Wedding Woes

"We'll get married when we're ready. This dip is delicious."

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend of four years and I love each other very much, but are not in a position to get married. Even though we’ve both talked about how much we want to, the reason we can’t is embarrassing. Both of our extended families are badgering us about it and I don’t know what to say. Even my close family is starting to be pushy, and I don’t know how to respond because I do really wish we could!

We live together in my home, and split bills 70 me/30 him. I have some limited student loan debt that I’m paying off, and a chronic illness that limits how much I’m physically able to work, so I’m very careful with saving my money for emergencies. My boyfriend has big student loan debt as well as tax arrears, credit card debt, and medical debt, all from a big manic episode at 23 that snowballed. He’s on medication now, and has a payment plan and system for all his debts as he slowly chips away at them but they’re big! Consulting with two different attorneys, we learned that the risk to me if he loses his job and can’t pay, or dies, or we get divorced, or in some other way we’re married and he stops paying these debts, is huge. In addition, my income will make him ineligible for a lot of the income-driven repayment options he’s using right now. Either way, marriage is not a smart plan for us right now, but we’re staying together. How do I respond when people push me about it?

—Making It Work

Re: "We'll get married when we're ready. This dip is delicious."

  • "When the time is right you'll be among the first to know."
  • "This is my kind invitation to you to STFU".  Beyond my evolving personal beliefs about marriage in the first place, people just need to mind their damn lanes.
  • In addition to bean dipping, they need to let their families know this is an off-limits question.  They can use the excuse that they'll get married when they feel like it and are tired of being asked this question.

    When the ACA was up for debate, I read a sad article about a couple who had to get divorced for no other reason than getting their child government-sponsored medical insurance for her cancer treatment.  Their little girl had already hit her lifetime max. of $1M, so the medical insurance he had through his work wouldn't pay for anything anymore.  But of course, he made too much money for his child to get Medicaid or any state insurance programs. 

    The wife was a SAHM.  Once she was legally single and had no income, she and her child were now eligible for those programs.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • Can someone explain common law to me? I know not all states have them, but do common law relationships split assets if the relationship goes sour but not debts? 

  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot member
    First Comment First Anniversary First Answer 5 Love Its
    edited February 26
    Can someone explain common law to me? I know not all states have them, but do common law relationships split assets if the relationship goes sour but not debts? 
    Traditionally, common law was a non-ceremonial marriage. So you didn't go through the paperwork, but you started living together and "held yourself out" as married, after a number of years you were considered legally married. When I worked in family law we had one divorce case where the couple was common law. I think they'd done some kind of religious ceremony, but never did the legal side. Their divorce was the same as any other. Most states don't recognize that anymore.

    Canada and some states have a modified version of common law where you don't have to hold yourself out as married, but you just have to cohabitate for a set period of time, and you're basically a domestic partnership for the purposes of insurance etc, but you wouldn't go through a divorce to separate assets or debts. If you couldn't figure it out, you'd have to go through a civil suit to divide it up. Assets and debts wouldn't be presumed joint like they would in a marriage, but you could split up anything jointly titled or hash out things like a dog that don't have a real title.
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