The Moneyist: ‘It isn’t a matter of love, just a matter of feminism’: I’m 32, pregnant and have a six-figure job. Should I marry my boyfriend?
I am a 32-year-old woman, and I have been dating a lovely man since April. We’re very much in love.
I just found out about a week ago that I am pregnant. It was unplanned, but we are excited, despite the shock. We have decided it’s not imperative to rush to the altar just yet and, personally, I wonder if I ever want to get married at all.
It isn’t a matter of love, just a matter of feminism. Considering the long history of marriage and its former and/or current use to oppress and control women, I’m not sure I buy into it.
As for my partner, I love him and want to be with him, and vice versa. We’re committed. He’s more traditional than I am. He hasn’t pressed me, but I imagine he’d want to get married at some point.
I realize, however, it’s not just about me anymore. I know there are benefits to being married with a child that go beyond romantic commitment. Taxes, legal protections, beneficiary stuff, Social Security later in life, etc.
Can you help me weigh the pros and cons of getting married versus staying unmarried? For context, I have a six-figure income, plus stock options, investments, etc.
My partner is still figuring out his career, but he is good with money, he has a solid savings account, and no debt. He just doesn’t have as stable or as high paying of a job as I do at this moment.
The idea of being the breadwinner doesn’t bother me as long as he pulls his weight, which he has up till now.
You have the financial side sorted: lower living expenses, a lower overall tax bill filing as a couple, a protection against capital gains tax and the slings and arrows of the economy should one of you lose your job or suffer a dramatic reduction in income and — this may not be such a priority for you given your salary — the ability to buy a home together (that you own 50/50, I should add). No more single room supplement when you travel. Amen to that!
That said, anything you earn during your marriage or purchase will likely end up as community/marital property, and divorce is an expensive proposition. For those who experience it, it’s like 2008 and 2020 all over again.
There are other questions to ask: Would you like more children with this man? Does he have the qualities you want in someone to spend the rest of your life with? (That’s a long time.) Does he bring out the best in you? Small issues now can become big issues later on. People who get divorced often say the same things: “I saw the red flags, but I thought I could change him/her.”
Yes, marriage has changed a lot over the last century, but you are correct that it is an institution steeped in a history of oppression. The legal push to criminalize rape within marriage only began in earnest in the 1970s. Unmarried women could be refused a credit card or bank account until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age in credit transactions.
Most divorces are initiated by women, studies show, and although men have doubled the amount of housework they do over the last half-century, women still shoulder the burden of doing the majority of housework. They’re also more likely than men to take career breaks, and suffer the financial consequences of that.
So what is my advice to you? Don’t make any hasty decisions. Having a baby should not be the only reason for getting married, and nor should it be the reason you decide to get married within the next 12 months. I have lost count of the number of women who, having split from their husband, realized that they made a lot of child-rearing decisions and sacrifices, a fact that came into bitter, sharp relief when they co-parented as separated/divorced spouses.
Give it time. You are both young, and finding your feet in the world, and co-parenting will be an excellent way to see how you work together as partners and parents, in addition to boyfriend/girlfriend. You will also have to manage a budget and make sacrifices in order to adapt to your new life as parents. You will learn a lot from each over the next couple of years, and learn a lot about each other. You will also continue to grow and evolve as people. For all of us, that’s the hope.
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at firstname.lastname@example.org
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