Genius Aspirant

Children and Marriage

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My boyfriend of 18 months and I have been talking about having children, but for a variety of reasons he is reluctant to get married. I dont doubt his commitment, but I am concerned about having a child out of wedlock -- concerned about the legal implications, as well as the stigma on the child. Has anyone tried this, or know anyone that has?

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My boyfriend of 18 months and I have been talking about having children, but for a variety of reasons he is reluctant to get married. I don't doubt his commitment, but I am concerned about having a child out of wedlock -- concerned about the legal implications, as well as the stigma on the child. Has anyone tried this, or know anyone that has?

Here are some things you should think about:

Having a child and dying are the only things you can do in life that you can't UNdo.

If someone is unwilling to commit to you, can you trust him about the 18 year to forever commitment a child requires?

What's the hurry?

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My partner and I have a child, we're not married. Little Miles is 3 now, and cute as a button. Me and my partner are completely committed to each others - at least I am to her. It makes no difference to Miles, except that he has both our surnames (in the US - in France he has his mother's name).

Marriage is confusing because it's 3 things:

- An emotional state of mind;

- A civil contract;

- A government-sponsored legal status.

Those 3 are not the same thing and they don't have to be. I think of my partner as "my wife", but we're not married legally, only emotionally.

I'm not hostile to marriage (the civil institution), but I don't think it's necessary for a committed relationship. I also find silly the idea that because 2 people are in love and committed *now*, they will be forever, which is what marriage implies.

Americans are very conservative on marriage compared to French (and maybe other Europeans). There's a real stigma in living together without being married in the US, whereas I would never consider marrying anyone without living with them for a while. I think it's because of the much stronger religious mindset in the US. Whatever the reason, it's probable that an unmarried couple will face some form of social stigma. We have friends and family who (still!) gently suggest we should marry, with great regularity...

With this said, there are very real administrative and legal reasons to be married (or not, e.g. taxes). E.g., many health insurances cover the spouse, some cover same-sex domestic partners, but I don't know of any that cover domestic partners of the opposite sex.

Having children is best for people with some maturity both as individuals and as a couple. Maturity comes at different pace to different people. Eighteen months together might be a bit light in terms of life together - then again it might not, depending on your case. I would want more experience with my partner, personally (though of course there are plenty of cases of happy, healthy children coming into recent relationships, I suppose).

Children put a tremendous amount of stress on a relationship. They are a lot of work and they change your life. Whether they change one's life for the better depends on one's values. It's not an automatic thing.

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If a marriage is too much to commit to, even if it can be annulled, then having a child without that commitment raises questions for me. What are you scared of in marriage, that is more 'terrifying' than the responsibilities of child raring?

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My boyfriend of 18 months and I have been talking about having children, but for a variety of reasons he is reluctant to get married. I dont doubt his commitment, but I am concerned about having a child out of wedlock -- concerned about the legal implications, as well as the stigma on the child. Has anyone tried this, or know anyone that has?

I do not know the totality of your situation and hence why I find it hard to recommend what you might do. So, with that context in mind I do offer that you think about what some others have stated about commitment. From my perspective it does not seem that your boyfriend is committed as a committed person comes up with solutions to overcome their reluctance not excuses. With that said, I do think it is perfectly normal to be "reluctant" when someone first starts thinking about marriage as it is a large commitment of one's life/time to choose someone as your mate. But, I do think that if the relationship is going to workout there must be a chosen commitment and willingness to prioritize one's mate as one of theit top values. If he is unwilling to chose you as one of his top values, he will definetly not be able to face the extreme challenges of being a parent which requires a commitment very similar to being married.

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Thanks for all of the thoughtful responses. Interestingly, the difference between the US and Europe that Joss identifies seems to be illustrated in our responses here. In fact my partner has a similar approach to the institution as Joss -- as I mentioned the commitment issue does not bother me so much. I do however still worry about the stigma issue. Joss, I guess for you this is not an issue as you and your partner live in Europe and I assume plan to for the foreseeable future. We will, however, be living in the US, and as you note some of your US friends and family somewhat gently suggest you should get married.

Additionally, for Joss and any others that have had children outside of marriage, have you entered into separate legal agreements with your partner -- i,e, with respect to child support or other such things in the (likely or not) case that you may separate?

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We're currently living in France but Miles was born in the US and we'll be back there in the next 12 months.

I don't expect any real stigma for the child. As for us, we're both sufficiently secure that the social norms are not too much of a problem. In any case, most people assume we are married, and we don't go out of our way to say we're not. It makes really no difference in everyday life, especially if both people work and have good health coverage.

We don't have any formal agreement - obviously I have recognized Miles, and I am a legal guardian, but that's it.

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I also find silly the idea that because 2 people are in love and committed *now*, they will be forever, which is what marriage implies.

I think it implies that both people are committing to continuously engage in actions which are necessary to maintain their love. It is a stated intention of life long romantic focus. They won't be in love forever (most likely than not) if they don't. If someone did not want to marry me - it would mean they don't want to commit to that ongoing process and thus I would have to take that into consideration in my decision about what I want to invest into it knowing that.

It is not the same commitment as having a child together. I see those as very separate because they can be handled separately. If someone did not want to marry me but wanted a child with me - I would not see having a child together as a symbol of commitment to me. It not necessarily is. Marriage would be the commitment to the relationship with me.

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Last year I was a groomsman for my sister's wedding and it was the most moving event I've ever been to. To stand up there and see my little sister glowing with happiness and excitement was a moment I'll cherish forever. It underscored that this was not just the next boyfriend, but "the one", that she'd found her ideal man and wanted to share that joy with her loved ones. Did she "need" the marriage in order to spend her life with him? No, but why on earth would she skip a wonderful experience like that?

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Marriage seems to be transitioning into a more challenging institution for men. I know many good men who are struggling with wives who stray from their marriages, that fail to dedicate time required to raise children, or other serious issues. I don't think it has always been this way but I'm not sure. Perhaps your boyfriend has observed this too with other marriages.

I know several married couples in their 20s, and most of them have open marriages. I'm shocked by it. The institution of marriage seems to be going through a rapid transition into something non-traditional. This may be a disincentive for some young people to take the plunge.

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Marriage seems to be transitioning into a more challenging institution for men. I know many good men who are struggling with wives who stray from their marriages, that fail to dedicate time required to raise children, or other serious issues. I don't think it has always been this way but I'm not sure. Perhaps your boyfriend has observed this too with other marriages.

I know several married couples in their 20s, and most of them have open marriages. I'm shocked by it. The institution of marriage seems to be going through a rapid transition into something non-traditional. This may be a disincentive for some young people to take the plunge.

Very interesting observation Abaco. I know a man whose wife cheated on him, forced him to go to therapy to deal with their issues, but never told him about the affair. I think that is an extreme example, but now that you have raised it maybe it is part of a larger trend. I do think Europe has different sensibilities about such things. I am not sure which one is better, but I do think that trust and honesty are key whether you are in an open or monogamous relationship.

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