People say the strangest things when you’re unmarried with children
“Are you getting married?”
“Why aren’t you guys married?”
“You know if something happens to you he can’t make decisions for you in the hospital.”
“You know if you die he may not be allowed to make your funeral arrangements…”
“Won’t your kids be confused when they realize their mom and dad aren’t married?”
“Legally, you and your partner are strangers.”
These are all things that have been said to or asked of me — and there are many more where that came from. My partner and I have been together for 10 years and we have two children. The world is very concerned that we’re not married. For some reason, the fact that we never tied the knot makes some people feel that it’s their duty to offer unsolicited advice — especially of the legal variety.
There are plenty of people I’d like to ask the question, “Why did you get married?” I know couples who don’t seem to like each other, couples who have nothing in common, and couples who have completely different values. When people say something like, If you die, he’s not your next of kin, I have no words. I’ve managed to make it to 40 years without saying, Your husband is kind of an idiot, are you sure the kids will be okay if you die? I mean, custody will definitely go to him — you’re married. I’ve also managed to avoid saying, Your wife is super religious. Are you sure she’s going to honor your wishes to be cremated? You should put that in writing.
Also, is everyone aware that single people can execute a will and assign power of attorney? They can! Isn’t that amazing? You don’t have to be married for the law to recognize that you’re allowed to assign rights for what happens to your possessions and your children after you die. Who knew?
There are all sorts of legal documents that take care of all of the issues that people bring up — but that’s not the point. The point is the assumption that I’m by default being careless because I decided not to marry. It’s an assumption that’s not made about people who do. I know people who have been married several times who aren’t subject to the lines of questioning that come up for me fairly regularly. It’s like a marriage certificate earns you some default respect, which would make sense if 50% of those unions didn’t end in divorce.
As for our children being confused about us not being married, they’re smart kids and the world is changing. I’m sure they’ll be able to wrap their little brains around the idea that not everyone gets married, not everyone has to get married, and that marriage is a choice that not everyone makes.
Do you know who can talk to me about this stuff? My sister. She’s the one who’s tasked with the responsibility of taking care of my kids if my partner and I die in a fiery crash or something. There are plenty of legal details I don’t know about the unions of my friends who are married — and I would never ask because it’s none of my fucking business. And what happens in my family if I die, or my partner dies, or whatever is no one else’s business, either.