A few months ago when I wrote 6 Reasons Not to Marry, I had no idea that to date it would be my most popular piece.
As the author, I am amused by how some people seem to genuinely love or loathe it.
There are also many misconceptions about it that where never intended when I wrote it. To start, I am not anti-marriage. Not at all. Despite the fact that I know a lot of people right now that are recently divorced or are in the process of getting divorced, I still believe in marriage. I still believe in love even though I know the two are not the same.
Likewise, I also happen to believe that there are some good reasons not to get married or at least deserve some close examination before you sign-up for what what should be a life-long commitment to another person. (And I believe this whether you happen to gay, straight, etc.)
In many ways, I view marriage much like I do parenthood. I am a parent. I can honestly say that it’s one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done. I love being a parent, but I would never suggest that everyone should be a parent. Indeed, some of my mentors as a young women where women who chose to be childless by choice.
I totally believe and relish choice when it comes to marriage, parenthood and a host of other things.
However, I can think of some good reasons to marry. So, without further ado, here are three of them.
1. You want your partnership to be legally recognized.
I am always amazed by the number of people who mistakenly believe that most states recognize common law marriage or believe that if two people have cohabited for a certain period of time that, legally, it is the same as getting married.
No, it is not.
In fact, I could only find only 9 states that recognize common law marriage—Colorado being one of them—and it can be a pretty complicated process to prove a common law marriage in the eyes of the law.
Adding to the problem is that many states—including my state of VA—passed so-called defense of marriage amendments, which basically say that unless two straight people are legally married, unmarried people (gay and straight) are entitled to none of the benefits their married counterparts enjoy.
While some of you may be reading this and asking yourselves, “So what? How does this affect me?” the truth is it does, or it may do so one day.
For instance, unless you have an advanced medical directive saying that your partner can make medical decisions in case you become sick or disabled and unable to do them for yourself, your partner will have no legal say so whatsoever should you happen to be in that situation. S/he will not be recognized as your next of kin either. That usually goes to your closest living parent or sibling if the former are dead.
Your next of kin not only gets to carry out any medical procedures, but they can hypothetically bar your partner from visiting you at the hospital if they so wish. While you may think this will never happen or that your partner and family will work together to honor your wishes, there are well-known cases such as the Teri Schiavo case in Florida; Schiavo’s husband and parents famously fell-out over whether or not to remove the feed-tube that was keeping her alive in her vegetative state. (It’s worth noting that originally both Schiavo’s husband and parents were in agreement for years until her husband decided that removing the tube and allowing Teri to die was what she wanted, proving that even if all parties happen to get along at first, disagreements can and do happen in these cases.)
And before anyone asks, no, the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning The Defense of Marriage Act did not overturn these amendments.
2. You want to have children together and want both parents to be equally recognized.
Here’s another example of a fact that many people are unaware: Having a father’s name and/or having him sign a birth certificate does not automatically make him the legal father. (Likewise, giving a child your last name does not automatically make you a legal parent either.) In many states, an unmarried woman is seen as the sole legal custodial guardian and residential parent until the court issues an other recognizing someone else as a legal custodial guardian and residential parent.
Adoptions are even trickier. In the US, it varies from state-to-state whether or not two unmarried people can adopt a child or children together. In the case of international adoptions, some countries will not allow single people to adopt—period. (This includes two unmarried people in a domestic partnership. Even though they may not technically be single, they are in the eyes of the country’s authorities.)
In cases where “single” people can adopt, then only one in the partnership can be the legal mother or father. In the event that the couple splits, the non-adopted parent may have no legal access whatsoever to the child.
Indeed, there is a pretty well-known court case, Miller v. Jenkins, were a lesbian couple who had a civil union in Vermont went on to dissolve it and engage in a series of court cases regarding custody and visitation. The case dragged out for a number of years and only ended when the US Supreme Court refused to hear it.
3. You feel that this is the right choice for both of you.
This is actually the most important reason I can think of and far outweighs any of the legal ones I have brought up.
Yes, there are valid reasons for some individuals not to get married. Also, we live in a culture where people are more than happy to share horror stories of nightmare marriages. (Just having heard more than a few of these, it seems to me at least that often these stories are told in a tone of glee.)
Still, none of the above matter. If you and your partner feel that this is something you want to do, then go for it. After all, you only get one shot in life, so you may as well make the most of it.
I confess that in the past year I have had at least three friends of all ages get married; my heart was full of love, joy and hope for them when I heard them discuss their hopes for the future or viewed their photos on Facebook.
Despite the fact that many marriages fail, there are ones that succeed. May they be in that latter group.
In closing, choosing whether or not to get married is probably one of the most personal choices any individual can decide; ultimately, the best person to make that decision is you.
However, if you get bogged down by all the naysayers and doom and gloom stories, please remember there are actual good reasons to marry.
Lastly, if you do decide to walk down the aisle, then may you and your significant other have a life time of happiness and growing together.
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Ed: Sara Crolick
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