Alternatives to Marriage: 12/1

Do you have to get married?

If your family isn’t united in matrimony, you’re part of a growing trend. Since 2005 in the U.S., most households are headed by a single person or unmarried couple. So why do we still structure everything from our concepts of adulthood to income tax brackets on the basis of marital status?

Both laws and social mores are changing with regard to marriage: questions of who may marry, and who must marry, have an evolving multiplicity of answers when it comes to jurisdiction, cohabitation, parenthood, gender, age, handicaps, and other factors.

Are you forbidden to marry? Is this a temporary condition? Explain.

In what ways have we shifted in our acceptance of unmarried couples? What values do we retain, and which ones need to be reexamined?

What is your unmarried life like? What rights and privileges do your married peers enjoy that you do not? Is it fair? Why or why not? And if not, how could society correct this injustice?

Are you a gay man who feels pressure from family and friends to exercise your right to marry?

Does legislation sway your opinion on marriage?

When did you decide not to marry? What were the deciding factors?

How would becoming someone’s husband change how you see yourself as a man?


The Good Men Project is answering the question, “What does it mean to be a good man in the twenty-first century?” The Good Life is home to themed discussions on the lifestyle associated with this quest.

Writers, your submissions on men, masculinity, and alternatives to marriage are currently being solicited for an upcoming section on The Good Life. For consideration, send your final drafts to Justin Cascio, Senior Editor of The Good Men Project, by email  at by Saturday, December 1. Pitches and queries welcome.


Read more Calls For Submissions to The Good Life.

Image credit: Lee Fenner/Flickr

About The Good Life @ GMP

"The Good Life" is asking men of the 21st century, What does your "good life" look like? Weekly themes, new content daily. Follow us here on The Good Men Project, on Twitter @GMPGoodLife, and Facebook.


  1. I have chosen not to legally marry for a few reasons.
    Firstly, I made an oath to never legally remarry until ALL peoples can legally marry. Huge steps have already been taken in this direction. It’s completely legal for people of different faiths and races to marry, and even children can marry with the consent of their parent(s). Still, same-sex marriage has not been legalized. I have abstained from legal marriage since I took this oath almost two years ago and, until same-sex marriage is legal, will continue to do so.
    Secondly, I believe legal marriage is unconstitutional. Because marriage is a very spiritual (and often religious) thing, the government has no right to make any endorsement for or against it under the Freedom of Religion clause of the First Ammendment. A civil union, on the other hand, may be constitutional since it is not an inherently spiritual/religious thing.
    Thirdly, being a young divorcee before taking my oath not to marry, I learned what a marriage is NOT in my eyes. It’s my belief that not marrying legally would help me to better make the commitment of marriage. A person should not recieve a plethora of rights, some of which they may not want, simply by signing a piece of paper. A much better symbol of your commitment would be making a real effort to obtain those rights that you wish to have. Though I would want my spiritual husband to have control of my finances following my death, I would not necessarily want him to control them during life. There are simply benefits to both parties to keep their finances separate until merging them where necessary. A legal marriage, in many ways, treats the couple as a single entity. That is not what marriage is in my eyes. To me, a marriage is about partnership rather than co-dependence, two people working together for the benefit of every individual in the family unit.

    For these reasons, as well as those of others, I believe spiritual marriages and legal civil unions should be (and are in my mind) two separate but potentially complimentary things.

  2. Master of the house? “Honor and obey”? Continuation of patriarchy. It might take you a while to find a woman who’s willing to give up her agency and sovereignty for you. You say that you want to find a woman who doesn’t just look at you for your $$$ and property, but yet you want a woman who will consent to being your property, which is what “master of the house”, and “obey” basically amount to (actually, slavery really).

    Honor and obey are NOT required words in wedding vows. In fact, you can pretty much write them to be whatever you want, other than a few specific phrases required for legality, none of which include anything about obeying.

    Things don’t “need” to be any particular way. Two adults can and should be able to negotiate the kind of relationship they want. If YOU want a relationship in which you are the master (and find a woman who wants that), then you have every right to that. (As much as I may not like certain relationship models for myself, you’re an adult and have the right to choose your own kind of relationship.)

    Being “the master” is not the antidote to an abusive relationship, it just sets it up so that the other person is vulnerable to abuse and on the losing end of the power dynamics. An imbalance of power pretty much guarantees conflict if the other person starts feeling like the imbalance is unfair. The only way to avoid an abusive relationship is to be equals, with each person having their own agency, opinions, and needs respected and celebrated by the other.

  3. yes i know the kind of responce,s im going to get for this however i think that it allso need,s to be pointed out that thire are allso a lot of men out thire who are or would be perfitaly happy being marryed again however trying to find that right kind of women who know,s that her husband is the master of the house and that the larger part of the wedding vow is love honner and obey him are way,s thing,s need to be and stay and thire are far to many outside influance,s that interfear in this as welll as far to many men who are not willing to step up i know in my case were i to find the right kind of women again i would marry her however in the mean time why would i want to be with any women who only see,s value in me as what kind of $$$ or property i bring to our marrage yes i have no issuse with suporting my bride or wife however that dose not mean that i would suffer a nother abusive marrage or relanship so tilll i find the right lady in my life again i enjoy my life as much as i can

  4. (Can we please not refer to children born out of wedlock as “illegitimate”? It’s bad enough that we [yes, I am one] are discriminated against in many laws with respect to inheritance and citizenship, but being called “illegitimate” as if we are somehow not valid or inferior just burns.)

    Sometimes I wish there was some kind of renewable term marriage , like say, 5 or 10 years at a time, with a clear legal framework for dissolution of assets at the end of the term. Might sound crazy, but whatever. Seems more reasonable than “til death do us part” when half of marriages end in divorce.

  5. Stanley Steemer says:

    I’d say marriage could be a good deal for both parties if you stay married till death, and not such a good deal if you do not. And nowadays most do not. I’m 0 for 2, and no longer willing to take the risk. I’ve seen that a marriage can end without my consciously doing anything to warrant it, and the lawyers don’t care who did what.

  6. Chris Anthony says:

    Kelly. I’m actually sure that I’m right in my research because my sources are actual lawyers (plural). Some are friends and one I’ve discussed with at length at cost to myself . I’ve actually seen te statutes involved with passing property with my own eyes in the law texts. In fact they can even be illegitimate( as improbable for my life as that may be). All is needed is a will, but simply having the fathers name and social on the birth certificate as it should be would eliminate it. DNA tests can prove paternity as well for purposes of legitimacy. Property that a person owns is not admissible in probate court as child support unless they cannot afford to pay up. To continue jail is a more likely sentence for not paying than the scenario awarding property to the other non-married parent who does not own it. Quite simply a non married parent is not entitled to anything other than child support and only if they are awarded sole custody. “Unfairness” is having your property seized and awarded to a non-spouse while fairness is having to pay to support the children you’ve helped create and thankfully the American justice system has gotten that right. I am sure of these things

    • Chris, I am a lawyer too and a domestic attorney. As I said, while in some States illegitimate children can inherit, in others they can’t. Depends on the State, Yes, you can leave a will but a will can be contested by other relatives, even by creditors. Your will would have to go through Probate and what is on the will is not necessarily what is going to happen but what the Judge decides and the Judges decision is based on Case Law and many other factors. Now, in your State the laws may allow for illegitimate children to inherit but still, anybody can contest your will. What I am trying to tell you is not be so rest assured that “your research” is the way things are going to be, because “your research” is neither the Judge’s opinion or the Judge’s view and no good lawyer would ever attempt to tell you exactly how a Judge will rule because we all know that Judges can come with really unexpected stuff. With regard to the birth certificate, again I repeat to you a name on the birth certificate is nothing if the woman is unmaried and this pretty much goes for the vast majority of States (probabley five or six exceptions maybe). You need either a Court order or an acknowledgement of paternity with the effect of a Court order, and still in the case of unmarried woman, the mother is consider the custodian so you would have less rights than the mother. Also, a non married parent is not entitled to any child support. Child support is not for the parent so your view is totally incorrect and whoever told you is plain wrong. In fact, that whole statement is incorrent and I can see from it that you have very little knowledge about custody and child support issues. However, the main point is that there are, legally speaking, benefits to being married.

  7. Disagree, there are still some clear legal differences between a civil union and marriage, or between a common-law relationship and marriage. (In Canada, you are presumed to be common-law if you’ve been living together in a relationship for a certain amount of time. I don’t know if there are similar designations in the US.) Particularly of note are what happens if one person in a relationship dies without a will. Or if one person inherits assets. Or obviously division of assets post-breakup. From what I understand, this can vary quite a bit from state to state.

    Marriage is not necessarily lose-lose for men. (Though I most certainly understand why many men do feel this way.) If a man wants to be in a long-term romantic relationship, marriage might be the least legally-ambiguous arrangement, especially if prenup agreements and updated wills are in place.

    Personally, I feel people don’t think enough about the legal aspects (benefits and disadvantages) of marriage before getting hitched.

    • Chris Anthony says:

      The legal benefits boil down to taxes mostly in the USA. There are others but let’s face it assets are the key factor in the legal complications of marriage. I’d prefer to buy a house and keep it forever, to pay for it myself out of my own money and keep it in my family, to pass it on to my children and their’s. I (and a growing number of American men) feel that tax breaks aren’t enough to put myself in a situation where my assets could be split with a woman who has a (possibly legitimate) gripe with me. I rather she go her separate way without taking my things with her. This is the basis for why marriage isn’t the best looking financial arrangement. I heard a comedian say that marriage is like telling the other person that “I bet you half my assets that I will love you forever, and I will never be weakened enough to cheat”. The feminist movement has made great strides in evening the legal playing field for women in marriage law. These strides have been so great and so effective that men are now on the losing end of divorce (mostly). Legal structures like trusts and holdings companies that own assets for a married person are one way but that just seems like too much to go through. Pre-nups are often either not available or not enforceable so it’s too much of a risk to add such a structure to the love between two people. I’ve seen way too many men lose way too much to even find it feasible. Others hold a more romantic and risky view of these things and will dive right in. So many of them will lose that bet, but they do it anyway, in the name of love. Foolishness for the modern man if you ask me.

      • I definitely know far more about the Canadian laws than the US. We too get certain tax advantages, etc. And pre-nups are enforceable here (dependent on them being properly put together of course).

        So, my question is: if you were to live with a woman without marriage, have children with her who grow up in that house, but have the house in your name (and be the only one paying for it), would she not still have some claim to it in the event of separation? In Canada, she would. (Again, possibly variation state-to-state?)

        It also seems to me like the courts are becoming more fair towards men with respect to custody arrangements. Used to be unheard of for a man to get sole custody of kids unless the mother was clearly a physical danger to her children or too mentally unstable to care for them. I think joint custody is also becoming more common with fewer cases of the mother being awarded sole custody.

        Also, the argument about risk flips the other way if the woman has more assets/income than the man, which is becoming more and more common. We too have to be careful, lest we get taken.

        (I just today signed papers for my own divorce. No lawyers, no argument over money. I realize I am lucky, as I was the higher earner and had more assets.)

        • Chris Anthony says:

          So, my question is: if you were to live with a woman without marriage, have children with her who grow up in that house, but have the house in your name (and be the only one paying for it), would she not still have some claim to it in the event of separation?
          She would not. Interesting that in Canada she would. She would however be entitled to child support if the kids were going to live with her.
          Courts are slowly becoming more fair toward men in regards to child custody. Many people take this route for financial reasons due to the fact that child support payments are usually based on the income of the father thus being enough to pay for the other parents lease/mortgage and support of the children as opposed to simply being enough to care for the children and their food/clothing/schooling. Some people simply don’t have to work if the other parent is well payed enough. This is a situation that so far mostly affects the fathers; but as incomes are evening mothers are finding themselves on the wrong side of this law as well (however to much less a degree).
          It is also worth noting that vicious lawyers and vindictive ex-partners can *sometimes* make anything happen in court regardless of how unfair (and possibly illegal) it actually is. Unmarried partners in the US(all states) and UK however generally have no claim to anything except the things they’ve paid for and child support to the primary caregiver.

          • Chris, you are not right. First, like Maria said, there are way more benefits to marriage legally speaking. You just don’t know about because you are just hearing the stories of a few divorces. First of all, you speak of getting a house and pass it to your children. Well the scenario of passing it to your children may be highly unlikely if you are not married. In the US legally there is still a major distinction between illegitimate and legitimate children. Besides the fact that in some States illegitimate children won’t inherit, if the woman is not married to you, she is considered the sole custodian of the child. Basically an unmarried father had very little rights (but they do have to pay child support if the mother takes the father to court). Second, to Maria’s question which you answered no, the truth is it depends. Some States do have laws in this regard and even if in the real estate area the answer is no, nobody forbids her from suing toying Probate Court and if the Judge finds that the situation is unfair to her the judge can make you compensate for the unfairness and can force you to pay big time while you have pretty much very little rights over that child. Let me tell you if that is what you are thinking, legally speaking is an awful decision.

        • That is now another battle ground. The current custody is “shared Custody” which means many are trapped in towns and cities and denied travel or relocation. The reason is so the other parent has access to the child. This is really part of the war that is never going to be solved. The doctrine of the “best interest of the child” is as phoney as any other. One size does not fit all.
          The US society has many problems with the financials of divorce. Even the way many states determine financial obligations is very much flawed. There are remainders of a by gone day in legal codes.

  8. This is the 21st century; in America, NOBODY “has” to get married, ever.

    And more and more, many men are deciding that there’s no particular reason to do it. It’s a lose-lose proposition for men. Name one advantage of marriage that can’t be obtained elsewhere.

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