I’m at the age where the topic of marriage starts to occasionally creep into conversations. Among my friends, we all I know of friends or friends-of-friends who are married or engaged to be married. The conversation usually starts “but they’re still so young!” or “aren’t they still in school?” but there is also talk of the future, “I want to marry someone rich – or at least decently well off,” “I think 29 is the best age to get married,” “I don’t think I could marry someone who isn’t a scientist.”
Whenever I am asked my opinions of marriage or what I want from my marriage, my answer is always, “I don’t want to get married.” While I am not unique in that decision, that statement usually provokes a stream of polite but inquisitive remarks. Why not? Don’t you want kids? What about the legal/financial benefits? What if you get injured? Not wanting to get married doesn’t mean I want to be alone. I consider marriage a legal union, not a spiritual one. I don’t want kids, but even if I did I don’t need to be married. I hope to be financially independent enough not to need the financial benefits of a marriage. If I get injured and require someone else to make medical decisions for me….. I don’t know.
“Right now the law uses biological definitions of family as shorthand for consent, but biology is only a proxy for trust. Family is knowing who you can rely on when the spirit is low and the stakes are high. The law has been slow to incorporate this truth.” – Melynda Price, associate professor at Kentucky College of Law.
If something happens to me and I am not mentally able to make decisions concerning my own medical treatment, those who are both emotionally and physically (location-wise) closest to me may not be my biological or legal family. But that doesn’t mean they will legally be able to make those tough medical calls for me. This just seems unreasonable. When we enter into new employment or purchase new insurance, often the paperwork requires us to enter our emergency contacts. Even if these people are not are legal family, our choice to list them as emergency contacts should reflect our trust in them.
“If friends want to recognize each other as a committed unit, nothing is going to stop them from living together, making joint purchases, even raising children. Unsanctioned family unions occur in every town, community and state — gay couples, unmarried cohabitants and friend families. But these are not “real” families, according to government standards, because they are neither nuclear nor hierarchical.” – Kevin Noble Maillard, Law professor at Syracuse University.
I think that the structure of the family is evolving, and those who we consider to be family-like – those people we choose share our experiences with, who we trust with our secrets, and even our lives – and that the law needs to recognize that. There is no reason why I shouldn’t feel comfortable that my life is in good hands, regardless of my decision to or not to marry.