Tammy and Kyle have been in a relationship for twenty years. Together they have two daughters, run a business and own property. Tammy describes Kyle as “the person she loves most in life,” yet she never wants to marry him.
Here is a bit of her story.
Why have you never married?
In my mind it is an unnecessary step. It seems redundant to get a marriage license. I don’t think we need to put on paper what we already know. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Why would we fix something which is not broken?
How long were you together before you decided you would not get married?
It was probably around when we had our first child. She is 13 now.
If tomorrow, for whatever reason, you were forced to be married what would you be afraid would change?
I have heard horror stories about people feeling trapped or one person all of the sudden stopped trying as hard because they were tied together. It is almost as if they can become unappreciative of what they have because they have it. I did not want this to happen to either of us. I am not willing to chance changing anything when it is working so well as is.
How would you say your relationship is different from people who have been married for 20 years?
I have a big group of girlfriends. Virtually everyone is married but me. They spend so much time apart [from their spouses]. There is a separation between them. There are many things they do not tell their husbands. I tell Kyle everything. We are together non-stop. I have this sense of loyalty to him that I do not see my friends having. They have secrets. There are things which are not spoken [in their marriages] and I think that is a difference.
Do you feel any social stigma associated with being unmarried?
Absolutely. Both of our families introduce us as husband and wife. I am not his wife. I introduce Kyle as my daughters’ father. I do not always say boyfriend because it sounds juvenile. I do not say fiancée because we have no intention of getting married. If somebody refers to him as my husband I correct them. There is definitely a little cloud over it in other people’s eyes.
Do you think people take your relationship less seriously or show it less respect because you are not married?
I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. I would hope they wouldn’t. Twenty years is a long time. It seems a little silly to think any less of anybody’s commitment simply because there is not a ring and a piece of paper, but yes there is that possibility.
What about the argument that marriage provides you health insurance or the ability to see each other in the hospital? Have you taken any legal precautions to protect yourself?
We own our own business and self-insure. I had major surgery about four years ago and there was no problem whatsoever with him visiting me. I have never come across anything legally which has been derogatory. Even with taxes it is cheaper.
When you hear people say, “I just want to be married.” What do you think they think marriage will give them that a committed long term relationship would not?
A couple of my friends are very aware of what the church thinks. Some of my other friends just want to have a giant party.
It is a licensing fee for the state. If you love the person you are with you do not have to be married. I think for some people it shows others they are committed and they find this necessary. I don’t.
Is there something that makes you try harder at your relationship because you are not married?
I really try to remind myself to appreciate him. It is very easy to forget this is the person you love the most in life. I do not know if that is because I am not married.
Can you think of anything legally, socially, emotionally, physically, spiritually or otherwise which marriage would provide that you do not currently have?
Absolutely not. In twenty years I have not run across anything.
Do you think being unmarried has negatively impacted your children?
I would hope not. It might be though. Kids are mean and judgmental. I have a fantastic relationship with my girls. I am very honest with them. They have never expressed anything derogatory that has happened or was said to them. In the first or second grade my kids want us to get married, so they could be flower girls, but that was the only reason they want us to get married.
Do you think there is something inherent in marriage harmful to relationships?
I think marriage is negative in that some people stop trying because they are tied to you.
Is there anything about being unmarried which makes people more or less faithful to each other?
In my mind no. In someone else’s mind the ring might be stronger than their heart and maybe it would stop them from cheating. If you are going to cheat you are going to cheat.
If you did break up how do you feel this would be different from a divorce?
We do not have to divide up our bills because my bills are mine and his bills are his. His credit cards are in his name and mine are in mine. Other than the houses and the businesses everything is in our own individual names. We would probably have to get an attorney and fees could be close to the same as a divorce.
What is the biggest misconception about people in unmarried long term relationships?
People think we are not committed enough.
Do you have anything analogous to wedding rings?
Nope. We do not celebrate anniversaries or have rings. We never have.
Do you feel you have the same commitment which marriage provides?
Yes, we always laugh that we will never be able to get rid of each other.