Don't go together like a horse and carriage...
November 18, 2010 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Time Magazine (with commentary from Jezebel) look at the question - why would people get married in 2010? These are reports based on a Pew Research survey that complements results with findings from census data.

Major findings:

- "A new “marriage gap” in the United States is increasingly aligned with a growing income gap." "In 2008, there was a 16 percentage point gap in marriage rates between college graduates (64%) and those with a high school diploma or less (48%)." And Jezebel comments, "less-educated people want to get married just as much as college graduates do (46% of graduates say they want to get hitched, compared with 44% of non-grads). So the most important gap in this country — the one we really need to work to close — may not be between married and unmarried, but between those who have the means to do what they want in life, and those who don't."

- Nearly four-in-ten survey respondents (39%) say that marriage is obsolete.

- Cohabitation is hot - "44% of all adults (and more than half of all adults ages 30 to 49) say they have cohabited at some point in their lives."

- Unwed motherhood is on the rise and has racial differences - "The share of births to unmarried women has risen dramatically over the past half century, from 5% in 1960 to 41% in 2008. There are notable differences by race: Among black women giving birth in 2008, 72% were unmarried. This compares with 53% of Hispanic women giving birth and 29% of white women."

(Tons more findings in the report! Go digging!)
posted by k8t (104 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I got married for health insurance! If we had socialized medicine in the US, I'd still be living in sin!
posted by sonika at 1:53 PM on November 18, 2010 [25 favorites]


Nearly four-in-ten survey respondents (39%) say that marriage is obsolete.

Under what definition of the term "marriage?"
posted by The World Famous at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2010


Let's face it, living in sin just sounds sexier than getting married.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't really mind heterosexuals. I just wish they wouldn't flaunt their relationships in front of me.
posted by hippybear at 1:55 PM on November 18, 2010 [48 favorites]


@TWF:

"The institution of marriage. In response to the question, “Some people say that the present institution of marriage is becoming obsolete—do you agree or disagree?” some 39% of survey respondents say they agree, while 58% disagree and 4% say they don’t know."
posted by k8t at 1:56 PM on November 18, 2010


This:

"less-educated people want to get married just as much as college graduates do (46% of graduates say they want to get hitched, compared with 44% of non-grads). So the most important gap in this country — the one we really need to work to close — may not be between married and unmarried, but between those who have the means to do what they want in life, and those who don't."

Doesn't make sense to me. Isn't this saying that 46% of grads want to be married, but 64% of them actually are; and 44% of non grads want to get married but 48% are. So, if we suddenly gave the "means" to the non grads to get married, there would suddenly be a big jump in that percentage? (Also, why does it cost anything to get married? It might cost to have a wedding, but being married has not cost me anything, financially, that shacking up wouldn't have, and it's saved us money in terms of benefits).

I fully admit that I'm tired and might be reading something wrong here. Hope me?
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:03 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree that the institution of marriage is irrelevant, but also feel that gay people should have the opportunity to discover that for themselves. I look forward to the day when gay people will share with me the right to decide for themselves that marriage just isn't for them, rather than having Mormons and old people make that choice for them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:05 PM on November 18, 2010 [16 favorites]


Here's a quote from the Jezebel post:

"Luscombe explains, "It's easier for the college-educated, with their dominance of the knowledge economy, to get married and stay married. The less well off delay marriage because their circumstances feel so tenuous, then often have kids, which makes marrying even harder." Growing inequality certainly seems like cause for concern — but is marriage really the issue here?"

"Even when couples are married, family life is a different experience for those with a college education and those without one. Professional occupations are much more likely to offer provisions for parental leave, the ability to work from home and flexible hours. Wealthy people can outsource the more onerous or dreary or time-sucking tasks that couples fight over. And the college-educated tend to have picked up more conflict-resolution and negotiation skills along the way. Their marriage is insulated from some of the stresses of balancing work and family. A sick child throws a much bigger wrench into the machinery of a factory or retail or service worker's life."
posted by k8t at 2:05 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


And "just 48% of those with no college marry, while 64% of those with diplomas do."
posted by k8t at 2:06 PM on November 18, 2010


Marriage is a fine institution, but who wants to live in an institution?
posted by mullingitover at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


“Some people say that the present institution of marriage is becoming obsolete—do you agree or disagree?”

What does "the present institution of marriage" mean? Given that legal scholars cannot come to an agreement on that point, I don't see how survey respondents can be expected to give meaningful responses based on any uniform understanding of what the question is even asking.

I cannot imagine any reasonably-informed person contending that the bundle of legal rights and obligations associated with marriage - particularly with respect to children - is obsolete or unnecessary. I can, however, imagine reasonable and intelligent people disagreeing on whether some of the laws regarding marriage ought to be updated and on whether the institution itself should be (or, indeed, has already been) broadened both legally and culturally.

Bottom line: The question is idiotic and, therefore, the survey results are not particularly instructive.
posted by The World Famous at 2:17 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Marriage is a fine institution, but who wants to live in an institution?

You get free healthcare!
posted by nomadicink at 2:17 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The article mentions a lot of TV marriages, like Family Ties and Modern Family. But not any that make marriage seem, shall we say, less than desirable, like Married...With Children (which the FPP title made me think of) or Everybody Loves Raymond.
posted by I am the Walrus at 2:18 PM on November 18, 2010


So anyway, my point is - is this a good thing or a bad thing? Count me in the 39% that think marriage is becoming obsolete. It is an outdated religious ceremony, and as an athiest I say good riddance to it. Women used to need it to be legally connected to their husbands, to share in the male privilege, get the property rights, etc. But now, with women gaining equal rights to, and indeed doing better than men (higher enrollment in colleges, lower unemployment in the current recession, etc.), why is it needed? If they split, she has an income and is self sustaining.

As I see it, the only reason to get married is to have a joint legal attachment to the children. If we had better legal ways of sharing joint responsibility of children (for both same-sex and traditional couples), then we could be done with the archaic system forever.
posted by I am the Walrus at 2:18 PM on November 18, 2010


That quote seems to me to be confusing marriage with kids. I don't disagree that the income gap is probably a more serious issue than the marriage gap, but I don't buy that because college educated are more likely to have paternal leave they are more likely to get married. If you don't have paternal leave, wouldn't life be easier if you were married? Or at least committed to someone who could help you out?

Maybe nannies and maids and parental leave makes it easier to stay married for some people. But this reads to me like they're saying that people with money get along with people better than people without money, which strikes me as insulting to people without money.

There's lots of interesting numbers in the TIME article, and it does say that "In other words, the richer and more educated you are, the more likely you are to marry, or to be married — or, conversely, if you're married, you're more likely to be well off" but doesn't seem to focus anywhere on causality.

I dunno, I'm just not buying it. I think there's lots of rich, educated people cohabitating. And maybe there aren't a lot of poor, uneducated people getting married, but I'm not sure that I believe money is the cause of that.
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:18 PM on November 18, 2010


Hippybear - You don't need a government-issued rubber stamp to be married. You can be gay and happily married, even if the local elected officials are being butt-heads about the paperwork. There are no shortages of churches and officiators willing to help you and your beloved seal the deal.

Marriage isn't about sex or gender. It's about love.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:19 PM on November 18, 2010


For some people, getting married is the chance to throw one big party with all your friends to celebrate your relationship (then you do it again in 50 years or something).

For others, it's a way to get those 7,869 specific rights that married couples have (e.g. parents).

For others, even if they don't want to get married, they don't have a big problem with it and do it to satisfy all the friends and family who do care a lot.

For me, it was all three!

Previously, I was involved in the Alternatives to Marriage Project. I still donate, but I notice they have stopped spamming me to run for office...

(Also, why does it cost anything to get married? It might cost to have a wedding, but being married has not cost me anything, financially, that shacking up wouldn't have, and it's saved us money in terms of benefits).

I think that's a good question. I know people who've gotten married for peanuts. You don't have to have a wedding to get married (and the correlation between the people who want the former and the people who want the latter isn't that strong, imo).

That's the oddest part of the story. Being married costs maybe $25 (one-time fee) more than living together. Why would income affect whether or not a couple marries?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:19 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


"present institution of marriage" is a tricky phrase, to me. You could think that is becoming obsolete without the whole idea of marriage becoming obsolete, if for example you think marriage is (and needs to be) transforming. For example, I "believe" in marriage (for some vague definition of those phrases), but absolutely believe it shouldn't be restricted to heterosexual couples, so the "present" institution of marriage is at least somewhat broken in my view.

I don't think marriage is irrelevant, but there are really 2 aspects to it that are becoming more independent for many people. The first is the legal/financial aspect, which for middle-class people is still a huge benefit (at least in America, and thanks largely to the way benefits like health care work in this country). Even beyond healthcare/financials, getting things like power-of-attorney and such squared away to a degree where they have equal power with marriage is tough.

Then of course there is the private aspect, and that to me is more long-lasting (since political changes could make the other aspect irrelevant). There is a difference between living together and making a serious indefinite commitment (I'll avoid "life-long", while that is often the ideal goal, people generally recognize that things may eventually change). You don't have to call the latter marriage, but thats a large part of what marriage is. Changing from a "we're together now" to a "let's spend our life together" mode.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:19 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why would income affect whether or not a couple marries?

Well, I definitely know middle-class/upper-middle-class couples who got married largely for things like health insurance. If you're poor, you probably don't have health insurance anyway, so this is not a factor.

It absolutely doesn't mean there's no reason for poor people to get married, but they do have one _less_ reason.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:20 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


sonika: me too! dental insurance, specifically; mr epersonae needed his wisdom teeth out.
posted by epersonae at 2:20 PM on November 18, 2010


As a child-free atheist, there is really no reason for Mr. Arkham and I to have gotten married. I'm still not sure how it happened exactly. I was drunk when I proposed...seemed like a good idea at the time.

It makes us happy, but I wouldn't presume to tell anyone else what they should do.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:22 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only people fighting about what the "institution of marriage" is are gay people, lawyers, and people who don't want gay people to get married. The rest of the country, I'll warrant, sees the institution of marriage as the wedding you have and the paperwork you sign at it.
posted by rtha at 2:23 PM on November 18, 2010


wildcrdj, thanks - I hadn't thought of that. It does make sense.

I guess it makes me wonder how many people in the country are in "long term committed relationships that look like marriage without the paper."
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:24 PM on November 18, 2010


why is it needed?

Well, I think kids are a big reason. Let's say I was not the biological parent of the child I was raising with her mother. If something happens to the mom, and we're not married, what happens to the kid, etc.

There are other ways to do it, of course (i.e. apply to be the child's legal guardian, etc.), and likely better ones. But man that's a big ship to turn.

I could have likely applied individually for all of the 4,839 rights that come with marriage. But I'm too lazy for that. So I agreed to get married. (That was actually the stipulation involved--I obviously didn't even get as far as accurately researching the number of rights involved ...)

As a child-free atheist, there is really no reason for Mr. Arkham and I to have gotten married.

Well, there's the whole "sharing your love with your community" thing. I think that's a big part of it as well.

I agree that the "obsolete" question is pretty useless, but I would have answered "yes" to it.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:25 PM on November 18, 2010


"Marriage isn't about sex or gender. It's about love."

I lol'd. Good one!

No, marriage is about benefits. If it wasn't nobody but the devoutly religious would give a rats ass about getting into the legally binding contract that it is.
posted by mullingitover at 2:27 PM on November 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


I did it for the wedding cake.

Which I now realize I could have ordered myself, and had a drama-free evening of delicious baked goods with me and my lady. I say "next time," and she punches me in the arm.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:28 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


The girlfriend and I will soon be the wife and I. This is after 15 plus years of cohabitation. It's the difference between paying out $800 in taxes this April or getting back $5000. Living in sin is no longer affordable.
posted by Splunge at 2:29 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now that Massachusetts has marriage equality, I'm looking forward to eventually taking advantage of it and marrying my (same sex) partner.

I want the cultural recognition of my partnership - I'm in a lifetime relationship. She's not a business partner, or girlfriend (a term which can be confused for a platonic relationship), and while she's my lover, I think that overtly sexual designation is improper for most non-sexual uses. So, 'wife', 'spouse' -- those will be good. Also, the legal stuff that comes with it -- power of attorney, health care proxy, estate issues when one of us dies, etc. The financial stuff, not so much while the federal government is still busily working to keep me a second class citizen when it comes to marriage.

I do think that marriage-as-civil-institution should be decoupled from marriage-as-religious-event. But that's a different issue.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:29 PM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Slap*Happy: while I acknowledge the underlaying truth in which you're saying, there's a lot more to "marriage" than simply pronouncing one's commitment to another person. I really don't want to completely derail this thread based on a sideways comment I made in it, but if you really don't grasp the difference between a commitment ceremony and a legally recognized marriage, I invite you to contact me via MeMail and we can discuss the matter there. I have links to share!
posted by hippybear at 2:30 PM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Addendum: This is why people get married.

Otherwise, you know you can buy a fancy dress, throw a party, and eat an awesome cake without the need to get lawyers involved in your romantic affairs.
posted by mullingitover at 2:30 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I got married for health insurance! If we had socialized medicine in the US, I'd still be living in sin!

In Quebec, where everyone is Catholic and there's nationalized health care the crude marriage rate is 2.8 marriages per 1,000 people annually. I dunno how that compares to marriage-age population stats. But it's basically super-low, almost half of the rest of the country.
posted by GuyZero at 2:30 PM on November 18, 2010


As a child-free atheist, there is really no reason for Mr. Arkham and I to have gotten married.

Are your assets not co-mingled in any way? Do you share a residence? A bank account? When you consider probate law, property law, tax law, and financial laws and regulations - laws which vary from state to state - there are lots of differences between an unmarried couple who co-mingle assets, share a residence, etc. and a married couple. Now, are those "reasons to get married?" Maybe. But if they're not reasons to get married for you, they're reasons to get divorced as soon as possible, are they not? I mean, you can't logically have absolutely no preference between the bundle of rights and obligations that come with marriage and the bundle of rights and obligations that come with being an unmarried couple.

Many of the rights and obligations of marriage in the United States act to encourage and provide stability to the commitment of a couple to stay together long term, to pool their assets, co-mingle finances, etc. They don't just have to do with children, and none that I can think of have anything to do with God. Marriage exists as an avenue for those who wish to make a specific type of very complicated commitment. To the extent that there are people who want to make that sort of commitment - financially, as a family, etc. - I don't think it's rational to argue that marriage as a legal or cultural concept is "obsolete." I mean, sure, you could do away with it and then have people construct that same bundle of rights under a different rubric. But what would be the point of that?
posted by The World Famous at 2:31 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


2.8 marriages per 1,000 people annually

Does that 1,000 people include people who were already married?
posted by The World Famous at 2:32 PM on November 18, 2010


Yes, it's the "crude rate". It's only super meaningful to compare it to other crude rates I think but I'm no demographer or actuary.
posted by GuyZero at 2:33 PM on November 18, 2010


I wonder what it'd be like to have the right to marry the man I love?

And bullshit to the idea "marriage isn't about sex or gender. It's about love". I know you're trying to be kind and inclusive, and thank you for that. But marriage in the US is a civil contract, a government privilege that bestows various benefits to the couple. A contract I'm now allowed to enter, because I am a second class citizen.
posted by Nelson at 2:42 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


mullingitover: No, marriage is about benefits. If it wasn't nobody but the devoutly religious would give a rats ass about getting into the legally binding contract that it is.

Yes, marriage is about benefits. Marriage means a bond, security. It's a pact that you'll be together, in sickness and health, in good times and bad, etc. etc. etc. No reason to doubt your future, who will look after you or help you when things go south. Of course, a couple could agree to that without the ceremony, but an agreement between two people in private and an agreement in front of many witnesses changes things. Maybe I'm being crass to think that people would be less interested in sticking through tough times if there wasn't some publicly made bond holding them together, but I think that's a reassurance for some people.

Maybe as people become more open to the notion of alternatives to marriage, there is less need for the reassurance of marriage. Or perhaps marriage is less binding, with divorce holding less of a stigma, so the bonds of marriage are weaker than they used to be.

Then again, I really liked getting married. I enjoyed watching my wife-to-be walk down the isle towards me, thinking "She's mine, and I'm hers." Perhaps it was the institutional momentum that pushed me to think this was the way I should emphasize my devotion to my wife, but I had fun then, and I enjoy saying "She is my wife" now.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:42 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


A contract I'm not allowed to enter
posted by Nelson at 2:42 PM on November 18, 2010


I mean, sure, you could do away with it and then have people construct that same bundle of rights under a different rubric. But what would be the point of that?

Civil unions for all! Marriages for none!

/Kang
posted by elsietheeel at 2:44 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course, a couple could agree to that without the ceremony

In the United States, in, for example, a community property state like California, can a couple agree to all of the rights and obligations of marriage - including probate issues, financial entanglement, asset co-mingling, rights in the event of infidelity, etc. - without being lawfully married? I'm asking because I don't think that's presently possible and because you seem so confident about it that you must have some information that I don't have. Of course, I'm not the sort of lawyer who deals with most of those issues, so I am not nearly as confident as you with my assertion.

I get the impression all the time that maybe a hundredth of a percent of the population has even the foggiest idea of the far-reaching legal implications of getting married. I suspect that if they did know, a lot of the people who currently get married would not and a lot of the people who currently co-habitate as un-married couples would be anxious to marry.
posted by The World Famous at 2:48 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't . . . Look. When Mrs. LT and I (we are Mrs. and Mrs. LT) got married in 2008, it was because, of course, the moment arose in California and we decided almost immediately to get married.

(Sidebar: How we decided, which may explain why marriage is becoming obsolete. In the car on the way to the grocery store, in late 2007. Me: So . . . the CA gay marriage hearings are going on right now. Um, if they make marriage legal, should we get married? Mrs. LT: Hmm. Yeah. And if they don't we can have a commitment ceremony. Me: Okay! We're getting married!)

And I'll be honest--I hadn't ever thought of myself as wanting to get married, nor did I expect to find someone that I did want to marry when I was still comparatively quite young. My mom was married by ceremony or by common law I think five times? So I was pretty clear on what marriage could or couldn't do for anyone. But as others here, including The World Famous, point out, the complex of rights tied up in marriage was so significant that we decided to get married as a way to try to secure them for our future children and as a civil rights gesture. (Second sidebar: I'm pretty conflicted about this. I actually accept a lot of anti-marriage critiques re: the marriage movement being one in which queer people of privilege are securing their own rights without noticing whether those rights are extended to anyone else.)

But I definitely didn't think it was going to be, like, EMOTIONAL. We organized the thing in a month, I wore a dress from J. Crew that I spilled coffee on that morning, I wrapped our flowers (gotten at the bulk flower mart at the end of the previous day for a discount) in some cheesecloth, and we had already decided we'd hang the marriage license in our bathroom. (It's still there. Liberal arts diploma, YOU'RE NEXT.)

And being at SF City Hall was nice and all, and definitely felt sort of Historic--the city'd hired a string quartet to play in the rotunda; there were a ton of tourists taking photos of Gays Getting Married; my wife's parents were really excited. Yet we still recognized the absurdity of it--the very small Japanese lady who gestured to herself and her camera and us and then handed the camera to my father-in-law and squeezed between us for a photo, the officiant who seemed really nice and had a beautiful speaking voice but was also totally loopy and almost lost our marriage license.

And then--then we were in the Rotunda, near a bronze bust of Harvey Milk, and our friends and family were standing in a circle and we were in the middle of it and the weirdest thing happened. We were holding hands and it was like all of the light and all of the air and all of the sound got sucked out of the room, except the light on her face and the voice of the officiant, and the air was charged, and it felt like the words I was saying, and hearing ("spouses for life" is hella awkward, y'all), were grave and big in a way that filled up my heart, and it was just us up there, together, in this room inside a room that seemed to have been created only by and in the moment. The door appeared before us and we stepped into it together and it was the most intimate and calm and joyful moment of my life.

And then it was gone, and we were married, and we went to lunch. (Father-in-law points across table to my best friend and says, loudly, "HE'D MAKE A GREAT SPERM DONOR!!")

And maybe the feeling was produced by Society. I totally get that. I'm the kind of person who would SAY that, that this is cultural hegemony at work, and I have been fucking colonized.

But it was beautiful and strange, and it made me think differently about marriage--about how what really happens, with or without the white dress, is that you get a moment in time to see each other's hearts with great love before the life you have to face together rushes in. And that's not obsolete.
posted by liketitanic at 2:48 PM on November 18, 2010 [69 favorites]


I don't really mind heterosexuals. I just wish they wouldn't flaunt their relationships in front of me.

Hey, some of my best friends are heterosexual.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:50 PM on November 18, 2010


what I told a guy who was boggled about how matter-of-fact/unromantic I was about getting married: "we live together & do stuff together because we love each other, we got married because it made financial sense." (teeth & taxes!)

having now been married for a bit over 10 years, I'll say that there's also a metric-ass-ton of other practical stuff that happens automagically once you've got that piece of paper. (it's been mentioned above, but it's worth repeating.) all of those assumptions about being part of a single family unit...and we don't even have kids!

I also know at least two couples who have chosen not to get married for financial reasons, I think in both cases because of specific health insurance or disability-related benefits.
posted by epersonae at 2:53 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ive pretty much come to the conclusion that marriage is like any other legal contract, and should be able to be entered by any number and combination of consenting adults.

I got married for health insurance!

So did I. After 10 years of happy life together, we were finally forced to get married because I could no longer afford health insurance on my own as a student. He finally agreed to it because he was worried about being able to visit me in the hospital if I got sick. These are not reasons people should engage in some spiritual union - they are reasons for entering into a legal contract of mutual shared responsibilities for one another.
posted by strixus at 2:55 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


On a personal level, I'm in agreement with the people on this thread who are allowed to marry and have done it -- 1) there are significant legal and financial benefits and 2) the sense of commitment in marriage is something stronger than anything I ever experienced in the serious relationships I had that involved cohabitation.

But what really jumps out at me here is the sense of inequity.

1. First, why on earth can't same sex couples have the benefit of marriage? This question cuts even more deeply when we talk about why so many people still want to marry.

2. Something is deeply wrong in our society when education/financial status means people don't have the means to marry. This issue is more substantial than just the question of being able to afford to marry. Children whose mom's aren't married have a much more uphill battle in getting adequate child support. Custody and visitation are much more difficult to sort out for people who aren't married, too -- and if people are lower income, it is even harder to find the money for legal representation to get an appropriate court order, or enforce such orders. Lack of financial security for children means there are even more barriers to opportunity. I.e., this is an issue with a cascade of consequences.
posted by bearwife at 3:00 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "It's a pact that you'll be together, in sickness and health, in good times and bad, etc. etc. etc. No reason to doubt your future, who will look after you or help you when things go south."

Wha? I think you're confusing the ceremony of marriage with the reality of marriage. A marriage is over as soon as one of you decides you don't feel like being married anymore and signs a few papers, and there hasn't been a social stigma about divorce for decades.

Not to be a downer, I understand people really like marriage and all, but it's certainly not a guarantee of anything.
posted by mullingitover at 3:01 PM on November 18, 2010


It is fairly common for opposite-gender couples over 65 who are reliant on Social Security or public pensions for their income not to get married, but to cohabit, especially if one or both is collecting widow's/widower's benefits.

Sometimes for years--my dad's neighbors have been partners for almost 20 years, I think. It really changes one's perspective on "living in sin" when the partners are in their 80s and 90s.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:01 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


mullingitover, you seem to be confusing the words "I" and "you" a bit in your comments? You don't think marriage is anything other than a legal contract, I get it, but you are not the boss of me or anyone else. I'm going to keep thinking that my marriage is what my husband and I want it to be, and that my friends' marriages are what they want them to be.

In addition to the legal contract bit, of course, to which I think everyone should have access. Nelson, if you and your sweetheart come to Massachusetts and get married, I would be delighted to throw you a reception.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:04 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is fairly common for opposite-gender couples over 65 who are reliant on Social Security or public pensions for their income not to get married, but to cohabit, especially if one or both is collecting widow's/widower's benefits.

Yup, this is why the WA state "Everything But Marriage" domestic partnership law includes senior citizens in its scope. That way, committed elderly who are living under the strictures of pensions from earlier in their life can still join their lives together in meaningful, legally recognized ways without jeopardizing those benefits.

It was a well designed law when it passed our legislature. I'm just glad the citizenry saw fit to defeat the ballot initiative brought against it.
posted by hippybear at 3:06 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


cohabitation is hot

Eh, after awhile it's just like being married.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:07 PM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sidhedevil: "I'm going to keep thinking that my marriage is what my husband and I want it to be, and that my friends' marriages are what they want them to be."

Certainly, and I'm not against marriage, just completely neutral. For some people the gamble pays off and maybe things will work out for everyone in this thread. It just makes me uneasy when people put it up on a pedestal, because things can go from 'omg riding into the sunset/happily ever after 4ever' to 'omg she made my kids hate me/won't let me see them and her lawyer is a rabid wolverine' in short order. The divorce rate is 50%, making marriage akin to a coin toss with a lot more than money on the line. It takes two people to have a happy marriage, but only one to make it a nightmare.
posted by mullingitover at 3:21 PM on November 18, 2010


And then--then we were in the Rotunda, near a bronze bust of Harvey Milk,

Hey, us too! And there was a hearing going on in the room just off the rotunda and a bailiff had to come out and ask us to keep it down. Heh.
posted by rtha at 3:25 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Marriage is jumping in with two feet. Sometimes the water is shallow and you break your neck. And sometimes the water is just fine.
posted by three blind mice at 3:31 PM on November 18, 2010


mullingitover: No, marriage is about benefits. If it wasn't nobody but the devoutly religious would give a rats ass about getting into the legally binding contract that it is.
...
Otherwise, you know you can buy a fancy dress, throw a party, and eat an awesome cake without the need to get lawyers involved in your romantic affairs.


Your comments indicate that your understanding of what constitutes a marriage, a wedding, or really any sort of "romantic affair" may be very different from that of many people. Is it just marriage, or do you view every romantic endeavor as simply a process of going through the readily fungible motions?
posted by dsword at 3:33 PM on November 18, 2010


The divorce rate is 50%

The divorce rate isn't actually 50%. (Sorry: that's a real pet peeve of mine.)

I completely agree that marriage isn't magic. Even my marriage, though my husband's flatulence does defy all known laws of physics.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:34 PM on November 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


i'm married for many many years and within our society it is correct to have my two boys be able to state they are not bastards, like Lawrence of Arabia, and that they are carrying the title of Legitimate Sons like Mathowie and Michael
posted by tustinrick at 3:35 PM on November 18, 2010


"A new “marriage gap” in the United States is increasingly aligned with a growing income gap." "In 2008, there was a 16 percentage point gap in marriage rates between college graduates (64%) and those with a high school diploma or less (48%)."

I suspect some of this gap may be between couples in which one partner has a good enough job to get health insurance, and those in which neither partner has a good enough job to get health insurance. You can only get married for the benefits if one of you has benefits.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:41 PM on November 18, 2010


Certainly, and I'm not against marriage, just completely neutral.

I'm not sure neutral means what you think it means... heh.
posted by madajb at 3:54 PM on November 18, 2010


In a side but related issue, wealthy people can get divorced because they can afford lawyers...the poor often simply move apart. And then there is the Church with no divorce but with annulments.
Though Dr Johnson said that a 2nd marriage was the triumph of optimism over experience, we know that most people divorcing will marry a second time. We know too that single women tend to be loser economically when not married (sharing two incomes), and that many on welfare do not marry in order not to lose welfare checks.
The anarchist writer Paul Goodman refused to get married because he said it was not the business of the State to make his love "legal."

On a personal level: I am married a second time and this has been the greatest 27 years I have known.
posted by Postroad at 3:55 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I did it for the wedding cake.

One of the only requirements I had for my wedding was that the cake be entirely edible.
For most of the rest, my opinion was "Yes, dear, sounds great".
posted by madajb at 3:57 PM on November 18, 2010


You can only get married for the benefits if one of you has benefits.

Yeah, otherwise you're just friends with no benefits.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:59 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


dsword: "Your comments indicate that your understanding of what constitutes a marriage, a wedding, or really any sort of "romantic affair" may be very different from that of many people. Is it just marriage, or do you view every romantic endeavor as simply a process of going through the readily fungible motions?"

My comments were regarding the earlier statements about marriage, for many people, being an excuse to throw a big party or it being about the cake. And the benefits, yes, those are the reason that people sign the papers, otherwise we'd just get up in front of our friends and verbally make the nonbinding oaths. My larger point isn't that romance is about going through the motions so much as that the legal business of marriage doesn't have much to do with romance.
posted by mullingitover at 4:04 PM on November 18, 2010


We are married so we had the rights that only married folks get.
It's kinda romantic, but more importantly my wife and I can make medical decisions for for each other if need be.
posted by cccorlew at 4:05 PM on November 18, 2010


OK, so, wait... They say 64% of grads get married, but the survey says 48% WANT to be married, this implies that, what, like... 15%-20% of married grads don't actually want to be married?
posted by symbioid at 4:07 PM on November 18, 2010


They say 64% of grads get married, but the survey says 48% WANT to be married, this implies that, what, like... 15%-20% of married grads don't actually want to be married?

I think this is comparing apples with oranges.

64% of all grads, of all time, are now married.

48% of (presumably unmarried) graduates currently state that they would like to get married sometime in the future.

First up, these are different samples, representing different slices in time. Second, it only takes 16% of the 52% who don't say they want to marry to change their mind, and we hit the 64% mark.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:13 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


My marriage is awesome.
posted by oddman at 4:15 PM on November 18, 2010


(that is, 16/52, not .16x.52)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:15 PM on November 18, 2010


yes
posted by The Lady is a designer at 4:22 PM on November 18, 2010


Yeah, otherwise you're just friends with no benefits.

"Friends with detriments," as XKCD calls them.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:22 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks Ubu -- Still, I have no doubt that there are certainly a somewhat large percentage of people in marriages due to the fact that they feel compelled socially to do so. Hopefully not that large, but still more than should be.
posted by symbioid at 4:22 PM on November 18, 2010


These are not reasons people should engage in some spiritual union - they are reasons for entering into a legal contract of mutual shared responsibilities for one another.

Exactly, which is why marriage as such will never be outdated so long as humans are a pair-bonding species.

Say you had a couple of good friends who came to you all excited one day and said they were finally going to go into business. One of them has the skills, the other has some money put away, they're getting a great space to work out of -- it's all going to be wonderful. Say that, a few months into their grand venture, you happened to ask one of them what the company was called, and he said, "Company? What, like a corporation? No, we're not creating a corporation. I mean, we're not corporate people, what do we need that for? We're independent businessmen! We're taking the money in and sharing it out! We trust each other. Why should we deal with any more paperwork?"

That feeling would be the same feeling I have about people who expect to cohabitate long-term without getting married, on principle. I mean, I certainly hope it all works out well for them, but I expect it will end in lawsuits and/or attempted murder.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:33 PM on November 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Or, one could argue that men and women who go to and complete college are more bound by cultural and societal expectations, thus are more likely to see marriage as good. Those who don't go to college or drop out may not have bought into the whole Ozzie and Harriet thing as much. It would be interesting to survey, say, creative workers (music, theater, art, etc.) and see how that breaks down.
posted by sudogeek at 4:57 PM on November 18, 2010


Things change. What happens in the next fifty years when/if the western world becomes poor?
posted by IndigoJones at 5:07 PM on November 18, 2010


My marriage is awesome.

Oh yeah? Well mine is the best! THE BEST!

What's that acronym or phrase about being a smug married person?
posted by anniecat at 5:19 PM on November 18, 2010


That feeling would be the same feeling I have about people who expect to cohabitate long-term without getting married, on principle. I mean, I certainly hope it all works out well for them, but I expect it will end in lawsuits and/or attempted murder.

That's so funny because I'm sure a lot of unmarried people believe that marriages are what lead to lawsuits (divorce) and/or attempted murder.
posted by anniecat at 5:21 PM on November 18, 2010


The World Famous: you can't logically have absolutely no preference between the bundle of rights and obligations that come with marriage and the bundle of rights and obligations that come with being an unmarried couple

Agreed, but I'd be lying if I said I was thinking about that at the time...or was even aware of it. I got engaged at 21 (ridiculously young, it seems to me now), while still in school, and had never even worked a full-time job. In fact I was still in school in another city when we actually got married, and didn't move in together until 2 months afterward.

I can't say why I wanted to get married. I guess it made our parents happy, but we were both pretty OK with being the black sheep. I think for some people there's just an intangible desire to do so.
posted by JoanArkham at 5:22 PM on November 18, 2010


High divorce rates and the end-result of what happens to men after the vast majority of divorces is a pretty clear sign that marriage is for chumps.
posted by nightchrome at 5:26 PM on November 18, 2010


Sorry, hippybear, I gotta call horseshit. It's not a LLC or financial partnership or carefully negotiated powers of attorney. Those things are nice, and come bundled with marriage for most people in some places here in the US, and it is a criminal shame this legal benefit isn't made more widely available elsewhere.

But that isn't marriage. That isn't what prompts two people to share each other's life, and think of each other as a spouse. If it is, you have a marriage based on failure.

The law did not create marriage. It merely acknowledges it.

So, get married. It really helps to swing things your way if you can say, "Oh, we're married. We're just waiting for the rubber stamp to come through, maybe with this next election, be sure to vote!" instead of "We can't get married because the Tea Partiers say we can't."

Homosexual marriage isn't about kinky sex (tho it's not precluded). It's about a lifetime commitment, responsibility, and, ultimately, love.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:36 PM on November 18, 2010


(I sure as hell would have married my wife any damn how, legal benefits or not, if the state refused to recognize it.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:37 PM on November 18, 2010


I wonder when that Time Magazine for Adults I keep hearing about is coming...
posted by keratacon at 5:48 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I think kids are a big reason. Let's say I was not the biological parent of the child I was raising with her mother. If something happens to the mom, and we're not married, what happens to the kid, etc.

There are other ways to do it, of course (i.e. apply to be the child's legal guardian, etc.), and likely better ones. But man that's a big ship to turn.


Is it? I am not the biological father of the child I am helping raise and what it took was a visit to the lawyer's office and a hundred bucks and change. In the unlikely and tragic event that her mother and grandparents should all be deceased before she reaches the age of majority, I wind up with a teenaged daughter. It would be a sitcomlike test of the tragedy plus time equals comedy formulation.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:56 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


One reason poor-er people don't get married? Because then they become liable for each others' debts.
posted by yesster at 6:16 PM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I like being married.
posted by Daddy-O at 7:00 PM on November 18, 2010


Astro Zombie wrote: "Let's face it, living in sin just sounds sexier than getting married."

Take it from me, it is sexier for the first ten years or so, but after that... ;)
posted by wierdo at 7:33 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, get married. It really helps to swing things your way if you can say, "Oh, we're married. We're just waiting for the rubber stamp to come through, maybe with this next election, be sure to vote!" instead of "We can't get married because the Tea Partiers say we can't."

Are you really this tone-deaf, or is this performance art?

Gay people don't avoid marriage because of the Tea Party. Hell, they've been denied marriage for decades or centuries, and the Tea Party is, what? Two years old, at most?

I know plenty of same-sex couples who have entered into a committed partnership through a variety of means. Some of them were simple ceremonies held at their house. Others were full-blown observances at permissive religious institutions.

You know what the common thread between all of them was? NONE OF THEM WERE ALLOWED TO CALL IT A MARRIAGE. You know why? Because MARRIAGE has a specific meaning in our culture, one which carries with it legal and social recognitions which are not available to same-sex couples except in a small handful of states and then barely recognized outside of those areas.

In fact, only a 9 states plus Washington DC even recognize common law marriage, and even then they don't consider same-sex couples as married under those statutes.

I admire your commitment to your life partner, and that you would have stood in front of friends and family to state that commitment regardless of legal recognition. But to just say "you can get married regardless of the laws" is a pretty ignorant statement. Especially considering the current fights in many places to have committed relationships recognized as real when the couple is homosexual.

Don't go around making statements like this. It's insulting to everyone working for marriage equality.
posted by hippybear at 7:53 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the article: And the college-educated tend to have picked up more conflict-resolution and negotiation skills along the way.

Right, because the rest of us just grunt and throw rocks when encountering challenges at our jobs.
posted by Toothless Willy at 8:15 PM on November 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Who doesn't allow you to call it a marriage? Is there some sort of police force there to drag you off to jail for calling it a marriage? There are a number of some serious religious denominations out there calling it a marriage, including the oldest established Church in the British Colonies that became the USA (the denomination I was brought up in!)

Got a love, a life commitment and a ceremony? You're married. To hell with anyone who says different. The "recognition" is with you and your beloved, and maybe, if you care enough for their opinion, family and friends... anyone else has to simply deal with it.

Let me say this again - it doesn't matter if your state/town/local megachurch believes you can get married or not. It matters most if you believe you can.

What's more, it helps those of us looking for the force of law to recognize your marriage if you're already married.

So get married. Settle down. Petetion for your right to foster kids. We're right there with you.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:21 PM on November 18, 2010


This discussion makes no sense unless people specify what they mean by "marriage."

The legal definition of marriage has much to do with property (including money) with no requirement for love -- the traditional pledging of sexual fidelity is an attempt to ensure that men are supporting their own children. But the cultural definition of marriage has much to do with love, long-term emotional commitment, and the joining of families, and this has influenced the evolution of the legal rights of marriage.

Straight people are assumed to be following the appropriate cultural norms and therefore get the legal part without question.

Me, I'm not comfortable with how close this runs to a government endorsement of a religious ceremony. But I'll fight for marriage to be marriage, gay or straight. But I do get a little tired of how much marriage is framed in terms of a wedding.

My doctor/co-worker/random chit-chatter asks, "Are you married? I reply that I am, because we're quite sure that we have a marriage. "Oh, for how long?" I say that we've been together for eight years. "But how long married?" I explain that we skipped the wedding and legal certification part...[no response]...so, basically...common law. And I mentally roll my eyes, because I'm pretty sure that the points on the timeline of casual dating to commitment are TMI.
posted by desuetude at 12:03 AM on November 19, 2010


it helps those of us looking for the force of law to recognize your marriage if you're already married.

You've brought this up twice now.

Citation please?
posted by hippybear at 12:24 AM on November 19, 2010


I wonder if the US government will ever get truly get rid of the marriage tax penalty, which continues to penalize and discourage marriage between people with good incomes.
posted by exogenous at 5:31 AM on November 19, 2010


It is fairly common for opposite-gender couples over 65 who are reliant on Social Security or public pensions for their income not to get married, but to cohabit, especially if one or both is collecting widow's/widower's benefits.

I have a family member in this situation right now. He would like to marry his girlfriend, but they are in their 70s. She currently has survivorship benefits from her late husband, but if they married she would join his social security pool. That in itself isn't a problem, but if my relative died in less than 10 years after the marriage she would be ineligible for social security benefits as a survivor of either spouse.

They can't take that risk. It gnaws at their conscience but they have made peace with the situation and the rest of the family is cool about it.
posted by dgran at 6:04 AM on November 19, 2010


High divorce rates and the end-result of what happens to men after the vast majority of divorces is a pretty clear sign that marriage is for chumps.

That is way too cynical for me to bear. I think it is a call to arms for a society that is supportive of marriage because a successful marriage is one of the key indicators of financial well being for people. Divorce is devastating.
posted by dgran at 6:10 AM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I considered by wife and I 'married' the day we moved in together ('We don't need no damn piece of paper signed by The Man to do this thing, baby! I love you, you love me, and that's enough!') but my wife wanted a more formal and official commitment, and while I was all 'Hey baby, I love you already and we'll gonna stay together forvever, but if you want this and it will make you happy, I will do it, even if it involves The Man', it ended up affecting me a lot more than I anticipated, in a good way. And plus I needed a suit to be buried in anyway.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:39 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Got a love, a life commitment and a ceremony? You're married. To hell with anyone who says different

I'd like to see how that works out for you with the IRS. Or a probate court. Or immigration. Or family services. It might work for you in a hospital trying to visit your dying partner, but then only if your partner's birth family doesn't "say different".

I'm not sure where you're coming from, Slap*Happy, whether you are fortunate enough to have a federally-recognized marriage or not. If you do, please shut up about how my second class relationship is "just like a real marriage!". If you're not, then we're in the same boat. I urge you to get a good lawyer to make sure you have as many legal protections as possible with your partner. It'll cost you about $5000 to draw up the documents, and it won't cover anything.
posted by Nelson at 9:03 AM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who doesn't allow you to call it a marriage?

Well, the Feds, for one, at tax time. Also, the Commonwealth of Virginia, where, should one of us get injured and need hospitalization, no one is obliged to recognize any of the legal steps we have taken (married in Canada, married in California, POAs filled out, etc.) to make sure we can visit each other or make medical decisions on one another's behalf.
posted by rtha at 9:42 AM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter Marriage: I needed a suit to be buried in anyway.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2010


Is it? I am not the biological father of the child I am helping raise and what it took was a visit to the lawyer's office and a hundred bucks and change.

Granted. I suppose our ships are all different sizes. Still, compare to no laywer + $13 for the marriage license.

you get a moment in time to see each other's hearts with great love before the life you have to face together rushes in

That is a wonderful description of a happy wedding. Thanks for that comment.

The anarchist writer Paul Goodman refused to get married because he said it was not the business of the State to make his love "legal."

Growing Up Absurd is one of those books that "changed my life," and I pretty much had the same opinion about marriage that Goodman does (of course, he was gay, so he unfortunately really didn't have a choice). Combine that general stance with provincial prohibitions against homosexual marriage, and I was definitely opting out. My partner was neutral, but certainly willing to commit to a life together without marriage.

Once you decide to have a child, though, peer (and family) pressure is a bitch, and it's hard to reject something that (on the surface) is all about love and friends and family.

If it were only my decision, I wouldn't have gotten legally married and just had a big party (wedding). But, to be honest, a LOT of people wouldn't have liked that. You would be surprised. Apparently, you don't get the party unless you take the (legal) plunge.

However, I still enjoyed the wedding a lot, and I want to stay in an exclusive relationship with my partner for the rest of my life. Plus, to be honest, I enjoy the societal benefits marriage provides. I won't deny it--mentioning a spouse or wearing a ring provides me with some special treatment. I won't deny it.

If you have non-traditional beliefs or an aversion to tradition and ritual in general, you get accustomed to the feeling of putting up with something to make other people happy. (See: Christmas.) That's sorta of how marriage is for me. Yeah, it's unfair and antiquated and a symbol of female subjection, but if it'll make all y'all happy, I guess one more marriage won't hurt ...

The one thing I dislike most about marriage is wearing the ring. I have no problem with showing my marital status to the public, I just don't like wearing jewelry. At all. (Seriously, man, you catch your ring on a hook at walgreen's, you're gonna lose that finger ...)

I've been meaning to post to AskMe (and I will next week): is there an acceptable alternative to wearing a wedding ring in North America?

Perhaps mutton-chop sideburns? That would be my preference.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:38 AM on November 19, 2010


Plus, to be honest, I enjoy the societal benefits marriage provides. I won't deny it--mentioning a spouse or wearing a ring provides me with some special treatment.

You don't need to be legally married to wear a wedding ring, as my left hand demonstrates. (Though I do wince a bit at calling it a "wedding" ring. Shouldn't it be a marriage ring?
posted by desuetude at 11:40 AM on November 19, 2010


Jokes apart, along with all the tangible and intangible benefits that everyone has already mentioned, marriage is the undeniable signal of being committed to making things work. Remember the words of the vows. And love of course...
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:20 PM on November 19, 2010


mrgrimm, my SO works in the oil and energy industry where wearing metal around industrial equipment can kill you. So a lot of people he works with get ring tattoos instead. You can't take it off (that's a real symbol of commitment there), and it won't cause you to lose your finger.
posted by domo at 12:47 PM on November 19, 2010


mrgrimm, neither of us (me & mr epersonae) have ever worn a wedding ring. We don't even own them; we've never found ones we like. But it's been 10 years now, and it doesn't seem to matter.

The slightly longer version of our story? Mr epersonae needed his wisdom teeth out, my job had dental insurance, his didn't, and the only way he could get on my insurance was if we got married. We were broke, couldn't even really afford a justice of the peace, so my best friend signed up online w/Universal Life Church & signed all the paperwork. "Wedding cake" was a chocolate bar split between us. My only regret? Mr epersonae & my friend wanted for her to fill in the line of whether she was a JP, rabbi, priest, etc. as "1st level cleric", because we used to play D&D together, and I balked. TOTALLY wish I'd gone with it.
posted by epersonae at 4:55 PM on November 19, 2010


....and all of the air and all of the sound got sucked out of the room, except the light on her face ....
Love that description, and love you two!
posted by tizzie at 3:53 PM on November 20, 2010


I enjoy being married. And gay people cam get married in Canada like it ain't no thang, so I'm not rubbing it in anybody's face. Double win!
posted by chunking express at 6:49 AM on November 21, 2010


Can get married. Can. God damn iPad.
posted by chunking express at 7:50 AM on November 21, 2010


mrgrimm, my SO works in the oil and energy industry where wearing metal around industrial equipment can kill you. So a lot of people he works with get ring tattoos instead.

My agreement with my wife was that after 1 year, if I still didn't like the ring, I could get a tattoo instead.

It's been 3 years.

I guess I don't really want a tattoo either. I think I will get one, but that seems like a really annoying area to get a tattoo. (I guess it's not nearly as painful as tattooing a toe...) Can I just do it on my neck instead? ;)

I also can't think of any good tattoo designs that fit around a finger ... any suggestions? Maybe I'll post an AskMe ...

It also seems like any design on that area would get all blurred. Perhaps the plain tattoo ring is best.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:29 AM on November 23, 2010


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