My partner and I have cohabitated quite happily for many years and we are about to tie the knot. We are already fully committed, so I understand how it could be confusing, and the question gets asked, “why now”, or even “why bother at all” to marry?
We have talked about it for a long time. It has been on the table and off the table by one or the other of us at different points in our relationship. We are not young lovers rushing headfirst; we didn’t enter our union with a 5-year plan saying let’s marry, get a house, and have 2.5 kids. Both of us went down those roads years ago with previous partners and derailed.
Whether or not to marry (or re-marry) might be weighed by some and discounted, on the premise that it is a dated entity that can now be entirely replaced by the newer version: the common-law arrangement.
It is true that after some time, two people can live together and be granted the status of a common-law arrangement and all of the rights and privileges that entails. You are obliged to file your taxes as a couple. Spouses are afforded medical benefits, maternity/paternity leave and pension coverage. On the surface, things seem very much the same as if you are married.
However, it is never referred to as a common law “marriage” because you are never considered to have been legally married. Some legal and financial matters reserved solely for married couples, such as marital property and estate, are handled differently. If you make the decision to live as a common-law arrangement, be cognizant of the differences.
It's About Choice
The fact is that we don’t have to marry. There is the option to continue to live together, and no one is the worse for it. So, once again, why do it, and why do it now? Is it solely to offer financial protection of division of property or estate? No. A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that will afford the same protection without all the hoopla that a marriage, even the simplest one, entails. So if it's not about the money then what?
Well, we choose to. We don’t need to do it to legitimize our offspring, or for him to claim me as his chattel or to gain my family’s wealth and place in society. It is not a political alliance or a celebrity ploy. We simply choose each other and want to share in declaring it formally, legally and to swear it before God.
Living an Empowered Life
We have taken our time and asked lots of questions of each other and ourselves and concluded that yes, we want to be married.
Living an empowered life is about being willing to think for yourself, ask tough questions, be reflective, listen to your inner voice, respond, make decisions, and move towards your goals authentically.
Each of us has had to do that as individuals so that we could come together not as needy, or desperate but as whole beings ready to be there for each other. That took time and inner work on both our parts.
We had to come to find love instead of attachment. As Debra Ward describes, “Attachment is a need for someone to fill a void in your life or in your self-esteem. When you feel that you are all alone and cannot rely on yourself, someone will come along, and you will feel that they are a port in the storm—someone to talk to, someone to help you, to hold you, someone to hang on to. Love is not a need. Love is not demanding or desperate. Love is whole and wholly giving.”
You always attract who you believe you are and who you believe you deserve.
We have had some tough times and some incredibly joyful ones. In both, we have grown. There is no perfect person or relationship. The gift of doing your inner work is not expecting perfection of yourself or of others. Instead, embrace all that you are and rejoice in the imperfections of life together. Both of us have changed a lot throughout our time together and are able to appreciate the other more fully. I don't need to fix, or change anything about my partner and he doesn't need to fix or change me. We accept.
Does that mean you should tolerate behaviour that isn't in line with your values or keep your mouth shut all the time? Absolutely not.
How can you have an empowered marriage?
First, know thyself. In order for you to communicate your values, needs, wants and boundaries you have to know what they are. Go within and do some self-reflection to get your own $H*! together. Get a good coach to help you discover yourself, discover your confidence and heal any woundedness. It is not up to your partner to be your therapist.
Before you decide to get married (or live together, for that matter), here are some key questions to ask to ensure you don’t abandon yourself:
1. What do you feel like when you have to share feelings with your partner?
Do you avoid it or get an uncomfortable feeling in your body anticipating the prospect of sharing your feelings with your partner? Does this remind you of anything or anyone? Have you chosen a partner that is a repeat of a parental figure?
Do you really want to be with your mother or father? Notice if this is happening and allow yourself to recognize it, feel it, release it. Get some help to deal with it.
You have feelings and need to be able to express them healthily to your partner.
2. Can you share your needs with your partner?
Are you pretending that you don’t have any needs or that your needs don’t matter?
Eventually, you will become resentful and burn out. You have emotional, spiritual, physical, sexual, social, etc., needs and finding healthy ways to express them is essential. Learn to love yourself FIRST and encourage your partner to do the same. Start noticing if the relationship is balanced and reciprocal. There will be times when one partner gives more, but there should be a give and take dynamic, not just a giver and a taker.
3. Do you enjoy their company?
Hopefully, you will enjoy your own company. And, hopefully, you aren’t counting down the minutes until your partner leaves, and you are on your own again. Each of you must have your own time and your own interests, but it is also essential that you have shared time and that you love the time you share. Notice if you are antsy in their company. Married couples have a lot of time together and you want to be able to find joy in it.
4. Do you trust your partner?
Some of us have trust issues with ANY partner, and it is still worth asking ourselves this question. The next question may be, why not? Is it an old pattern emerging in you? Or is it valid for you to be mistrustful? Have they been secretive or lied to you? Have they misled you? Have they cheated? Have they broken your trust in the past? What change would lead you to believe they are trustworthy now? If they have been untrustworthy and there has been no substantive change, like coaching or therapy why do you think they won't be untrustworthy just because you say "I do"?
Wedding rings and legal paperwork aren't magic, they are not a cure-all for already "bad behaviour".
5. Are you attracted to your partner?
Sex is a big deal for some people. Not such a big deal for others. Is it a big deal for you? If it is and you are not attracted to your partner, there is a problem that needs addressing. Can you find them attractive? Are there qualities that you can amplify? Can you introduce some toys or play into the mix? Is your partner aware that you don’t find them attractive? Have you discussed it? How are they handling it? Rejection is a huge emotional trigger for most people and can create a physical or energetic reaction. Are you and your partner planning on having an open marriage where you find sexual satisfaction outside of the union? Have you discussed the emotional implications of this decision?
6. Is my partner willing to grow and evolve?
One of the biggest reasons people separate is they “grow apart” when one or the other continues on their life journey, and the other stays static. Is your partner willing to explore, self-reflect and grow throughout life? If so, as trouble arises (and it will) in your relationship, then you will be able to handle it together. Both of you will be prepared and able to dig deep to do the work within. If not, it may be a more challenging road. Consider what kind of daily routines you can implement that support you both in reflection and communication on an ongoing basis. Things like meditation, couples yoga, retreats, courses and counselling are all bonding and nurturing for individuals and relationships.
If you are ready to live authentically then the very first step is to find a coach that you trust and that is a good fit. Click this link for a FREE 30-minute consultation and let's explore the possibilities together.