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The Marriage Decision: Everything Forever or Nothing Ever Again (2016) (waitbutwhy.com)
74 points by rerx 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

The "deal breakers" checklist skirts the true issue.

I have been married longer than most HN members have been alive, which is no accident. So I'll temporarily be arrogant enough say my peace on the theory that someone might find it useful, and then duck and cover.

There really is only one thing that matters: You and your partner must share the same value system, or at least if not identical, then there must not be core values in conflict.

Why? If you agree on core values, then any disagreements (and there will be many) will be about implementation, not about the desired end state. Those are healthy discussions, even if stressful. It is possible to both be "on the same side of the problem" -- it is the two of you against the problem, and the disagreement is about how to get from point A to point B.

On the other hand, when a core value is in conflict, the only way one person can be happy is if the other person gives up a part of themselves. That is at the very least the seed of resentment, and can't help but be a wound that will not heal.

So.. Step 1: Clarify in your own mind your own values. Until you have done that, you have nothing to go on. Step 2: Get to know your potential partner well enough that you both understand each other's core values. Make sure they are compatible.

I wish I could say I did this, but in all honesty I had been married for 20 years before I understood it. I just happened to get lucky -- growing up under similar circumstances as my bride has given us common touchstones.

The problem is people often change in fundamental ways. It is difficult to choose a partner in your early 20s who will retain the same value system throughout their life. Both myself and my ex are very different people from what we were in our 20s.

There are many factors that contribute to a successful marriage. I'd say commitment is one - you have to want the marriage to work. You have to accept that the other person is an individual and accept that they aren't your twin and also that they are free to grow. You may disagree, for instance politically, yet you have to respect them and allow the differences. It's tough to run a 3 legged race for 30-40 years.

I find that people who marry young grow together. The post about core values hits it right on the head in my years of experience.

Nothing has come close to ruining my marriage as much as that.

I've been married about 19 years, and I think I'm clear on what you're saying. But I haven't heard it put quite this way.

Can you cite some concrete examples of these values, and, perhaps, common ways that an otherwise seemingly compatible couple might not share them? Thanks.

Person A is religious and values spiritual growth. Person A wants their kids to believe in God and develop spiritually. Person B is atheist and thinks religion is a crock. Person B wants their kids to reject religion and flush spirituality down the toilet. Person B is willing to let A go to church on Sundays to make the relationship work since B is attracted to A.

But there will probably be big problems with this over time, especially if kids come into the picture.

> Can you cite some concrete examples of these values, and, perhaps, common ways that an otherwise seemingly compatible couple might not share them? Thanks.

A friend of mine's wife once said to him, about planning some extended vacation despite his busy schedule: "if you loved me you'd make time!" Between my wife and I, this is a punchline. But for many perfectly reasonable people it would be a sincere request worthy of fulfillment. A couple having different reactions to this statement could mean a lot of resentment built-up over time.

Why should we get married in the first place?

And how do you clarify your values? Can you give some examples of what your values are?

Everyone's goals vary, but I got married because I wanted kids and I wanted help raising them from someone with a vested interest in doing so.

Why did you want kids?

I always felt like I should want to get married and that I should want kids, but I just... don't. The desire just isn't there. I'm 29 and have been with my partner for long enough that marriage and likely kids are now the next stops on the what you're supposed to do in life train.

And I guess it's not that I actively don't want it. I just don't feel an inclination toward or away from it. There's just kind of an absent feeling about it... There's not anything internal making me want it (there is external pressure from my partner though who does want to get married and from society who expects us to get married).

Does this feeling change? Or am I just weird? Or should I just do it anyway?

Getting married and having kids is not for everyone. Rather, I'd say we should do more as a society to encourage people to think very hard about these decisions rather than continue to treat them as standard operating procedure.

I had a crappy homelife as a kid and I believe that caused me to really want to create a contented adulthood, which included children. Actually, from the time I was just a little kid I was called upon as a mentor to other children, by the time I got to high school I was a camp counselor, was teaching in an evening pre-school program for abused children, etc. So from an early age I found myself in a parent-like role. My kids are my world, but I don't believe for a minute that everyone would find the experience as rewarding.

Most women in a relationship will emphatically tell you when they want to get engaged, married or have kids.

They also have a biological clock to have kids before they're 35, and most listen to that clock.

Men don't have that clock, so there's different types and levels of motivation.

In my case, I wasn't interested in having kids until my late 40s, when the circumstances were convincing (responsible partner, as late in life as reasonably possible.)

Although I prefer being around adults, I understand that kids are doing their job when they require attention. I find my "clone" to be a plus overall, though expensive.

Career-wise, I vaguely thought having kids would be an advantage somehow, but I was incorrect. In the USA, companies don't care about employees ("at will employment"), and the same is true about your family.

That last part depends on the type of employer. In my case, as a male, I started to see a huge improvement in promotions and pay increases once I became a "family man" (although in my case, I'm not married to my partner, and she came with kids -- but it was always treated as a family unit).

> I started to see a huge improvement

I'd appreciate if you can expand on that a little more. How do co-workers know? How is it acknowledged?

I didn't want kids until I was 14 and my mom had an oopsie-baby. The intense love I felt for my baby sister changed my mind. And I wasn't wrong -- despite many, many, many drawbacks to having children, I love them just the way I'd hoped.

But I think people are so different that I definitely would not try to up-sell kids. At least so far, it's like having a 24/7 job, while I have a full-time job.

(Or as the rest of the comments say, women all want all the kids and all your money that's just science...)

Why do you need to get married to have kids?

You don’t need to get married to have kids. When you get down to it, the number of things you need to have kids is pretty small—healthy gametes is sufficent.

But what you should have is commitment to your relationship. Being willing to demonstrate that commitment is helpful, but it’s not required.

it was probably mostly because "everyone's doing it", but i'm glad we did. a little harder to bail when the going gets tough when the in-laws' friends have given you a cuisinart. ;)

I was married for 17 years, for about the last ten unhappily, and together with that person for about twenty. You absolutely nailed it - if the values are in sync, it works. Unfortunately sometimes values shift as life goes on.

I'm not sure I could identify my "core values" in a crowd -- where I feel lucky is in the "healthy discussions". My husband and I don't hit each other with too many of the Four Horsemen: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-c...

Wow. Very well said. I have had years of unsettled conflicts because I didn't do this when I married.


Hmm.. no mentions in the entire article? I think the author has something to address.

Keep in mind when you get legally married you are signing a legal contract that entitles that other person, in most states, to half of everything you earn during the marriage. They also earn an entitlement to continue that support for something like half the duration of the marriage, or more, if the marriage falls apart.

I spent 19 years married in California to a spouse to refused to work for the final 10 years of the marriage. I now have to pay $40k/year indefinitely after losing half my savings and retirement. I had to sell my home to pay her share. Now, on the flip side I have a girlfriend who is half my age and I'm finally free of my ex which is worth every penny, but starting over at 42 just sucks. The state has no concept of a spouse refusing to work. They assume that because she wasn't working it must have been my decision to force that upon her. By the way, we don't have kids. My friends who have divorced with kids? $7k+/month.

It is especially important to keep this in mind if you are a well paid earner. I know a lot of engineers making big bucks who let their spouses stay home or pursue goofy home based businesses or careers as 'artists'.

(Disclosure: I got divorced in the past year)

I don't see why marriage is not treated just the same as other contracts. Clearly defined partnership agreement, defined renewal periods, defined termination clauses and definitions of cause. You could still protect both parties by requiring the partnership to include an equitable asset distribution clause.

The state currently grants marriage licenses, so they have a clear hand already in this process. They could replace the whole licensing process with requiring a written partnership agreement that meets basic requirements.

No, instead we have this weird situation of basing everything upon some agreed "permanency" based solely upon trust when we all know there is nothing of the sort going on.

This process could still handle the religious ideas of marriage too--just renew your contract!

This is exactly the reason that "normal people" (not just celebrities and the super-wealthy) sign pre-nuptial agreements. As a lawyer will tell you, if you don't make those decisions with your partner, the state will make them for you, and you may not like how they are made.

> defined renewal periods

My preface is that that sounds like a really reasonable and prudent approach that combines all sorts of good ideas and principles. It has given me something new to think about.

The flip side is that children do change things quite significantly. My memory is we already exclude children from personally entering in to contract law because they don't really make good decisions; and in a messy marriage breakdown they could quite reasonably be expected to be caught in the crossfire. There are bound to be issues here that separate what is needed in family law from ordinary contract law.

Sounds a lot like my situation brother; mine was a two year legal battle finally concluding this spring. The State has seemingly determined that in order to be “fair” to whomever is sees as the weeker party (always the female) that it will utterly bankrupt and ruin the life of the perceived stronger. I asked several lawyers what happens in homosexual divorces and got a big cup of “dont ask, we don’t know, but it can’t possibly be applicable to you.” Look, I didn’t want to screw over my ex - I just didn’t want to get screwed in the process. This whole business, including the child support insanity, needs to get fixed as it is an antiquated, vindictive system

> Keep in mind when you get legally married you are signing a legal contract that entitles that other person, in most states, to half of everything you earn during the marriage.

And keep in mind through the magic of commingling they will probably get half of whatever you had before the marriage too. Good luck keeping it's status as separate property.

Depends on your forensic accountant... but did I mention how much forensic accountants cost? :)

Basically in a divorce you are fucked unless you can keep everything amicable and do it via mediation. Otherwise you will either lose all your money to the other party or to the legal system. That was my choice - I could have paid less alimony but I would have had to spend $100k in legal fees for a chance that I'd get a sympathetic judge and things would go my way.

I guess that I've been lucky. I've been divorced twice, and the idea of alimony never came up. So I at least chose well enough to avoid that pitfall ;)

Honestly, if my wives (and near-wives) hadn't raised the issue of marriage, I would have never considered it. But then, I've never wanted kids.

Edit: clarification

I'm curious what country / state you are in, as many places have mandatory guidelines for this kind of thing.

This was in the US. But I'm not going to say what state ;)

As I recall, they were both no-fault divorces. And they were some decades ago. The first was in the late 70s, and the second in the mid 90s.

In a divorce, if you are a man, you are fucked. Especially in CA. Important distinction, just saying ;-)

Yes, I agree. I was lucky, but many people get screwed in divorce. Both women and men. Men because, as in your case, they get penalized financially.

But it's important to remember that laws and legal precedent about support for former female partners came about because women often got screwed financially in divorce. Even if they could even get a divorce.

And sometimes women still get screwed financially, and in other ways, by divorce. Child support is sometimes inadequate, or effectively not collectable. And women traditionally contributed unpaid labor, in the form of housework and childcare. And often, they were (and even now, sometimes are) more-or-less unprepared for decent jobs.

Anyway, based on other comments, a key argument in favor of marriage, for long-term relationships, is clarification of intentions. That's especially crucial, obviously, if there will be children. Without a marriage, it's all subject to litigation. And if partners have resources that they want to protect, they can negotiate a prenup.

>Child support is sometimes inadequate, or effectively not collectable. And women traditionally contributed unpaid labor, in the form of housework and childcare.

By my thinking, this is #metoo level stuff. If we're to have equality, then it is time to stop pretending that women are the only parents and that they can't also hold professional jobs. I would posit that equality cannot exist so long as we continue to hold these outmoded views on gender roles. And yes, I agree that means that it is imperative that men continue to step up to the plate, whether within marriage or outside.

>Even if they could even get a divorce.

I'm male. It took me two+ years of legal battles to get a divorce. Tell me how this is a female-only issue?

Side note: I have my kids > 60% of the time, but pay out child support, as enforced by state law, as though she has them 100% of the time. I pay all of their various expenses - clothes, medical, camps, activities, etc, because despite what the divorce decree says and despite what I pay her in spousal support AND child support, she will just continue to whine that she has no money. She walked away with a net worth > $500,000, I walked away with a net worth of approximately negative-$100,000. So anyone that tells me how women get screwed... well I have some words for you.

Yes, I get that you've had a difficult divorce. I empathize.

In saying "[e]ven if they could even get a divorce", I was speaking historically. In the US, as recently as the late 19th century or the early 20th century. That's the context in which activists got current divorce law established.

And about gender roles. I didn't mean to promote "outmoded views on gender roles". In my opinion, that's for partners to negotiate. But it's undeniable that those traditional gender roles remain all too prevalent.

Also, as in your case, it's unfair that you pay 100% child support but additionally contribute well over 50% of childcare, both in time and money. It's just that you married an asshole. Or more charitably, a victim who likely gets validation (socially and legally) for casting you as the asshole.

>But it's undeniable that those traditional gender roles remain all too prevalent.

Agreed - and my point is this is codified in law, even in my nominally politically progressive state. As many of the other posters in this thread have pointed out, this isn't just sour grapes, but rather a bankruptcy-producing problem perhaps on the same order as our systemic problems with health-induced financial calamity. It is an example of systemic government failure.

While I'm not suggesting it to anyone, your passport still work as long as you have no outstanding child support judgements.

Oh man the thought crossed my mind many times during the divorce process. Especially as a programmer who, at the time, had a boss who mostly had business in India and would have loved a programmer in Asia.

(Un)Fortunately I met a girl I plan to marry(haha yeah I don't learn) so I'm trying to stay legal and not forfeit my ability to freely return to the US.

If, for some reason, the second marriage goes south I'm not divorcing. I'm just leaving. I've already discussed it with my girlfriend and she gets it.

Could you not get a prenup?

How enforceable are prenups?

Extremely assuming they are done by good lawyers and that both parties are represented. (YMMV depending on jurisdiction, of course.)

Yeah that's the key. Both parties must have representation.

The thing you're not implicitly suggesting isn't even really helpful since your assets are likely held in American institutions that will respond to legal claims against your holdings there.

You might be able to flee overseas, but that doesn't help if your money is still here.

Sure. But then you need to play it cool, and gradually shift assets to secure forms and/or places.

The first thing a divorce attorney will do is place a QDRO (qualified domestic restraining order) on any accounts with substantial assets. This prevents you from moving money out of these accounts.

It's almost like the legal system has figured out that some people might try and run with the money, and have taken measures to stop that.

Yes, but the key is seeing the divorce coming, and deciding then to play it both ways. Express commitment to working out problems. And also start hiding resources. Cryptocurrencies are now an affordable low-end option, for those who couldn't workably cover more traditional methods.

And yes, it sounds horrible. But really, it's not that different from having savings, in case of job loss or health problems. And hey, I suppose that two divorces have left me paranoid. Or maybe I'm just not suited for marriage. I mean, I know that I'm not suited for full-time employment ;)

I went into divorce naively. I was toughing it out in a crappy marriage, alternating between being suicidal or whacked out on booze/pot/pills/etc. One night I jokingly suggested divorce to my parents and they took me seriously and encouraged it. I didn't seriously consider it as a possibility until that moment. If I had my head on straight, I would have acted differently(switched jobs, taken a mental health break, stashed funds, etc). Instead, I did the right thing and split the $30k cash, kept my high paying job(which ended during the divorce anyway) and tried to help her choose good representation. It ended up screwing me.

Damn. That's horrible. I empathize. Leading up to divorces, I've been suicidal and escaped using drugs. And when it came down to it, I've also made an effort to be fair.

But in my case, my ex-wives also made efforts to be fair. So it worked out OK for us. And both of them remain good friends. One of my ex-girlfriends is one of my wife's best friends. Almost a sister ;) I acknowledge Landmark Education for that :)

Here's a funny story. My second wife and I did a no-fault divorce, and hired an attorney to handle the paperwork. But he fucked up, so we sued him in small claims court to recover the fees that we'd paid him :)

Haha nice.

We started out amicable but then we got a mediator who sided with my ex and immediately set the expectation that I'd be paying $4,650/month for 17 years(until she hit retirement age. The marriage was 19 years.). I countered with $2,600/mo and things stalled. Then she got mad one day and took a swing at me, forcing me to sleep on a friend's couch until she vacated the house. Finally we lawyered up. She moved out of state so I got to deal with her lawyer and found that her lawyer thought she was a nutcase. I mentioned the original mediator's suggested support amount and she was astonished. Her lawyer said she should have taken the $2,600/mo and been happy.

Right now I'm paying $3,200/mo and that lasts for 3 years, then I pay for a vocational evaluation and take her back to court(for $10k-$100k according to my lawyer). Hopefully the judge will reduce the amount at that point. Fortunately in California the prevailing attitude now seems to be that alimony is temporary and transitional, so I'm hoping I don't have to pay indefinitely.

> And also start hiding resources.

Good luck with that when you have to provide account statements going back years.

It depends a lot on the amounts involved. Sure, you can't move $100K (or even multiple $9K) from bank accounts without government oversight. But it's not that hard to divert cash more gradually, over time. I mean, I managed to casually acquire $50K in gold over a few years, buying for cash at swap meets.

And yes, if you've diverted a lot, it might be prudent to relocate to some safe haven, before the fit hits the shan.

Not too hard. You just start pulling out cash and if anyone asks you claim an addiction(drugs, gambling, sex, etc).

Do you not understand that this would not get you out of your financial obligations in a divorce?

Strangely enough my ex is so lazy that it's been 9 months since the divorce finalized and the QDRO hasn't been filed. If I was an asshole I'd cash out my 401(k), turn it into BTC and move to some country with a nice beach and no extradition treaty.

A lot of people consider how much their spouses make completely immaterial, for good reason. Especially since research shows household happiness doesn't really rise over the 100k income mark.

Marriage is designed to be a team. I don't think who makes what should matter, and I don't mind the state treating it that way.

Related story: My father's pension had a choice. 100%x if it stops after you die, 85%x if you want your wife covered if you die early. My dad obviously chose the latter. He had a coworker who chose 100% for himself and died two years after, ending the pension. I can't imagine what he was thinking, except that that he must have hated his wife and just been married out of habit.

Or he did a calculation and bet that he would live long enough after retirement that as a couple they would be better off with the 100% payout. So his wife would only need to outlive him by 2 years for every 7 years he lives (assuming the extra 15% is put away, and if invested it could even be a better deal). So if he lived 28 years, his wife would need to live 36 years (or more, factoring in interest) for the 85% deal to be better.

> <Ctrl-f>divorce

When most people commit to love someone "for better or worse" they often only really mean "for better."

What is 'worse'? Is it pain and suffering from a horrible disease or accident? Is it financial suffering and poverty? Is it the feeling of hopelessness that envelops you when you realize you made a mistake and married someone who won't contribute to the partnership?

>Is it the feeling of hopelessness that envelops you when you realize you made a mistake and married someone who won't contribute to the partnership?

Did you marry my ex? ;-D

In all seriousness... I've been looking for the words to impart to my children someday about this. There is a beauty in persevering despite financial hardships, medical hardships, and even just the mundane drudgery of everyday life. I firmly believe that is the true basis of this word love, where mutual partnership is formed in soldering through it together. That said, these commitment vows and frankly, the likelihood of financial ruin in divorce, keeps people in relationships long past viability. It's no different than watching someone on life support, knowing they aren't coming back but yet no one willing to pull the plug. I think what the parent commenter was really saying is, many enter into marriage with a misguided belief that it is all good times and romance, without the faintest understanding of the undertaking.

This is a perfectly reasonable setup for these agreements. If your spouse is not working and you are married, it is either through mutual agreement or inaction. Fundamentally a marriage is about mutual navigation of life. If you are failing at this, a divorce is an option, as are other avenues (marriage therapy, etc). The point of a* marriage contract working this way is exactly the flip of it: to go extreme, if you are abusive in the relationship and will not let your spouse out of your joint home, and they eventually manage* to get a divorce, they are now attempting to operate without the last N years of work history. How does your spouse get back on their feet now? The person who is taking advantage of the marriage can be the breadwinner, and the breadwinner (if there is only one) provides the means of survival.

Marriage is a life plan. You say that jointly and indefinitely, you will navigate life together. This means both of you are (should be?) planning with both of your current and future states in mind. If one isn't working, they are planning on the other's income to continue life. It's perfectly reasonable for the baseline of a marriage contract to be shared income and a reasonable time to adjust to the loss of shared income should you get divorced (and that this reasonable time grows the longer you are married). You might say, half of the duration is too much! Then propose something better, and adjust the contract accordingly. You might say, that jeopardizes my wedding, it seems like I don't love my future spouse! If this is important to you, that is something you must work through.

Now, it's also an emotional thing, so it can be hard to abandon ship and get a divorce when it's clear your life plans have utterly diverged; I'm not trying to trivialize that decision. But for the default case of marriage to be “you have understood your mutual obligations and the fact that you are embarking on a mutually navigated life” seems perfectly reasonable to me. As for kids… Kids cost money and time, which our society for better or worse equates with money. So of course kids add to the number.

Engineers who make big bucks and “let” (!?) their spouses stay home or pursue careers as ‘”artists”’ (?!?) are making that choice, either explicitly or by not having the conversation. If you don't steer your life, you let your life happen to you. And if you let your life happen to you, sometimes it will happen poorly. If they are having the conversation, then there's mutual agreement that this is what's best for the family, and no one is letting anyone do anything. It's absurd to talk about anyone “letting” their spouse stay home as if they have some sort of ownership over them, or passing judgement on the value of an artistic career choice from the outside.

Is there a human aspect to this, a fuzziness to it all? Of course. But feeling incensed on behalf of others because their marriages are operating in a way you don't approve of because of how you got burned… I don't know how useful that is.

I spent years trying to convince her to work at something. She sat around on facebook while taking days to do simple tasks like laundry. My family encouraged her. Her friends ridiculed her. Nothing motivated her. She finally got a job folding shirts for a local t-shirt artist 10 hours a week under the table. You make a mistake of thinking I had some way to motivate her to act. We tried counseling and she dismissed the counselor("She's a liberal women who hates stay at home women"). The counselor echoed my feelings that I only wanted a partner in the marriage and not have to carry the burden of literally everything.

How was I supposed to make her work? Cut off her food supply? Put her over my knee? Your comment is naive and frankly offensive.

Did none of this come up before marriage?

And I don't mean offense by this - I know nothing about your particular situation. But personally, I have trust issues, so I would try to probe my partner in every way possible before committing to marriage, especially in a country where I, the man, stand to lose far more if it doesn't work out.

When some people say "Oh I spent $100k on divorce lawyers" it absolutely horrifies me. $100k is higher than my entire net worth. My first boss probably lost to the tune of $1 million to his ex wife, despite still paying the majority of bills for the kids.

Before marriage and for the first 10 years of the marriage she had a job(well, there was that couple years where she sat around playing team fortress classic all day.. but still).

I was 21. I didn't know enough to ask the right questions and think ahead.

> It's perfectly reasonable for the baseline of a marriage contract to be shared income and a reasonable time to adjust to the loss of shared income should you get divorced

You are positing a right without a responsibility. Why should a spouse with no earning power be given a free pass on having obligations?

The only answer I would readily accept is that one partner is responsible for earning and the other is responsible for children, but outside that the situation is hard to justify.

> How does your spouse get back on their feet now?

Claiming that being married disqualifies someone from the workforce is a relic of an era that is long past. In the absence of some hefty commitment (ie, children) it isn't true.

Your spouse does not have a free pass, you and your spouse have agreed that the family has one of you working and one not. It doesn't require justification beyond that being the mutual agreement, and mutual agreement is how marriage moves forward through time.

Being married doesn't disqualify someone from the workforce, but not working for an extended period of time through the above mutual agreement does leave them with little work history, possibly reduced education, certainly reduced experience, etc. They made those decisions in the context of a reality that is changing due to divorce, and that change can have radical life results. As such, having a default agreement whereby that change is not abrupt and immediate is perfectly reasonable.

A prenuptial agreement modifies this by setting different expectations up front, and allowing everyone involved to adjust their decision-making process.

I think you might be missing something that 01100011 experienced, which frankly sounds a lot like what happened in my case as well. My ex became very mentally ill and had no desire to do anything about it - because she knew that either I would suck it up and carry on for the good of the kids, or that in the case of a divorce that she would walk away with anything she wanted anyway. So she had no incentive to go back to work, to get out of bed, or to do anything at all. Your words sound much like multiple lawyers I consulted, that somehow it was my fault because I was complicit in not forcing her to work. And like 01100011 said, how the eff was I supposed to do that?

Tomte 6 months ago [flagged]

Mental illness is obviously a whole different category.

Would you also slam her as lazy if she got crippled in a car accident?

Have you tried to get her help, in the form of therapy?

That's actually what "in bad times" means. It's probably okay to discover you're not up to the task, but it's not okay to diss her on message boards.

You are using hyperbole and are reading into the discussion your own meaning. You are being deliberately insulting and using a personal attack, whereas both the parent poster and I experienced a similar behavior from our spouses and faced the same legal dilemma.

Tomte 6 months ago [flagged]

I'm taking your very literal expression "mentally ill" at face value, as I do your other words. I haven't assumed a single thing, nor have I been injecting "my own meaning".

I'm sorry your marriage ended badly, I'm sure that can be very stressful.

But the only insults here are yours.

>Why should a spouse with no earning power be given a free pass on having obligations?

Completely agreed, and yet having just gone through this, I assure you the State has no problem telling you just that. At least in my state, the view is that each party should be put into a situation as much like what they had during the marriage as possible. Unfortunately the way the courts have interpreted this is that a non-working spouse is deemed to have been the childcare provider, therefore they have more rights to the children plus should be compensated with the same quality of life as before. This of course means that the working spouse cannot possibly ever have the life they had previously, because they will now be forking over nearly all of their income (seriously- I know of a local case where their child support obligation was more than their actual income) to that non-working party. Likewise, it's silly for the court to think things will ever be "the same" - unless there are sizable assets, of course the non-working spouse will have to go back to work!

So yes, I would like to agree with your statement that "Claiming that being married disqualifies someone from the workforce is a relic of an era that is long past" but unfortunately this is still the case in some (many? most? I don't know) states. Even nominally progressive ones.

> You are positing a right without a responsibility. Why should a spouse with no earning power be given a free pass on having obligations?

Because it's not actually a business contract. You don't have to "give your spouse a free pass", you can divorce her if she stops earning as much as you want her to. But that sounds sociopathic to me assuming you're not struggling financially.

> planning with both of your current and future states in mind

This is what is so difficult about marriage. You sign up for a lifetime commitment, but no one plans their life 100% in advance. People change, desires change, realities change.

Sure, but GP is saying that constant planning is the deal. You constantly plan, reassess, and most importantly communicate. And you are always aware of the current conditions of the deal, the opportunity cost, etc. Are you in a bad marriage but hope it'll get better? The opportunity cost is X more years to have to pay alimony if you get divorced. Decide accordingly.

But then why do it in the first place? If you want to have the optionality to constantly plan, reassess, and communicate why would you bind yourself into a legal agreement that limits your ability to do that?

Because there are tangible legal and social benefits to doing so, including hospital visitation rights, insurance, etc, as well the ability to live in harmony with people you love whose social expectations are that you get married. This is important to many people—especially if they have found a partner that they can conceive of spending a lifetime with.

> I have a girlfriend who is half my age

Cool detail, bro

This is perhaps inarticulatedly stated, but the line really does paint the OP in a (IMO deservedly) bad light. Trying to gain a few status points with online strangers while complaining bitterly about your ex wife? Not very classy.

I'm just trying to say that it's not like my life completely sucks now.

Dating someone half your age carries burdens too. People probably think I'm a creep or that I set out to ditch my wife for someone younger. I felt embarrassed for a while but now I got over it.

Yeah, agree that it was brusquely stated. Basically, anyone who thinks you're cool because your girlfriend is half your age is a probably a redpill, and definitely a tool. It's a detail that screams, "Look at me! This guy fucks!"

Man, I'm so sorry.

Whenever I read people tirade about divorce my first thought is: well, didn't you know the rules going in? The marriage contract is designed to fit a typical relationship. E.g. a man who makes $45k whose wife makes much less or who doesn't work but does most of the child rearing (labor that, in the open market, is worth a lot more than the $45k the man makes). The rules of property division make quite a lot of sense when applied to cases like that.

Marriage is, first and foremost, a legal relationship concerning the ownership and division of property and the paternity of any children. If your relationship is in the minority of relationships that don't fit into this mold (especially if you don't have kids), why the heck are you married?

why the heck are you married?

"Some people are bigger than society. Most of us are not. For most of us, society’s rules are our rules, and as you and your person walk down your blue balance beam, you can feel the walking space melt away around you. It’s time to make The Decision."

Well in my case I decided to marry at 20 and was married at 21. Sure I was legally an adult but I had no clue what forever meant. I had no idea what to look for in a person. I basically married the first girl who touched my wiener.

We had plans to have children, but due to her infertility which was exacerbated by poor lifestyle decisions and lack of self-care, we never did. At some point it became obvious that children weren't coming. I didn't ask her to stay home and raise my children though. On the contrary I invested quite a bit of time and effort into supporting her home-based businesses(textiles($6k embroidery machine for instance) and painting). Instead she made pot brownies for dispensaries under the table or worked 10 hours a week folding shirts for a t-shirt artist. She had skills from previous employment but chose a life of laziness.

This was while I was working anywhere from 1-3 jobs, doing half the housework and spending weekends working on our house or taking care of her family.

That labor is not worth more on the open market. Nannies aren't rich. Not even close. My wife stayed at home and for time watched children. Without question I was the better deal.

A full time live at home nanny costs $60-70k in a major metro area, substantially more than what a typical man makes. And nannies typically do not do cleaning, so add another $10k for maid service.

> Society, in most parts of the world, doesn’t like when a relationship lasts too long. To society, a relationship is simply a testing ground—an incubator that prepares you for The Decision. And if too many years go by in a relationship without The Decision being made, society decides that something must be wrong. To help right the wrong, society will begin to apply pressure on the couple, from all angles.

In polyamorous circles, this is called the "relationship escalator" - the idea that a relationship must escalate up to marriage or be considered a failure. In the polyamorous context this is considered a fallacy, because you can still have another live-in, child-raising relationship while this one ceases to escalate; but in a monogamous context there are real reasons to "fish or cut bait" other than just social pressure. If you're looking to have a married-and-settled-down life and that's not happening with the current partner, you need to pursue that end-state with someone else, and monogamy requires you to break up the non-escalating relationship before you can do that.

To quote the comedian Chris Rock:

You have two choices. Single and lonely. Married and bored. Ain't no happiness anywhere.


I found this article to have zero value and zero cogent information because he boils the whole thing down to “gut check” (instinct — no real information here) plus “dealbreakers” (a nebulous category that he makes clear is always changing for everyone so there’s not really any useful info there either).

This reads like a long hemming and hawing written by some dude who probably shouldn’t marry his partner but he’s trying to convince himself it’s a good idea and seek validation for his bad decision by writing a long abstract post justifying it.

Pro tip to the author, if your relationship prompts you to write a long article justifying your decision-making process about whether or not to marry your partner, then your partner has failed the gut check and you shouldn’t marry them.

4/10 article, interesting concepts but zero actionable or new info that isn’t already common/universal knowledge in western societies.

It’s also just plain weird that he would write an article that long which is clearly based on his life experiences but not share any of his specific life experiences or anything about him. Maybe he thinks subtracting the self from the article makes it “more universally applicable,” but really his decision not to include any info about his personal relationship history just makes it less relatable and thus FAR less applicable to anyone.

Lot of interesting ideas here. I would just add a few points.

On listening to your gut when you are a brain person, this is actually trainable, check out the book Focusing by the University of Chicago psychologist and philosopher Eugene Gendlin.

On deciding, it seems to me the two most important things are if the two of you have reasonably common values about how you want to live your lives, and if you trust the other person's moral character and ability to act rationally, at least when it comes to something really important. If the two of you have these, then you can probably work out the difficulties.

Thirdly, you stand a much better chance of settling problems small and large if you take a course in interpersonal relationship and conflict resolution skills. See for instance Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.

Lastly, you need to have some larger philosophy or religion to keep things in perspective and as basis for personal value beyond how much your mate loves you, otherwise you will either be their puppet or try to be their master.

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg changed the way I thought. However, it, ah, doesn't matter at all if both parties don't buy in.

It's interesting to me that people in the U.S. (maybe all the West, I just have experience with the U.S.) spend so much effort trying to find a marriage partner. But it does not appear to me that folks are happier in their marriages than in countries where some form of arranged marriage (not necessarily a "big A" arranged marriage, but maybe a "little A" arranged marriage) is common.

I suspect:

1) We're not special and in fact there are a wide range of people we'd be relatively happy being married to;

2) It does not take that long to figure out whether our partner falls into bucket (1);

3) To the extent that initially happy marriages sour, it's because of changed circumstances, and there is little you can do at step (1) to prevent those.

Strongest possible agree. My wife and I were together for 3 weeks before we eloped in Reno (we both broke up with previous partners to be together). We're celebrating our 20th in a couple weeks. And for about half that time we've also worked together.

There's a dude on this thread who has apparently been married longer than I've been alive and my 20 years makes me a marriage piker, but I suspect the real secret is that a marriage is something you build, not something you discover in some godawful dating treasure hunt.


I have trouble understanding why people buckle to social pressure in this day and age. If you aren't Amish or JW risking your entire livelihood and social circle... is it really that hard to tell you're relatives you just aren't ready to be married?

In most of the US, if a relationship lasts long enough, it doesn't matter much whether you "get married" or not. As far as the state's concerned, you are legally married.

What are you referring to? Common law marriage? That’s only valid in 8 states and DC (California is not one of those states, FYI).

Edit: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia are the only US districts where one can enter into a common law marriage today. Such marriages are, of course, recognized by other states, but you won’t end up “accidentally” married by doing nothing in New York, for instance.

Add Washington state to your list. There is case law here whereby if you live together or demonstrate that you are in a domestic partnership, you can be liable for spousal support, using the same guidelines as divorce. And this is without signing any documents or anything “official” to mark the partnership.

Edit: in fact, to make this even more messed up - Washington state had a domestic partnership law, then got rid of it. So now there is a giant legal grey area where the courts have basically said “we know it when we see it.”

OK, I stand corrected.[0]

But then, in California there's "palimony",[1] so it's iffy.

I guess the lesson is to research the applicable legal environment.

0) https://www.cadivorce.com/news/common-law-marriage-myths/

1) https://www.cadivorce.com/california-divorce-guide/spousal-s...

This is the kind of thing everyone should think through post-highschool/college/in their 20s -- glad someone's written it out. I would love another guide/write-up like this for friendship -- it seems like people my age (late 20s/early 30s) and younger are in this world where "friendship" means so little (as used by Facebook) and yet so much (as used by your actual friends who you make efforts to see and enjoy spending time with).

Finding people that have actively thought through many of life's quandaries (should you eat meat? how should governments be run? what do you want out of life?) and have formed opinions backed by mostly fact but who are ready to change in the presence of new data is so difficult though. I have a hunch I'm not looking in the right places but even in my late 20s I run into so many people who just haven't thought about most of the important shit and are just looking to glob onto someone for the rest of their life. Like sure, listening to music and digesting memes is great, but if you can't align or at least come to reasoned disagreement with your partner on shit that really matters, what is everyone doing.

Some quick stats on marriage in a cynical thread:

1) Only 40% of marriages end in divorce these days.

2) Divorced people are much more likely to divorce multiple times, so first marriage success rate is closer to 75%.

3) In job cross splits, software developers have much lower divorce rates than the general pop.

As an unmarried HN reader, you probably have a an 80% chance of lifelong marriage.

Just anecdotal evidence, but during my divorce 2 other SW engineers I know also got divorced and another one asked me for advice on how to get it started. I know lots of SW guys with stories of horrible divorces and insane legal bills which took decades to pay off. Maybe it's because I'm in Southern California where the divorce rate is something like 75%.

> I’m not an expert on this, nor am I married—but I’ve read a lot about it

Ooookaaaay.... Sorry, but you have lost what little credibility you might have had right there.

That’s where I stopped reading, too.

Just marry someone who a) deals with their shit and b) doesn't drive you crazy.

If you're not sure your love interest is doing "a", find a mouthy asshole you trust and mention things about your relationship to them. If they don't convincingly criticize your love interest (or you) then you're probably ok to get married.

If you don't yet know what drives you crazy: stop. You are too young to get married.

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