I told my kids I don't expect them to get married

M. Brown

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**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

My now-husband and I weren’t planning on getting married right away or even at all. We already knew we were committed to one another and that we would be together for many years to come. We had both been married before and those partnerships didn’t turn out so great.

When we did finally decide to get married, we did it quite simply at city hall —  kids in tow. Very unglamorous and very low-key.

A big part of why we ended up sealing the deal officially was for my husband’s son — my stepson — as a way to show that we were truly bonded as a family. 

My stepson signed as our witness. It was awesome.

We got married after moving in together and after having a baby together which isn’t exactly many people’s gold standard for the way things ‘should’ go.

That got me thinking about the attitude we will pass down to our kids about marriage.

Honestly, I really don’t expect, want, or even care if our kids end up getting married when they grow up.

Why?

I want to focus on showing our children what real romantic relationships are like rather than pining for them to walk down the wedding aisle. 

The reality of love and relationships is often quite different than the sparkly diamond commercials or lavish wedding ceremonies.

Don’t get me wrong — wedding ceremonies can be beautiful and full of joy — but the ceremony means nothing without two people who know what they’re getting into afterward.

In my opinion, for a lot of young people growing up, there tends to be far too much emphasis on the fancy dresses, destination weddings, and money spent rather than putting emphasis on what it really takes to be in a long-term, committed relationship.

This is not to say that those who celebrate marriage in an extravagant way don’t know anything about relationships. It’s more about valuing the quality of a relationship rather than idolizing the idea of getting married.

Every Disney fairytale ends with a wedding. And that’s it. The end. But what happens after that?

Marriage is not a final destination. It’s simply another element we may or may not choose in the larger journey of a relationship.

That said, I’m certainly not going to deter our kids from getting married because I made mistakes in my own past. But I’m not going to highlight marriage as a life goal either.

Although I’m very lucky to have found my current husband and our partnership works well, I don’t think marriage is necessarily the key to happiness. I don’t want our children to grow up thinking marriage is the proverbial light at the end of the relationship tunnel.

My husband and I got married after we had lived together for a good period of time and we were already raising two kids together. Marriage was not something we needed to allow the relationship to continue.

I believe that moving in together before even thinking about marriage is key to any relationship. I would always recommend moving in with your partner before you vow to be with them forever for better or for worse.

If you haven’t kicked your partner’s dirty underwear out of the way while on the way to make coffee or experienced their most annoying habits in real-time, you have no idea what you’re getting into — in my opinion.

When I refer to my relationship with my husband around the kids, I talk about partnership. We love each other. We also struggle to like each other sometimes. We need space on occasion. We’re human.

Marriage will not change a relationship at its core. The most decadent wedding ceremony imaginable won’t change anything if problems exist already.

The expectation of a relationship changing after marriage is probably the biggest misconception out there. This is exactly why I want to be honest with our kids. It’s not that easy.

I don’t ever want my kids to feel as though they have to get married to prove anything or to be socially accepted. There doesn’t need to be a ring on it to make things right. Diamond rings won’t create a stronger love or protect you from betrayal.

Ultimately, our children will grow up and do what they will. If they want to get married, I’ll support them 100%. If not — same thing. I just think the option of not subscribing to the idea of marriage should be part of the conversation as well.

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