He wants to marry me. I planned to never marry.
December 29, 2015 7:07 AM   Subscribe

He's proposed marriage before, and did again in a very serious way and context last night. I've always said no, but this time I told him I'll think about it. I can't tell if this resistance I'm feeling is real objection or a function of my pride. There's certainly a case for us getting married, but there's also a case against marriage being right for me.

Considerations against:

We've been together for under two years. I feel like partnerships should be an interpersonal contract, not subject to government approval, and feel weird about marriage's history as a tool for the subjugation of women (yeah, I'm one of those). I am openly polyamorous and I don't want to change that, and I don't like that there's a one-person limit on who you can make these kind of interpersonal contracts with. There's been a pattern in our relationship thus far where I'm reluctant to make a greater commitment and he persuades me, and while I'm happy with my decision to, for example, move in together, I am afraid that I will eventually agree to be monogamous just because he's worn me down. He's contradicted himself about what us getting married would mean, whether it would be a practical partnership centered around making finances easier, insignificant and easily dissolved, or an interpersonal commitment with vows that would strengthen our relationship. I pay a lot of attention (I need to) to maintaining my own sense of identity, and I am scared of being defined as one half of a couple. I have trouble wrapping my head around being someone's wife. I am disabled and have many health problems, and I might lose my Medicaid. On a totally petty note, I have often stated my personal desire not to marry and had people reply with, "oh, you'll change your mind". I am scared shitless of weddings (though mostly for mentally-ill reasons, like, I don't want to be the center of attention, and, I'm scared my crazy estranged father will show up with an SMG).

Considerations for:

We live together very successfully. If I were going to marry anyone, it would be him. We're planning a family together and I absolutely do intend to spend my life with him. He says he would feel better about my nonmonogamy, which has been a part of our relationship from the outset, but he struggles with, if we were more publicly committed to each other, and I want to give him that. I am deeply touched that he wants to marry me. I like the idea of taking vows, our own, and having a contract, our own. I feel good about our agreements on finances, on kids, on sex, and so forth. I want to stay with him, and him to stay with me, through the hard times, and to him, that's what marriage means. There would, of course, be some financial benefit to getting married, and I have said in the past that I would consider it for insurance purposes. Really, I am okay with both the financial agreement and interpersonal commitment aspects of marriage, just, I wish we could be the ones in control of exactly what those contracts entail. I feel less need to lay out the specific strengths of our relationship, but suffice it to say, it is strong, and I'm confident about our standing in the metrics of good relationships, so to speak. He's responsible, respectful, caring and considerate, the majority of the time, and would make a wonderful husband. My only doubts about our relationship's quality and longevity are again, mostly powered by mental illness (I fear the people I love are actually persecuting me, and can't decide between or reconcile my optimistic and pessimistic versions of reality).

He's stated he wants me to have my own reasons for getting married, not to just do it to make him happy, which I appreciate. I have some time to think this over. Right now, I'm torn.
posted by dee lee to Human Relations (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It is my opinion that if any one person in a marriage proposal is thinking anything other than, "Of course! Yes!" then it's probably not time to get married just yet.
posted by xingcat at 7:24 AM on December 29, 2015 [45 favorites]

Is this a deal-breaker for him? WHY is it so important to him?

Frankly, I approve of marriage, especially if there are children involved. If you're planning a family, for all the legal reasons, it's probably best to marry. It doesn't have to be a BFD, just go to the courthouse and do the legal thing. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

In the religious services, marriage is a covenant, there is an importance and a permanence about it, but don't get all hung up on the 'contract' aspect of it. That part is the religious thing. The governmental thing is pretty simple, you agree to be one legal entity for the purpose of finances and rearing children. Seriously, there's not a whole lot about it on the actual license.

Were I you, I'd agree to a civil ceremony and nothing else. See how that goes over. If he's really that serious about being married, that's all he'd need. Trust me, if I could have done it, that's what I would have done.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:26 AM on December 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

If you are not actually happy about the idea of getting married, don't get married. I'm not trying to be flip about this. You sound like you have a lot of legitimate concerns that may or may not change if you get married. If you get married for the paperwork or for the insurance, that may not be enough for him or you in the end. You might end up feeling trapped, or he might think that you are not committed enough, regardless of the ring.

I would definitely be wary of bringing the nonmonogamy situation into a marriage too, because depending on where you live that might cause issues down the road if you chose to separate and it wasn't amicable. You talk about him "wearing you down" on the monogamy situation, which says to me that he wants to be monogamous and you don't; marriage is a super good excuse for monogamy and it is generally accepted by the courts as one of the major benefits of marriage. This could put you in a bad position in a divorce situation.

I'd also be concerned about what you were saying about losing your financial independence (disability/Medicaid). That means it would be much harder to leave if you decided you wanted to do that. That is a serious concern as well.

Even without all the practical considerations....... if you don't want to get married, don't do it. You and he will both thank you in the long run for this. I wish my ex had been so considerate.
posted by possibilityleft at 7:27 AM on December 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

not sure i have much to contribute, but given the other replies i wanted to say that i understand your position. neither of us (together for over 20 years; monogamous) want to marry, for reasons similar to yours.

i would likely have got married if my partner had wanted it. because it's not such a big deal.

however, it seems to me that what is important here is more to do with polyamory and his feelings about what a relationship should be. i don't think the issue is really marriage; that's just the spotlight that's illuminating the issues. and i have absolutely no idea how you work those issues out (sorry).
posted by andrewcooke at 7:32 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think there is a tendency to treat marriage as this big EMOTIONAL thing, but I would urge you to step back from that and treat this whole discussion in a strictly logical way.

Pros and cons.
+You write down yours, your partner writes down his.
+ Be super-logical about these lists.

Financial implications.
+ How much would a wedding cost?
+ How would you get the money?
+ How are you planning on paying off any loans for the wedding?
+ How much money would you lose in benefits?
+ Could you offset any loss by potential tax gains?
+ Are you going to draw up a will?
+ How would you divide any assets?
+ Do any of you want/need a pre-nup? What would the legal costs be like?

I suspect your partner is emotional about marriage - it'll be the big affirmation of your mutual commitment - but you both need to think hard about whether marriage is the best solution to whatever's going on in your relationship. He needs affirmation - but is marriage the best solution?

Disclaimer: I'm in a committed relationship of over ten years. We are not married.
posted by kariebookish at 7:34 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Financial implications.
+ How much would a wedding cost?
+ How would you get the money?
+ How are you planning on paying off any loans for the wedding?

you don't have to have a wedding--much less the standard American princess version that places people into debt--to get married. Which knocks out the above considerations, and also your fear that a public wedding would attract alarming relatives, make you the center of attention, etc.
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:43 AM on December 29, 2015 [26 favorites]

You as a couple get to decide what a marriage looks like. You two get to set the rules. Yes, you'd lose Medicaid, but I imagine you can be added to his insurance after you are married.

You don't have to have a huge thing. That clearly isn't your style and it's a fair dealbreaker for you. Do it at the courthouse or in your backyard with a handful of people as a surprise for the guests. You can have fun with it. Make it reflect you as a couple.

Just make sure he knows what this means to you. That you are poly and that's not going to change. That being married to you doesn't mean he gets to control who you love.

Marriage isn't (or rather, shouldn't) be insignificant. If that's how you feel about it, then this shouldn't be a source of stress. If that's how he feels about it truly, then he wouldn't feel the need to keep asking. It does mean something and I think generally it's a good thing even if it isn't for everyone.
posted by inturnaround at 7:45 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, separate out wedding-stuff from marriage-stuff. If having A Wedding is important to your partner that's a separate question from marriage, to my mind.
posted by mskyle at 7:46 AM on December 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

I never wanted to get married & neither did my now husband but as we are from different countries it unfortunately became something we had to do to be together. Then his parents insisted on the big shiny wedding church wedding which I didn't want, but I went through with it. Funnily enough I now love being married. Love it. Not sure if that's the ceremony or the guy so make of that what you will.

Side note if he's looking for some sort of commitment, is there something you can do other than marriage? A commitment ceremony? Nothing is stopping you guys from coming up with your a definition of marriage/commitment that works for both of you. A ceremony for the emotional side, a legal document for the financial/legal side of things. You don't have to take anyones name You both may want to sit down & work out just what is important about marriage to him, & what it is about it that you don't like & find some middle ground.

You also don't have to get married. Could you start with "being engaged"? I know a couple that have been engaged for 12 years, no one that knows them is expecting an actual wedding anytime soon. It's a sort of commitment, but without the paperwork. Also what are the laws regarding common law marriage (defacto relationships) where you live? I don't know how it works in the US, but in Australia if you live together long enough you have a lot of the legal rights of a marriage anyway.
posted by wwax at 7:47 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm pro-marriage and could see myself behaving as your partner has in a similar situation. It sounds like you are a good couple, including the way you are seriously considering something you had previously ruled out. Whether an emotional or contractual indicator, there is a truth that marriage places you both into a more committed/difficult to get out of position relative to each other. Even amicable divorce is hard and expensive, should you ever part ways - harder with children.

For me, the fact that you are considering children is the big consideration here. I think you need to consider these two pieces together. What level of commitment do you both need to each other to do that comfortably? New parents often have trouble finding time for their partner, how would having children with this person impact that - and where would non-monogamy fit into things? What would the taxes, insurance, finances, etc. look like for having children both within and outside a marriage? Do you live in a place where living together and having children means you will become "common law" married regardless, or can you live in your own way without that imposition?

More questions than answers, because only you can decide what is right for you.
posted by meinvt at 7:47 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Some pros and cons (starting with pros):

1. A serious proposal (and repeated proposals!) means that this is probably more important to him than he's letting on. Would you marry him if he'd break up with you otherwise? That might be his deep-down position, which may solidify over time.
2. As far as subjugation of women goes- I think, for me, marriage is sufficiently removed from this in the modern day (gay marriage exists!) Things can start out questionably ethical and transform over time to much more equitable institutions in the modern day. I would argue marriage is in that category.
3. Sense of identity- moot point, you're already part of a couple and living together. Marriage won't change anything (except your last name and title, and not even necessarily if you don't want to change your name.) All relationships involve compromise, marriage doesn't alter that much. I think this is psychological.
4. As far as wedding fear- very easily dealt with, weddings are optional and customizable, unlike marriage which is defined by the state.
5. Kids. I am in favor of marriage for kids. There's still stigma over "bastardy", sadly, plus marriage gives a ton more perks like seeing kid who is injured in the hospital easily, picking up kids from school without as much concern, etc.

On the other hand, some cons:

1. Disagreement over polyamory- this is serious. I agree this is a problem and may become more of a problem. Although marriage is only obliquely related, it may be more related in his mind somehow.
2. Dated less than two years. Agree this could be a concern. Although I would say right around two, two and a half years is pretty much long enough to know.
3. Contradicted himself about marriage. Agree this is a very serious concern. Perhaps couples therapy?
4. Medicaid- an issue, but probably one that can be resolved with insurance/other options.
posted by quincunx at 7:51 AM on December 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Some of the cons on your list are related to weddings, not marriages. Does this marriage proposal come with the understanding that a public wedding is part of it? Because courthouse weddings are great if you don't want to actually go through the whole performance with attendant anxiety.

Your list of pros are all good reasons to get married, especially the part about starting a family. Parting ways with children in the picture will be tough regardless of marital status. Losing medicare is definitely not a good thing, but you can certainly strive to keep your finances separate and negotiate any assets through a pre-nup.

In terms of the ethical implications of marriage, you can seriously have it mean whatever you want it to mean. You can own the concept and make it yours (yours singular and yours plural).
posted by lydhre at 7:55 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you considered a "half-measure" like a hand-fasting ceremony? Your SO's situation reads a lot like my own. My SO had reasons legal, financial, and other to not go through with a traditional marriage as acknowledged by the state, etc. She is also disabled, has serious chronic/terminal health considerations, and worried a great deal about what a state-sanctioned marriage would mean to me if/when she preceded me in death. I, on the other hand, wanted some sort of social acknowledgement of our position as being pledged to one another.

In a very un-legal and non-normative but traditional ceremony we pledged our lives together in a social setting that was attended by friends and family. We have a piece of not-legal paper acknowledging this. We present as husband and wife to the world and we're both exceptionally happy with this. It helps that my employer extends benefits to domestic partners.

That was a few years ago. In a surprise move two Aprils ago she asked if my standing offer to marry her legally still stood. We were married in the eyes of the state two weeks later in front of a few friends and select family members in our front room between dinner and dessert.

But the final decision is yours to make. If you're not 100% with the idea of marriage in a legally binding sense, do not do it. You'll likely come to regret or resent the decision in the coming years. And take it from someone who experienced a truly resent-filled marriage, it sucks.
posted by Fezboy! at 7:55 AM on December 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

It's not an interpersonal contact. It's a contract with the state, one that affords legal protections to one another and extends them to your kids.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:57 AM on December 29, 2015 [12 favorites]

Came back, after addressing the bone-dry legal aspects of this, that the emotional ones seem to say DON'T marry, DON'T have kids together and that you may end up breaking up.

If the reason he's pressing for marriage is because he's not happy with the relationship as it is today, that he wants it to change in a material way---that's a disaster. You know this, and I think the real question you're asking is:

My partner wants us to marry, to have children and to be monogamous, I don't want to be monogamous. What should I do.

Phrased that way, you know you'd need to break up. He may be a great guy, but you're both asking for different things in the relationship. Relationships aren't really contracts, things change over time. Marriage is negotiated and renegotiated throughout the partnership. Adding children into the mix is a very bad idea.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:03 AM on December 29, 2015 [16 favorites]

I thought you both wanted children? I imagine this is going to be an unpopular response, but just from what I've seen from friends, polyamory tends to go way down the actual-priority list once there are kids in the mix.

Going down the courthouse is easy. Having an in depth conversation about what you want your future to look like and whether it's compatible with the family plan is a bigger deal... I'd think you'd want to do that first.

But don't worry about the wedding stuff (unless that's really what he's talking about.) You can go to the courthouse. You can have a potluck with your 20 best friends in your backyard. You can go to Hawaii just the two of you. It doesn't need to be a spectacle to make you uncomfortable.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:46 AM on December 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would not get married if you don't want to get married. It's not strictly necessary and he should not be pushing you.

It worries me that there is a pattern of him wearing you down--even if you are ok with the results so far, it could mean problems with the power balance in your relationship. Does he not respect your boundaries or take you seriously? If he does, why doesn't he back off? What else will he push you on? What if next time, you aren't ok with the results but there's nothing you feel you can do about it?

If I was with someone and they didn't want to get married, my position would be, well I need to either be ok with that or look elsewhere; NOT argue them into it. It's not a healthy way to start off a marriage. I would want my partner to feel the same. The fact that yours doesn't is concerning. If you have a disability, then your independence could be even more under threat and you should be extra careful with it.
posted by emjaybee at 8:48 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Consider that once there are children involved, no marriage, no matter how originally intended, is "insignificant and easily dissolved."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:50 AM on December 29, 2015 [19 favorites]

Best answer: I Am Not Your Lawyer. From a legal standpoint, marriage with children absolutely makes sense; especially for him. As an unmarried mother you would have primary/natural rights to custody, care and control of any children which would be superior to his rights as the father. He might not even quality for right of visitation (without a lengthy and costly court battle, that is) if you two do eventually separate. The details of this scenario are going to vary from state to state but what it boils down to is this: it would be incredibly unfair to him, as the father of your children, to not have the legal protections that marriage affords. If you don't want to give him these protections, then I agree that you shouldn't be married and further, you probably shouldn't have children with him. I suspect he's aware of these issues and that's why he's been pressing his suit.

As to peace of mind, a prenuptial agreement is worth checking out. You can make provision for your financial/medical independence, which might quiet some of your fears about the legal contract of marriage. You can't, however, legally negotiate your social independence or any issues regarding future custody/support of your children. That's simply something you and your partner would have to be open and honest in your expectations about.

This really is a tricky situation. Take some time to consider your options, and good luck going forward!
posted by givennamesurname at 9:46 AM on December 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

Even once the wedding vs marriage issues are stripped away, it sounds like you still have significant concerns. They could be concerns that are minimized with further discussion or even couples counseling, but I would not get married until those are resolved to your satisfaction. You two don't sound like you're honestly on the same page about what marriage would mean. This wearing down business also is of concern.

"Really, I am okay with both the financial agreement and interpersonal commitment aspects of marriage, just, I wish we could be the ones in control of exactly what those contracts entail. "
A marriage, while being a legal contract with specific legal benefits, is also what you make it. There are no obligations that you have to adhere to just because you're married. You two get to decide for yourselves exactly what your marriage will mean and what the "rules" are. There shouldn't be any hidden features that you're unaware of until it's too late.

A very long engagement could also work. I had a super-long engagement of 9 years (we got engaged after living together for 2 years). The lifelong commitments had long-since been made, but we didn't get around to signing the papers for a long time. Since we weren't having kids or buying property, it didn't seem urgent. When we did do it, it was a civil ceremony with a few people in tow at the courthouse. I'd highly recommend this approach as it's easy, low-drama, and you won't bankrupt yourselves. It ended up being quite romantic and meaningful as well.
posted by quince at 9:48 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are a lot of questions that need answering for you to think about this thoroughly. You need to ask him some of these and answer some of these yourself.

- what does "marriage" entail to him? Why is it so important? Is it a dealbreaker to him if you don't? Can you just do common-law (if that's more agreeable to you)? What specifically about being married makes it different for him (and for you) from what your relationship is now?
- Does this mean he wants an actual wedding? How small/minimal is he willing to do? Is it a dealbreaker if you just have a city hall ceremony or something equally brief/modest?
- You haven't been together 2 years yet. What timeline is he willing to accept? (dating -- engagement -- marriage)? does it have to be defined?
- Are there any relationship/personal milestones you feel still need to be met before you could consider marriage?
- The finances and insurance - how will your medical insurance needs be met? Hard numbers here, find out what his insurance company will provide and at what cost. And what are the financial benefits of being married? Hard cost/benefit analysis.
- If you both negotiated and wrote up a prenup or some other sort of co-signed agreement with all the conditions of the marriage upfront, would that help you? What would you stipulate?

And remember, getting answers to these questions is not agreeing to marriage, it is for thorough consideration of it. If you want to stay with this person, you might not be "responsible for his own emotional well-being" but you do owe it to him to try to be communicative on this issue and come to some resolution/understanding.
posted by lizbunny at 9:53 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

The concerning thing to me is he is apparently ignoring your legitimate concerns to wear you down and has done it before. The Medicaid issue is huge!

If marriage would affect your ability to get appropriate medical care then it should not be something a loving partner would want you to do.

I have to ask, do you really want kids, or is that something he wants? Because if you have kids then marriage would make more sense, but you need to make sure that it's not something he is convincing you about along with everything else.
posted by winna at 10:07 AM on December 29, 2015

Best answer: One of us generated over $300,000 in medical bills in 2015. Medicaid paid for everything. And when next year one of us generates close to $100,000 in medical bills, medicaid will pay for everything. Marriage would destroy medicaid eligibility. As CMS has taken to reminding states, medicaid is required to pay for medically necessary treatments. In our state, medicaid pays for medically necessary treatments one of us needs with a relative lack of fuss while virtually all private insurers would balk.

One of us would never compromise the other's health by getting married. Is it fucked up? In a sort of "health is a human right" kind of way? Of course. But our commitment to each other does not flow from, and is not dependent upon, a government license. And a major part of that commitment, especially when disability/chronic illness is involved, is a commitment to health.

Also, this: "I am afraid that I will eventually agree to be monogamous just because he's worn me down" is a giant red flag. If you identify as poly, if that is a core part of your identity, you deserve a partner who not only accepts but supports you, not one who tries to change you.
posted by mattbcoset at 10:09 AM on December 29, 2015 [12 favorites]

No no no. You have strong philosophical reasons for not doing it, and he has not clearly outlined why it is so important to him, or why alternatives (other legal contracts, other ways of "proving" your relationship to your community, etc.) don't fill what he needs. For you to consider doing something you'd prefer not to do for his sake, he needs to articulate his needs more clearly so you can decide whether they're legit in your opinion.

If he is uncomfortable with polyamory now, a marriage isn't going to fix that for him even if he thinks it will. He needs to trust you and your relationship completely, and a semi-coerced marriage is not going to do it. Have you discussed other ways to address his insecurity?

(I suspect he will push you toward monogamy over time given his discomfort, and a legal marriage will make it soooo much harder to leave him if you need to in order to remain poly. Truckloads more money, guilt, and angst... and how long would it take to get back on Medicaid?)
posted by metasarah at 10:35 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Marriage is a financial agreement. Do you want to give him half your stuff and part of your future earnings if you break up? Do you want half of his? That's what it comes down to.

Pre-nups often aren't airtight. If he's a lot richer than you, I'd say get married. If you now, or ever, would make the same or more than him, don't get married.

I heard of a mom who wanted to dump her husband because he was a bum; he was a drain while contributing little to nothing to their family and not working, despite being an able bodied, intelligent, middle aged male.

Turned out she'd have to pay him alimony for life and split half her assets with him if they divorced. Tethered to the bum for life.

Don't get yourself into that situation unless it makes financial sense.
posted by omg_parrots at 10:49 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't do it.
posted by caryatid at 10:58 AM on December 29, 2015

I was in your partner's place and my ex-husband of 15+ years broke my heart because in the end he never really committed to me. I was fine not having a wedding, I was truly fine trying to work with him and his discomfort surrounding marriage, but in the end, he just didn't want to commit to me. Your post has concerns about committing every step of the way. I think his pushing you into a proposal is him wanting to know you're all in, the way he is. If you're not, let him go. I wish my ex could have done that for me instead of using me as close enough.
posted by A hidden well at 11:15 AM on December 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

Best answer: From what you wrote it sounds like he doesn't feel secure in the relationship. This is very important to address, as it sounds like the base from where the desire to get married comes from. What it is that is making him feel unsafe? It may be that this he will never feel truly comfortable with non monogamy, so he thinks marriage will give him a better feeling of safety, but that could absolutely be wishful thinking on his part. It may be something else. This is what needs to be figured out first. You may want to give him marriage for his security, you may not, but you need to figure this out first.

Aside from that, the health thing is a pretty valid and big argument against marriage.
posted by Vaike at 11:32 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not believing that the state should sanction romance, love, between two people is all well and good, but it is divorce that brings the state in to decide money matters. You can live together, say, for 10 years, and then split. What then about assets, house, car, pets, kids, debts etc?
If you are unsure about marriage, do not do it. If being very sure is sometimes fraught with possible mistakes, imagine what not being sure can be.
posted by Postroad at 11:56 AM on December 29, 2015

Best answer: There's another way to look at this -- if you proposed to HIM and ask him to be your intentionally not-married partner for keeps, would he give that the amount of thought and soul-searching that you're giving his proposal? Your idea relationship is as valid as his. Ask him to consider making the commitment that you prefer, and view it as a real choice in itself, instead of just avoidance of marriage.

Is there any type of arrangement/agreement that would make you feel okay about getting married to him? And ask the same question regarding his willingness to your unmarried partner.
posted by wryly at 12:22 PM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

IANYL! Internet Fraud Detective Squad, that's incorrect. Paternal rights aren't custody rights. Even after signing a ROP, the mother generally retains legal custody of the child; the father has to pursue a court order defining his custody. Again, this varies from state to state (the example I linked is from MN) - but marriage absolutely affords more and better protection to the father.
posted by givennamesurname at 12:59 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

One thing I haven't seen covered here is that there are (some) legal contract alternatives to marriage that provide you with some of the legal protections marriage affords you.

For example:
-a will for both of you that spells out who inherits what
-medical power of attorney. This would give him the right to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and vice versa. My understanding is that without this, your partner might be asked, but doctors might instead ask your nearest kin (parents/sibling) because they actually have more rights than a romantic partner.
-a cohabitation agreement. If you buy property/a house together, this spells out what should happen with the property should you break up.

These are one way of legally defining your relationship that do not include marriage but are things you would want in place regardless of marriage status should you have children together.

You could probably also draft a prenup that states things like that all the money you make is yours and vice versa, etc. You would need the advice and work of a good local attorney for this though who could explain just how much you can legally define your marriage however you like. That won't keep the government out of it, nor change any tax laws, but it might make you feel empowered.

I agree with other posters that you two need to have more in-depth (probably uncomfortable) discussions about what marriage means to him, how much it matters etc. Some of the questions you've brought up here remind me of questions some friends have been asked in pre-marital counseling when they've had church weddings. I wonder if searching for a list of questions from that context might be helpful for your discussion. I think they're usually not very religious, but more about things that matter a great deal in a partnership: money, parenting, property ownership, how you like to express and receive love, what makes you feel valued, how you hope your relationship will look in the future, etc.
posted by purple_bird at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't marry this guy, at least not yet. Two years is not necessarily enough time to know whether he's a person you want to be thethered to.

One of my exes wanted to marry me and for a short time I thought this was a great idea. Except that my gut never did. And when he turned out to be abusive and a deadbeat, I was so so glad to not have any legal ties connecting us. The legal considerations are even more important in your case because Medicaid is important. Is it worth risking that for a marriage you're not even sure about?

If he's unhappy about the terms of the relationship - nonmonogamy - nothing will never be enough. Not living together, not marriage, not anything short of you caving and "choosing" to be monogamous.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 3:01 PM on December 29, 2015

Please be very careful.

As IFDSN9 pointed out, marrying him will make you financially dependent on him (because of losing the medicaid). That will put him in a very different position, even if subconsciously, for negotiating boundaries of monogamy and polyamory - and really any boundaries at all.

Even without this, your recognize that you are vulnerable to his 'pushing.' There's something about the way you write - I may be off base - but that seems to almost romanticize this. You're the elusive and desired one and he's doggedly pursuing. Maybe that framework is coming from him? There's just something about 'he wants to marry me', versus, 'he wants us to be married' that makes it sound like his desire to marry you is an an expression of his commitment and love for you.

But outside that romanticizing lens, it sounds more like an expression of his desire to control you - or at least - to control the terms of your relationship.

All by itself, the fact that you feel like you need to be very careful to preserve your identity is alarming. A good relationship strengthens your identity and supports you being/becoming the you that *you* want to be.

The idea that an external thing (marriage recognized by the government/community) could give him security and peace with your polyamory that he feels he is not getting from inside the relationship is human and understandable but also kind of deluded. I don't think marriage has *ever* turned a jealous lover into a trusting husband. My impression is that if anything, possessiveness (and acting on it in controlling ways) tends to increase because the spouse feels both more entitled and more secure of the partner. In this case, that would be compounded by your financial vulnerability to him.

I don't think anyone needs to ascribe bad intentions to him for all this to be true. A lot of it is human nature. I think a relationship between a monogamously-oriented and a polyamorously-oriented person is inherently fraught. In his position, I think I would also feel pretty insecure. But the way he is seeking to staunch that insecurity is destructive to you, the person he loves and he is supposed to love as you are. The fact that he is not seeing that and looking for other ways to negotiate this seeming impasse does not reflect well on his ability to be a good partner or parent.

It is hard. But if preserving the relationship requires harming the lover emotionally, mentally, and financially (you don't feel at ease with this, you intellectually disagree with marriage, and you will lose priceless medical benefits) the loving thing (for him) to do may be to walk away. Conversely, that may be the self-loving thing for you to do.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:31 PM on December 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I think you need to reconcile your discomfort with the institution of marriage with the reality that you're planning a family together. Because if you start a family together, that is in many ways a much more binding, identity-changing proposition than marriage. It's fine if you hate weddings and all the baggage that comes with societal and cultural ideas of what it is to be a wife, and it's fine if you want to stay poly. But if you want to bring children into this relationship, then you should acknowledge that marriage stops being entirely about both of you, and starts being about the overall security and stability of your family. Marriage affords a lot of protections to the father of your children, and your family as a whole, and it's entirely reasonable that your partner would want those.

You could just go to the courthouse and do the paperwork, and ta da you're married, and that could be the extent of it. There's no rule that you have to tell everyone you're married now, or that you have to wear a ring, or that you have to do any wifely things. Signing that paper does not necessarily have to mean that anything about the day-to-day of your relationship changes.

That said, you and your partner should seriously consider that marriage or children may not necessarily do anything to make your partner feel better about your nonmonogamy. If that's really at the root of your partner's desire for marriage, then it's time for some couples therapy before you make any life-changing decisions like having children or getting married.
posted by yasaman at 5:33 PM on December 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

Let's ignore all the romanic BS around marriages for a second. Write down all the legal and financial aspects. You mentioned losing medicare - that's a BIG deal! Would you get on his insurance for less? That might be better - or maybe not - you tell me. You say your disabled, have you ever been hospitalized or might you be in the future? Being married will allow him to visit the hospital and make medical decisions on your behalf, this could be a really great thing. Where are you living? Does your country give you a tax deduction for filing together? How much would you save? This could be a good thing.

I know everyone wants to look at marriage as a romantic contract, but in this day and age it makes sense to consider it as a business contract - and since you already have the romantic piece settled in your mind (rest of life together, kids etc. etc. etc.) this, might make it easier for you to decide.

Is there any financial or governmental reason that going into a business (the marriage business) together would be good for you?
posted by Toddles at 5:51 PM on December 29, 2015

I agree with everyone who's said that marriage is what you make of it, but it also has huge social weight that can be difficult to deal with, definitely including expectations around identity (especially for wives) and monogamy.

He says he would feel better about my nonmonogamy, which has been a part of our relationship from the outset, but he struggles with, if we were more publicly committed to each other, and I want to give him that.

He thinks he would feel better...Hoping that getting married will fix a relationship problem - any relationship problem - is bad news.
posted by orangejenny at 5:53 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

He says he would feel better about my nonmonogamy

Marriage can make nonmonogamy [nominally] criminal and [actually] tortious, depending on jurisdiction. No surprise it would make him feel better, but what about you?
posted by ftm at 7:07 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am betting the larger part of this is that you're polyamorous and your so is not OK with having a lifelong commitment and kids with you under those circumstances. Nthing you shoultimate revisit that talk and see if his eyes and words say he is fine with the arrangement (or reconsider what it needs to be) and the marriage thing may work itself out. Don't get married if you're not sure it's a great idea.
posted by Kalmya at 7:20 PM on December 29, 2015

He thinks he would feel better...Hoping that getting married will fix a relationship problem - any relationship problem - is bad news.

This would be the main sticking point for me. There are a lot of reasonable legal and emotional pros and cons to this decision, but getting married in an attempt to solve insecurity seems potentially disastrous. There are probably people for whom marriage alone would solve the insecurity/jealousy issues, and self-aware and generous and adult enough to pinpoint that marriage would actually solve the insecurity/jealousy issues, or at least self-aware and generous and adult enough to recognize that if marriage didn't solve the insecurity/jealousy issues then they need to go do the work on their own rather than throwing that back at their partner, but I think they're few and far between. Your guy may absolutely be one of them, but if I were you, I'd want him to have worked through that insecurity (as much as is possible; it may never completely go away, and that's ok) before proposing or accepting a proposal, and if I were him, I'd want you to have worked through your commitment ambivalence (as much as is possible) before proposing or accepting a proposal.
posted by jaguar at 7:25 PM on December 29, 2015

Hoooooo boy. There is such a mess of issues and for and against argument that there's no way I can sort it out. For legal reasons, it's probably a good idea. For Medicaid benefits, it's not. For reasons of kids, probably better. For reasons of "he secretly wishes I was monogamous," probably not. Oh hell, this is what couples counseling is for.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:25 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My feelings about legal marriage are very, very similar to yours. Not feeling the validation of interpersonal relationships through government approval, fuck the patriarchy, not poly but have some non-mainstream definitions of "fidelity", commitment-reluctant tendencies, partner is more comfortable with the idea of marriage (though is also anti-authority), importance of maintaining my own sense of identity, not wanting to renege on my marriage-aversion on principle, and utterly unwilling to have a wedding.

My partner and I began considering ourselves married when we bought a house together (which was after four years of being together), with absolutely no plan or real intention of making it legal. We just declared ourselves "married by our own definition" and started calling each other husband/wife/spouse. We didn't actually mislead anyone about our status, and for official paperwork, taxes, etc. we both still listed ourselves as unmarried. For doctors and emergency contacts for work, etc. we listed ourselves as partnered.

This worked well, and it held meaning for us for both separate and shared personal reasons to be unmarried-married. Our families "got it" and accepted it surprisingly easily, albeit with a little friendly nagging on occasion for the first few years.

Postscript: We did eventually get legally married after a number of years being unofficially-spoused-to-each-other for some practical reasons and because we live in PA, where we were able to do this with a Quaker "self-uniting" license (no officiant, just get a couple of witnesses to sign off.)
posted by desuetude at 10:39 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

What it is that is making him feel unsafe? It may be that this he will never feel truly comfortable with non monogamy, so he thinks marriage will give him a better feeling of safety,

Yeah, get this sorted out first. I pretty much believed the above, on some level, and hoooooo boy does it not work like that.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:18 AM on December 30, 2015

Response by poster: I don't want to be defensive or argue with anyone's valuable and completely solicited advice, but even though this is kind of anonymous I would be amiss not to mention that I discussed this more with my boyfriend, and there was at least some miscommunication between us during our initial discussion, including the important detail of why he brought this up during a discussion about feeling comfortable with nonmonogamy-- and I feel I've misrepresented him somewhat. I also wanted to thank all of you for asking such good questions, which I've now talked over with my boyfriend and I feel like I understand better where he's coming from. I kind of wish I'd kept this one between us, to be frank, but I also know that hearing from an outside source that the concerns I thought might be a function of my ego were legit gave me the wherewithal for a better conversation.
posted by dee lee at 4:51 AM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

From my personal and social experience of mixing marriage with non-monogamy. I validate your concerns, they are real. You will be labeling yourself in a way you cannot control. Society gets a word to use that you don't get to influence all that much and it can suck, especially for non-monogamous women.

If I were going to marry anyone, it would be him

This is a compassionate and kind sentiment. One I hear a lot among my more fiercely poly friends. But every time I hear it I can't help but think "if were going to use one needle drug it would be heroine" which I think I first heard here in AskMe.
posted by French Fry at 8:16 AM on December 30, 2015

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