Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Tying the knot

I'm surprised marriage is still so popular, when cohabiting is now seen as perfectly normal - unlike in my younger days when it was still frowned upon. In fact my own father so disapproved of me and Jenny cohabiting in the 1980s that he left me nothing whatever in his will.

In 2015 the number of marriages in England and Wales had fallen by 40 per cent from 1947, the year I was born. But there were still 239,000 marriages, many of them elaborate affairs with exotic locations, lavish catering and all the trimmings.

Clearly marriage is still very meaningful to a lot of people. For me it's just some solemn promises in a suitably solemn venue, but for others it's a lot more. It marks a major turning point in their life, a huge transition and a huge commitment to another person.

Jenny and I cohabited for 14 years, and intended to carry on that way. We knew we loved each other and we didn't need a piece of paper to confirm it. But as I've explained before, we faced a minor crisis when Jenny's employer said that if she died her occupational pension could only go to a spouse and not to a cohabiting partner or significant other. So we bit the bullet and got married. What you might call a bit of creative accounting.

I think many people still believe that cohabiting amounts to something called common-law marriage, which gives you the same legal rights as those who are married. In fact cohabiting couples have no legal protections whatever, which may be one reason marriage is still popular.

I suspect it's also the celebrity effect. People see celebrities having extravagant weddings and want to do the same. Quiet devotion isn't enough. They want their day of glitter and glamour to prove they're serious. And can still look stunning in a wedding dress*.

*and that's just the men....

22 comments:

helen devries said...

We married only to facilitate transmission of possessions to avoid immediate family closing in like vultures.

John Gray said...

Not my favourite post of yours old nick x

nick said...

Helen: That seems like a very practical and sensible reason for getting married.

John: Eh, why not? Something to do with your own personal marital circumstances perhaps? I can understand you being somewhat disillusioned with the idea of marriage right now.

tammy j said...

I always thought it curious...
Angelina's and Brad's relationship seemed to fall apart soon after they got legally married. maybe just coincidence? maybe it was destined to end anyway. who knows? it's a legal piece of paper. I lived with Bob just a year before we married. even at that I had to have parental consent by law. if my dad had been alive he'd never have let me marry a man 10 years older. now I think it's probably not a big deal at all. like you say... so many things aren't. just the times moving forward.

Joared said...

I recall thinking people should live together before becoming legally entangled, but that was when I never expected to wed, much less live with someone. Even so, never aspired to some huge wedding and didn’t have one. I thought of any connection as private between two people. Our culture set up so easier to legally wed than try to be a couple otherwise for taxes, and other matters, so might as well to just do it.

nick said...

Tammy: I'd forgotten it used to be the custom to ask for your parents' permission to marry. Now that seems positively medieval! And yes, it can happen that once cohabiting couples get married, somehow that damages the relationship and it falls apart.

nick said...

Joared: It's definitely wise to cohabit for a while before getting married, to make sure you're genuinely committed to each other. People who rush into marriage after knowing each other for three weeks are asking for trouble.

Bijoux said...

If a couple plans to have children, I think they need to marry. If they are past that age, or have no intention to be parents, I really don't care.

Mike said...

I was in the navy at a school in Illinois adjacent to Lake Michigan and was coming up on a transfer to California. Karen said she was willing to move there, too. I told her we'd need to get married, then, even though we had known each other only about 2 weeks... and we did it, 5 weeks later.

There were a lot of reasons. Spouses have access to benefits that "girlfriends" don't: base medical, shopping, and support when the husband is deployed. Our daughters were both born on military bases; one in California, the other in Connecticut.

More importantly, at the time (1972), I felt it was the right thing to do. I just couldn't have her quit her job and take the risk of moving across the country with me. Too often sailors did badly by girls they met and I didn't want to be one of those. It wasn't a long, drawn out discussion, but it was one of the most momentous of my life.

Did I love her? I thought I did.

Today, I know I do.

Jenny Woolf said...

Sometimes marriage can be a nice excuse for a lovely party. It is not my taste but there are some weddings I've really enjoyed attending.

nick said...

Bijoux: There seem to be plenty of couples with children who are cohabiting, but I guess children could also do with the legal protections of marriage.

nick said...

Mike: So you married after 7 weeks. You were obviously very sure of your commitment to each other! Yes, I guess the benefits available to naval spouses are worth getting married for.

Jenny: Me too. Regardless of one's views on marriage, I have to admit wedding parties can be great fun!

Joared said...

Interestingly, the last time I read any statistics about cohabitation before marriage, the results reported those couples didn’t stay wed any longer than those who wed without having lived together first — pretty much equal divorce rates. Perhaps not what might be expected, unless thatbdata has changed.


CheerfulMonk said...

Andy and I didn't live together before we married --- 1964 was a different time. We had a very simple wedding because we were more interested in the marriage than the wedding itself.

nick said...

Joared: Interesting. So in the end the crucial factor isn't whether you cohabited but whether you're actually compatible in the long term.

Jean: Same here. Jenny and I had a simple register office marriage followed by a slap-up meal for our two witnesses, old friends of ours.

Chuck McConvey said...

As long as churches have any sway marriage will survive. Funny how certain old traditions survive to bite us in the ass forever

nick said...

Chuck: Indeed, churches have a big influence still. And yes, old traditions die hard. I think tradition is a great source of security for many people, even if that tradition makes no rational sense whatever!

Z said...

I'm too old to be rational, Tim and I wanted to get married for the joy of it. Not that we or anyone else would have thought anything of us just carrying on living together - seems that we're just the marrying kind and we like it that way :)

Secret Agent Woman said...

As you know, I've been married twice. Both small, lovely weddings with friends and family in attendance. I regret neither of them, nor getting married either time. Marriage is an expression of optimism and even if, in the long run, it doesn't work out, there is still much that can be wonderful about marriage. I think there is something important about legally and formally binding yourself to another.

nick said...

Z: Fair enough. Different strokes for different folks and all that!

Agent: I must say Jenny and I didn't notice any significant difference in our relationship after we married. We still love each other to bits! And we were optimistic about the future from our very early days as co-habitees. Marriage just continued the optimism!

Ms Scarlet said...

I agree with Z! I got married to throw a party.... the joy of it!! It wasn't a big budget affair....just a fabulous reason to drink and dance :-)
Sx

nick said...

Scarlet: Good for you. Any excuse for a party, ha ha.