Why I Will Never Get Married, A Post by Liz

Liz is working on her PhD in Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas. She works as a research assistant…the Topic: Marriage and Relationships. You can read about some of the research she does here. She is a regular Oprah, and just like I’ve said to her, while I may favor the legal contract, it is pretty romantic (and ballsy) to choose to do life with someone else every.single.day. Choosing to not walk out when it is so easy to…that to me, is just, well, OPRAH! (noun, verb, whatevs).

As Katie alluded to in my introduction, I do not now nor have I really ever (at least in my adult life) wanted to get married. That’s right, never. No white dress for this gal. I can hear your reactions through the screen. “It’s because your parents are divorced, isn’t it?” “Oh… are you a lesbian?” “You’ll change your mind when you meet the right person.” “Hippie!” Although I’ve heard all of these things before, none of those assessments are true… ok, maybe I am a bit of hippie! I’ll try to clarify what my reasons are for this decision in this post. As Katie also mentioned, this is not because I am anti-love or a man-hater. I have been with a truly amazing guy for over five years, and I can say that both he and our relationship continue to surprise me all the time with how incredible life can be when you have a supportive, fun, and caring partner.

Let me begin with one more qualifier: I have a deep respect for marriage. I genuinely look up to people that have healthy, happy, honest marriages. (Katie actually has me in constant awe of her and Bryant’s marriage, as I’m sure is the case for many of you!) Marriage can absolutely be a beautiful and, as we can see from the posts before mine, a life-changing experience. However, just like running a marathon, or living out in the country, or eating carrots (I feel you, Josh!) are just not for everyone, I also strongly believe that being married is simply not everyone’s idea of a happy, healthy relationship or of a fulfilling life. This is a hard idea to contend with for a lot of people I speak to about this topic. I think that this might be because we grow up being taught that there are certain milestones that you will reach when you get big: drive, drink, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids. Even more than that, marriage is slated to be the best part of all that. You get to meet, be swept off your feet, fall madly in love, do the romantic proposal, have the fairy tale wedding with your friends and family, and then live happily ever after. But why is it that people get married? Beyond that “it’s just what you do!”, when I began to consider the reasons for getting married, I was hard pressed to find one that I felt applied to me personally.

For love. Why can’t I have an epic love story complete with a happy ending without the cake and dancing part?

To commit. Why couldn’t I make a resolute and steadfast personal commitment to someone without it being legally binding? I can’t say that I know how I’ll handle every hard time, but I have experienced enough valleys and I know myself well enough to know I won’t just walk away when things are difficult. Chase and I have been through enough in our relationship (cross-country moves, months apart, changing jobs, etc.) that I know we can withstand life’s curveballs. That said, I also accept that if things drastically changed, if Chase and I somehow became miserable together (as many couples unfortunately do overtime), I would like many others want a ‘divorce’- an end to the long-term commitment I had made. This would inherently be easier (practically, not emotionally of course) if we never married. However, I hope that the commitment we’re making to one another, already facing the challenge of going against the grain, will make us as strong as if we were to make it legal.

To have children. Countless children are raised by unmarried or divorced parents today- it’s now the norm and not the exception. I think a child raised in a loving family with two parents (even if they’re not married) will be better off than a child whose parents got or stayed married out of obligation and are miserable. There’s no tit for tat here- kids should be loved and cared for, and that can be done in or out of marriage. Chase and I certainly talk about having children in a few years, and we don’t feel like we need to be married to start a family.

For the religious union. Although I greatly value a spiritual connection in relationships, I do not believe you need to be wed in a church by a pastor to be together forever in this life or the next.

For practical reasons (AKA money, taxes, homeownership, etc.). This is the one that really gets me. People tend to bring this up after I’ve explained how I feel about the points above like this will be the one to break my argument. “Don’t you know you can save money if you get married?!” I simply have no desire to combine my finances with another person. Don’t get me wrong; I completely understand the practicality (and for some, the necessity) of being able to draw from the same bank account for shared bills or for childcare expenses. I just personally am not comfortable with this. This might be because I am extremely independent- like change my own tires in the rain kind of independent. Leaving it to someone else (however much I love them) to decide how to spend money I’ve earned just has never sat well with me. I’m happy to consult and agree to both save for a trip, for instance, but not to contribute to my partner’s debt pay-back. You might see this perspective as cynical, but I truly see it as practical. I want to spend the money I work hard for in the way I want to spend it. And unfortunately, people do break up. Every day. And while I truly do not believe that will happen in my relationship (and I’m sure you don’t either), EVERYONE has said that at least once and then broken up. Or gotten divorced. The independent and practical woman in me just wants to make sure that I am prepared financially if a turn of events that no one could predict does occur and that I could continue to take care of myself.

I’m happy to discuss more of the ins and outs of this life choice in the comments to follow. I.e., Will you still call Chase your boyfriend after you’ve been with him for 15 years? What would your children’s last names be? Do you still want to have a party or commitment ceremony? How do you pay bills/make purchases together? Your bio said your topic of research in graduate school is relationships and marriage! How does this affect your relationship? How does Chase feel about this?! But for now, here’s the skinny, borrowing Katie’s verbiage:

The true: I love Chase in an all-encompassing, unconditional way I didn’t know was possible. We are unbelievably, incontrovertibly, and some might say disgustingly happy together. I wholeheartedly want to be with him for the foreseeable future. (I actually think he’ll look super hot when his hair turns grey.) I just don’t want to marry him. And yes, I am sure. The questions: I’ll never know what life would be like if we got married. Would we be happier? More committed? I can only speculate, no. But there’s no way to tell. I could be missing something and never know it. The resolution: When I come home from a long work day and he greets me in our teeny tiny apartment (a sacrifice he made so I could go to grad school) with a hug and kiss, has made us dinner, got my car a check-up, updates me on only the world news stories he knows I’ll care about and won’t upset me, and somehow the conversation about our days develops into a silliness that results in him playfully chasing me around while doing his Avatar impression, I am even more resolute that not having a title for our relationship does not matter. I am incredibly lucky to have the love and the life that I do.

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Comments

  1. Matt Wolf says:

    Liz! It’s been a while…but it’s awesome to hear about you and your life! Sounds cool about the PhD, and about finding someone as incredible as Chase. Props!

    I understand a lot of your comments, and think your logic is sound. I was curious though about what would happen if something tragic like severe sickness or handicap would stand up without the binding of the covenant of marriage (what it’s meant to be,not sadly what it has become). Would you still support the other? Would it cause more worry and anxiety that the other could leave? Also I would be curious to see if you feel the same after you pop out a baby or 2 or 3 and have to take off extended time from your job and your ability to provide.

    But that just makes marriage sound like insurance doesn’t it!

    I know I’m a pastor, so I have a bit different perspective, but I think one of the most beautiful thing about marriage is that it teaches about Jesus. How he makes a covenant to love us and never give up on us no matter what we do. So our own marriages teach us about his faithfulness.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Hi Matt! Great to hear what you’ve been up to too!

      In answer to your question about illness/handicap, I guess I could ask married people the same question: Wouldn’t ANYONE, married or not, be a little scared that if they could no longer walk, etc. that it might be too tough and their partner might leave them? The legality of marriage doesn’t ensure this wouldn’t happen. It’s the personal commitment you make to one another (whether in marriage or not) that would keep you by your partner’s side. I’d take care of Chase if he needed me to, just like I do now, because I’d WANT to support him (not because I HAVE to). I’m confident that he would do the same.

      If and when I do “pop any babies out” out in the future, it would be important to me to be in a position in my career and financially to be provided adequate maternity leave (hopefully as a professor at a research university! hopefully paid leave!) but to also have enough money in my savings to be able to contribute to our family for any additional time I’d need to be home. Here’s another shocker for you: Chase would actually probably be the one staying home after we had a child since I am on a pretty demanding (and rewarding) career path. Much like we do now, we’d split expenses for our kids based on income/savings (so his contribution would be much less if he was staying home and I was working, or visa versa). It’s actually been pretty easy for us to figure the financial aspects of our relationship out in the past because, as Denise suggests, we talk about the money.

      As for your last point, I certainly see how marriage contributes to your religious experience. I likewise think that commitment to and being in support of another person can teach us about faithfulness- I just learn these lessons in a slightly different way.

      Thanks for your questions!

      • Pastor Matt says:

        Awesome. Keep up the good work. Would love to hear about your doctoral research/thesis sometime!

        And Katie…cool blog!

    • I understand the challenge in reading a piece like this, and filtering it through your spiritual views. I will say this, I don’t think my marriage necessarily was chosen because of my relationship with Jesus. I remember dreaming about my wedding day as a child, and overtime, that romantic idea changed into something that was much more challenging. Now that I am married, I would say yes, you are absolutely correct, my marriage has shown me a deeper understanding of how Christ loves me. My husband shows me patience in the way that he loves me. I can be ungrateful, and I can have my serious episodes of bitch, but he knows me, knows my heart, and knows that I will come back to him. The love part, that part is still a choice. I may not have the feeling of love for my husband always, but I choose to love him despite of that. That image mirrors the way that Christ loves us…we mess up, we take Him for granted, we go wayward, and He is still there, patiently waiting for us to come back to Him.

      To me, religious reasons aside, Liz has chosen a committed relationship with someone else. And they make the choice everyday to be together. I don’t know if the legal document is necessary, because their relationship, at least from what she has described, is a lot like my marriage. I think they’ve made choices that will make their commitment work better for them, just as my husband and I have made compromises in my marriage so that it will work for us. I don’t know. It is a challenging perspective, but again, incredibly romantic.

      I wish we could talk to Bradgelina right now. 😉

      • Katie,

        First I feel obligated to tell you (and any of you reading) that in the middle of my work day and in the middle of this amazing exchange of viewpoints (LOVING IT, by the way! Totally speaks to the classy lady and blogger you are that you can host this level of respectful, thoughtful conversation!), I had to attend a fire extinguisher training so that I’ll know how to put out flames if any of my biological samples in the wet lab or the chemicals we use were to catch fire. How funny and diverse life can be. Haha.

        Thanks for the support you give to me and Chase! Isn’t it interesting how we can see each others’ perspectives but it’s still challenging from both sides? As you mentioned, I understand how it’s hard to see a relationship similar to a marriage but that is inherently different to you (and others) spiritually. I think being viewed differently is largely what can be challenging for us. That although we’ve made a similar commitment and live in a similar context, our relationship is not considered as “legitimate” or “serious” or x y z as others’. In regards to what you said, being with Chase makes me a better person (and I know he’d say the same thing because he’s said it to me :-)). I learn patience, and compassion, and forgiveness from him and from being with him. So I think it’s spiritually similar (although I know not exactly the same as what you describe) in that way also.

  2. We’ve never gotten any more money back since we’ve been married so the tax thing isn’t necessarily true. “For the money” is a shitty reason to get married.

    I’ve never understood why someone’s decision to get married or not get married is such a big deal. I’m glad that you’ve found something that works for you.

  3. Ok, well I figured I’d like you from the introduction, but then … carrots? That’s when I knew we’d get along just fine. 🙂

    That was fantastic, and I loved it for two reasons. First, I respect anyone who makes a considers a decision, makes it and then holds the line even when nobody understands and often many disapprove. You’re a rebel, and I love a good rebel.

    I just wrote about 6 paragraphs with my thoughts about your post (hint, they were in support of your decision) but in writing them something occurred to me. I’m incredibly afraid of losing someone again. I don’t think I ever got that before, how afraid I am. I was in the middle of writing that I could see being with someone and not getting married and a mini wave of panic set in.

    So instead of posting all that I’ll just say this. I think I would absolutely do what you and Chase are doing … if it weren’t so scary. I don’t care even a little about the religious, legal or financial implications. I would be happily unmarried with someone–for the rest of my life, even–if it didn’t scare the hell out of me. Maybe one day I’ll find the right girl, and it won’t anymore. Or maybe we’ll get married and it’ll be a nonissue. Only time will tell.

    Anyway, thanks for that post!

    • Thanks, Josh! I’ll bash strange-colored foods with you any day! Don’t even get me started on grapefruit.

      Since I was maybe 16 or so and realized I could research questions I had, collect information, and make decisions for myself (Katie, some of this motivation definitely came from our Pow Wows! Some from some important college courses and mentors.), I’ve been a big believer in consciously considering what you want your life to be like and, maybe more importantly, why.

      To address your concern/fear about potentially making the same choice I have: I would absolutely be lying to you if I said I’ve never been scared. Relationships are scary! You’re putting all your trust and honesty and support into another inherently flawed person (not to mention the time, money, and energy investments that naturally come with relationships). Like I said, Chase and I have certainly seen ups and downs, especially in college and upon a big cross-country move when we had to seriously consider if this was going to be something we wanted long-term. After these trials and, in the past few years, after more explicitly stating our long-term commitments to each other, I’m confident in our future… but I don’t pretend to predict it. I may be scared at some point again. But as you already know, getting married won’t entirely eliminate your doubts. And if our relationship continues to surprise me and grow, I think I’ll be even more confident and we’ll be even better together after any future bumps in the road.

      P.s.- Feel free to post any of the other thoughts you had!

      • Oh, I don’t know that my thoughts added much, I’m just super wordy. You should have seem my post before I cut about a fifth of it. But I think I would say my pressure to marry definitely stemmed from my Christian upbringing. In the circles I was in, sex outside of marriage was as close to an unforgivable sin as there was. You’d almost have been better to have murdered. So I think that’s a big driver considering that America is still largely religious, even if there are countless claims to the contrary. That tide is certainly shifting, though, and it’s interesting to see where we go because of it. Behavior and expectation are also very different from large urban areas (NYC, LA, etc.) than they are in Middle America.

        But I think if I dig into my prev. comment further, it’s clear that though I want someone to want me enough to marry me, I put an obviously false hope in getting them to sign the proverbial contract. As if that somehow guarantees more long-term security. But really, like you said, you may be scared again and marriage is no solution to that. Only trust.

  4. Susan Shellhammer says:

    My dear daughter,

    I enjoyed reading your post! I see your courage in standing up for your own opinion, especially light of the recent marriages of many of your peers. Of course, you know you have my love and support whatever your choices may be.

    I only question the word “never”, not expecting that you will change your mind, but knowing, from my own experience, that we can’t always predict how our experiences in life can affect our beliefs and understandings. This may sound silly, but it makes me think of Jenny in Forrest Gump. It took her a lifetime to understand that what she was looking for, she had waiting for her all along. Not that this means the solution is marriage, but that her perspective on what she was looking for changed over the years based on her life’s lessons. You and I are not the same and I know you make decisions much differently than I do. So, you may or may not want to leave yourself open to change your mind on many things in your future, including marriage. And, just as I have always said, you absolutely need to do what is right for you and only you know what that is.

    I love you…

    • Hi Mama!! You’re so wise. 🙂 You’ve taught me so much about how to make decisions and how to stand up for what I want and deserve!

      And you’re right; “never” is a word I don’t use very often since it’s so absolute and final. What I should say is that I don’t see it happening anytime in my foreseeable future as marriage is conceptualized and carried-out in our society today. But like I said, I definitely can’t predict the future!

  5. chasefleming12 says:

    Hi everyone!
     
    This is Chase (the Avatar impersonator), and I wanted to let you know that I’m certainly open to answer any questions that you may have for me as well.
     
    And just so we can get this out of the way … I’m indifferent about carrots.

    • I kind of want to see this impersonation, I won’t lie.

      Chase–did you have plans to get married and Liz changed your mind? Or like her, did you not see yourself pursuing a marriage?

    • Jan Fleming says:

      Well Chase, I am certainly jealous of the fact that I have never seen the Avatar impersonator! I love carrots so you did not inherit your indiferrence from me! Love you both, Mom

    • Indifferent about carrots? My god man, for what DO you stand?? 😉

      But seriously, super cool that you would jump in and offer to answer questions. I was wondering the same thing as Katie.

      • Chase Fleming says:

        Great question (and great blog, Katie!). I wouldn’t say that I ever had set plans to get married before meeting Liz, but I definitely think that her stance on marriage adjusted how I feel about it.

        For me it was easy to transition, because I’ve always (for as long as I can remember) thought of marriage as just something you eventually do because it’s “what people do.” Until I met Liz, I didn’t know anyone else who has her beliefs, but I quickly realized that it doesn’t matter how we label our relationship, as long as we are happy.

        I do think Liz’s Mom nailed it though when she mentioned that our perspective on what we are looking for can change over the years based on our life’s lessons. All I know is that right now, Liz and I have a great relationship, and if one day our perspectives change and we decide to get married (for whatever reason), I think that our relationship will be just as amazing as it is now.

  6. Jason Rubek says:

    Hey old roomie, good article. Steal any street signs lately?

  7. Very interesting perspective. I respect and understand it even though I am married and have “popped out a baby” (not a fan of that expression btw.. sounds demeaning)

    To me, marriage is more of a religious ceremony or “seal” of one’s commitment. However, I do not believe that in order to have a spiritual relationship with God or each other you must BE married, BUT I do think the idea of marriage itself is a religious one. The state legality of marriage is separate than the spiritual reasoning.

    Dr. Tim Keller explains this very well- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9THu0PZwwk
    (long talk but good for a listen if/when you have time)

    It is so much more than just a “next step”, and I believe Christian culture specifically is doing young couples a disservice by not explaining the reason of marriage properly in order for the individual to understand what they are adventuring into.
    Both parties need to understand WHY they are getting married and what it actually means outside of it just being a part of the circle of life as many people see it to be.
    Marriage seems to make the most sense when looked at as a spiritual/religious seal to commitment… at least to me.

    I do not know what your spiritual beliefs are or if they contribute to your opinion on marriage, but for the sake of this topic I am merely sharing my opinion, not trying to convert or preach at you.

    Hopefully we can all learn to respect each other enough to not condemn or judge those who do not think the way we do… on both sides of the equation– those who see marriage as the reigning right and correct way to live a happy life and judge those who do not get married, AND those who see themselves as somehow superior, enlightened and progressive beings if they do not choose to marry.

    (last sentence not directed at you personally, but I have often sensed an overall general feeling of superiority from purposely unmarried, childless crowds)

    Good post. Thanks for sharing.

    • This: the no judgement part, is exactly what I wanted from this series. The truth is, it is unrealistic to believe that we will all see eye to eye, and think that a debate is going to change anyone’s mind. I want people to get to know each other, understand them, and build a relationship with them regardless of their spiritual beliefs, politics, etc.

      People are worth the time & energy, and being able to converse with each other, without being assholes, well, can’t we all agree that is more valuable?!

      • Agreed, Katie. 🙂

        Yes, Audrey it seems that maybe you also picked up on my offense to Matt’s phrase, “after you pop out a baby or 2 or 3.” Hence the quotation marks in my responses. 😉

        Once married, I sometimes hear friends or others struggle with what exactly it means to be married, so I definitely agree that for my wed and to-be-wed counterparts, both they personally and our culture as a whole should perhaps better define and delineate exactly what marriage is after the wedding day is (whether it’s religiously-based for those that want that, or not).

        I also agree that for some people marriage is certainly a religious union and more than just a ‘next step’ or the like. This would actually be the strongest argument for marriage that makes the most sense to me if you’re one of the people that believes/needs/wants to enter into the ‘religious covenant of marriage’. It works for you, it works for Katie, it works for many. But whether it’s a religious marriage, an otherwise spiritual one, a ‘secular’ one, or a non-marital relationship like mine, I just think the one thing we can know is that it must not be a one-size-fits-all kind of thing since all of these types of marriages/unions also FAIL to work for people.

        I don’t think the religious union of marriage continues to be represented very well in our larger society today. I think it’s become a much more laid back, separated-church-from-state, can do it at a drive-through in Vegas concept. Getting married is legally conceptualized, executed, and enforced as a contract and socially as a commitment that generally (of course not always) is accompanied by a formal ceremony/party so it can be recognized in front of friends and family. So I also agree that the spiritual/religious concept of marriage is different from the legality of it. People should just be able to choose if they want either/or/neither.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head: Respecting each other. I’ve never understood why it’s so hard for people to believe/think/do what we do, and respect that others may believe/think/do something different and that’s ok. *Especially* within Christian and other religious communities.

  8. Joy Mac says:

    I think when you choose to enter into a “I’ll be with you into the foreseeable future” or “I choose to be with you, and just you” relationship that you are already in a marriage commitment. Back before there were pieces of paper and ceremonies for it it was just a commitment between two people. I think that’s why I’m not all into the contractual marriage thing. I don’t like the idea of yet another piece or paper telling me what to do or what I’m worth… I’d rather hash that out myself.

  9. Jan Fleming says:

    I find this blog very interesting.
    My perspective, having married twice, divorced once is this. There are things that seem important to you at different stages of your life. Deciding to get married in my late 20’s was based on for me, on wanting to have kids and thinking that we “should” get married to do that. And while I don’t think this way at this time, I too, as a young girl, had dreams of the big wedding, the white dress, the ring and lots of friends and family around. While I did get married and have 2 (great) kids, I would have to say that my thought process was really nothing more than “it’s what you do”….and not about having a strong feeling about having to be married to accomplish that. Sadly, that marriage ended in divorce 17 years later. Did we stay together longer because we were married? I don’t think that really entered into the picture….I think the length of time had more to do with the commitment of having children and making sure that our decision was really the right direction to take. The end result is the same, whether you have kids while being married or not. When the relationship ends, you are still parenting from different households. Did it sour me on the idea of “marriage” because it ended in divorce? No. Since I am currently happily re-married (with 2 step-children), I don’t have a doom and gloom attitude about marriage. I just think that at different stages of your life, you can feel differently about things. I personally haven’t experience too much judgment on either side but I’m not really around many younger couples trying to make that decision for themselves. I think whatever arrangement works for any couple to have a healthy and happy relationship, with or without kids, is what matters the most!

    • Susan Shellhammer says:

      I enjoyed hearing your opinion and your story, Jan. And I totally agree on the happy and healthy criteria.

      Also enjoyed hearing from “the Avatar” impersonator. I now understand a little more how you feel about your commitment. And, most of all, I’m thankful that you have such a great relationship right now.

      And thanks, Katie for sharing your wisdom of the value of acceptance in this blog. It is in our nature to judge one another, but so much of life’s energy is wasted on judging that does harm, when it could be used much more constructively to make ours and others’ lives better.

  10. Absolutely awesome to hear women talk like this! Marrying too soon, or out of pressure, or just because you fell like you should often leads to disaster! There is no rule in life (in America anyway) that says you have to.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Why I Will Never Get Married, a post by my dear friend Liz during our Marriage Series (which I should note was the highest traffic […]

  2. […] at Pallet, and I plan to drink more than 1 glass of wine (party animal!). Additionally, my friend Liz also so happens to be traveling through Salt Lake City for a wedding, so we are going to go out on […]

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