriage after a couple of years so you could find yourselves with that marriage label without knowing.

The neat thing about the "cultural institution" of marriage is that you can define what the commitment actually means - whether it is open, living together or whatever floats your boat. But it is a public acknowledgement of your commitment to each other - wanting to keep such an important thing private and secret implies shame in your relationship.
posted by saucysault at 7:49 AM on September 22, 2009 [9 favorites]

It sounds like you're taking your parents views entirely too seriously, frankly they're opinions simply don't matter here. You might ask that your parents call her your partner. heh

Of course, her grand parents views seems more sympathetic than your parents. But I'm sure they can be handled kindly. Maybe "Alright, we promise you we'll get married in 15 years, so you better live another 15 years." :)

I feel visa restrictions are the single most important function of marriage, some people absolutely need that immigration trump card, tax benefits, medical decisions, etc. being the second most important reasons.

Why not wait if you don't care too much about the tax breaks now? You can always get married in your 30s once other practical concerns feel more important.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:49 AM on September 22, 2009

We got married so that my spouse could get health benefits at my work, and so I could get a big tax break.

But I don't think you two should get married just because your family expects you to. Imagine that you give in on this thing and decide to get married... Are you going to "give in" and have a big ridiculous traditional wedding that you don't want? Are you going to "give in" and have kids? And then raise them in a church you don't agree with?

You need to deal with your parents separate from your relationship with your partner. Essentially, you need to manage their expectations: You are not going to get married in the forseeable future. You love your partner unconditionally and consider her your soulmate (or whatever). You are living with her and having sex with her and you love her. They need to deal with this fact and treat you like adults. Don't put down an ultimatum. Don't demand to sleep in the same room when you visit or anything. But demand respect for you and your relationship.

I know it's a hard conversation to have (yeah, I had it twice!), but it's necessary.
posted by muddgirl at 7:52 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

2) even if we are justified in our skepticism of marriage, should we go through the motions in order to make our lives - at least with my family - pragmatically easier?

If you can, forget about your family's preference in this matter. There are plenty of social politenesses you can perform to make life with your family easier; you should not, however, feel pressured to undertake one of the big rituals of life to please your family.

Be aware, though, that being married can make your life easier. Many people think of marriage as a romantic contract, when practically speaking it is primarily a legal and social contract: by marrying, you make a legal and social statement to the outside observer that you and your partner are a unit. Here's a list of some likely social, legal, and financial benefits to being married (and incidentally, this extensive list of benefits shows why marriage equality is a crucial civil rights issue --- it's not all about smoochy lovey dovey "I want to marry the person I love" stuff, but also about the practical, legal, and financial effects of depriving people of this right).

Here's a story the shaped my own feelings about marriage: when my first partner was in the hospital dying, his mother threatened to bar me from entering his room if I continued to discuss with him his anxiety and sorrow at the prospect of dying. Because she was a relative and I was not, she had the right to deny me access. If I had been his wife, she would have found that threat much harder to make.

That confirmed for me that my own domestic partnership[s] should be formalized in some way: by marriage, by medical power of attorney, by whatever legal mechanism necessary to give my partner and me reciprocal rights in the event of an emergency. (Even if you and your partner do decide to get married, you should also insure that you have your bases covered with, for example, medical powers of attorney, wills, and other legal documents that formalize your reciprocal rights and responsibilities.)
posted by Elsa at 7:53 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

Well, getting married is not only about taxes, gifts, outdated attitudes to gender, other people's religions, and making sure one's faithful intentions are backed up by scary laws.

It's also a ceremony in which a couple bring out their perfectly good relationship in front of their community of family and friends and say: Look, here is our relationship; we want it to last forever; with this ceremony we ask you to acknowledge it, and pledge us your support in upholding it.

Sounds like this is precisely what you need.

Truly, marriage comes with all manner of other baggage, but you don't have to have the other baggage if you don't want it. If you don't want a church wedding, don't have one; if you don't think it's the government's business, don't tell them.
posted by emilyw at 7:54 AM on September 22, 2009 [10 favorites]

Okay, fine, I'll be the bad guy.

If you're confident and secure in your relationship, you don't need a marriage.

IME, many long-term couples get married as soon as one of them feels insecure enough to "need" it. And of course that'll often end badly later, despite (or because of) the additional "security."
posted by rokusan at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are you me?

This is a warning: If your experience was anything like mine, and it looks eerily similar, your parents will not consider it a Christian wedding and will still refer to you as everything but a family member. Do not get married to sate their strange idea of who or what is family, because if they're the very special kind of wacko, they won't consider your marriage legitimate unless you meet their very stringent version of faithful.

We're very FTW as well, but besides the parental aspect, marriage so far has been awesome. The social benefits of being married far outweigh the cons: people treat us like adults (though we've been adults for ten years now, technically), bank tellers don't look at us funny, nobody bats an eye when we take off sick to take care of an ill spouse, people assume we are settled and secure rather than poor and volatile (no matter how inaccurate the stereotype is), etc. And I love him, so it's well worth the piece of paper and mini-ceremony.
posted by theraflu at 7:59 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

FTW being "fuck the world", although we are pretty "for the win" as well
posted by theraflu at 8:01 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Marriage is a social event, while your relationship is a private affair. The two of you know that you're committed to each other for the rest of your lives. But your family, friends, and any strangers you have to deal with during difficult times, don't have access to your intimate interactions. They have no way to know if you're just having fun, or if this is serious. The point of a marriage contract is to tell the rest of the world where you stand.

As others have pointed out, making it official makes some things easier. Maybe you're concerned this is largely because it puts you in category - everyone "understands" what a marriage is; they know to give you visitation rights since you're married, not because you're in love or understand each other / etc. To you that may seem to diminish the uniqueness of your relationship, that it will become just another marriage. But really every marriage is unique and you belong to plenty of categories already. So yes, on one level you are equating your relationship with other people's, but the purpose of doing that is to share the information with them - tell the whole world this is the real deal in a way that can be directly, emotionally, and legally grasped.

It's your prerogative to avoid sharing that information, to consider it unsharable or diminished when translated into everyday terms. But you can also reinvent marriage, have an unusual ceremony, etc, if you want.

Also: you mention Sartre & de Beauvoir - are you hinting that you want an open marriage? If not, be careful throwing that example around (or maybe reconsider anyway... definitely imperfect ). Maybe Tim Robbins & Susan Sarandon :).
posted by mdn at 8:07 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

1) are we just being ridiculous 20-somethings trying to be way too cool for school thinking we are "too intelligent" or "above" marriage, traditionally conceived, as a cultural institution?

As a nearly-40, newly-married, new mom, I don't think so. Your beliefs are what they are. Just recognize that they are not static and might change over time. You asked for personal insights, so here's mine. My husband and I had been married before and I did not have a huge desire to get remarried, despite my enormous commitment and love for him. I can't say my apathy was a snub to "The Man" and convention like yours, but I just didn't see the point.

Anyway, we decided to have a child together without being married or engaged. I got pregnant. We then got engaged and legally married -- in a tiny ceremony with just the 2 of us and the officiant and our dogs. Two months later, we moved in together and we just had a healthy baby boy. I am now thrilled that we are a family (in our hearts AND legally) and wouldn't want it any other way. I beem with pride and happiness when I call him my husband. Like I said before, feelings aren't static and can change.

2) even if we are justified in our skepticism of marriage, should we go through the motions in order to make our lives - at least with my family - pragmatically easier?

This is for you to decide, whether it is easier or not. Just an idea to follow up on DiamondGFX, what about a destination "wedding" where you have a ceremony that demonstrates your love and commitment, but it is not legally recognized in your country? Your family may not be the wiser since it looks like a real marriage ceremony?
posted by murrey at 8:07 AM on September 22, 2009

If you have children and are no married, male partner is not assumed to be the father at the hospital and you have to fill out additional paperwork.
Once you have a child, everyone assumes that you are married and says husband when referring to partner.
posted by k8t at 8:09 AM on September 22, 2009

Theoretically, I agree with rokusan. Theoretically, relationships that are confident and secure shouldn't be in any danger. However, damn laws can make it much more difficult to be with someone you really love if you're not married.

I have a similar background as you, but I reached the point when I sure as hell never wanted to be unable to live in the same place as my partner, and I definitely wanted to be the unquestionable emergency contact should something happen to him. A legal marriage was the obvious answer.

Our relationship hasn't changed that much (in a good way). Visa and legal issues are much more straightforward now. And the extra bonus is that we had a super party with our favourite people. We did a courthouse ceremony followed up by a 'spiritual' ceremony a few months later. We made it non-traditional enough to make ourselves comfortable with it and really enjoyed ourselves.
posted by brambory at 8:14 AM on September 22, 2009

If you can't tell your family that as an adult you are living with your girlfriend than yeah, you seem too young to get married ... it is a public acknowledgement of your commitment to each other - wanting to keep such an important thing private and secret implies shame in your relationship.

What saucysault said. Like many children coming out of traditionally conservative families, you've ridden the pendulum swing to the opposite point of view -- a rejection of the trappings of those traditions. But until you're actually making decisions independent of those traditions (getting off the pendulum), you're still going to be much more heavily influenced by your family than by any other point of view, and you'll just keep swinging back and forth between.

IMO people who "don't need a piece of paper" seem to have a lot more invested in not being married than they say they do. They say they're neutral about it but if that were the case, then they wouldn't mind marrying to please their families.

I'm atheist but also godmother to my Catholic siblings' children. My siblings asked me to be godmother without any expectation that I would be a traditional Catholic godmother who is supposed to be in charge of the child's moral and religious upbringing. I accepted and went through the religious ceremony with no intention of ensuring that the child would be raised Catholic etc. but with every intention of loving and guiding the child to the best of my ability.

On one hand it's meaningless and even a bit hypocritical for them to ask me and for me to accept, but on the other hand it's about family ties and filial love and integrating our lives from one generation to the next. Giving the child a "village" was more important to me than being "anti" Catholic. Now if they had asked me when I was 19 or so, it might have been different, because I was newly rebelling against my Catholic upbringing at that point. In my relative dotage, though, I'm not anti-anything, I'm just who I am. When you are not anti-marriage, not rebelling against your family and its conservative mores, you might decide that you really are neutral about it. You will feel a lot less angst about things then.
posted by headnsouth at 8:17 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

I am an anarchist and not thrilled about having the state involved in my marriage, but the fact is that unless you go off and live in what remaining patch of wilderness you can find, living off the land and avoiding all human contact, you're automatically compromising your ideology, and frankly excessive ideological purism led to some of the worst disasters of the twentieth century, so I think of compromise as a positive good. Anyway, I'm happily married and find that once you bite the bullet, the whole state-sponsored thing pretty much vanishes into the haze and you're left with a pleasing feeling of commitment. (Well, pleasing for us; YMMV.)

As everyone else has said, try to separate this issue from your family problems, which just make it harder to resolve. Pretend your families don't exist and just think about the pros and cons of marriage itself. My own two cents: even pretentious 20-something Lyotard-ian, anti-social-narrative, fuck the man sort of people can get married without instantly turning into The Family Circus.
posted by languagehat at 8:18 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm a feminist who has grappled with many of these questions. I've been with my partner for seven years, and we're getting married in three weeks.

I think you should really, really take a good, hard look at that list of marriage benefits that Elsa linked. Those are the most compelling reasons to be married. Though things like death benefits might not concern you now, if you're committed to staying with your partner indefinitely, then it makes sense to do what you can to protect her if you're ever ill or if you pass away. Her, likewise. Know that the states that offer domestic partner benefits largely do not offer those benefits to heterosexual couples (and if they do, it's often only to couples that are elderly) and even if you were to secure a non-marriage domestic partnership in one state, it might not be recognized if you ever move. Keep in mind that these are benefits are something that gay couples have been fighting for for years. They're not a matter of just tax breaks and wedding gifts. Remember that your relationship isn't just the cuddly, happy alone time. Remember that a fundamental part of life and committed relationships are ugly things--nights in the hospital, and so on. If your family won't let your girlfriend sleep in the same bed as you, are they sure they'll let her into the hospital room if something bad happens to you?

I don't mean to be a fear monger. There are other, less scary, but equally important benefits I've found to my impending marriage: because my SO and I work for the same company, we're going to save $1200 a year on health coverage; if either of us ever wants to work part-time in a different job or take time off in the future, we won't have to worry about scrambling for some sort of medical care. The legal aspects of marriage have offered me a lot of peace-of-mind, generally, and I think it's short-sighted to look past them because they're unromantic.

1) are we just being ridiculous 20-somethings trying to be way too cool for school thinking we are "too intelligent" or "above" marriage, traditionally conceived, as a cultural institution?

Sorry, but yes. There's no reason that marriage--your marriage--has to be, in any way "traditionally conceived." Assuming it does, and more, assuming that there's something wrong with people who chose even the traditional form of marriage (and I'm not, but still) is pretty pretentious, not to mention dismissive to the people who have fought a long time for the tangible legal and financial benefits of the institution of marriage.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:18 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

The fact that you mention your parents and ask this question at all? Look, a casual observer who got a C in Intro to Psych would comment that your attempt to reject your parents' worldview has created your worldview. By defining yourself in opposition to them, you establish them as the "point" to your "counterpoint" and thereby dictate that they effectively remain just as controlling an influence in your life as they would if you were following their wishes to the letter.
posted by jefficator at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

I should add that although I have been married, I am not a pro-marriage type (or an anti-marriage type). When my boys are grown I don't care if they get married, and if they find special someones who they want to live with or live separately from or whatever, it doesn't matter to me whether they marry or not. I want my kids, and other kids, and you & your partner, and everyone else, to be happy, that's all. =)
posted by headnsouth at 8:23 AM on September 22, 2009

Interesting thread. Here is (are?) my two cents, which may or may not be helpful.

I've been married and divorced twice, as has my inamorata. In both cases we went into our marriages with the best intentions, and in both cases the marriages did not work out. Now, neither one of us wants to get married again. We've had it with that. Neither one of us will ever see 55 again, if that matters -- we know what we're doing, here. (I have one child, a teen not living with us but who visits regularly, and she has none. Neither one of owns any property.)

We are fully committed to each other and wish to spend the rest of our lives together. We feel as married as we can be, fully wed. To cement this, we have designed rings and are having our own little ceremony, during which we will place the rings on each other's hands. We appreciate the importance of symbolism and ritual, and this is our way of handling it. Thereafter, anyone seeing the rings will assume we are "married" unless they know us or unless we tell them.

My love has several fundie siblings who know we are living together and all that; they won't stay under our roof because we are not married, and we wouldn't be able to sleep in the same room if we were to visit them, but they like me and I like them and we just have to agree to disagree on this.

We have discussed the possibility of marrying on the death bed, assuming we have time for that, just to nail down some legalities. Currently, that's the plan.

Good luck.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:28 AM on September 22, 2009

In all seriousness, just lie to them.

Take a trip to Europe. When you return, let them all know that you up-and-decided to get married in Scotland, France, Italy etc.

They'll never know the wiser and it is not really their business in the first place, so (IMO) no harm no foul.

Plus, you get a trip to Europe out of it. ;)
posted by purephase at 8:30 AM on September 22, 2009

I'm not sure where you think you will get a tax break by being married--FWIW we (husband and I) are getting penalized (tax-wise) for being married.

You have to do what is right for YOU. If the time isn't right, don't push it. If you don't feel it, don't do it. Just realize that it is a CONTRACT. Without this contract, there are things you may have to fight for in the future. Like survivorship benefits, making decisions for the other if one become incapacitated, etc.. If you decide not to marry, look into getting the documents you need in order and filed. Gives copies to friends and relatives and discuss it with them.

For reference, look at stories of gay couples that we together for years when one dies and the hell they have had to go through without having "the contract" of marriage.

Best of luck to the two of you.
posted by 6:1 at 8:33 AM on September 22, 2009

If you plan the rest of your lives together, to the point that it pains you that your family can't recognize your committment, then you're married already. So, sign the registry, celebrate in a way that involves your family and friends in your gesture of commitment, and get on with work and pleasure of being your own family unit. The legal and practical benefits of a marriage license are significant, but as notes above, the ineffable benefits of a public solemnization of your relationship (which, in your case, include your family being able to embrace the relationship, where they've already embraced the woman) are equally significant. To my mind, that solemnization is more important to the long-term strength of your relationship than is the tax credit or survivor's rights.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:41 AM on September 22, 2009

My mother is an Episcopal priest and as such does lots of pre-marriage counseling before she performs wedding services. Something she says that has really stuck with me is basically if you're not ACTUALLY married before the wedding, nothing that happens on the day will change anything. The service doesn't change you from two people who aren't in a real relationship to two people who are; the marriage has to come before the wedding. I find that this really crystalized the idea of marriage for me; my husband and I lived together for several years before getting married, we were already, in a very real way, married before the service and everyone knew it, so the wedding was basically a chance to have a party where all of our friends and family could celebrate how great it is that he and I have found each other and how deeply wonderful our love is. Being married hasn't actually changed anything for us, but it was just really delightful to have a chance for our loved ones to revel in our intense commitment to each other.

You certainly shouldn't get married if you don't feel comfortable doing it, but I have to say that thinking about a wedding/actually being legally married as a chance to celebrate something beautiful rather than a rite or a hassle worked really well for us. If we hadn't gotten legally married, I don't think anything would be different to anyone (except his grandfather who didn't come to the wedding anyway since my husband was getting married to a Yankee) but we and all of our friends and family really enjoyed the chance to express how much Mr. Pterodactyl's and my love has meant not only to us but to those who care about us.

Whichever you decide, the main thing is that you are happy together and do what works for you. I think a wedding can be fun and being legally and religiously married has just been a continuation of the natural married stated we had before the ceremony, but if you would prefer not to go through any sort of ceremony that is absolutely your choice. Best of luck to you both in whatever you choose!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:41 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

get married in a civil ceremony and don't tell anyone but the IRS when you file.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:44 AM on September 22, 2009

You are looking for the Alternatives to Marriage Project, and their book Unmarried to Each Other.

My partner and I also went through this. Don't like the spectacle of a wedding, but also don't like people assuming we're not committed... like owning our condo together, don't like the baggage of marriage... Eventually we had a secret wedding in our condo for the basic reason that we could easily check off all of the government's and society's "characteristics of a married couple" boxes, and it was much easier to go for the Legal Package Deal of Marriage than to try to sign a million other documents giving each other legal and medical powers.

I've found that "We're married" is a much quicker and more complete explanation than "We live together but we're not getting married even though we DO love each other and we ARE committed and we ARE monogamous and we WILL have kids". The word "married" seems to convey all that other stuff so easily. We also find that our relationship is respected more by strangers, banks, family, etc.

As for all the things we didn't like about the idea... we're skipping them. No big spectacle of a wedding, no wedding gifts, no religious trappings, no change in our relationship other than legal and social status.
posted by heatherann at 8:44 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

emilyw: It's also a ceremony in which a couple bring out their perfectly good relationship in front of their community of family and friends and say: Look, here is our relationship; we want it to last forever; with this ceremony we ask you to acknowledge it, and pledge us your support in upholding it.

For me, this was the most significant fact of my wedding-- a bunch of people that I love stood up in a public ceremony and agreed aloud that they would do everything they could to support my relationship with my wife. I know, all that bullshit cultural institution stuff, but don't underestimate the significance that can come with ceremony and formalization.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:46 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes and Yes. If you honestly feel about your partner the way that you do you, and she feels the same, you two should get married and then speak loudly, and volunteer--both of you--toward the fair and necessary extension of legal marriage rights to all U.S. citizens. Congratulations and good luck!
posted by applemeat at 8:47 AM on September 22, 2009

We, of course, think this is quite strange - why should some silly ceremony and/or some legal documents be necessary to 'justify' our relationship?

I'd like to suggest that it doesn't matter WHY, it matters THAT. This is the situation you are in with your family. You can stay unmarried and deal with disrespect from family until the end of time, or you can get married and deal with re-visioning marriage and relationships and staying true to your values. It is up to you to decide which is more of a pain in the ass, and which will make you happier.
posted by heatherann at 8:48 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who came from a similar background and experienced similar problems with my family about my long-term partner (not sleeping in the same bed, etc.), my advice is to get married.

I completely understand where you're coming from, but I also think you're (probably understandably) carrying a lot of baggage about the concepts behind the words "wedding" and "marriage." They don't have to be anything you don't want them to be - a wedding can be as simple as a courthouse affair, or just be a family dinner in your favourite restaurant. Marriage doesn't have to mean anything new from how you are right now. Your vows could literally be, "I promise to pick up your socks and get rid of spiders in the bathtub," or whatever is meaningful to the two of you.

In a lot of ways, you're already married, but your family want to share in that happiness with you in a way that they can understand, and that's not a massively bad thing. I know that you want to do everything differently from what your family expects of you (trust me, i do), but weddings are such a happy, wonderful occasion for everyone that I think it's a good place to cave as long as you aren't going to resent it. My family were absolutely delighted with our (long-awaited) wedding, and on top of being happy to be married, I'm really happy that they are happy. Even though we were already married in all but name!
posted by ukdanae at 8:51 AM on September 22, 2009

Look. You are 20-somethings. Someday - real soon - way sooner than you think, you'll be 30-somethings. There's nothing wrong with not getting married now, or in your 30s or (n)ever.

But, people change their values, especially when it comes to marriage/ family/ kids/ etc. One of my absolute best friends was absolutely in love with a girl who walked away from him because he never got the hint that what she wanted was a commitment. She didn't always want the commitment, she didn't walk out with a placard that said that she wanted it the day she did. It kinda just grew into their relationship. I say it grew into their relationship, because the feeling grew in her, and he never noticed that she wanted a change of commitment. I don't think that she knew that that's what she wanted until it was too late.

Marriage is about you and her - not you and your parents, or her and your parents, or your grandparents - or anyone else. Honestly, if anything says "f-em all" as odd as it sounds, its getting married. It is a decision the two of you make - not them. You don't have to have a church wedding. You don't have to invite them. You don't have to do any of the steps that they expect of you... Granted, there are consequences to that, but - you have that as an option.

Heck, don't get married. Make that decision for you - but you sure as hell aren't sticking it to the man if you do that either. As a member of society the significance of one couple getting married to us as an entirety is... um insignificant. Society as a whole does not care if you have a white picket fence, worship satan, never have a baby, have a baby out of wedlock, or decide to rob a conveniece store. There are societial consequences of doing any of those things (fence maintenance, difficulty in finding a church of satan, cultural taboo, jail time, etc)... But ultimately - you - and your SO are a microscopic blip. You aren't and can't "f-the-man" over this. Sorry - ya can't. the man doesnt' care either way... trust me...
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:56 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

All the ins and out of this have been covered extensively above, so I'll just say:

Go to City Hall, announce it afterwards, and let the parents and grandparents throw you the party or parties of their capitalist dreams.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:05 AM on September 22, 2009

If it furthers your mutual goals, do it. If not, don't.

I've been married for-frigging-EVAR (well over 1/2 my life) and I am no fan of the institution. I believe in commitment, and I am as FTW as you can get. Having the state in my face in this area pisses me off, and having any religious component is just plain insulting to a thinking person.

We do live in a world in which it matters, though. I fought hard here in Vermont for marriage equality, because I believe in equality,not because I believe in marriage. Of itself, it confers no guarantee on commitment. It does not guarantee fidelity, or happiness, and in many cases, reduces both. It implies ownership.

Good question, great answers, and good luck with your choice. As my mate says, "In a few billion years all this will be sucked into the sun, anyway." The fate of humanity does not rest on this choice. Whatever works for you, works for you. FTW!
posted by FauxScot at 9:10 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

More important than anything else: Tell your parents that they have to respect who you are. Tell them that you and your girlfriend live together. Tell them you plan to stay together and tell them that you won't stay at their house anymore in separate bedrooms as this makes a mockery of the relationship you have. Make it clear that you will still visit them if they won't acquiesce, but that you will stay in a hotel when you do so. And if this means that you can't visit as often, well, that's something that both you and them will have to deal with.

And then, after you've forced your parents to start treating you like an adult, then you can decide whether or not you want to get married.
posted by 256 at 9:11 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

You can get married for all the legal reasons like being able to say what happens to her medically if she cant and money issues without having to do it religously.

All I say though is deiscous everything to make sure you two are compatible. Make sure all your money views are the same, how to raise kids are the same, even your religious views are the same.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:11 AM on September 22, 2009

I'm not sure where you think you will get a tax break by being married--FWIW we (husband and I) are getting penalized (tax-wise) for being married.

This. A thousand times, this.

However, the legal implications of marriage go far beyond taxes. Weigh the information in this thread carefully, and then make your decision based on what's best for you, not your family.
posted by somanyamys at 9:12 AM on September 22, 2009

Oh Anonymous, is it you or me or just this world we're living in? You call it love, they call it living in sin.

Though I'm not really a fan of your brand of pretentiousness, I side with you in your not wanting to get married. You don't have to get married if you don't want to or don't feel it's right - it's your relationship, not theirs. Most people consider it a huge gesture and you'll probably feel awful if everyone around you is ascribing this deep personal importance to something that you're just doing to get them to shut up.

Plus you can always get married later if you change your minds. You're young and you're planning on being together for life, so what's the rush?
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:12 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and P.S.: if you have kids, the odds are decidedly in favor of their growing up, converting to evangelical Christianity, and gleefully referencing how "my parents were never married and are still living in sin to this day" while giving their testimony at church. This coming from someone who knew SEVERAL converted-at-Ivy-League-college children of pissed-off ex-hippies. Every generation feels the infantile need to flaunt the conventions of their parents. You just want a group of strangers to tell you its okay.
posted by jefficator at 9:19 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

People will make assumptions about your relationship/commitment/marriage (or non-marriage) regardless of your choices regarding all those things.

What makes sense for you? What would you do if no one had an opinion about your relationship but you and your SO?

I personally think that legal marriage is great. It was a good choice for my husband and me (mid-twenties, liberal, non-religious). No, we don't believe that it makes our relationship moral or our commitment to each other more serious. But as long as one of us has employer-based health insurance, the other doesn't have to worry about foregoing necessary medical treatment during unemployment or grad school. And we're glad to have an explicitly legally recognized relationship in case one of us ever has to make a decision for the other.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:25 AM on September 22, 2009

1) yes, but that's OK--there's nothing wrong with that.
2) We do all sorts of things to make things easier with our families. Get married. It will make things easier. Plus, you'll have additional legal rights together, such as becoming each other's next of kin. I think marriage is stupid too, but two visits to the NYC Court and voila! my boyfriend became my husband and qualified for medical insurance on the plan I have through work. That's basically why we did it. Like you, we didn't need a piece of paper to know we wanted to stay together. And I think the whole "lifetime commitment" thing is bullshit anyway, with or without marriage. Whether or not you are married, a relationship should be reassessed all the time--because as we all know it's hard work to make something last.

It can be silly and romantic, which can be fun. Embrace the ordinary for a day, you might enjoy it.
posted by tk at 9:32 AM on September 22, 2009

I'm in the UK, where the legalities are different - I can't see any benefit as a heterosexual woman to getting married for legal reasons. Still a contract, mind.

For me, getting a mortgage together is a pretty huge commitment. If you've done this, marriage isn't a great step further. MrM and I aren't at the stage where we're seriously considering it one way or the other, but he has said that the whole fuss puts him off, and I admit I feel the same about the wedding industry - I want to have a party for my friends and family, and eat cake, and wear a nice dress, not have to buy matching napkin rings for 30 tables and get exactly the right pastel shade of paper on my invitations. I can't be bothered with that. There are also feminist issues with the ceremony - I can't now be 'given away' by my father, but the idea of it appalls me, and if I said no to it or any other tradition you can bet someone somewhere whose opinions I cared abotu would disapprove. And the fact that I'm agnostic, so making a promise to God is a bit like making a promise to the piece of cheese which may or may not be under the fridge.

I think the idea of alternatives to marriage is a good one. Take the civil partnership for the legal breaks, don't tell anyone if you want to make it purely about that and not a religious/family issue. Then do the rest of it your own way.

I grew up in an area where engagement at 19 was common. I'm not planning children, and that might make a difference, but I don't feel a compulsion to get married, nor that our relationship is lesser because we are not engaged. If it happens for you, it should just be because you want to, without the baggage of institution and expectation. Make it mean what youw ant it to mean.
posted by mippy at 9:37 AM on September 22, 2009

Oh - and my friend's parents are Catholic, and when her older brother moved in with his fiancee - not girlfriend, fiancee - the whole family went round to talk him out of it. Now she lives happily in sin with her boyfriend, and her parents accept it perfectly. I honestly think your family is behaving a little rudely toward your relationship.
posted by mippy at 9:39 AM on September 22, 2009

I don't think you're being ridiculous raising these questions. I've been with my BF for almost SEVEN years, (I'm 28) and I still am not sure I want to marry him, even though I feel deeply deeply committed to him. We've been through it all together, but there's something about the Big M that really freaks me out. For me, it's about the pressure and expectations; as someone who already feels like I have to be the responsible one, I like having a life in partner without the marriage part. And marriage IS weird, it makes sense, of course, but it's a strange institution that doesn't really work for a lot of people.

But I am finally thinking about having a party/celebration/"wedding" because now we have a house together and it's like, OK, lets do it. We love each other. We're both cynical romantics, and even though I love him, I still don't know whether it's in a "till death do us part" way.I second "getting married" but maybe not legally until you've really thought it through.
posted by Rocket26 at 9:50 AM on September 22, 2009

Signing a marriage license is not equivalent to agreeing to "marriage, traditionally conceived, as a cultural institution." There are certain aspects of marriage that are extremely important legally - such as the kind of access and influence you have if your spouse were to suffer a medical crisis.

Unless you are going to run away and hide in Ted Kaxzynski's cabin in the woods you can't help occupying the constructs and institutions of the culture you live in. You transform them by how you personally create and interact with them. In short I think you are excluding the possibility of marriage based on an artificial stance of principle rather than on assessing the actual issues and benefits of electing to join in this legal contract.

Which is not the same as saying I think you should get married. I don't know if you should get married. But I think it is worth putting aside the intellectual distaste for its cultural baggage and exploring the question from a pragmatic stance, and also thinking together about whether you really think there is anything fundamentally wrong with the broader human tradition of marriage (as this could and - in my opinion should - be more for you than merely signing a legal contract for some practical benefits. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with commitment and ceremony).
posted by nanojath at 10:11 AM on September 22, 2009

OTOH, every LTR has bad spots. Most even have some hellish ones, eventually. If the choice is pack your bags and go, it's an easy choice.

If the choice is lose half your worldly goods a/o future income, pay lawyer's fees, and let a stranger decide what of your life you are allowed to keep, the two of you have real incentive to work it out.

And there are some people that believe that if you don't want to get married in order to avoid the financial and legal impact of divorce then you already have one foot out the door and aren't as committed as you say you are.
posted by saucysault at 10:13 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

1. Who cares if you're being pretentious? Really. No one cares about you that much. People on the street will not be looking at you saying "oh, there's that jerk who thinks he doesn't have to get married!" If you think you're deluding yourself, that's another thing.

2. Be who you want to be and be PROUD. That is what you owe to the people who care for you, to exist as a happy, healthy, HONEST, version of yourself. If that means someone who's shacking up with his long-term girlfriend, OWN IT. Don't be ashamed of yourself.

BONUS ADVICE!: Marriage has amazing legal benefits, especially if one of you earns or will earn significantly less than the other. If one of you plans to stay home with a future child, get married to protect that partner. Access to health insurance and the ability to make decisions for one another in the event of a tragedy is another incredibly important issue that cannot be underestimated.
posted by kathrineg at 10:21 AM on September 22, 2009

Don't underestimate the wonderful feeling of gaining a new family member--the first time I wrote my partner's name under "next of kin" I cried (the happy kind).

Of course, I did that before we got legally married! But going from dating to life partner is a huge shift in the way you see each other.
posted by kathrineg at 10:25 AM on September 22, 2009

I think that "fighting the man" is a red herring. You and your partner are already married within your relationship: You've already made a permanent emotional commitment to each other.

Do a little thought experiment. Imagine that your family is totally okay with the status quo in your relationship. Having seen all the practical benefits of marriage as a social/legal act, how do you feel about it? If it weren't for your family, you probably would get married sooner or later just to get the tax breaks because it would be little more than a paperwork issue that doesn't change the terms of your relationship.

So it seems the real axis of the issue is that you don't want to knuckle under to your family, who's unfairly pressuring you to meet their expectations of how your relationship should go. This is really a family relations issue.

The answer to 1 is yes, you are overthinking it and dressing it up in Lyotard-ian terms to justify it.

The answer to 2 is really the answer to how you want to handle your family. Do you want to stand up to them at a significant personal cost (i.e., losing the practical benefits of marriage and doing your part to maintain a big speed bump in your family relations)? Or do you want to be the big one, do what you'd probably do anyway without their interference, and get on with your life?

Me, I'd choose to get married. But I'm 38, and have come to understand the value of the practical, economic, contractual aspects of a strong relationship, on top of the emotional ones. I love my partner for who she is to me, and because she has an awesome pension plan.

I suspect that, looking back a few years down the road, you'll regret all the family tension to which you contributed. Ask yourself what you get if you win this battle, and at what cost. As someone observed upthread, being your own person means doing what you'd do, not what you'd do in response to someone else. As long as you're refusing to get married because of your family, you're still reacting to them and fighting the man because you won't ignore him.
posted by fatbird at 10:35 AM on September 22, 2009

You clearly care about your family and you want them to treat your SO with some elevated level of respect that comes with being a proper Aunt, and you seem to like her grandparents, but the pomp and circumstance seems silly. So why not make the event silly?

If your and/or her parents want something frilly and formal and they're willing to pay for most/all of the wedding, give them something they'll enjoy with personal touches (proper-nice suits and bright-colored casual shoes are fun, and great for the dancing portion of the day). If not, do something fun (but respectable). Low on funds but you or your friends are crafty? Have a dollar-store wedding and/or reception. Make it a themed event and have people dress accordingly.

Pro tip: if your family REALLY wants a bible passage, you can say yes but make sure you check it out first (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, while well known, is probably not a super upbeat choice), and balance it with something odd and suitable for you as a couple.

Weddings can be a lot of fun, and those are the ones everyone remembers (I speak from experience as a guy who never thought of the wedding pomp and whatnot until meeting the current Mrs. FLT).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:42 AM on September 22, 2009

If you decide not to get married, then I think it's really important that you otherwise legally establish the things that marriage would automatically establish --- medical proxy, emergency contact, will leaving things to the other, etc. Otherwise, it's all defaulted to the next of kin. And would you really want your family deciding if the plug should be pulled over your girl, if it comes down to it?

So, given that establishing all of the above things (and more!) would require more paperwork and time than filing a marriage license and standing before a JoP or a Notary or a Judge for five minutes, why not do it? I think if nothing else, a legal marriage saves the headache of paperwork stating so-and-so should be the default for just about everything that a marriage contract just does.
posted by zizzle at 11:01 AM on September 22, 2009

A lot of the answers you're getting are coming from the most common standpoint in our culture: being married is the default, not marrying is aberrant. So "just get married, it's no big deal, make people happy" is reasonable advice from those who hold this belief. To me, and perhaps to you, it's the opposite: being unmarried seems like the normal state for me and being married seems unusual.

For me, I would want to be as careful about deciding to get married as I would about moving to Nepal, or buying an elephant farm. The fact that I would get a tax break for farming the elephants, or that it would make my grandparents happy to feed them, or that I should quit being a baby about it since it's really just a few elephants would not be persuasive arguments for me. I would have to actually really want to own and care for elephants. Who knows? Maybe someday I will.

If having elephants in your house feels normal to you, or becomes appealing to you some day, then go for it and enjoy. If it isn't and it never does, then don't.
posted by lemuria at 11:21 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was just like you with the fundamentalist Christian family and everything. I was embarrassed and ashamed to be getting married for all of the reasons you mentioned, and then I turned 30, grew the hell up and got over myself. If feels pretty good. We threw ourselves an awesome wedding on a farm with pigs, chickens, and a torrential hurricane that almost blew the barn down.
posted by defreckled at 11:22 AM on September 22, 2009

There are a lot of gay people in my family, and one of the reasons I'm for the legalization of gay marriage (probably fourth or fifth on the list, somewhere below Are You Fucking Kidding Me but above Helps Local Economy) is how hard it is to know when to call the woman my aunt is living with "Aunt So-and-so." Of course you want to err on the side of caution, but then an uncle of mine got into DEEP trouble when he introduced his daughter's girlfriend as his daughter-in-law and neither she nor his daughter were there yet.

So the point is, getting married is not just about the two of you confirming your love for each other--you've already done that. Getting married is confirming your place in each other's families, and committing to being a member of that family. Your family and hers are not going to feel certain about whether they have a new family member without a marriage. So it is, in a way, something you can legitimately do for the family.

There are a lot of other good reasons to get married, as noted above. If the only reason not to is that it's sort of square, you should probably go ahead and do it. You can write your own vows, and make it as cool or silly as you want.
posted by smoakes at 12:01 PM on September 22, 2009

1. I am a person who thinks that it's generally more important to behave with integrity in your beliefs/values than doing something for somebody else, which is against those believes. I am aware that this lacks pragmatism.

2. Apparently you're not sure about your beliefs/values or the importance of your integrity. If this is the case, introducing a little pragmatism, I am still convinced that marriage is not the kind of thing you should be doing without being sure.

So if you follow my thinking: don't. Explain to everyone who doesn't understand once or twice, if they don't get it, let it go. Eventually they will, too.
posted by oxit at 12:31 PM on September 22, 2009

You've had a ton of good answers so far, but I'd just like to weigh in with my own anecdote.

Like you, we decided on a less traditional route. Who says we need to spend money on a stupid piece of paper for the government or get married in the eyes of God? Should we ever part ways, it would also be much messier and expensive to divorce. We just never saw the benefit of 'going all the way'.

I also never had any interest in having a rock on my finger or a big expensive party. It's just not our style. We're low-key types and didn't need the whole bit to celebrate our love.

Seems to me we can have all the benefits of marriage, and none of the drawbacks by living common-law here in Ontario. I receive medical benefits through his employer, I was able to take his name (for free!) as a result of our 'union', we get the same tax incentives/drawbacks and no one stops us from referring to one another as 'husband' and 'wife'. We wear my heirloom wedding rings, and no one is the wiser. We explain it in detail to some folks, but when most strangers ask us when we got married, we just calculate back to the date around which we started wearing our rings/I changed my name/I started receiving benefits.

We thought at first that his family (Catholics) might need a wedding to warm up to the idea, but as time has worn on, they have accepted me as one of their own. No one was the least bit surprised or upset when we recently announced that we're expecting. *phew*

My advice: stand by your own convictions. The contract of marriage need only be between the two of you and I don't personally understand why the church/government/family should have anything to do with it, so long as it feels right for the two of you.

Best of luck.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:42 PM on September 22, 2009

my fiancee and i couldn't give a fig about marriage, but we're tying the knot for purely administrative reasons--we have decided to spend our lives together and take care of each other, and legally we can't make medical decisions for each other in an emergency, or inherit from each other, or easily perform other basic functions of partnership without the marriage certificate.

we happen to like our families so we're using it as an excuse to get everyone together, but we are having a civil ceremony with none of the religious trappings that we rejected years ago.

that said, you don't have to get married. you don't. the question is how much you want your families to accept you as a couple. maybe you can sit down with them and say, "look, we're together forever. we don't want a wedding. please get over it and treat us like a grownup couple." but if you don't have the kind of relationship with them where you can say that, then you have to consider the value of getting the paperwork done. maybe you two could just go down to the courthouse, have a quick ceremony, and be done with. yes, it's a marriage, but really it just amounts to a civil registration of your household. maybe that will be easier for you to deal with.

unfortunately we live in an age where marriage is kind of the price of doing business as a grownup. i used to reject the idea entirely, but am a bit older and more willing to play the game toward my own ends, not society's.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:03 PM on September 22, 2009

They really do like my SO and care about her, and yet when we visit my family we have to sleep in separate rooms, [...] my family will only refer to her as 'the girl I'm dating' (even though it's far beyond dating), etc. I constantly have to side-step the fact that my SO and I [...] live together, even though I am sure my parents suspect as much (though we can never speak of it).

Have you clearly communicated to them that you consider your relationship to your partner to be as committed as marriage, and that you would like them to treat you as they treat married couples?

What I'm saying is: If you have gone to pains to keep quiet about how serious your relationship is, perhaps they don't know how serious your relationship is.

Or hell, maybe they think they're respecting your wishes; you choose not to get married because you don't want the societal baggage that comes along with marriage, so by not treating you like a married couple, they're not forcing that societal baggage on you.

That said, even if you ask they might not be happy having you sleep together, but with religious beliefs it could be worth cutting them some slack. To use an analogy, if I visit a mosque I expect to be asked to remove my shoes, so if I have a principled objection to removing my shoes I can't really complain if I'm not allowed in.

my nephew can't call her an aunt,

Not to sound snarky, but if she isn't a sister or sister-in-law of the nephew's parent, then she isn't the nephew's aunt.

The other things I would suggest is that if you object to something as a matter of principle, it would be worth developing a succinct, reasonably easy to understand explanation of your objections. I mean, it's pretty succinct when you say you're Lyotard-ian, anti-social narrative, fuck the man sort of people, but assume I don't know what the social narrative is, who you mean by the man, or what skin-tight lycra garments have to do with any of this. If you can't explain your decision to me in a way I can understand, I might have difficulty understanding your decision.
posted by Mike1024 at 4:10 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

People like to get to celebrate the good times. If it weren't for weddings, we'd only ever see each other at funerals. If you've found someone you can consider your indefinite life-partner, who you intend to consider in all matters in the future - in other words, if you've found someone you're willing to be effectively married to - that's a great thing. That's why the grandparents want to see you happily married, etc. They want to know that you've found someone you can go through life together with, not just for the next few years but forever.

Secondly - if you're going to buck "the man", you have to recognize that "the man" is going to be embodied in your family. If you can't even say "hey, we're living together", I don't know how you're going to get across "When we're 45, 65, and 85, we intend to be still living together in a relationship, and still unmarried". You need to tell them that you consider yourselves married, and the best way to do this is by having a commitment ceremony (legal paperwork optional). Of course it'll mess with them a bit more if you just say "We've been living together for the last year, and we consider ourselves married." and you'll probably have to wait a few years for The Man to adjust and start treating you like you're married (if it ever happens). I still think it's nice to give people an occasion to celebrate and express their happiness for you, though.

Now, as far as the legal paperwork: Most people, especially the older adults in your family who want to see you happy, healthy, and safe, are going to think it's ridiculous that you're choosing to go without legal protections for your relationship just so that you can thumb your nose at "society". Now, if you want to avoid marriage for other reasons - you think it's ridiculous to say "forever", you want to be able to split up eventually without going through the expense of a legal divorce, you want to wait five or ten years before saying 'forever', etc - that's a different situation. Specifically, it's a situation in which you don't want to be married, and you don't consider yourselves married, you consider yourselves something that society and particularly older people don't really have a word or even a concept for yet. "Committed" might be a good word for it, and you could probably have a commitment ceremony even and just have a "renewal of vows" in a decade if you decide to sign the actual paperwork. Or just go to city hall and not make a big production out of it.
posted by Lady Li at 5:17 PM on September 22, 2009

When the chips are down and all hell is breaking loose, it can be comforting to go through whatever mess it is with someone you know is committed enough to you, and vice versa, to have made the final commitment. Now, I'm not that fond of marriage as an idea. However, there's something special about living with someone who you know loves and cares for you enough to marry you, and the reverse rather than someone who is there for the now. Sounds silly given the divorce rate, but love doesn't flourish on statistics and odds. Add the practical bits that being married gives you (wills, property, hospital access, etc.) and the fact that children like to know for certain who their parents are, and you have my answer: yes, marry, and then don't worry it to death.
posted by x46 at 5:26 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who could have pretty much written every word of this post a few years ago: if people who are important to you need a piece of paper to fully accept the depth and seriousness of your relationship, and if you're only opposed to the idea on general principle, then you may as well just get that piece of paper. No ceremony or hoopla necessary if that's not your thing (it certainly wasn't mine!) -- just a few signatures and bam, your relationship will start getting the respect it deserves from your family (and the rest of the world).

I was convinced that getting married wouldn't fundamentally change our already-100%-committed, in-it-for-the-long-haul relationship, and you know what? I was right. Nine years into the relationship and six into the marriage, I'm pretty sure we're right where we would have been if we'd never made it official. But it sure is nice to be able to sleep in the same bedroom when we visit the in-laws.
posted by perpetual lurker at 7:50 PM on September 22, 2009

In the U.S., marriage generally does provide a number of financial and legal benefits, but in exchange for same, the state that recognizes and licenses marriage creates a number of obligations, as well. I'd strongly suggest that any person contemplating marriage in the U.S. in this day and age, budget appropriate money and time to have a good pre-nuptial agreement drafted and executed. In my experience, every $1 spent on pre-nuptial agreements is worth about $15 in avoided divorce expense. At a minimum, a good pre-nup anticipates the dissolution of the marriage after major life events such as children, accumulation of material wealth (marital home, secondary dwellings, financial assets), social achievements, etc., and provides an agreed upon means of handling the division of property, and the allocation of continuing responsibilities, in the event of dissolution of the marriage before death of one the partners, beyond, and sometimes in place of, what state law and family court practice provide.

Expect to spend 3 to 4 figures in legal expense with a competent attorney, and tens of hours in discussion with your partner/intended spouse, arriving at a workable pre-nuptial agreement, in advance of pursuing marriage plans. If this seems excessive, be aware that many people who have been through the experience of marriage and divorce in America suggest, that if you can't afford the pre-nup, you really can't afford to marry.
posted by paulsc at 8:02 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

I read about half the thread, but I have to get to work, so I'm jumping ahead to put in my thoughts. I'm speaking as someone 7 years into a Common-Law relationship (i.e., filing joint federal taxes) in Canada, as someone who shares with you a discomfort with marriage, and as someone who is getting a PhD doing social research on family, inheritance, and law (albeit not focusing on anywhere relevant to you; also, IANAL).

I don't think that you're being ridiculous in not wanting to marry. I think that you are picking up on and emotionally interpreting one, maybe two social trends in marriage.

The first is something that has been happening for a long time, by degrees. It is that marriage defines less and less, and its meaning as a social institution has become quite fractured. Broadly speaking, marriage has historically defined labour within and without the household, social adulthood, the custody of women and children (both historically minors under the law), a slew of property rights (especially around inheritance and death), next-of-kin status, and the legitimacy of children.

These days, social adulthood is a bit of a nebulous thing. Marriage contributes for sure, but is not the only or even the main route. Labour, likewise, is not well defined by marriage. You would be hard pressed to get any sort of nation-wide consensus on "wife's jobs" and "husband's jobs," even if people do still have an idea of what might be *more likely* to be done by one or the other. The custody of women is obviously moot, as is the legitimacy of children. Custody of children and certain rights regarding them are still defined by marriage, although as k8t pointed out this may mean simply some extra paperwork that isn't necessary for married people.

I don't know all the details of what property rights are defined by marriage where you live. It may be worth investigating other routes to those rights, such as common-law or some kind of registered partnership, wills, etc. The rights around next-of-kin are also going to vary according to jurisdiction (this will have an impact on that 'visiting in the hospital' stuff). You may look into naming each other your power-of-attourney, which is a good idea regardless. Doing so *might* have some affect on medical stuff, but that is something you would have to research for your area.

Because of where I live, just about everything that was historically defined by marriage is either moot or I can achieve in other ways. What this means to me is that there is no reason to get married, because it's not important to my family and it's not important to me. Lots of people do continue to get married, and I think that is because marriage defines something for them that a common-law/domestic partnership/whatever doesn't. It may be the public declaration, it may be the explicit commitment defined by the vows, it may be the recognition that marriage allows for them in their family/community, it may be of religious significance. Marriage, as this thread has shown, continues to have a lot of meanings for a lot of people, but where it has changed is that it no longer has a common meaning for the majority of people. And it is no longer the only route to many of the legal statues that it entails, although depending on where you are there may be some statuses that remain exclusive to marriage or that are much more complicated to get through means other than marriage.

The second trend is something more recent, and something that is tucked away as a future project for me, so I don't really know how accurate it is. But it is this: that there is a sort of natalist turn in NA society of late, and that marriage is a big part of that. The result is that marriage (and children) are taking up a big part of the public imagination. If one feels dubious about either, the commodification and fetishization in the media (off the top of my head: "Say Yes to the Dress" type shows) can be seriously off-putting. In combination with a sense of the fractured meaning of marriage, it can lead to a feeling that marriage has become a completely meaningless and rather problematic institution. Not to say that that is actually the case, of course, but if you're feeling like you want to rebel against marriage (rather than your family's religious mores), maybe that is where it's coming from.

I would urge you not to get married if you feel uncomfortable with it. Rather, you and your partner should open a discussion up about what marriage really means to you, what makes you uncomfortable about marriage, and under what circumstances would you absolutely marry (or not marry). I also think you should consider opening up a dialog with your family about your relationship. If you hammer out what makes you uncomfortable about marriage, you might open with that (rather than that you are living with your partner), but I think you might want to eventually try to bring your living situation and your mutual commitment to each other up with them.

Ultimately I think it's a bad idea to get married if it feels at odds with your values or makes you feel uncomfortable, whatever the reason it does that. But because it is important to people around you, it is worth considering. If you can identify some aspect of marriage that you hate, you will be on your way to figuring out what compromises you are willing to make. If you realize that you would get married under certain circumstance (moving to another country and wanting to be resident together, having children), then you can consider how you would go about conducting that marriage, and ask whether it makes sense to have such a marriage for your family's sake.
posted by carmen at 7:55 AM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

1. you're not ridiculous.

2. it depends on how important your politics are to you. to elaborate: there are dozens of people who have commented here on how "awesome" marriage is, makes life "easier," lots of perks, relationship validated in eyes of others, etc etc etc. yes, i'm sure it does, and that's what my aversion is to marriage. if you're the sort of couple who is not into marriage because it excludes and diminishes the way we view other relationships (polyamorous, the unmarried, long-term friends & roommates or family, gay people in most places), then getting married contributes to & reinforces a system that is set up to specifically *dis*advantage & devalue other ways of loving someone. it still boggles my mind that gay-positive straights even *get* married when their gay friends can't in the US. crappy way to be an ally. the privilege given to marriage *counts on* excluding other people from it and the benefits enjoyed. ew. if there's enough of us who don't get married, things can change. and i don't think it's ridiculous to hope and believe in that. i think it's brave and awesome to stick to what you believe in, even when everyone else calls you foolish.

if you want to read about it, i'd suggest checking out michael warner's "the trouble with normal." though he's criticizing gay marriage, i get the sense that the two of you would probably love it. i do :)
posted by crawfo at 5:46 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

oh ps. should probably note that warner is criticizing gay marriage in a super lefty homonormativity way, not in the super-righty way!
posted by crawfo at 5:51 AM on September 24, 2009

I hope you'll contact jessamyn when you decide so she can let us all know the resolution! We're all rooting for you...
posted by languagehat at 6:32 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

it still boggles my mind that gay-positive straights even *get* married when their gay friends can't in the US.

I'm a bi woman and talked extensively with my gay friends about this. They have been, on the whole, nothing but encouraging and supportive. I mentioned to one of them my own guilt about marriage to one of them, and he pointed out that he couldn't really fault me for wanting the legal benefits of marriage because that's what he wants, too.

I think refusing to get married is a strange form of protest over this issue, as it doesn't really, you know, accomplish anything, and the logic falls apart if you live in a country or area where gay marriage is allowed. If your point is that no one should reap the legal benefits of marriage (some argue that, and at times I think that, too), it's really another issue entirely and doesn't have much to do with being a "gay-positive straight" or whether those benefits are extended to gay couples or not.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:19 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

i think refusing to get married accomplishes something! it shows people that you don't have to, and that's something in itself. i realize now my first comment sounded more inflammatory than i meant for it to, but my point is more along the lines of your second paragraph -- that the benefits should be extended to all sorts of arrangements, or scrapped altogether.

i'm gay and not super supportive or encouraging of marriage, i guess obviously :P i don't think there's any unified gay stance on the topic, nor did i mean for it to seem that there is. and i think being pro-marriage is just as political as being anti-marriage -- it just doesn't seem political because it's so normal and accepted, if that makes sense.
posted by crawfo at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2009

I think refusing to get married is a strange form of protest over this issue, as it doesn't really, you know, accomplish anything,

By this logic, a white person should feel comfortable joining a club that excludes minorities (or a man joining one that excludes women, etc), and enjoying whatever networking and financial benefits come from that club. My feeling is that actions can be good or bad on a level that isn't related to their 'effectiveness.' Sometimes there are urgent reasons to knowingly benefit from a privilege arbitrarily extended to you and withheld from others, and it's each individuals prerogative to make that call - for me immigration and health insurance (in the States) are the two big ones. There are legal ways to work around many of the other issues, even if they're suboptimal. In any case, I really don't see a way to see participating in an institution that discriminates in a bigoted way as anything other than a necessary compromise. Personally, morally, and ethically. And that has nothing to do with what abstaining from the institution would actually accomplish in the world.

(I'm also skeptical of the claim that it always accomplishes nothing).

and the logic falls apart if you live in a country or area where gay marriage is allowed.

I don't know about the original posters but I somehow doubt that each and every pro-marriage poster in this thread lives in a jurisdiction that permits same sex marriage.

If your point is that no one should reap the legal benefits of marriage (some argue that, and at times I think that, too), it's really another issue entirely and doesn't have much to do with being a "gay-positive straight" or whether those benefits are extended to gay couples or not.

Yes... but it still relates to the principle of being the change you wish to see in the world.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:21 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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