After decades of being single, I’m thinking of getting married. It’s not because I finally found true love, or because I want to wear a white dress (again) or because I fantasize about domestic bliss. It’s because I’m tired of being shut out from the perks and benefits that marriage provides.
It’s an idea that I’ve discussed with my good friend Albert. Neither one of us is dating much. We’re too busy doing other things. We’re both divorced and have no interest in another traditional marriage.
He has grown kids; I have none and no desire to raise any. If we got married purely as a legal decision — no church, no wedding hoopla and please don’t call me “wife” — we would have all the goodies that come to those who marry in the usual way. But rather than an emotionally charged romantic relationship, it would be an amicable business partnership instead.
With a signed wedding license in hand and five minutes before a judge, I could be covered by his union-employee health insurance and stop paying a small fortune in premiums and co-pays. Our car insurance rates would drop in price. We could file a joint tax return and write off my business expenses (I’m self-employed) against his W-2 income for a bigger return. If either one of us were to die, the survivor would receive the other’s Social Security benefits instead of all that money being absorbed by the federal government. And the complicated technicalities of major investments, such as buying a home, would simplify dramatically. I could pool my 401(k) funds with his pension. We could make important decisions for each other in case of an emergency.
But tell the world you’re creating a partnership with a trusted friend, using the existing legal framework of marriage, and watch their horrified reaction. They’ll say your marriage is a sham; that you’ve gamed the system; that there ought to be a law against such a thing. But the reality is that people have been marrying for practical reasons for centuries. It’s just not openly acknowledged. It’s not something you’re supposed to talk about. You’re supposed to be in love; you’re supposed to sleep in the same bed; and you’re supposed to fit this ideal of happily ever after. But how many really achieve marital bliss — or start that way and end up quite another?
Since marriage is regarded as strictly for those who’ve declared their romantic love, just about everyone would bristle that we’ve made a mockery of marriage. Our families wouldn’t understand why there were no wedding rings, no honeymoon and why we have a social life that doesn’t always involve the other. And my single friends would no doubt accuse us of selling out and buckling under social pressure to “get married already!”
But you don’t have to be in love or even feign love to get married — you don’t even have to live together once you’re hitched. Arranged marriages are legal. And even though some people marry just to get a green card, it’s trying to get the card that way that’s illegal, not the marriage itself.
I’m not advocating that people marry for practical reasons on a whim any more than I think people should do it for purely emotional reasons. Marriage is serious business. It’s a legal, binding contract – something I learned all too well during my divorce. But if you trust and respect each other (as Albert and I do); like each other and get along pretty well (we do); and can benefit greatly from, dare I say, a “marriage of convenience,” then it deserves consideration. It might even be more stable than many romantic marriages since it’s a rational decision, not an emotional one.
This kind of marriage wouldn’t be for everyone, certainly not if you have romantic dreams of finding your true love and walking down the aisle. But for others, it could be a great alternative, particularly if you’re finding it hard to make ends meet without the institutional benefits that marriage provides. And now, with same-sex marriage being legal, gender wouldn’t be an issue, either. You could make an alliance with anyone who would be open and suitable for creating a long-term, legally protected, mutually beneficial partnership.
So, my single friends, why soldier the more difficult path just because you’ve been told that marriage is only for romantic partners? It can just as easily make life better for two committed friends.