For Cassandra*, the concept of marriage feels limited and unnecessary. The 30-year-old non-profit worker said they disputed the way weddings forced people to form legal unions in order to obtain certain economic and social privileges. Their partner Drew* also made it clear early on that his feelings are mutual. Watching his parents get divorced and then remarried three or four times, it bored him with the whole idea. However, about two years after they established a partnership, he felt it necessary to clarify: Refusing to marry does not mean that he does not want to establish a long-term relationship.
Fortunately, Cassandra is on the same page. Once they can confirm these intentions with each other, it's all smooth sailing. Fast forward to now, the two have been in love for seven years, living together, and living with three cats. According to Cassandra, the two intend to be together forever-just without paperwork.
They are not the only couple who choose to give up their vows. According to statistics, the marriage rate has been steadily declining in recent decades. According to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, the United States set the lowest marriage rate in 2019 since the government began tracking this data in 1867-6 marriages per 1,000 people. Another recently released Pew Research Center analysis of US Census data found that the proportion of unmarried adults aged 25 to 54 jumped from 17% in 1990 to 33% in 2019, while the proportion of married adults increased from 67% dropped to 53%.
Now, these trends do not necessarily mean that everyone is deliberately opposed to marriage-many unmarried and unmarried people do still desire to get married someday, and many experts attribute the decline in marriage rates to low-income and marginalized people becoming increasingly difficult to get married. people.
At the same time, people's attitudes towards marriage are also changing. A Pew report in 2017 found that one in seven people who had never been married didn't want to get married at all, and another 27% were unsure whether they would. At the same time, a Pew report in 2019 found that about six in ten people believe that cohabiting couples can raise children like married couples, and most people do not believe that marriage is essential to a fulfilling life. Among those currently living with a romantic partner, 24% said they do not want to get married.
Anna Dow, a registered marriage therapist at LMFT, said that in the last century, the social, cultural, and economic pressures of marriage have been largely eased. This is partly because of the changing and evolving ways of gender roles and expectations, especially for women.
"Women are now able to gain financial independence, and their roots are changing gender roles, and outdated marriage arrangements are no longer needed," she explained. "Traditional marriage is still an alternative. Many people consider it to be satisfactory and satisfactory. At the same time, we are more than ever in human history in terms of how each of us chooses life and love. free."
Before that, couples will discuss their stance on marriage — or, more precisely, not getting married — and why this does not affect their level of commitment to their partners.
There are many reasons why couples choose not to get married, even if they plan to stay together for the rest of their lives.
In 2012, when the 45-year-old Atlantic City writer Rachel* met her boyfriend Arthur** for the first time, he was in divorce. The process of officially ending the relationship was unnecessarily arduous—it took about two years—which is one of the many reasons Rachel was not interested in marriage: she did not want to sign the many legal rules surrounding it.
"I really don't want other people to be involved in my business, whether I stay together or not [with someone]," she explained. "We are joking, but we are also serious. We often say to each other, "You can leave at any time. "I mean, I think it would be very devastating if one of us went out, but at the same time, I think we all feel that we want to make sure the other is there because they want to be there, not because they Signed a piece of paper that is hard to get rid of. I don’t think either of us wants to be in a relationship where the other side feels they are obliged to stay."
While some people may find security when swearing to each other for life, people like Dow - despite working as a marriage therapist in California, but personally choosing to divorce her long-term partner who has been with her for 13 years - in fact, She and her partner kept choosing each other's ways time and time again, which comforted her.
"My personal favorite thing about choosing to quit church or state domination of my relationships is that I am convinced that [my relationships] are actively selected because they currently provide high value for me and my partner," she said.
Dow is not always in favor of giving up marriage. She introduced the idea of non-monogamy in her relationship with her partner Revis for about two years, but marriage is still her concern. However, after about five years of their relationship, Reavis shared with her a desire to change their relationship more completely: he no longer wants to live like "us", which means for him to continue to share a paragraph while opting out Loyal love relationships live together, share finances, make major life decisions together, and integrate the traditional dynamics of their lives in other ways. Of course, this also includes opting out of marriage.
This is a major change in their relationship. They have communicated openly for several months, and for Dow, they have also carried out some important reflections. Specifically, she said she had to spend time deliberately forgetting many mainstream social narratives about love and expectations surrounding how relationships "should" develop. She explained that people often experience social pressure and need to take the so-called relationship escalator, which refers to a term coined by journalist Amy Gahran to describe the traditional trajectory of expected relationships. "If we don't deliberately decide to go down the metaphorical escalator, we will be pushed forward with typical expectations, such as getting married, having children, or buying a house, regardless of whether these decisions are really the best choice for us."
In the next two years, Dow and Revis changed to a different way of getting along. Today, she is convinced that their current dynamics—including living in separate mobile homes, where they often park near each other, and the aspect of multiple love—are more suitable for their personalities and desires. "For a while in my life, I felt that this showed that my long-term partner did not want to get married, and it showed that I lacked commitment," she said. "After attending many weddings in our divorced 13-year relationship, I no longer feel that way."
For Cassandra, opting out of marriage just supports a certain degree of independence and makes them feel more comfortable. They and their partner Drew are also non-monogamous, and being able to experience things alone and have a different life feels really satisfying.
"I don't want it to disappear. It's not that I think marriage will get in the way, but that I just don't like to be attached to anything," they explained. “It’s good to promise a person’s mental and emotional thoughts for the rest of my life, because I’ve done this in my brain, but I don’t want to sign on the same paper like they did.”
Rachel and Arthur have been together for about 10 years, nine of which have been living together. Their lives are deeply intertwined: they recently bought a house together, they are in each other's will, they support each other through family deaths and emergency room visits, and they are currently trying to start a family.
"I think we have taken steps that many married couples will also take," Rachel said. "Especially the longer we are together, the more things we experience. I feel like married people will feel as engaged."
When she met Arthur for the first time, Rachel knew she wanted to settle down with someone for a long time-but even so, she was never interested in getting married. Her parents are divorced, so marriage has never been particularly important to her. She understands why a couple may enjoy the comfort of each other's public commitments, but everyone she knows already understands the level of commitment between her and Arthur. She said that the longer they were together, the more useless it seemed to get married.
"I think everything about [spouse] is, I already [are]," she explained. "In terms of how I take care of him or how he takes care of me or our commitment to each other, I really can’t think of anything that will change my marriage. I just don’t really see the reason for doing this, I think we have gone through Many good things, but also experienced many tests and health problems-this is the promise."
Most of the couples interviewed by TZR for this story did not have strong moral objections to the overall concept of marriage, and many admitted that it was a good choice for many people. For some people, letting others—especially older and more traditional people—be able to easily understand the depth of your relationship through the three words "husband", "wife" or "spouse" is simply one thing. Kind of relief. In other words, many people interviewed questioned the dominance of the marriage system—and the social pressure it often bears. "This is a very flawed institution, and I kind of rely on it deliberately, I don't like that," Cassandra said.
For example, Cassandra is considering establishing a family partnership with their partner Drew so that they can obtain his health insurance. "I don't want things to go to this point. But I need health insurance, and I don't want to pay hundreds of dollars a month for this," they said. "This is a flawed institution because it forces you to do such things. Health insurance is closely related to marriage or employment, and the divorce law is such shit.... Just like you marry for medical insurance, if This is [the reason why you got married], you don't necessarily have a good relationship, and then you are trapped."
Both Cassandra and Dow pointed out that the relationship between the marriage system and patriarchy and capitalism was the key reason for choosing to avoid it. "During the Enlightenment era in the late 18th century, the narrative of marriage changed from a financial arrangement (where women were basically sold as property) to about love," Dao explained. "Nevertheless, the remnants of these outdated arrangements can still be found in modern wedding ceremonies, such as fathers sending their daughters away, women swearing'love, respect and obedience' to their husbands, and couples using men's surnames."
After all, deciding to get married is a very personal choice-this is the point. This is a choice.
"I am not against marriage. I went to the wedding. I cried at the wedding," Rachel said. "I think for me, this is not what I want to do. I think if I do it now, I really just do it to appease others, not because this is what I want."
For some people, marriage is not a necessary condition for a lifetime commitment. If there is no marriage, their relationship will feel very rich and safe-if not.
Cassandra said: "I think your ultimate goal should be just to get along well with your partner, to have a support system between each other, and a really very nourishing relationship." "The goal should not be marriage. The goal should be The long-term relationship you want to build."
*For privacy reasons, the last name has been omitted.
**The name has been changed to protect privacy.