I've just seen an interview with the queen of the Aga saga, Joanna Trollope. Well, I am now well and truly riled and here's why. She was proselytizing about how committed couples who had been co-habiting for years and had children and a life together didn;t share any of the same rights as married couples. Now I warn you, what I am about to say may be controversial in today's modern, touchy-feely, PC world, but why the hell should they? If you're prepared to make the commitment to live with someone and have babies with someone then you should be prepared to marry them or forgo the legal rights that you would receive in a marriage. Marriage is a big risk, emotionally and financially, but if you're not prepared to take that step then you can't expect any of the protection afforded by the legal institution of being married.
I fully support peoples' right to co-habit and have children together. I'm not so bloody outdated that I'm morally against that, but when a couple decides to do that, they need to be prepared for the fact that it does mean they're choosing to forgo some of the rights, protections and reliefs afforded to people who do choose to make that commitment. I'm a realist. I know marriages don't always work and that they're a massive risk, but no more so than having a child with someone and surely it's better, if you're going to be in a long-term committed relationship, to know that if something should happen to you, then your loved one is entitled to the inheritance tax breaks afforded by marriage, or if your other half clears off one day then you have some recourse to the law to claim alimony or support if they've left you high and dry. You don't have to do the big white wedding, nor do you have to change your name to theirs, but if you want the legal rights then you have to change your legal status. That's just fair, surely.
Just a thought, but if co-habiting for any length of time makes one subject to the law then perhaps it'll be that much harder to make the step from dating to living together. All of the couples I know who are married or engaged only got engaged after living together for a short time, even though in some cases the couple had been dating for years. Equally it gives people a chance to figure out if they *can* live together without the commitment to stay together forever before they make any permanent decisions. I think marriage is still a worthy institution, but if it's to retain that worth then it needs to be respected. If you want what marriage offers then get married or quit whining - you can't have it both ways, it doesn't work like that.
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