When I was in my early teens, I wanted to be married by eighteen and have five children. I was raised Mormon and a great deal of emphasis was placed on marriage and having a family, so for a long time my idea of value was tied to someone wanting to marry me and have children. I probably began to question that plan when my parents divorced, but my faith in the religion shattered the day I had too much self respect to continue attending a church that allowed a boy my age to insult me via demeaning my gender. He did it in front of two adults during early morning seminary and neither of them checked him for it or ever tried to contact me about it afterward. I walked out that day and have been on a search to discover what I really believe ever since.
I have changed my mind—perhaps a few times—about marriage and family. As it currently stands, I don’t believe a marriage guarantees a couple success and feel that allowing both parties the freedom to make the best decisions for themselves makes sense.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself angry that I wanted to marry my boyfriend by the end of next year… and he did not. The first question I asked myself was whether or not I would leave him if he never wanted to marry and the answer was, of course, that I have no intention of leaving him over something so minor.
He sees us married in the future. Why, then, did it bother me so much that there was no thought of when? Why was I ready to, but he wasn’t?
While there are few advantages to marriage, there was one aspect if it that made me feel I needed it, and soon. The thought that he could end up in the hospital, unconscious and hanging by a thread, scares me. Without marriage rights, I would be powerless. A wife would have a right to be present and inform the hospital what I believed he would want. As a girlfriend, no matter how committed to each other, I could be relegated to a waiting room by his kin while they made the choices for him, no rights to speak of. This scenario terrifies me.
As I mentioned before, there are few advantages to marriage these days. I thought the only ones left were healthcare rights in emergencies, the tax benefits if only one spouse works, and the clear declaration of commitment that everyone in my society understands. It’s so much easier to say ‘my wife’ than ‘my girlfriend whom I intend to spend the rest of my life with, but not marry.’
Then I remembered a conversation with my mother (who is an RN), when she had mentioned in passing that there was a way to have healthcare rights without marriage. I went on a research spree and learned all about healthcare directives and power of attorney in healthcare, which I now believe to be even better than simply having the right to make decisions. A healthcare directive outlines what a person wants in as much detail as can be planned for, while power of attorney in healthcare allows you to be appointed to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become unable to make the decisions themselves (such as unconscious). It’s also possible to write up a power of attorney in finances that allows you to pay their bills on their behalf should they be incapacitated.
I suggested to my boyfriend that doing this for each other would relieve my sense of urgency about marriage. It’s important to me that he not feel pressured to marry me, lest he resent it one day.
Armed with all of this new knowledge, I’ll soon have all the paperwork in order (and it won’t cost us a thing!) I no longer have to worry about our rights if an emergency comes up and, more importantly, he has all the time in the world to marry me… or not. The pressure is off of both of us knowing that we don’t have to and that, if we do, it’s entirely our choice.