The majority of my adult -- hell, even my pre-pubescent -- life has been spent fielding questions surrounding marriage.
When do you want to get married?
Are you going to get married?
What do you want to wear when you get married?
How big do you want your wedding to be?
Aren’t you excited to get married?
I understand that these questions are indicative of a culture that has assigned a palpable value and a sense of tangible accomplishment to marriage.
I understand that if I was a man, I probably wouldn’t field the above questions as frequently. I understand that, for the most part, people ask me about marriage not out of spite or an innate rudeness, but because they’re trying to make genuine conversation and are honestly curious.
For the most part, people still think that if you’re going to be considered a well-adjusted adult you need to be married.
So, I have long accepted the fact that dodging questions about marriage from friends and family alike is just part of adulthood and nothing more than a mild annoyance, at best.
Then I had a child.
Having a child — completely unplanned and out of wedlock — sent the run-of-the-mill marriage questions into intense overdrive.
I was asked if my partner was going to “make an honest woman out of me.” My partner was asked when he would finally “put a ring on it.” I was asked if I would get married before the baby arrived, as if a marriage would somehow make my child more “real.” My partner was asked if he was keeping his “options open” in the absence of a proposal.
In fact, we were both asked if we had plans of tying the knot so frequently, we were half-tempted to walk down to the courthouse and get it all over with just to shut people up.
But the truth is, after three years and a now 1-year-old son, my partner and I have no intention of ever getting married.
We won’t be getting married because our finances are better spent elsewhere. We’d rather travel as a family instead of buying a gown I’ll only wear once. We’d rather go overseas for a much-deserved “mom and dad date,” instead of paying to provide a catered dinner for 200+ of our closest friends and family. We’d rather buy a house than place settings, and we’d rather save for our son’s college than spend a year’s tuition on a party.
We won’t be getting married because our commitment doesn’t rely on a day of overindulged romance. The promises we make to one another every day are more meaningful than a promise we would make in front of a crowd.
We won’t be getting married because our house is already a home. We are both respectful of one another and the world we share, filling the space between our four walls with laughter and joy and, yes, the occasional disagreement.
I already feel safe and he already feels secure and we know what we’re building together, as a non-married couple, is just as substantial as what a husband and wife share.
We don’t want to get married because our parenting won’t suddenly improve with the acquisition of the titles “wife” and “husband.” I’ve seen husbands who refuse to get up in the middle of the night because it “isn’t their job.” I’ve seen wives lament about their husband’s inability to assist them in parenting, instead of talking to their partner directly.
While others may not see us as a team in parenting, because we aren’t married, my partner and I know that we are doing this together. Just with different last names.
We don’t want to get married because we believe our relationship to be more than a box we need to check off to fulfill a societal standard of success. It isn’t a flamboyant declaration of happiness, aimed to appease others. It is ours, and ours alone, and we love making our own rules and setting our own standards of love and commitment and partnership.
We won’t get married because rings on our fingers won’t make us feel any more secure in our relationship than we already are. There isn’t a fear of betrayal or dishonesty that a marriage would somehow quell. There isn’t a lurking uneasiness that a white dress and a couple of vows will dismantle.
I trust him and he trusts me and we have already reached the level of commitment marriage claims to provide.
So no, despite constant inquiries and perplexed responses, we won’t be getting married.
And while I understand that this goes against a pre-determined set of standards set by society, I will never understand why so many people believe themselves to be entitled to judge us or demand an explanation.
I will never understand why my life choices, and the order in which I choose to make them, seem to be so important to so many.
Of course, I don’t have to understand.
And thankfully -- in the cases where these reasons are completely foreign and incomprehensible to some people -- neither does anyone else.