How To Know If Marriage Is For You

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today's topic: how to know if marriage is for you.

Q: My partner and I have been together a few years. He doesn't really see the need for us to ever get married, and says he's already committed to me. My parents are divorced, so it's not like I’m so into the idea, either. But I want to make sure we're making the right decision, and that I'm also protecting us as a couple with stuff like hospital rights. We talked about a domestic partnership -- is that a good middle ground? How do we go about talking about whether we want to get married, and why we'd do it? I want to be logical but I find myself getting so emotional when we try to talk about it!

A: Thanks for the question! More and more people these days are deciding not to get married, but marriage is still so entrenched in our culture that it can still be uncomfortable decision to decide not to get hitched. Here are nine things to consider before deciding if marriage is or isn’t for you.

1. Do Your Research

Getting married isn’t an entirely romantic decision. There are lots of logistical and financial benefits to marriage too — tax breaks, inheritance benefits, disability benefits, health and life insurance, parental leave, legal rights, and more. These rights can vary from state to state, so it’s worth doing your research. With your boyfriend, look up the specific rights that married people are given in your state or country.

As you’re doing this research, look into other options that are available in your area, like domestic partnership or common-law marriage. You’re right that domestic partnership can be a great middle ground since it gives you many of the same legal rights as a married couple, but it’s not always an option. It also typically doesn’t offer all of the same benefits of marriage. Make sure you research the specific legalities of domestic partnerships in your state.

2. Think About The Future

It also helps to think about any specific plans the two of you have for your lives together. Do you want to buy a home or create a business together? How might being married affect joining your finances? Do you want to have kids? How might their lives be affected by the two of you being married or not being married? I know it’s morbid, but it’s also useful to talk about what might happen if one of you were to get gravely injured, disabled, or pass away. See what I mean about marriage not just being a romantic decision?

3. Talk To Your Friends

Do you have any friends that are married? Ask them what marriage means to them and why they decided to get married. Ask if there’s anything they wish they had known before they got married. Ask about the perks of being married. Similarly, do you have any friends that have consciously decided not to get married? Ask them why they made that decision. (Tell them you’re considering the same, so they’re less likely to get defensive.) Ask if there’s any way that not being married has negatively affected their lives or relationship. It’s always helpful to hear from people who have been there.

4. ... And Your Parents

It might also be an interesting exercise to talk to your parents about marriage. A lot of children of divorce have jaded views of marriage, but how do your parents actually feel about it? What did they like about being married? What didn’t work? What do they wish for you? One of the biggest misconceptions about divorce is that it’s the “failure” of a relationship. It’s easy to see an ending as a failure, but that’s not always the case. We can still learn, grow, and have tons of amazing memories in a relationship that ends in a divorce.

5. Remember That You Get To Decide What Marriage Means

A lot of people are afraid of turning into an “old married couple,” but it’s really important to remember that you get to decide what marriage means to your relationship. Marriage doesn't need to mean a white picket fence, two cars in the garage, two kids, and a dog. Marriage doesn't have to mean settling or getting boring. Hell, marriage doesn't even need to mean monogamy. Maybe your version of marriage is creating a life of adventure together. Maybe it's always challenging each other to grow and be your best selves. Maybe it's going to swingers parties or nudist retreats. It’s your relationship; you get to define it. And marriage doesn't need to define you.

6. Know You Don’t Have To Have A Wedding

A lot of people think that having a wedding and getting married are the same thing, but they’re not. You can get married without having a wedding! I’ve worked with a lot of clients who didn’t approved of the wedding industry, or didn’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a lavish affair. That’s perfectly OK. (It’s also perfectly OK to want a big wedding.)

7. ... And That You Can Choose How To Celebrate

The cool thing about weddings is that they’re ritualized expressions of your love and commitment to each other. They’re celebrations, and they can involve all of your most cherished friends and family. Just as you get to decide what marriage means to you, you can decide if and how you want to celebrate your commitment to each other. It can be anything you want — a backyard BBQ, a group river rafting trip, or a living room dance party. Maybe you want to buy rings or get matching tattoos. Maybe you want to go on a special getaway trip together. Or you can decide not to do a damned thing!

8. Let Yourself Be Emotional

Whether you guys end up deciding to get married or not, it sounds like you’re having some pretty serious discussions about your future as a couple. It’s natural to feel emotional about that! If you’re feeling embarrassed, say something like, “I know it’s easy to get swept up in trying to make the best possible decision on paper, but I just want to let you know how happy I am to know that we’re in this for the long haul together. You mean so much to me.”

9. Choose Marriage — Don’t Default To It

So many people get married because they think that they’re “supposed to.” I hear things like, “well, we’ve been together for two years, so I guess it’s time” or “I’m a 35 year old man, I can’t keep wasting my time” or “all my friends are married.” You shouldn’t get married because you’re “supposed to;” you should get married because you want to. You might have purely logistical, entirely unemotional reasons for wanting to get married, but it should be an active decision that you choose.

Wishing you guys the best of luck!

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