How Valuable is Monogamy to You?
I am getting married at the end of this month and I have spent nearly a year, I proposed to my fiancé on September 21st 2013, looking up unbelievable amounts of crap on weddings. I have done thorough research on centerpieces, bridal footwear, how to keep bridesmaids happy, wedding menus, wedding colours, venues, ceremony length…. and that is just the stressful, sad, boring tip of the wedding iceberg. I am a severe perfectionist and, due to budget, I have taken on an incredibly heavy DIY wedding. Which means I have seen every pinterest board in slight relation to weddings on the entirety of the internet.
On a not so side note, should weddings feel heavy? Should the planning be a full time job? I mean, it is one day. What is with the debt and the stress and the couples breaking up over planning?
With all of this stress I thought maybe I could help cut it down a few notches for future couples taking on weddings. So here is my guide to getting married, or not getting married.
Some people might wonder why people bother to get married at all… If you are a happy couple, isn’t that enough? Do you really need a ring and a piece of paper? Well, I would guess that it depends on the couple and their situation. I would argue that, even if you are religious, marriage is a legal matter more than anything else. Married couples might say otherwise, that marriage changes everything (and I have some points on that note myself) but really, if you are taking your relationship seriously and you are committed, what is the difference? They say that marriage isn’t about a ring or piece of paper, and I believe that is true. Marriage is about being committed to another person and doing your best to make it work when things are tough, because it is worth the effort with that person if it means you get to spend times of joy with them. That is something very special. You can do that with someone whether you are married, common law, or your relationship is unrecognised by law. A ring and a piece of paper don’t really make a difference. I think when couples say that marriage changed the relationship they mean that by having a big celebration and legally binding recognition of their relationship that it made them more aware of their commitment and made them proceed with more responsibility to each other. I suppose some might find that this provides a good push in the right direction in terms of taking a relationship seriously but at the same time, how many relationships are benefited in the long run if in countries where divorce is common place it happens in nearly half of marriages? Is this a short term sense that things just got serious? Is it a band aid for a bad relationship to say that they will last the course if, in fact, both partners are not equally and loyally committed to the relationship? In that case isn’t it better to forgo marriage and let the relationship run its course and if both parties are equally vested it will be one of those love stories that last until death, even without the papers to prove it? Well, in all possibilities, I say yes. If you need the push of legal paperwork, and the overwhelming cost of undoing it, to make you feel like you can stay the course in a relationship then you are getting married for entirely the wrong reasons. Marriage seems like this wonderful romantic fairytale, but it isn’t. After the proposal there is a monstrous amount of planning that has you questioning your sanity and I suppose it leads up to a fairytale day of love and all that… but after those two proclamations of love you are left with all the things you had before… all the ups and downs of a relationship… all the flaws of your lover. And if you didn’t really have a good getting-to-know-you period that involves living together and really measuring whether you can come to terms with their flaws in the long term (because assuming they will change is just stupid), figuring out finances, determining work/life balance, and talking about how you will maintain a favourable couple/individual balance (is it okay if he has a guys night, how often, what about if she has a girls night. who can your spouse confide in and what is off limits, etc), marriage will probably be a lot less romantic than you had planned. Whether marriage really makes sense depends on your situation. If you are religious weddings might be in your customs and I am glad you have faith and that your values are important, but that doesn’t mean it is right for you. I was raised as a Catholic but I don’t follow any organized religion any more, but in all that I learned I have to believe that, if there is a God and you believe in him/her, God knows who you are. Do you really need to have a big to do in order for your God to bless your love, or whatever the reason behind religious ceremonies is. Probably not. If you think about it, at least from a Catholic stand point, if marriage is ideally having a priest do a sermon and bless your marriage and have you make vows to God and your family, what is with the legal paperwork? Can’t your love be blessed and last a life time and be recognized in the eyes of God without the paperwork? That is a governmental thing and not a religious thing at all. Marriage has little more to do with anything other than the vital statistics department. So why are weddings such a big deal? Why are so many people so eager to throw away their life savings for one day?
Do you have kids or are you expecting to have a child?
Do you have property or other financial investments that you have made together?
Do you have joint insurance or other benefits?
If you don’t have any of the following and you don’t intend to than marriage is probably not necessary for you, and if you do, depending on the country and province/state that you live in,a cohabitation agreement or common law status may be a better solution for you. Be careful and do your research. In Canada common law is regulated by province so you may feel you have certain rights but if you move some rights may not be honoured in other provinces. If you have a lot of investments together (they may be financial or otherwise) it may be worthwhile to speak with a lawyer to determine what kind of long term agreement will be right for you.
What about a pre-nup? Although it might seem like the least romantic thing about marriage, because marriage is basically a complete legal merger, it would be a great oversight to discuss marriage without discussing a pre-nup as part of your discussion about finances and your future plans. Part of the romance of marriage is taking each other as you are and hoping to build each other up from there. And that is beautiful. But you should consider what that might look like, without underestimating yourself, and consider the possibility that something could happen to your marriage. Maybe you grow apart and you both put in a good effort to make things work but you end up splitting up. Now, you can both split up with best wishes in mind but still feel like you are entitled to what you feel you have built as a couple, after all, even if your partner was the bread winner, you helped equally, you stood by them in hard times, you built them up, just as you had promised you would. In that situation would each party be entitled to half or would the person that spent the hours at work be entitled to most or all of it? What if, by whatever unfathomable turn of events, one partner was unfaithful and the marriage became irreconcilable? What would each party be entitled to then? It is important to have a discussion about it, no matter how unromantic, gloomy, or unimaginable it is, even if you decide to go ahead without a pre-nup. After all, being a spouse is about having difficult conversations and planning to keep you both in good shape in the long term. That is what you are committing to. Happiness, longevity, and equality for the both of you; whatever that looks like to you as a couple.
It seems to me that a lot of people rush into marriage because it seems romantic, it seems solid, it seems stable. But marriage does not really provide any of those things. To have those qualities in a marriage your relationship must have them already. Getting married will not magically sort issues in a relationship out. Your spouse will not become faithful, your partner will not become more commutative, your finances will not sort themselves out, you will not become good parents, your relationship will not magically stand the test of time. Relationships take a lot of work and if you do not have a good relationship to start it needs to be fixed before marriage is considered. You need to have ground rules about how to react to each other in times of anger, how to deal with times of stress, what you each are willing to put up with and what is not acceptable. You need to know how each of you will be responsible in the relationship. Who will do what chores, what will the finances be like, what if one of you loses their job, what will happen if you have a medical emergency. What about more personal expectations, how can you communicate about sexual satisfaction without hurting the other persons feelings, what can you do if your sex life falters, what if you stop feeling attracted to your partner? Relationships take a lot and I feel like sometimes the thought of marriage gets people into the right discussion but even discussion doesn’t always ensure a successful marriage.
With that said, why is the average western marriage around the $30,000 mark? That is an awful lot to be spending on a day to broadcast your love, which may or may not last. That would be a great down payment on a home, the start-up for a business, a substantial investment. It seems our society has some whacky expectations of marriage. We begin marriage, sometimes with no discussion about its implications on life, with a fairytale bang and hope that the bliss will carry us through life. But it wont. That is not realistic. Having a larger wedding or a fancier ring doesn’t provide much guarantee of anything other than a bigger void in your bank account. Before you start planning your wedding, consider how much you want to spend and why. What value will you get from your hard earned dollars? What are you potentially giving up? When you consider the price of wedding items (which are typically much more expensive than the same items would be if they were not for weddings) consider how many hours you actually had to work for the dress or those centrepieces, etc. Is it really still as important to you as you thought it would be? A wedding is a day celebrating a couple in love, it doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive affair. The guests that you have at your wedding will either be happy to be there with you or they will be so incredibly picky that it you will have to bend over backwards to please them, so who cares how big your centrepieces are or how many feature items you had? It is too easy to get caught up in the cost of weddings if you don’t make a plan with your partner based on what you can afford and what is most important to you, and then look to each other to keep sharp focus and sanity. You are each your biggest asset so it is important that in the pursuit of your perfect day you do not alienate those around you. If you can’t afford the flowers you want, get creative or find an alternative. It really doesn’t matter in the long run.
The only thing that matters, in any relationship, in the long run is how you treat each other.
Before you jump into marriage, consider your relationship and what you actually need. Marriage isn’t the answer for every couple looking to take it to the next level. You might find that your relationship needs a little work before rushing into marriage, you might find that you are both happy where you are. Don’t let others pressure you or tell you what is right for your relationship. Times are different than they were when your aunt Ida was growing up, so who cares if you are 31 and you aren’t married yet? Maybe marriage isn’t for you anyway.