I'm in a long term relationship with my girlfriend, we have a house together, and I help raise her two teenage girls. I was married before (Unitarian) but got divorced and I am just not interested in a church wedding or a church concept of marriage. The government concept of marriage is not appealing either.
We are committed to each other, until death as the saying goes. I have seen so many good relationships get wrecked by marriage though, that frankly, I'm gun shy. She is an atheist, too (although has some superstitions she keeps up with) and she has an ex as well.
We live a good healthy, happy life together. We love each other deeply, her kids are part of my family in my heart and in reality as well.
I guess I would like to get some of your thoughts on marriage, or what being a married atheist means.
Sometimes it feels like the only reason I am thinking about this stuff is that I am tired of being in my 40's with a life mate I call a girlfriend. And life insurance, wills and all the other issues that many gay couples have to deal with.
P.S. I am gun shy about marriage, not her. She is awesome and will be with me as long as we live, with or without marriage.
Marriage is pretty much a "state of mind"--except for the legal aspects. You are already committed, and therefore already "married." Signing a paper to make it legal would only make life easier for you.
The "gun shy" aspect you speak of is, as I mentioned, just a "state of mind" for you. Nothing should change once that paper is signed, unless you believe somehow that it will. We can and do manifest our thoughts--but we don't have to. It's up to you.
My husband and I shared some beautiful secular vows. Being a married atheist doesn't mean anything to us religiously (obviously), but we found it to be a step to show eachother how much we are committed to one another. Anyway, somehow it just feels better being a wife than just a girlfriend. Kinda like, if I were a dog, I just peed on the hydrant! MY HYDRANT!
Thank you everyone for your comments, they reflect much of what has been going on in my own head. This is an intensely personal decision which I brought out into an open forum -- and I am glad I did so. I will be discussing the pros and cons with my girlfriend when the time is right, and we'll decide together what is best for us. I'm sure I'll start the conversation in a way that seems pretty traditional though.
I think that most everyone thinks of this as more than a simple contract. With or without religious baggage, it has far reaching advantages, consequences, and collateral effects. When this decision is not fully thought out, the consequences seem to win out over the advantages as we seem to find out over and over and over again.
On the other hand, no one should make the decision so dry as to be devoid of feeling and better done by an accountant. I think.
Penn Jillette just recently got a "legal" marriage to insure the "rights" of his and his wife's children.
The legal protection of the children is indeed something to consider where there are children involved or planned.
If it is just two persons involved then a well thought out legal property contract is a much better way to go then the States standard contract for obvious reasons.
But children add a much more complex set of possible circumstances that must be considered, good luck.
Yes, when there are children or children are planned, it's prudent just plain responsible to get married. Bear in mind that, barring some problem with the character of one of the parents, the one making the most money will likely end up paying child support (in addition, potentially, to alimony) and the one with the most available time to be with the kids will likely end up with custody.
In my case the child situation is complex, and won't be helped or solved with a marriage. Nor would it be hurt, but there are feelings to consider all around.
I have been married once divorced once, and that my friends was more then enough for me.
Marriage has some secular purposes too...it's not just religious. I'm not sure about your jurisdiction but in the UK you used to get tax breaks between couples...not sure they apply anymore.
Here's some other reasons to have a secular marriage: show commitment to one-another, your extended family and society. To have a nice day together with family and friends. To maintain the wedding event and paraphernalia industry ...
...well OK - can't think of much else...sorry ;-)
If you are committed to one-another, then that's what counts. A piece of paper won't make you stay together any longer except by fear of breaking your contract, which is no real reason to stay together...the only real reason is other people's opinions.