Marriage Mondays: Do You Need to Get Married?

Clara Bow and husband Rex Bell in 1931 holding their marriage certificate

A while back, I was googling "Not the Marrying Kind" to see what comes up (besides this blog that is). In my google analytics, I always see people landing on my blog because they search for those terms, so I was curious what else popped up in the search. I happened onto this New York Times article from 2004. I started reading it, thinking that it wouldn't be that interesting to me, but instead found myself absorbed in the story of author Cora Daniels's parents.

Cora Daniels's parents chose not to get married. They felt they never needed that piece of paper to prove their commitment to the world. But those words that the author's mother spoke to her in the end, expressing her regret at not having married says a lot about what you might feel when there's only one of you left standing. There is a reason so many have fought for the right to marry. Marriage does give you, as the partner in that relationship, a lot of rights. Most of all, though, it gets you respect. After all, you're not just some woman, you're the wife. I think perhaps, in the end, that's what Cora Daniels's mother was regretful of...not being given the respect of a wife.

The whole thing brings up an interesting question, though: Is it necessary to get married at all? When I was very young, I didn't think I would ever get married. My parents were divorced, so were those of many of my friends. My two oldest brothers never married and my sister had been divorced at such a young age. I didn't think love or marriage really lasted.

Then, when I was 21, I studied abroad in Florence. I took a Creativity Workshop with all these adults. It was kind of odd, actually. I was there with three other students from the University of Iowa and the rest of the class was filled with people 35 or older. I didn't mind as much as the other U of Iowa kids because I grew up around much older siblings and their friends. I was used to hanging out with older people. One of our assignments was to interview a fellow student and introduce them to the class the next day. I was paired with this Irish woman. We went out to dinner to interview each other and of course I asked her if she had ever been married. She hadn't, but she had been in an eleven year relationship. They had lived together, bought a home together, built a life together, all but married and had kids (neither had wanted them). To her, ending that relationship was as painful as a divorce. It made me think that maybe there was something to not getting married. Would I be okay if I built a life with someone and didn't marry? Or was marriage the end-all be-all for me?

As it turns out, marriage was important for me. It was a statement of dedication that I decided, in the end, I did need. I think I'd dated too many guys who wouldn't fully commit or something. There are a lot of different incidents that led me to my own personal beliefs, which are frankly neither here nor there. After all, I have a lot of friends who are not married and some who don't even live together, but they've been together longer than some of my now divorced friends. Marriage is not the end-all be-all for everyone. For me, it was important, but I don't think it's necessary for everyone. Like, Kim Kardashian. Maybe she didn't need to get married, you know?

So, what do you think? Do you need that little piece of paper? Or is it just a formality?

Do you subscribe to Not the Marrying Kind? If not, you should! It's free and fun and it means you automatically get new posts when the blog is updated. No having to check back! Click here for more details!

(Photo of Clara Bow and Rex Bell holding their marriage certificate by CharmaineZoe)


  1. I don't remember where I read this story, and it was a long time ago, but it was an analogy between marriage and this competition between 2 brothers: they wanted to see which one could swim accross the lake the fastest. The younger brother was certain that he would win, but in the end, the oldest brother did arrive first. So the young one was a bit upset and asked his sibling how he had done that and his reply was: "I gave everything I had, I didn't save anything for the way back."
    And that's marriage, to me. There's no guarantee you're going to reach the other side safely, but you tell the world you're willing to give everything you have, and you tell your partner you're not saving anything for the way back.

  2. Ironically, I JUST answered this question for a guest essay for Happy Sighs. You might be interested in the series she's doing, actually, if you haven't already read it: http://www.happysighs.com/?s=why+we+wed

    This is all extra interesting to me, because we COULDN'T get that little piece of paper, but it was hugely important to get married anyway- to both of us. To me, marriage is a community-based act, and it's important to affirm your commitment to your partner in front of your community, whether or not you can legally get (or want) a marriage license.

  3. This is so timely! I'm working on a play right now where this is an issue between the two leads (they've been together for close to nine years, never felt the need to get married, then one of them has a medical emergency overseas and they have no legal relationship. It's definitely a topic that has gone home with many of us working on the show.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...