I recently read a post about domestic partnerships for straight couples as an alternative to marriage. It’s an interesting proposition, but what exactly is the different? To me there didn’t seem to be a huge difference. A domestic partnership is a legal form of recognizing a relationship without the cultural aspect that weddings and marriage involve. But what else is it? What are the real alternatives?
Domestic partnership is something different in each state that has such a law. There are laws in 11 states and two municipalities in the US laying out what a domestic partnership is and who is eligible. The laws vary greatly, and restrict it by sexual orientation and age in some states. In some states and countries it is almost equivalent to marriage. But that is not the majority. This could very well not be an option for you – just like it wasn’t for Nona Willis Aronowitz.
I decided to look at other alternatives. Cohabitation is one – which usually ends with marriage or domestic partnership. But if you have no plans to marry or reason for not doing so, anyone can have a legal contract drawn up to lay out terms of living together, anyone can get counseling before or after moving in together, both being common things that happen before marriage. Okay – the legal document is a little different – some people do this, but it can also act as in place of a marriage license putting the relationship on record. But is it needed?
The other example I found was life partner. Again much of the above paragraph applies. The general idea I’ve gathered from my reading is, if you don’t want to get married – think about why that is. Because you’ll likely run across some of those same issues if you contemplate a domestic partnership or some other formal description of your relationship.
The biggest benefit of a domestic partnership: gaining health insurance. It’s why the Aronowitz wound up getting married – and she’s certainly not the only one. One benefit she found in marriage though, is trading in the words boyfriend or partner for husband. What is about being married that the title for your significant other becomes so much more powerful? Yes, at a certain point the words boyfriend and girlfriend don’t seem to fit any more. But for straight couples to use the term partner can cause confusion, or at least it has in my life.
Throw in common law marriage (highly confusing) and you have almost too many options depending on where you live. If you weren’t planning to marry would you want a domestic partnership or something else?
Originally appeared on Fem2.0