Considering marriage in a loving relationship but for a visa? Yes, no?
September 6, 2014 1:20 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I have been together for close to 9 years. I've been offered a GREAT job in the US - the only way he could work there, it seems, would be to get married. Problem: we both really never thought of getting married - and it's 100% not romantic.

We love each other but really, we're kind of not caring about marriage. We're not religious, and he's especially on the "I wake up everyday and actively choose to be with you, I don't need marriage for it" school of thought. We never really talked about it seriously, and neither of us "secretly" want to get married.

We have also lived in three different countries together, and each time it was fine because we had cohabiting visas, or had the specific country's nationality.

Now - I have been been offered an incredible job in NY. But of course (you saw it coming), the US do not recognise cohabitation. Options as I see it are:

• B2 visa for him - he follows me but can't work (my contract is two years - so it would be crazy)
• A company sponsors him (hard in his field as the market is more than enough served in the US)
• We marry/ or have a fiance visa

We need to make a decision in the next few weeks. Job would start in, say, two months. To top it off, we're both currently living on the other side of the world (so marriage logistics... would be weird?)

Now - it seems like a no-brainer to get married, but I think my partner resents the whole process (it's 100% not romantic, and it feels like we would marry for a job). I have to say that I agree - but I can't see another way.

have you experienced this before? What considerations did you have in mind while making this decision? I'm afraid it would lead to resentment on both sides.

Any experience/thoughts appreciated...
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I live in a field that involves near-constant residing abroad. All of my colleauges have stories of the shot-gun weddings that followed getting the job acceptance letters. Some marriages work, some don't but it's not because of the shot-gun-ness. In fact, I think for some people it takes a little pressure off the marriage. There are no notions of I'm-marrying-this-person-because-they-will-make-me-happy-forever, it's more getting married because you can't stand thinking of being apart.

That said, if your boyfriend is resentful of this at such an early stage it probably won't work. Visa issues or not, for a marriage to work both parties need to be "all in."
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:25 AM on September 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

We love each other but really, we're kind of not caring about marriage.

I just don't think the rest of what you say here bears out. If you don't care about marriage, it's a non-issue. Get married if it makes your life easier. If it was true, neither of you would care about it not being romantic.

If you want to continue to be together, you do what you need to in order to make it happen. I think that's romantic AND practical.
posted by inturnaround at 1:29 AM on September 6, 2014 [50 favorites]

You say your partner feels-- or might feel-- these two ways.

"I wake up everyday and actively choose to be with you, I don't need marriage for it"

(it's 100% not romantic, and it feels like we would marry for a job)

Which matters more? You taking this job and you both moving to the US for it, or sacrificing an opportunity because it doesn't feel romantic.

Moving across the world to be together seems really romantic to me.

Talk with him. Talk about your future-- not just as a couple, but in your careers. Talk about your lives together, and how they will change, and what this move and getting married would change about it.
posted by RainyJay at 1:43 AM on September 6, 2014

Marriage is a contract that says I will stick by you and try not to fuck you over, financially or otherwise. Isn't that what you are already doing? My husband and I didn't make a big deal over it and life pretty much went on afterward just the same as before.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:44 AM on September 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Two couples that I'm friends with have been in this situation in the past year. Both got married. If I end up in this situation (which isn't totally unlikely) I'd probably do the same. My main consideration here is 'do we want to stay together? Yes? Do whatever paperwork shenanigans we need to!'

Marriage is whatever it means to you. Is romance a requirement? Particularly if you're of the 'marriage isn't really something that's hugely important to our relationship' type.
posted by Ashlyth at 1:53 AM on September 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I did it. Also we got some awesome tax breaks. Unlike you guys, we both thought we'd probably end up getting married one day anyway, but wouldn't have done it in the next five years or so without the push from needing the visa. It was fine. We had a nice wedding. We didn't tell people at the time it was about the visa, but now we like to tell the story of hoow unromantic we are. We've been married eleven years now, and it's just another funny story.
posted by lollusc at 2:06 AM on September 6, 2014

I got married specifically because it makes immigration easier. I didn't care either way, my husband would have liked to be married in a kind of abstract way, so we did the legally required minimum, didn't invite anyone or make any kind of fuss, and then enjoyed throwing the marriage certificate in with the work permit application. It really makes no difference to our lives outside of the legal niceties except I call him my husband instead of my boyfriend (and even then most people here forget and call him my boyfriend anyway) and we were allowed to both live in Ireland even when one of us wasn't working, a situation that happened twice.

So personally I'm clearly all for it. It's just a legal trick to make your life easier. You don't need to have a wedding or make any kind of deal out of it, just find out the legal minimum required in your location then do that. You don't even have to tell anyone if you don't want to.

Personally I don't think getting married is romantic anyway since it's just a legal contract. Contracts aren't sexy but they are useful. So why wouldn't I sign the being-married-contract if it makes our life easier? Yeah I did it for a job, but I also signed employment contracts and work permit contracts for the job, I applied for and got official paperwork from my University and went to a lawyer and got copies of documents certified for the job. Getting the marriage certificate was just one more hoop to jump through. It helped that we had the example of my sister, who didn't want to marry her now-husband just for immigration and ended up sent back to NZ with their small baby soon after they moved to the UK (where he is from), it took nearly a year for their family to be back together. If doing what 'the man' wants me to do avoids that kind of problem then hell yeah, show me where to sign.

Up until I finished my PhD I actively didn't want to get married and would have hated having to do this sooner. Basically just because I don't want to be called Mrs (now I'm Dr) - yes this is petty but it was strongly felt. So I think that's a valid way to feel as well. Your partner resenting the whole thing shows that he actually does care, which is fine, it's just that this is something you guys are going to have to reconcile. The best way is by open communication and discussing all your options. If he really can't bring himself to do it then how does life look then? What can you both live with? In my case, my husband would have liked to have a small wedding and I totally refused (because brides, ug), so I basically said 'do this or stay behind without me' and that worked. Not that I'm recommending this tactic, I'm sure you're better people than I am, but yeah.

Just remember the three freeing words: legally required minimum. Everything else from there is up to you guys.
posted by shelleycat at 2:08 AM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

2nding RainyJay to the 2x10^a billion. This comment

" it seems like a no-brainer to get married, but I think my partner resents the whole process (it's 100% not romantic, and it feels like we would marry for a job)."

is a little bit of a red flag. Neither of you should be making a decision this major based on what you "think" the other one is thinking. If the idea of marriage makes both of you uncomfortable there's probably some reason for it. It could be a totally inane reason but it's still something you guys need to have out in the open before you make any trans-oceanic moves. Talk to him.

Also, I'm just shooting in the dark here, but maybe his resistance to marriage is less about the marriage itself and more about fears about being overshadowed by your new career or being dependent on you/in a submissive position while you're in New York.

Or it could just be that he likes Chicago pizza better. Talk to him.
posted by urufu at 2:13 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh also, I should probably point out that now I live in Germany and my husband is still in Ireland despite the marriage thing (not permanently, we're still together). So it could be argued that it didn't work long term. But it did help for three years and may help again in the future and I think it was still worth it. No resentment at all on either side.

It's actually kind of easier once you decide then just do it, you get used to the new situation and all angsting and indecision is done with. So I'd say if you do decide to go ahead just get it over with fast then move on to the next thing.
posted by shelleycat at 2:15 AM on September 6, 2014

Maybe you don't have to take the job, but I would suggest you try reframing your concern not as 'marriage for the sake of a job' but as 'marriage for the sake of not having to live on opposite sides of the world for n years'.

Approach it as part of the visa process if you will; if you've had cohabitation visas you have had to prove your relationship before. This is just one added bit of documentation.

My husband and I did this, after we got fed up of 5 years living on different continents because of visa/ work permit issues. Nothing changed really. I still call him my partner because I don't like the word 'husband'. I certainly haven't changed my name. We had a wedding ceremony but because neither of us were invested in it, it was basically our gift to our families: they got to do whatever they liked without having to deal with a bride- or groom-zilla as neither or us particularly cared. Had it not been for our families' excitement we'd have done the legal minimum.

I'm Pakistani and in my world, marriage is a legal contract, nothing more or less, and romance is what one makes of the relationship. I far prefer this to the romantic view of marriage which seems more prevalent in modern Anglophone cultures.
posted by tavegyl at 2:40 AM on September 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have some stories to share on this topic. Both from what I've seen others do, plus, my own personal experience and current day stance on this topic.

1. In Finland, I know of two couples who did this, specifically for the US. One couple had been together for years and had already had their child when the man got a scholarship from MIT for his PhD, the kind of offer you really can't think of refusing. They literally just went through the motions of legal married status just like the other paperwork, kind of like what shelleycat mentions, only so that the family would not be stuck apart for 4 or 5 years bla bla bla. They are still together afaik.

2. Another couple did the exact same thing, for the exact same reason (to be together through grad school) but with no child. Afaik, they divorced after a couple of years when the relationship broke up organically. That is, it seemed like a paperwork decision taken in the context of the then relationship, which later was dissolved just like how two people cohabiting would choose to move out etc.

Now my personal take on this. The above two couples were both from countries which are ostensibly Visa Waiver ones in the EU and thus, less likely to face the issues and challenges that third world passports tend to in high barrier immigration situations.

I have been a dependent spouse of a visa holder in the United States. The power dynamic within the relationship changes. Be prepared for that to happen. And how that will play out in the context of your own relationship, where one partner becomes legally and financially dependent on the goodwill of the other, is something for you to consider.

Keep in mind that just because you are getting a US work permit, your spouse does NOT automatically get teh right to work. If you are on an H1B permit the most your spouse will get is an H4 - "dependent spouse visa" - which will not permit any employment and comes with a whole bunch of constraints and conditions. Only if you are on a J1, is there a possibility that your J2 spouse could work - to be checked out by your immigration lawyer. I am not your immigration lawyer. If you are sponsored directly for a green card, THEN, there's a possibility that your spouse can get an EAC - employment authorisation document - permitting employment, while you wait for the green card to take its own sweet time to arrive.

Now, given all of this, take your decision accordingly as to whether to marry or not. Because marriage will only allow the two of you to be together but not necessarily allow both to work or be employed.

I have been an H4.

I will never, ever, put myself in that position again. I will never ever allow myself to be legally bound to someone and completely dependent on them for my legal and financial welfare on an entirely new continent without extended family and friends support network.

I have just moved to a new continent and country (yes, I tend to do that every so often, as regular readers will know ;p). There might be a man around here somewhere. However, absolutely no aspect of my current legal and financial standing and status is in anyway dependent on any body else. Not on a partner, not on a relationship, and here's the beauty of this specific situation, for me, is that I'm not even dependent on any employer, at all. That is, I managed to qualify in my own right as an independent entrepreneur. Thus, I am now here, on my own two feet. And can look someone straight in the eye. Without fear. Without conditions.

Because keep in mind, that both of you will also be completely dependent on the continued existence of your employment for your legal status in the United States.

tl;dr - Ask yourselves and talk through just how much dependency and to whom, and how, and where, you are each, and both, willing to be able to accept and/or live with.
posted by infini at 3:35 AM on September 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

Get married. It makes absolutely no sense to overly complicate things on principle.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 4:04 AM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Marriage means what you want it to mean. It can be an extremely serious spiritual thing or it can be just another piece of paperwork you have.

You can always get divorced after the two years if you want.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:22 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was in a very similar situation to yours seven years ago. My partner and I had at that time been together for six years, I was pretty much indifferent to marriage, she was somewhat against the whole idea/institution.

When it became pretty clear that getting marriage would make our lives and plans significantly easier in many, many ways, we discussed it, shrugged, and did it. It was the least romantic marriage proposal of all time --
[After a discussion of immigration and insurance issues:] "Yeah, that does make sense ... Wait, did you just propose?"
"Um ... yeah."
"Oh." [Longish pause. Finally, a weary sigh.] "I guess so."

We got married in our living room with a close friend officiating and only a few friends invited. Her PhD defense, which took place later that week, was a much bigger deal.

Seven years and three different countries later, we're still together, still happy, and being married has made pretty much no difference in our relationship. It's a piece of paper that governments want because they annoyingly won't take our word for it that we're committed to each other. But that means that, if anything, it comes with a bunch of useful legal stuff -- being legal next of kin in the event of medical emergency or death has never come up, but isn't the kind of thing you want to have to get a lawyer to deal with if it does.

(Incidentally, I have been in situations both where I was allowed to work in the country and where I was not. It hasn't made a big difference to us given our particular situation, so it doesn't necessarily have to be a disaster. Still I agree with others who have said this is something to find out about and discuss with your partner.)
posted by kyrademon at 5:00 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

As other commenters have pointed out (and as you point out), it seems like if you two really were indifferent about marriage, this would be an easy decision.

Since it isn't an easy decision, your question makes it sound like there's something else going on.

My guess - your SO doesn't really want to move to the States and his exaggeration of the problem of whether or not to get married is a symptom of his resistance to the move. You don't mention anything about how he feels about the move. Do you know how he feels? Moving across the world is a big deal and there are many reasons why someone might be anxious about doing it, but there's a lot of pressure on him to be a supportive partner. He knows that in some sense you have the weight of rational argument on your side, and he wants to be that supportive partner, but he is resistant to the move, so instead you get this displaced problem that doesn't make much sense as you've laid it out.
posted by vathek at 5:15 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Quick rebuttal to the people who are hypothesizing there is "something else going on" ... if a couple has spent years going "We don't need to get married to be together!" and then suddenly the U.S. government or whomever says, "Well, actually, yes you do," that in and of itself can be a pretty big deal. I and others have advised them to shrug and do it because you can come out the other side pretty much unscathed, but "Wow, we never planned on getting married, should we do this?" is a serious question in and of itself that doesn't require secret hidden motives to become an issue for a couple.
posted by kyrademon at 5:43 AM on September 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

As a counterpoint to Infini's anecdote, when we did this I was also unable to work on my new visa and so was financially and legally dependent for a few years. I didn't feel like it changed the relationship at all. I didn't feel trapped or beholden in any way (just a bit bored and irritated at my work restrictions). But we had been mingling finances for some time previously, so that probably made a difference.
posted by lollusc at 5:47 AM on September 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

As much as the wedding industry wants you to believe that weddings are the culmination of the love story of the century...they're just a legal ritual. Go get a civil ceremony wherever you are and get it over with.

Marriage is a legal state. It's two people who are one legal entity. Period, end of story. In the US marriage protects your rights as a couple.

So go to your country's equivalent of Las Vegas and do it. Don't have a party, don't make an announcement, don't buy a new dress.

In less than 15 minutes, your problems are solved. Honestly, don't you wish everything in life was this easy?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:15 AM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

My husband and I faced a similar decision but much earlier on in our relationship. I would have had to give up my entire career and would probably never have been able to get back in to it. Because our relationship at that point as relatively new, we both felt it was too much of a risk, we just didn't know each other well enough to know if we would work out as a couple. He was concerned that if I gave up my career to follow him I would resent it and that if he gave up the job to stay with me he that I might then feel that I couldn't ever break up with him because he'd given up this amazing opportunity to be with me. In the end we did long distance for a year, which was tough but probably the best choice for us at that time. I kept my career, he got his chance to live in NYC (though he might well have stayed out there longer if he hadn't been coming back to me), and we managed a visit every few months and racked up a LOT of hours of instant messaging. However it was very tough and I wouldn't do it now we've been together 10 years - we're married, committed to each other and that's something I can rely on. My career is important to me, but actually not something I can depend on like I can my husband.

Your question implies (but doesn't specifically state) that your relationship is committed and nine years in multiple countries certainly suggests it. However your boyfriend's "I wake up everyday and actively choose to be with you, I don't need marriage for it" quote, lovely though the sentiment is, kind of implies that he also values having the freedom to not make that choice.

In my experience no committed relationship is 100% romantic, that's just the way it goes. During the 6 years we've been married both of us has had a parent die and we bought a house after multiple failed attempts (the English house buying system is seriously screwed up). There were some pretty ugly moments in all that, but neither of us has even considered walking away.

I got married because I wanted to be married specifically to my husband and also because in general marriage was something he and I both wanted. However it wasn't solely a romantic decision. There are practical and legal benefits to marriage and they were important to us. About a year before our wedding I had a conversation with someone whose fiancée died very suddenly while they were both in their late 20s. He told me that he'd found it very distressing that he wasn't her next of kin. Her brother had to fly from the other end of the country to officially identify her body and her family would have been entitled to take any and all of her possessions from their flat as she had died intestate. It's not just a piece of paper.
posted by *becca* at 6:52 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't tell from your question if you're a US citizen. Let's say that you are.

Just FYI it's not nearly as easy as people are making it sound. Marriage itself doesn't grant status. You have to file special forms and prove your relationship to the USCIS.

The thing with the B visa is that you're only allowed to travel on it with "nonimmigrant intent," meaning if you get married right now, your husband can't get on a plane with you with a B visa and expect to be let into the country. He'll be sent home immediately, no joke. They'll see that you're married, assume he plans to stay because the two of you are married, and he'll have to leave. So get married and start filing the paperwork now.

If you're not a citizen and will be sponsored by your company with an H-1B, then you'll be able to bring your husband on with an H4. That process is pretty easy, but yes you do have to be married.

If you don't get married at all, the best you can do is a B visa for the boyfriend, which is going to have limits on how many days he can actually be in the country per whatever time period it's granted. It may end up that you end up spending 6 months (or however long) apart.
posted by phunniemee at 6:58 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a newlywed (august 10th!). My husband and I have been together for almost 9 years. The reason behind getting married was totally non-romantic: health insurance. And yet, it ended up being an amazing, extremely romantic, wonderful event. Having practical reasons to do it doesn't mean it had to be less meaningful.

... But like others have said: there's a difference between choosing marriage for practical reasons, and choosing marriage for practical reasons while thinking "this doesn't feel right". My husband and I didn't set out to have a romantic marriage--it just happened because we both felt the desire for it, the significance, the meaning. It would have been different if that feeling hadn't been there. It would have been different if I had felt there should have been meaning to it without feeling there was in fact any meaning to it.

There's nothing wrong with having a "meaningless" wedding ceremony for the sake of getting a visa, if that's what feels right. It's also quite possible to have a meaningful, romantic wedding despite going into it for the visa. All I think you really should worry about is a disconnect between how going into it actually feels and how you would want it to feel.

There's no wrong way to get married... except getting married in a way you don't want to.
posted by meese at 7:42 AM on September 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

"I wake up everyday and actively choose to be with you, I don't need marriage for it"

In order to choose to be with you in the USA, he needs marriage. He may not need the marriage to feel committed to you, but the US government does.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:48 AM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

My husband & I got married a lot sooner & more hurriedly than we would have for similar reasons. I suspect that we'd just have lived together forever without getting married because marriage was not really seen as a big thing for either of us. We had been friends for so long before hand we didn't feel we needed the "bit of paper". Unfortunately US Immigration did so we had a quick court house wedding & it really just felt like ticking a box to meet requirements & I was sad and upset because it wasn't a "real" romantic wedding or a real marriage.

So we had a wedding, we had the full on church wedding (called it a blessing to get it past the pastor), his family came, mine flew out from Australia, we had all the traditional family dramas you get at weddings the whole 9 yards. It was awesome and from then on we felt like we were really married. There is nothing stopping you making it romantic, just because US immigration is deciding the time, it will mean what you two decide it means and you can make it "mean" what ever the hell you want it to.
posted by wwax at 8:06 AM on September 6, 2014

First, I want to say how awesome and inspirational it is that you two have made it work so well these past nine years in a non-traditional arrangement: sometimes living together, sometimes super long distance, etc.!!

Second, I say absolutely go for it and get married because you can and because it will enable you two to continue to be together but also have the job and cohabitation you want. You've lived together before and it's worked, you can still refer to each other as partners or what not, and you can always revise the situation if it isn't working for either of you. Personally, it seems pretty win-win to me but, of course, you know best and previous posters have raised great points about the pros and cons. What would be the alternative: you'd keep living apart but maintain the relationship like you are now? If that's been working for you so far, then continuing the status quo also sounds fine, honestly. A LDR can be hard but it certainly has its pros, too.

That said, the US is so in-need of a massive rehaul of immigration and marriage laws (and you already know that! ;-) and it sucks that so many people can't get legal status, have their unions recognized by the government (if they should choose), etc. I say this from both general observation and personal experience. I'm glad that you have this great opportunity available to you, should you choose it, and I encourage you to wholeheartedly take advantage of it. :-)
posted by smorgasbord at 8:35 AM on September 6, 2014

I've been married 28 years, and I've been telling affianced and newly-wed friends for a long time: Every married couple makes their own marriage. There's no role you step into, no rules for how you should feel or behave. A couple makes their own "deal." We see and hear so many things that imply that a husband should be blah blah blah and a wife should be thus-and-so. It's not true. A wedding is supposed to be super special, perfect, romantic....being married should make you happy...this is made-up stuff.

I can understand the mental and emotional conflict here. You and he have a sense of yourselves, and probably dislike doing conventional things in order to "follow the rules." Don't change your view of yourself; change your perspective on what a marriage certificate means to you.

Now for the romantic part -- find or create romance in other ways. Express how you feel about one another, be kind and generous, act from the best part of yourself. Roses, sweet ballads, chocolate, candles, gifts and promises of "forever" really have nothing to do with romance.
posted by wryly at 8:37 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, for me and the vast majority of my super queer (not just 'gay') wanted gay marriage to be recognized federally in the US not because they wanted big ol' weddings, but because they wanted to stay in the same country as their partner without fear of deportation. When DOMA fell, it felt like a surge of emotional intensity to have that everyday stress lifted off of us. Many of us were married in the weeks following DOMA and it was super romantic and intense, and it felt like a victory to stay together in the face of it all, not because it was now recognized by some state that really just wants our taxes. Romance is where you find it.

You can argue all you want about how it's unfair for recognized coupleship to be the primary way through which benefits are bestowed, but it's the current US law. What could be more romantic than moving to NY with your love, with assurance that you can stay together and get a cute (tiny) apartment in Brooklyn and eat delicious food and walk the bustling streets together?

I'd start the application process now, as it takes awhile to get everything rolling.
posted by barnone at 8:53 AM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

We did this on a similar decision timeline (maybe six weeks or so).

In our case we had been together a long while, had various financial, legal and social indicators of ‘committed’ but not the marriage certificate that the US government required. We had always skated around the marriage thing because i) we’re already committed ii) fuck this wedding industry iii) weird emotions on my part about needing to be externally validated as ‘together’ iv) sweet jesus i really really do not like this wedding planning thing v) other stuff

But when it came to it the pre-conditions to being able to fulfil a majorly exciting career thing for the other person was choosing to live in a country neither of us had really considered living in before, and getting married so that we could stay together. So that was how we looked at making the decision.

And it was kinda romantic given the significant change we introduced into our lives in order to continue to be together and realise such an exciting opportunity. We made the decision together and we see it as ‘this was the catalyst for us getting married on this timeline but it is not the thing that speaks to the depth of our relationship. Anyone who thinks that can go jump.’ Like lollusc, I consider it to be a funny story. I’m sure some people are aghast because we didn’t follow a traditional path to married status and think we’re fakers but, like i said, they can go jump.

We also think that it's easier to be on visas that are ‘related’. One of you has greater flexibility in employment choices. I am the dependent visa holder and while it’s amusing/infuriating to be considered ‘dependent’ by the US government, it doesn’t really factor into our lives that much. We still make decisions the way we always have and the impact of the visa constraints of the primary visa holder are another factor to consider in those decisions. That’s probably going to be more a function of the way you guys manage your relationship and it’s worth - as infni pointed out - making sure you’re both aware of any perceptions or realities of power imbalances. I couldn’t work for a while and it made me feel horrible, we went in knowing i couldn’t work for a while and I had to be a lot more open about how i was feeling.

Also the short timeline meant that we could get married fast and avoid a whole bunch of wedding industry trauma which was pretty much what we needed to not freak the hell out, and have a lovely outcome of being married. This was particularly good for us as we had to do so much other stuff (from the other side of the world) in order to pack up our lives and prepare for living in the US.
posted by pymsical at 9:08 AM on September 6, 2014

Marriage means whatever you choose for it to mean. If it isn't really meaningful to you, it doesn't have to mean anything. It can have no bearing on your relationship. Let it just be another piece of paperwork that lets you get where you want to be. Sign the papers, and don't even think of it again. Define your relationship however you want, and consider the marriage a legal technicality. If you really don't care about being married, it shouldn't matter if it's not romantic. Put romance in your relationship in the ways that are meaningful to you.
posted by catatethebird at 9:34 AM on September 6, 2014

Marriage for financial/logistical/career reasons is way more traditional than romantic marriage anyway. It's a contract, but (at least in the US) it is only binding for as long as you choose to stay together.
posted by steinwald at 10:29 AM on September 6, 2014

A whole slew of arbitrary benefits are made available to people who go through a particular ritual. You can stand on principle and say, "I don't want to kiss the Pope's ring. I'd rather ask my partner to give up their great job."

Maybe that makes sense if you're a Jehovah's Witness or a Quaker, but I don't really see that here.

Just jump through the hoop you've been asked to jump through and get on with your lives.
posted by alms at 11:47 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Marriage for financial/logistical/career reasons is way more traditional than romantic marriage anyway. It's a contract, but (at least in the US) it is only binding for as long as you choose to stay together.

I agree with this but would add, to the asker, that you should/may want to double check on divorce laws in the jurisdiction you're headed to. I'm especially aware of this because in my particular jurisdiction, it's binding for as long as you choose to stay together... plus a year. I don't think that's the case in many places though.
posted by ftm at 12:15 PM on September 6, 2014

I too got married to my boyfriend to make life easier. Now, we 99% likely would have married anyway, because I didn't care (and was slightly against it) but my husband comes from quite a conservative (as in traditional) family and would have ended up insisting before we had kids, I think.

Seriously it makes life so much easier in the US. It's such a pain to jump through all the other hoops that come with immigration when you are not married... just jump through this one and be done with it. If marriage doesn't mean anything much then what's the big deal anyway? It's just filling out some paperwork.
posted by gaspode at 12:41 PM on September 6, 2014

Now - it seems like a no-brainer to get married, but I think my partner resents the whole process

Then I guess you have your answer. Going resentfully into marriage seems like a very bad idea.

Take the job. Move to NYC alone. Let your partner decide whether he would rather live apart from you or whether he would rather propose. In the meantime, get ready for an exciting new life.
posted by Gray Skies at 3:06 PM on September 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

We did this and our story is very similar to kyrademon's. We've been married 6 years now and it's fine... But when push came to shove we both opted for being practical over clinging to ideals. You need to talk through this and be very very honest. However, yes this can absolutely work. Feel free to memail me.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:34 PM on September 6, 2014

You don't have to make this decision straight away if you're coming in on a work visa and you're okay spending time apart.

My husband and I decided to marry three months into my stay in the US in TN status. We married 4 months later in a hastily arranged wedding for 200, church and all. We married in Canada, I went back to work in the US, he stayed in Canada for another nine weeks until his consulate appointment to file his paperwork and then we lived happily ever after.

Strangely, it is not so easy to acquire a spouse if you are adjusting your status or if you're on a green card. I imagine this is not your scenario. If your beloved needs more time, just leave him home and see if he changes his tune on marriage. Whichever way he goes, there's your answer.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:11 PM on September 6, 2014

There are too many other responses for me to read through them all, so hopefully I am adding something worthwhile. If not, disregard.

My now current wife and I did this as well. Not for work purposes but to continue 'dating'. it is very difficult to date internationally as the laws in the US and Europe (where my wife is from) make it hard to spend time together without some type of visa. We had no desire to get married, however we wanted to pursue the relationship so we devised a Love Certificate, or LC for short. Basically we saw the 'marriage' as a formality and refused to call it a wedding or marriage. We called it our LC. A certificate required for us to continue dating. There was no ceremony, no 'I do's' nothing. Just had a justice of the peace sign a paper to allow us to continue dating and live together.

5 years later we got married, had the ceremony with our friends and family. We never and will never use the earlier date as an anniversary, it was just a formality. Our anniversary starts from the wedding date 5 yrs later.

If you view it as pragmatically as that, get married. But if you focus on it too much as a wedding/marriage, be hesitant. It can ruin your relationship.
posted by wile e at 5:31 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go read "Committed" by Liz Gilbert, she was in the same situation and wrote the book to deal with her issues about it.

I say get married because not doing so might lead to the end of the relationship under the circumstances.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:36 PM on September 6, 2014

we're kind of not caring about marriage

If you don't really care about marriage, how about moving to New York alone, commute as much as you can to where your boyfriend is, then appraise the situation in two years' time?
posted by Kwadeng at 2:20 AM on September 7, 2014

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