When I was born, my mother and father were husband and wife. They married a few years before having my sister (their first born). About three years into their marriage they legally split. Divorce papers were signed, sealed and delivered. A year or two later, they were back on.
So, when my parents reunited, they were in fact a divorced couple. They never remarried.For over 10 years, my mother and father were husband and wife in every sense of the word, but the legal one.
This is common in my culture. Dominicans often shack up and live together and call each other husband and wife. One of my uncles married his “wife” of over 20 years because she wanted the wedding, and to be good with the big G-O-D.
Her words, not mine.
Surprisingly, this trend has become popular. Heterosexual marriage has reached an all-time low in the United States, but couples still say they are “married.” Coupled up Americans use the term “husband” and “wife” regardless of their legal marital status. Just in 2012, 46 percent of households were made up of unmarried heterosexual.
My family may have been onto something.
So, what does this say about the institution of marriage? Is it kaput? Is this even an issue? It all depends on the individual. If I only had a domestic partner, my family wouldn’t shame me for it. However, I believe that the legal documentation is necessary. Marriage feels like more of a commitment. It is definitely a legal commitment. Others may not need it. The numbers show that many don’t. And many of my married friends who once lived with their partners tell me the wedding and the paperwork didn’t change their union.
Still, I stand my ground. I don’t want to repeat my family’s legacy. Call me old fashioned but I want to call my man my “husband” because he is my husband.
Photo Credit: Kay Jewelers.