If you are considering getting married or are officially engaged and already to the point of planning the menu for your wedding dinner and reception, it is still not too late to think about the reasons behind your decision to get married to another person in the first place. Marriage, for some, is a special union ordained by God. For others, it is simply a binding contract requiring a prenuptial agreement to protect individual assets. Marriage can be either of these things or simply be something that a loving couple feels they don't need to legitimize their relationship and their decision to remain together for the rest of their lives. Couples from either of those categories may also plan to have children and feel that being married is "the right thing to do" regarding the children they produce or plan to raise together. Sometimes the reason for marriage is that a couple has already had children together and feels some obligation to legally "tie the knot" to make somehow their relationship and family more official in some way. For those with strong beliefs regarding childbearing and marriage, this is often the path they feel obligated to pursue no matter what their true desires in the situation may be. However, it is perfectly acceptable for two people to create their own family without getting legally bound. Couples that may not be religiously or socially obligated to get married due to having kids may be interested in other options.
You Do Have A Choice
Even though we currently live in some pretty turbulent and concurrently lenient times regarding the standard traditions prevalent over the decades, there are alternatives to traditional marriage that are legal, viable, and far less stressful than planning a wedding, the feast that goes along with it, a highly anticipated reception to celebrate with friends and family, and (last but not least) an entire future together. Some people love concocting their dream wedding with a huge celebration to accompany it, but this isn't a great fit for everyone. Every individual is planning on a lifelong relationship with another obligated to indulge in such ceremonies and festivities. Someone can just as easily come up with their idea of how a service acknowledging a lifelong commitment should be and have this experience in the same relative manner, letting the world know who they've chosen as their non-legally wedded partner for life, and this can be just as legitimate to those emotionally involved. Not everyone requires a piece of paper to confirm their decision to choose one mate for the rest of their lives, but then again, many still do.
Marriage itself is a legally binding contract recognized as a lawful union. It's not something that magically goes away when a couple falls apart or takes their rings off their fingers. If the marriage ends, the courts (which seem very far removed from the actual ceremony) will not acknowledge this without filing for a divorce and enduring a far more complex (and pricy) legal situation than the few minutes it initially took to acquire your marriage license in the first place. Divorces are notorious for taking months and sometimes even a year or more to resolve and have fully processed through the legal systems in any area. Remember, you did have to apply for that license to wed your significant other in the beginning. Divorcing is as difficult in many cases as dissolving a business partnership, and perhaps even more so as there are emotions involved that include the bedroom rather than the boardroom, and passions can run high in the worst way possible when the legal process drags out your unwanted relationship even longer since you're unable to walk away. (Some divorces can technically be granted, depending on state laws, based upon physical abandonment of a spouse, but that is a different topic entirely of its own.) If you've chosen to share your life with someone but have grown unhappy and bitter over time, every single asset within your home and life will have to be divided somehow, and rarely does a couple have enough of everything to evenly split between the two of them when it's all over. Feeling fueled by the frustrations of whatever has caused the marriage to fall into disarray, many spouses will go into a divorce hearing spiteful and causing further complications as a final act of revenge or punishment against the one they feel has done them wrong. As awful as it may sound, it is something that happens, and it happens often. Without that legal binding forcing you to endure the divorcing process, though, you can easily save a lot of time, money, and frustration if the fairy tale dream wasn't all that it seemed.
What If You Want Children?
Even if a couple chooses to have children, it is often easier to decide shared custody issues if there is no divorce involved. Sometimes it's just easier to part ways and agree on your terms which will care for the children and when and in what specific way. It may be less stressful and more simple to make an impartial decision regarding the children if the courts are not involved. Once the legal system has jurisdiction over the parents' right to the children, the rules won't change so easily if they're court-mandated. This factor can cause a lot of hostility, especially if child support is addressed and strongly enforced with the penalty of jail time if not paid. In a perfect world, even parents who split from a relationship with each other will still equally support and love the children they've created despite their significant other no longer want to be with them. Still, often this is an issue of extreme concern and importance and can turn nasty in a courtroom.
In unwed couples with children, the courts generally do not require any involvement unless child safety is raised or one of the parents seeks to have a paternity test completed and file for child support. If the couple is already married, this will mandatorily be discussed in the divorce agreement when they try to settle and finish the proceedings to finalize their split. Being married when children are involved also makes the split between the parents that much more defined and potentially a very negative emotional experience for the kids. Any couple choosing to reproduce needs to consider how they will feel and react one day if their relationship fizzles and they still have a child binding them together. Regardless of the parent's wishes, adding children into the mix means that the parents need to focus on them as their top priority in all aspects of their shared lives together, even if they one day part ways.
In potentially abusive situations (or ones not particularly safe due to other means), because some individuals do end up feeling trapped and that it's required of them to commit themselves to a harmful significant other for life, remaining unmarried and therefore not legally bound is the safest course of action if the two have had children together. Though it still would not be easy to escape such a pervasive situation, having one less tie can greatly increase the likelihood that the non-abusive parent and their child can eventually slip away and remove themselves from the circumstances without worrying about the other person using legal tactics to force them to stay or to keep the child exposed to such an environment.
If We Wish To Share A Home?
Choosing to share a home can involve renting and sharing expenses or purchasing as a whole together. This is possible without signing a marital contract and pledging "until death we do part." In the event of purchasing a home together, a non-married couple may have doubts if the relationship is going to last as long as a thirty-year mortgage, whereas that's usually far less of a concern for an incredibly hopeful married couple. Again, if things fall apart and the bridge of handling the home must be crossed, it is probably far less stressful to cross it without the court's intervention and to have someone else decide the final results of your matters for you. A couple can always enlist attorneys or even a mediator to help them with the process if they wish to part ways later on.
We are no longer living in the day and age where women need men to take care of them, and that dependence, especially from a financial point of view, should never be a reason for getting married or living together. Before deciding to commit to either one, it is important that each partner can live independently and sustain their lives and property on their own. By doing so, then the relationship is merely the cherry on top of a life that is already happy and stable.
The Choice Is Yours
Not all couples will find that they agree on joining into a marriage in the traditional sense with a ceremony, bells, whistles, and a strict binding of a legal nature. Sometimes they may choose to mesh their lives together in the literal sense without the legal repercussions of a standard marriage. Many couples in modern times are now opting even to buy rings, have a small ceremony with those closest to them, and recite vows of loyalty for life without ever involving the legal system, and this works just fine for them. Many couples still also choose the traditional route.
The ability to bounce ideas and confused or conflicted feelings off of the proverbial soundboard, in this case of a licensed professional therapist, at ReGain.us could be a good first step in helping a couple determine exactly what the goals for their relationship are and how they should best go about achieving those wants and needs. Not every path for the future is right for every couple, and seeking professional help can greatly benefit in helping a duo figure out what the best choice for them may be.
With ReGain.us, you can be assured that your concerns will most definitely be heard. Your sessions will be held online in the comfort and security of your own home (or homes). Allow one of our licensed professional therapists to help you in this life-changing decision so that your choice is based upon what you truly want for your committed relationship compared to feeling pressured by what everyone else thinks you should be doing instead.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the alternative to marriage?
Common-law marriage is one of the most common alternatives to traditional marriage. Common-law marriage is two people living together as couples without holding a wedding ceremony or obtaining a state marriage license. Typically, certain requirements must be met before a couple can be considered fit for common law marriage. These requirements include attaining legal age to get married, not marrying anyone else, and living together for a certain period of time. Common-law marriage is only recognized in 10 US states, all with varying prerequisites to show that you are eligible for common law marriage status. Once a couple is conferred with common law marriage status, they have access to all of the same rights enjoyed by traditional marriages despite not having a state marriage license. However, couples embracing common law marriage are not eligible for marriage certificates issued by states. While cohabitation ends when one of the couples moves out of the residence, a common law marriage can only end legally via a divorce, even though a marriage license is not involved. Some states in the US don't recognize common law marriage even to date.
Civil Unions are also used as alternatives to traditional marriage in modern societies. It's one of the marriage alternatives that confers two people with the legal status of a married couple, but only within the place where the union happens. Having approved the union, the couple will enjoy the same benefits as a married couple. This marriage alternative is currently available in a couple of states in the US. Some time ago, same-sex couples opted for this arrangement to enjoy marital benefits and rights when gay marriage was yet to be legalized. Even when many civil unions were conferred with the status of traditional marriage in 2015 in the wake of the decision taken by the U.S Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage, some couples still decided not to enter into a traditional marriage and were comfortable with the rights and benefits that these marriage alternatives provide. Bear in mind that other states may not recognize these marriage alternatives.
Cohabitation is when two people are living together in the same apartment without being legally married. While this marriage alternative may look culturally unacceptable in some climes, it is becoming increasingly acceptable in modern relationships. Cohabitation is one alternative to traditional marriage that doesn't afford the same rights as married couples. However, the cohabitating couples can clearly state their rights in a written agreement called a cohabitation agreement that spells out each party's rights concerning the property and other related issues. This alternative to traditional marriage is easy to form and easy to break, unlike traditional marriage alternatives like civil unions, common law marriage, or domestic partnerships.
Can You Be Committed Without Marriage
It's practically possible to be in a committed relationship without being legally married. A committed relationship is one of the viable alternatives to marriage. Though this marriage alternative will deprive you of the rights and benefits accorded to married people, you can enjoy the same level of bliss, joy, companionship, trust, and support found among married couples. If you don't like the formalities and legal implications that come with traditional marriage, you may want to consider other alternatives to traditional marriage, which include cohabitation, common law marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, and the like. Being in a committed relationship is one of the alternatives to traditional marriage that enable you to set your own rules of a relationship without being legally bound.
Unlike other marriage alternatives, you can easily opt-out of any serious relationship without any legal consequence. A committed relationship is a great idea for those who don't want to enter a traditional marriage. In a committed relationship, you can live together, have children, go out on vacations, make vows, have joint bank accounts, be a staple in each other's family, take faux wedding photos, etc. However, there is a disadvantage associated with committed relationships which is an exemption from the marriage certificate. Also, other alternatives to traditional marriage like a committed marriage are prone to an abrupt end, fear or terror of sudden abandonment, insecurity, etc.
What is an alternative lifestyle in a marriage?
Alternative lifestyle in marriage refers to adventurous and unconventional practices of married couples that involve either of the couples indulging in extra-marital affairs based on the agreements made by the two of them. Some alternative lifestyles include the swinger lifestyle. This is a situation in which a couple decides to swap partners with another couple. Other examples of an alternative lifestyle in a marriage include role reversal, group marriage, a rural commune, consensual extramarital sex, serial monogamy, polyandry, spouse swapping, and homosexual marriage. Traditionally married couples may also decide to allow any one of them to be involved in a secret gay marriage with an outsider. This explains why an alternative lifestyle in a marriage makes the relationship an open relationship. Studies show that people experimenting with alternative lifestyles in marriage learn vital lessons the hard way. Alternative lifestyle in marriage has some downsized, including jealousy, disillusionment, resentment, terror or fear of abandonment, discontinuity, instability, exhaustion, strife, and much more.
What Are the Benefits of Married Couples?
Whether it is a monogamous heterogeneous marriage or gay marriage, couples are entitled to many benefits and rights ranging from social security benefits, federal tax benefits, and federal employee health and retirement benefits. After the legalization of gay marriage in the US, same-sex couples are accorded many rights and benefits exclusively enjoyed by traditionally married couples. One of the greatest benefits a married couple can ever get in the US is an unlimited marital tax deduction. You can transfer an unlimited amount of assets to your spouse at any time, free from tax. This juicy benefit also includes leaving assets in your estate to your spouse without estate or gift tax subjection. Whether it's a traditional marriage or gay marriage, partners enjoy social security benefits. In a situation whereby you are not qualified for your own social security benefits, you can receive your partner's benefits. You can also receive Medicare, veterans, disability, military, and pension plan benefits through your partner. There are also health and employment benefits available to both heterogeneous couples and those in gay marriage. You can leverage your spouse's health insurance and get a family rate. This is useful for spouses who don't have health insurance.
Married couples stand a chance of getting a huge financial boost from other social security benefits: a spousal survivor benefit, spousal retirement benefit, and lump-sum death benefit. Couples can also take advantage of other tax benefits like estate tax portability, estate and gift tax exemption, and life estate trusts. There are also federal employment benefits, including health insurance for spouses and retirement plan benefits for the surviving spouse of a deceased federal worker. Many immigration benefits are available for married couples. For example, a non-U.S. citizen may procure a green card ( permanent residence permit) and later citizenship status when married or engaged to a U.S. citizen. Married couples are also entitled to an official marriage certificate and other important documents. Marriage is not a do-or-die affair. When one of the partners is no longer comfortable and happy in the marriage, they can file for divorce. Married couples who make the most of their marriage learn how best to avail themselves of these mouth-watering benefits.
What are the disadvantages of marriage?
Disadvantages of marriage include the expense and stress of marriage, restricted personal freedom, dealing with in-laws, getting bored and tired of each other as time goes by. Those who plan to enter into traditional marriage may face extra bureaucracy. As a newly-wed wife, you may have to change your name and official documents such as driver and social security licenses. This may cost you extra money and stress. Sharp differences in partners' personalities, tastes, preferences, and lifestyles can always generate arguments and fights. Having to live with your spouse's irritating habits and lifestyle for the rest of your life can be a big issue that may eventually result in divorce.
Studies show that individuals who achieved great success in marriage learn how to adapt, tolerate, forgive and move on. Most marriages dissolve on the grounds of infidelity, inadequate sexual satisfaction, and insecurity. To avoid the pain, regrets, and loss of marriage, many people seek better alternatives to traditional marriage. This explains why some people decide to stay committed in a relationship and always resist entering a traditional marriage. Traditional marriages also limit individual freedom and bring enormous responsibility. Married people are concerned about the needs and wishes of others like their spouses, children, and family members. As a single person, you live a carefree life without having to worry about others. Another disadvantage associated with marriage is that bad marriage can plunge people into loneliness, dissatisfaction and gloom. 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 28 percent of married couples feel dissatisfied, lonely, and gloomy almost or all the time, resulting from little or no care, attention, understanding, and love shown to them by their partners. A recent General Social Survey showed a higher rate of unhappily married couples.