What is the Point of Marriage Without Children?

By Victoria Fryer 

The other day, feeling a little down in the dumps, I decided to stop by the corner store in my neighborhood on my way home from work to pick up some candy. One of the cashiers who knows my husband asked me, after a couple seconds of conversation, if we had any kids yet.

Now, this is a dreaded question for me for two reasons: one is that I find it kind of strange that people would ask that question. Sometimes even rude. But, in this case, I’m going to let that one go. The person in question is kind of young, and he’s a really nice guy—I know he didn’t mean to be rude or ask a question that would make someone uncomfortable. He was just trying to make conversation and ask about our lives, and to a lot of people, questions about kids are a pretty safe bet.

It is the second reason that always gets me in trouble. I cannot—physically CAN NOT—keep my mouth shut when people ask me questions like this. I know that the “right” thing to do is to smile, shake my head, and brightly say, “Not yet!” But I just can’t do it.

Instead, I grimaced my face in horror, shook my head vehemently, and said, “Neverrrrr!” which came out sounding like some kind of witch’s hiss. At this point, both guys working behind the counter recoiled—shocked, perhaps, that a woman wouldn’t want children, or just maybe put off by my admittedly kind of strange reaction.

And then he asked, “What’s the point of getting married if you’re not going to have kids?”

I have all the thoughts on this question. But, put on the spot like that, I just started muttering phrases like, “Life insurance, uh, do-not-resuscitate orders, you know, like, end-of-life care!” These are a few of my favorite things…

Let’s put aside my propensity for morbidity for a moment here, and just focus on why I cannot keep my mouth shut. Why can’t I just keep my mouth shut? The “right” thing to say was, “Because I like him and I want to keep him.” Am I right? I mean, that’s the cute, safe, to-a-cashier-in-a-corner-store thing to say. Instead I go straight for the jugular. I really need therapy.

Oh, wait. I’m already in therapy.

Seriously, though—there are so many good reasons to get married despite not wanting children. One of them is external, but it impacts so many other things: your relationship holds more weight to other people if you’re legally married. When my husband and I got married, we already saw ourselves as a unit. That’s why we got married. But the wedding prompted other people to start seeing us as a unit.

The gravity of a legal marriage also gives us more financial legal protections. First of all, I became able to cover him under my health insurance. Not only is this just easier in some ways, at least for us, it also gave us the option of choosing the better health plan. This Forbes article lists a bunch of other financial reasons that marriage is a good idea if you’re in it for the long haul.

And, because we viewed ourselves as a team, we wanted to have the kind of legal rights afforded to married couples. For instance, if something were to happen to me, I want him to be able to speak for me, to make the decisions he knows I would want. I want him to be my next of kin. Whether right or wrong, it is marriage that affords those rights. He, of all people, will know what I would want if I was in a poor health situation, and I want institutions to be legally obligated to listen.

The same goes for when one of us dies. If I go first, I want him to have full control over what happens to me and the things that I consider ours—particularly if that were to happen sooner than we both expect and hope—as well as any benefits to which I have a right.

I can understand why some people don’t feel the way we do, but for us, the gravity and legality of marriage were important. And the fact that we’ve chosen not to have children doesn’t affect that importance to us at all. Some of them are romantic, some of them are legal, and some of them, yes, are just plain morbid. But those are the kinds of things we have to think about as we grow into adulthood, and I’m glad to have my husband (legally) by my side.

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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