Originally, the title of this article was “confessions of a newlywed”. Seeing that by now I no longer carry that title, I had to come up with something else. That’s a bummer, because it would have been cool. The flip-side is that what I am about to share with you, is probably more credible now.
A few years after I moved in with my husband (back then still my boyfriend), people started making remarks about us getting engaged, were asking us when we would finally make it official and someone even dared, to offer my husband a loan (in front of me), so he could get a ring. Not awkward at all right?
The truth is that in the beginning, it didn’t bother me and I shook it off easily. After a while though, these questions and interventions really started getting on my nerves. Especially because the married folks, kept on telling me that “it is different once you are engaged or married”. Implying that engagements or marriages are game-changers that take your relationship to the next level and that up until that point, your relationship is not such a serious commitment quite yet.
Now I get that this makes sense for the classical scenario, where a man and woman have not lived together prior to their nuptials. Then sniffing each other’s morning breath, washing your partner’s dirty socks and bearing the costs of a shared household can definitely come as a shock. However, if you’ve done the cohabitation thing already for a while and you still want to get engaged or married, there is really no difference between a regular relationship or marriage. Bold statement for a married gal, I know. That is how I see it and I find it important to explain my view, as I know that many unmarried couples are struggling with this matter. In my opinion, there is just a “perceived difference” because the external world (your social network, family and government) looks at the relationship in a different light once you tie the knot and that effect may carry over on the actual relationship.
By that I mean, that when you wake up the day after the wedding, not feeling any different – everybody else will make sure you do. The fact that all sorts of people now randomly congratulate you and call you Mr. and Mrs., implies a certain significance and gives a greater sense of responsibility towards each other. Moreover, let’s face it - no one congratulates the happy couple that decides to finally become exclusive or that wants to move in together. At least, not on that level. Additionally, if you break up “just as a couple” – it hurts equally, but there are less administrative costs involved than when you go through divorce, as a legally married couple. Similarly, if you have invested a large share of your savings and/or financial assets in a wedding or engagement ceremony – you are probably more likely to fight harder for the relationship as in both financial and social terms, there is more to lose. The whole world (or at least, everyone that matters to you) saw you publicly saying, “Yes, I do “to each other and now you’re going to wreck that perfect image, by getting divorced or calling off the engagement. Ouch.
However, if my claim that being engaged or married (after having lived together for a while) is no different from an actual marriage, is not convincing you - then picture the following: imagine living in a community where no one ever gets married and where society is not bound at all by tradition, but by practicality. Couples live together as long as they can and they have children out of wedlock. Would you then still want to formalize the bond of love between you and your partner? Would it be of importance, to invite your friends and family for a specific moment in time and declare your love in front of them? Probably not. If you were to live happily ever after in this wedtopia and everybody knows that you are in a committed relationship, then why would you go through the hassle of inviting the entire community to shove your love in their faces? Ok, I think you get my drift.
My point is that, engagements, weddings or any type of nuptial ceremony are the result of a social construct, of which its historical origin (beyond economic or religious considerations) remains unclear and is culture dependent. So aside these purposes, nowadays there is no point to get married, really. My husband and I did it for obvious reasons: he had an ultra-orthodox Jewish upbringing and the majority of our family and friends are quite traditional. Besides that, we really love a good party.
That said, if you are in a similar situation and have money to spare, by all means - go ahead. However, if that’s not the case, or you are in dilemma whether you should get married or not – take it from me: there is no difference between living together and being married or engaged. Just not. And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. You’ll end up broke and disappointed.