Marriage is just a symbolic piece of paper.
Before you get out the pitchforks, I am going to explain what I mean.
Marriage is just a symbolic piece of paper because you were already committed to them before you were married.
A piece of paper doesn’t really change how you feel and how committed you were to them, and it is just a way of affirming, legally and in the eyes of your respective religious communities, that you two are indeed, joined in a relationship.
The best example in the world is same-sex marriage. Think about before same-sex couples were allowed to be legally married – did that make them any LESS committed to each other that they couldn’t sign a paper to say so? No.
They simply just got frustrated they couldn’t legally and in the eyes of communities, profess their lifelong love to each other, but they were still committed to each other.
Lesbian couple kissing in front of a protest against gay relationships in France
I am not disparaging marriage.
Even though we have been common-law for over a decade now and have a child together, we are going to get married in the future and sign a paper, but not because we need to bow down to any societal or familial pressures (my mother in particular wanted us married to ‘legitimize’ our son), but because it would be practical as a way for me to also attain French citizenship papers so that we all have the same rights. Some people, get married for tax purposes, but otherwise, would happily stay unmarried well into their old age.
In Québec and France, and even just in general, I find that people don’t bat an eye at not being married. I think that’s something that isn’t as frowned upon these days, the way that my mother’s generation might look at a couple together ‘living in sin’ (and all the flack my poor parents are getting from relatives about my not being married is enough to fill a room but I don’t care).
Common-law couples or “conjoints“, are very common and are used interchangeably as spousal words, although in Québec they do not hold the same rights whatsoever in terms of if a relationship breaks apart, one is not entitled to ANY assets of the other even if they have been together for decades.
Of my friends who are married, they are for the most part, happily so. They love wearing their wedding rings, talking about their wives or husbands, and are completely 100% committed to each other. I think that could be fun to wear a ring, but I am not hellbent on it as anything but a symbol.
My point is that marriage itself doesn’t matter at the core of your relationship if you think about it.
You can be married or not, and still be committed.
You can be married or not, and still be unhappy.
And there is no longer a stigma (in my mind) about being married or unmarried these days, not like in the past when it was truly scandalous. In the past, women HAD to get married to get out of under their father’s rule. They HAD to get married to be seen as respectable. They HAD to get married because there was no other option, really.
Even being married in the past, you were then under your husband’s rule but at least you were more of your own woman, in a way with a bit more responsibility as an adult. You weren’t a little girl under your father any longer, and you could only hope that your husband was a wonderful equal, placing all your hopes into marriage.
In the past, you couldn’t even divorce without fear of being ostracized. Even today, my parents should really be divorced to be happier, but they won’t because they simply cannot bring themselves to do it, having grown up with the stigma of it.
Marriage contracts are actually pretty scary
Any lawyer will tell you that if you look at a marriage contract and applied it in a business sense, no one in their right mind would ever sign it.
“Oh but marriage isn’t a business transaction!” …… This is another topic for me altogether, but I’d really think about how it is a partnership, and therefore, a working relationship of sorts, of two people coming together to live their lives committed to each other, very much like in business. Just because there isn’t anything necessarily to sell as a product or service doesn’t make it any less of having to work with someone you don’t always 100% agree with.
Like in business, marriage is because you’ve both decided you’re better together than apart. A lot of similarities exist.
Marriage doesn’t solve any problems
What this marriage certificate doesn’t do, is avoid divorces, fights, cheating spouses, lying spouses, and money problems. You solve these problems on your own within a relationship, but whether you are married or not, it makes zero difference of whether or not you fight or don’t fight about money.
If your spouse was a lying cheating weasel, s(he) will be a lying cheating weasel whether you married them or not. Putting rings on each others’ fingers doesn’t change that.
More importantly, love doesn’t pay the bills. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but it doesn’t. You can love each other deeply and have seriously fcked up financial problems, not be on the same page, or basically not agree on anything you spend your money on or what should be done. Money is the #1 reason why people divorce – for lack of it, for the way it’s being handled, whatever.
A marriage, doesn’t change any of that; that’s just where your relationship is at, for good or bad. You can obviously do couples counselling, and work it out, and come out with a stronger relationship than before, but a piece of paper doesn’t change a thing of what it was or wasn’t to begin with.
People get divorced all the time and the pandemic has really shown that, I hear divorce lawyers have never been busier.
Children are more of a committed lifelong bond than anything else
AGAIN — I am not saying this to say that married couples without children are not committed to each other (I have childless friends who are coupled up and so incredibly devoted to each other, more so than some others with children). I am saying this because before you have a child with someone, you better think LONG AND HARD whether or not they will be a good partner in life, and a great parent because once a child is born, there is no going back. You can’t give a child back or undo what has happened.
You are now, joined to that person in some way, through this bond of a child.
The child doesn’t disappear when your marriage or relationship implodes, and you have to now learn how to co-parent with someone who may or may not hate your guts for whatever reason, or have such different values or views, that it becomes difficult to even get child support payments, let alone without grumbling about how expensive it is.
A child, is forever, and far more permanent as a proof of that love and relationship, than a piece of paper declaring your love publicly. It is why it is so difficult for people to leave unhappy marriages, because of their children (for the record, in an unhappy marriage, it is better I’d wager for children to see parents to be apart and happily functioning, than together and miserable AF).
It’s why I’d think long and hard before breaking up with my partner, JUST BECAUSE of Little Bun. It’s not so simple to break our bond to each other, without considering our son who will tie us to each other forever. And I am not married.
Some people even think that getting married or having a child will make someone change their ways suddenly — I am sorry to inform you that I have heard these situations getting worse, not better. Marriage is not a magic bullet cure for all things that ail your relationship, and adding a child to the relationship makes it even more complicated.
My money will remain separate regardless of my marital status
So when I say things like: “I keep my money separate“, most of the feedback is “you do you!!“, but there are always a few who will come out of the woodwork to judge me based on a single post, not knowing us as a couple, or anything about my family.
Some common refrains include:
“You’ll never build true wealth this way acting like roommates”
So.. 14 years later, and we are at $2.3M more or less as a family. Is that enough money or should we try and get to $10M? (Secret goal!)
Sure, we could save on some fees if we combined our accounts, but honestly, past $10K in most accounts, and all fees are waived, so that’s not an issue.
Sure, he could stand to put his money in a high-interest savings account instead of frustrating me and putting it in some podunk savings account with 0.001%, but again — this is his money and his problem, not mine. I focus on my wealth, not his.
I am not sure what triggers people to say that you must combine everything else you are roommates, but it’s just for me, having a practical, stress-free, happy solution of not having to answer to anyone about anything I want to buy or spend my money on, and controlling my own investments/destiny.
If we get to the same result in the end, what’s the point of arguing about the journey, considering it’s what works for us?
“Marriage entitles women to what they deserve when they take time out for raising children or take jobs to fit around childcare needs which advance her husband’s career”
Where do I begin?
Let’s start with entitling women to basic liberties: In the past, marriage was the only option. I do not deny this. It was that, or die under your father’s roof as a much pitied ‘spinster’. To make it worse, women in the past couldn’t own property unless it was through their husband, and even then, if they did manage to own property in some way, if it became significant enough, it could easily be taken away by men who made the rules. Even until the late 1970s, women couldn’t even get a dang credit card in their name unless their husband signed for it.
Fun side note: Spinsters were actually amazing women who decided it was better to stay single, make your own money spinning, staying single and living your best life. The problem is once sexuality came under review, ‘spinster’ was seen as a bad thing, while ‘bachelor’ was a positive. Read about it on The History of Spinster. People see them as sad, I see them as being amazing women. It’s unfortunate our society hates women so much that we even have to crap on the one cool thing that single women did.
Divorce, meant losing your kids and your entire life, it is not something I would ever want to think about. It was a horrific time to be a woman in terms of women’s rights, as they had none to speak of.
Today? None of this applies.
Remember, I am speaking from a perspective of a Canadian, who lives in Canada. I am talking about women in Canada, U.S., and other similarly minded countries, not ones where there are still antiquated, enforced rules of a dominant male patriarchy ruling everywhere.
Today, women can own property, have their own bank accounts, credit cards, and tell anyone they did want to be with, to GTFO of their lives. This, is a huge step from where we were at in even as late as the 70s. We couldn’t even have our own bank accounts without our husband’s signing for it until 1964. That’s so recent, it’s mind boggling.
I completely 100% challenge the idea that women have to stay home for childcare, and take lower paying jobs to advance their husband’s career. If you want to advance your career and you can climb the ranks to make more money, you do it, and you make it work with outside help like a nanny.
I may not be a great example because I have only worked 50% of my own career though I am financially independent of my own making, but my one friend comes to mind who has 4 children. She works as a consultant, and so does her husband. They travel constantly, and make it work with a nanny.
If a woman wants to stay at home and care for the children – that’s their choice as a family.
If a woman wants to work outside and hire a nanny – that’s their choice as a family.
Please, do not ever tell me that getting married is the only way childcare will get taken care of. I do not buy it, and refuse to accept it. If your relationship is at the point where if you get married, that’s the only way you see yourself being able to get half of what is in the marriage, then you haven’t had the proper money talks with your spouse.
NOT talking about money, is what gets us into trouble, so we have to lean on things like a marriage to force the law to force the spouse to give us our half instead of simply talking to them, and coming up as a family unit on how the income should be divided. Men have also to step the F#%*@ up and do their part, and I am very heartened to see this attitude changing in my generation and younger (even older!). I REALLY encourage this – not letting men skate by, and a great book on this is Fair Play by Rodsky.
In my scenario, let’s pretend I am a stay at home parent.
I see zero problems in telling my partner: WE decided that I would stay at home with Baby Bun and not work, so we are going to come up with a budget for the family income that comes in, to make sure that my retirement funds are funded as equally as yours are, as I am taking on working in the home, and you are working outside. We see this as economically beneficial and the most efficient thing to do for the family, so that’s what we are going to do.
If my partner says: No way am I giving you money just to stay at home with the baby ….. then we have more issues than I thought.
If he can’t see that my contributions at home are worth the contributions outside of the home, and that in EQUAL PARTS, we are on the same level, then I would simply tell him that I would absolutely not give up my job to stay at home then, and if he wants a parent to stay at home or if he thinks it is more expensive to do it this way, he can do it then. Otherwise, I expect fair, and equitable treatment.
(We’d likely have more issues than this to work out, but you get my drift.)
Now if you’re also saying that I am deciding to purposefully hold back my career advancement so he can make Partner somewhere, and I have to dumb down my career aspirations, and I STILL don’t get to tell him he has to fully fund my retirement accounts and dole out the money equally between the two of us, then we have even more serious issues to talk about.
If you aren’t talking about money now in a fair and open manner as a family, this piece of paper won’t solve that.
What’s the point of asking for a piece of paper to speak on your behalf about the money you’re entitled to as an equal partner in the relationship, when you can just have the open discussion about money REGARDLESS of if you are married or not?
It’s like saying this piece of paper is so magical, it’s going to talk about your finances for you, and will solve all these shared money issues because they’re now ‘locked in’ to giving you half if they leave you. Do you really want someone to stay in an unhappy marriage because it is too sticky to leave?
Why not choose to be with someone and if that’s the case, why not make sure you take the half now in a fair, equitably shared family unit manner, so that there’s no ambiguity and stress or frustration about who earns more, gets more, spends more, etc?
My point is this — if you are in a fair relationship, an equitable one, a piece of paper saying you’re committed to each other doesn’t matter.
Why are women the ones who have to be economically held back if they don’t want to be?
Why are women the ones who have to see their salary as what covers childcare? (This one really irks me.)
Why are women the ones who have to sacrifice anything? (And don’t get me started on the horror stories of women doing this and having their husbands leave them, but that’s another topic for another day. Even with a marriage and getting spousal/child support, she is now economically RUINED because she was out of the workforce for so long.)
Why are we not asking these questions and challenging old norms?
And here we are trying to fight the wage gap between men and women, yet holding antiquated views of what a woman’s salary really means economically, seeing it as ‘pin money’ that is unnecessary rather than ABSO-FKING-LUTELY necessary to a family’s income and well-being.
Lastly, if you feel personally ‘safe’ with a piece of paper confirming that you will indeed get 50% of everything if he leaves you or you need to leave him, then he should also have no problems marrying you either. What’s it matter to him? You’re his equal right?
That piece of paper is symbolic. It has nothing to do with how your relationship actually is on the inside, and how fair and loving you both are to each other – that’s my point. You were already loving and caring to each other, and marriage doesn’t change that.
You don’t legally need marriage to finally open a credit card in your name, or to buy a car, a home, or any of these things that used to hold women back economically. You literally do not need to ask permission of any man in your life to do anything you want, and that’s the most liberating thing I can say on this whole topic.
“Do you keep your money separate because you’re not married?”
No. It doesn’t matter if I am married or not, it changes nothing in how committed I am to my partner and our family. A paper is only a means for me to get French citizenship, otherwise if I could do it without getting married, I would.
Some people think having a last name makes them more of a family unit, and I agree with that to some extent, but even if I had the choice, my name is my name and I wouldn’t change it in a marriage. In fact, even in Québec, when we get married, I will not be able to take his last name even if I wanted to, as the laws here prohibit married women from changing their last names. They all have maiden names, so unless you ask, it is difficult to really know who is married or not.
“It sounds to me like you have zero trust in your partner and this relationship is doomed”
Based on one post, setting out psychological armchair judgement on me and my partner, or even reading my entire blog is unfair. You don’t really know us. By that, I mean, you know what we choose to show, or what I choose to write, but you don’t really know everything else about how we are. I am pretty honest/transparent especially in my Week of Money posts, but just seeing one experience I had in a week, doesn’t mean it is indicative of how the rest of my life is on a daily basis.
It’s not that I don’t trust him with my money. It’s that I don’t trust ANYONE with my money, and I like things separate because I am a control freak. Marriage won’t change a thing.
I don’t trust my parents, my family, my son, the government, or society to save money for me, or to save me from any financial situation. My own personal views on money has nothing to do with marriage and my relationship because I have a driving need to be financially independent. Period.
We also do not have the same money management styles
I am more of a Spender + Money Maker. He is a Saver, but like a Put It Under A Mattress type. He didn’t even believe in tax-sheltered accounts until late.
I like to make lots of money and find ways to make money, and he is of the “it’s just $300” mindset and not worth the trouble.
I like to invest all of my money, and he likes to hold things in cash. And sometimes, he likes to hold it in a regular account and not even in a HIGH INTEREST SAVINGS ONE earning 2%. *horrified*
I like to track everything down to the penny, analyze the information, and log it all. He just goes with general numbers. If we combined our money together, he would get mighty sick of me asking him to log in and give me numbers for everything I track.
None of this means that I wouldn’t help him or vice versa.
If either of us got extremely sick, and needed lots of support, you can be sure I am not going to say something like: “Oh that’s your problem you got sick and can’t pay for anything — my money is my money, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA“…. that’s just ridiculous. I’d absolutely pay for everything and help as much as I can, and that’s another reason why I need to be wealthy, so I can be sure I can cover myself any any of my loved ones without financial hardship.
I am taking care of myself, first and foremost.
I have also heard far too many stories about combining finances from the 50% (?) of married folk who get divorced, to not feel some trepidation in joining everything in life to them. Again, remember that my idea of marriage is not that you are joined in life, soul and whatever including household and finances for the rest of your life. I am more pragmatic in the sense that I understand you can feel that way when you start out, but as children maybe come along, and your lives change for better or for worse, things change and people fall out of love.
I am 100% taking care of myself first and foremost which is an unpopular view because people when they are in a relationship should apparently give up all sense of individuality and join like raindrops to merge everything and never imagine anything bad could possibly happen to their perfect union. I am more cynical, I am afraid, but what’s the harm in keeping things separate? Whether they are together or separate, I will still be the same person holding the same views on money and independence. I’d rather have things separate and clean.
Humans are complex, but highly irrational and emotional creatures.
No one goes into a marriage thinking they’ll get divorced…. but they do.
No one goes into a marriage thinking they will have to deal with separating their finances and their lives that they have intertwined on the hope of being joined together forever….. but they do.
Our expectations of one person fulfilling everything for us is unreasonable.
A lot of this has to do with people thinking that their spouse is going to be their everything. While I appreciate the sentiment, I can tell you that expecting your spouse to be your lover, best friend, confidante and the perfect person, is setting them up for failure. Some people may really truly find this in their lives, but I will be the first to freely admit that I DO NOT talk to my partner about one of my biggest interests which is style and fashion. I have my best friends for that, to talk about wearing different clothes, colours, style personas, etc.
I also talk about money with my partner, but not like a true money geek who likes to search out for deals or learn about estate planning together because while he is interested in money and our joint finances, he simply isn’t into it the way that I am – I have a community of like-minded money geeks for that to talk to and get excited with.
We have other things in common like yoga, food, discussing current events and topics, debates about politics and everything under the sun that keeps our brains alive and interested in each other because of the ideas we have to share and build upon… but we also have interests outside of our commonly shared ones.
We don’t need all of our hobbies to line up, but in a relationship we do need our values to be in line, and that’s what really matters. I am not holding my breath because he will never become a style fiend, but I don’t need him to be like that because I have realistic expectations that I would have to be with someone JUST LIKE ME, to have that happen… but how boring would that be? You’re in a relationship not to be with a clone of yourself, but an interesting individual who challenges, supports and helps you in every way possible, bringing different views and perspectives while being a great person.
So to hear peanut gallery judgements from one post on how I don’t trust him or that we are doomed as a couple because we don’t combine our finances or I came off as wanting to be too independent with my money, is frankly, laughable coming from someone who doesn’t know me, and may very well eat their words in the future even if they do everything right, have the perfect wedding, perfect children, and then find out it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. (I hope not, I am not a malicious person, but the stats on how many people break up even after a perfect wedding with pictures to prove it, are horrific.)
The bottom line is if I didn’t trust my partner, I wouldn’t have had a child with him. I wouldn’t be with him. I have already been there and done that, with exes in my past who finally showed me who I needed in my life that wouldn’t be a man child, or a wishy washy partner.
Will I stay with my partner forever? At this point, yes. I think so. Until one of us dies, we will be together until the end.
Does this mean I will never leave him or vice versa? No. Things can change for whatever reason. Right now at this point, over a decade in, this will not happen, but who is to say what the future will bring? This is just reality.
And my money being separate, has nothing to do with that. It just means we are interdependent, not dependent on each other.
I choose to be with him, even though I don’t need to be for financial reasons or because it is too messy financially or because of our child, and that for me, is more of a sign of true commitment and love.