In 2021, do we really need to be legally binding ourselves in the name of love?
"By the time I'm 21, I want to be married and be pregnant with my first child!" Said 8-year-old Amy.
What on earth was she thinking? At 21 years old I was living out of a suitcase, getting drunk 4 nights a week and in a very toxic unhealthy relationship. Thank god I didn't get married then, I'd be in a very tricky situation now. When I made that bold statement, maybe I was going off Disney movies, patriarchal conditioning and the fact our grandparents were married at that age?
However in the modern era of 2021, is it time we redefine the idea of marriage and create one out of love, rather than necessity? One where we don't involve the government and it doesn't link back to our forefathers' selling us off as property?
The fairy tale idea of marriage is definitely changing. Look around you, I'm sure you know someone who is divorced or going through a divorce. It does not look fun. Firstly, if you want to separate in the UK you legally have to blame one party in the marriage. If it's not a mutual spilt this is already going to cause a lot of problems, and if it is mutual, who is going to take the blame and forfeit being in favour with the legal system? It then takes on average 18 months to get divorced and you're looking at a whooping £14,561 bill at the end in legal fees alone. Not to mention asset divides, children divides and emotional divides.
So the question is why does anyone get married at all?
Growing up and despite a 42% divorce rate I still love love. I want to put on a wedding dress on, or maybe a modern white jumpsuit and I want to stand at the alter in front of my family and friends and tell the person I love that yes, I found you, lets play forever!
It also makes financial sense to get married. If Mr. John stays at home looking after the kids, and Mrs. John goes out making the money, but also runs off with her secretary, Mr. John needs to be financially protected. If you're legally married you also get tax allowance, great, joint ownership of assets, yippee, and in the case of something bad happening to your partner you get to keep your own kids, you'd assume this was the case anyway? Apparently not in some cases.
So what's the damage? For the 58% of marriages that work it makes legal sense to sign papers. No one actively goes into a marriage thinking it'll be them that gets the divorce, but it's mostly the divorcees that warn us, don't ever do it!
You also have to factor in that some couples don't need or want to get married anymore. They each have their own careers, income and property. Even if a woman decides to give birth, there are multiple ways she can still make income of her own through owning a business, sharing maternity leave with her partner or using her savings. A lot of couples are deciding to have less kids or kids much later on, if ever at all, due to climate change and personal freedom. And there are some people who don't want to be tied to a partner full stop, the idea of standing up in public declaring undying love to just one person for the rest of your life, may make you want to vomit a little in your mouth.
But for those of us who still want to get married, is there a way we can get the best of both worlds? Where we can celebrate marriage, but also protect ourselves from a nasty bitter divorce? The answer may lie in 'cohabitation agreements.' Similar to a prenup, the cohabitation agreement allows both parties to come up with terms and conditions in the case of separation, such as financial contributions, property devision and child care.
Cohabitation agreements roughly cost £2000 - £3000 plus legal fees, and takes 13 hours to draw up. It is legally binding as long as both parties seek legal advice, in law terms, to make it properly effected. You may think, well it's still signing papers what's the point? But think of a huge messy knot of ship rope, that takes 18 months to untangle and saw off, compared to a simple blue piece of string, that isn't knotted and can be simply cut with a pair of scissors. Plus when you both decide to hold this blue piece of string, you're making this commitment and agreement from a place of deep love. In that mentality you're always going to have each others best interests at heart.
How different would marriage be if you stood at the alter and said, I love you, I want to be with you, but I don't need to be with you. I want you to be free, and I want to be free, so we can grow and play together for as long it makes sense and feels right for us. I won't be signing any papers but I'm committing to you out of love for you, not out of legal obligation. Every decision we make for us will come from a place of love, even if this eventually ends.
Now that would be a pretty great speech, commitment and love story...