Do You Really Have To Get Married If You're In A Long-Term Relationship?

Being in love and finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with can be an exciting experience, but it may also come with societal pressure to get married. However, if you aren't hearing wedding bells in your future but want to continue your long-term relationship, that is absolutely okay in the 21st century. According to Women's Health, there are both upsides and considerations to choosing whether or not you and your partner get married. Some people may choose marriage for financial, religious, or practical reasons, like having children, while others find alternative ways to celebrate their long-term relationships without walking down the aisle.

As of 2021, the average age of marriage for adults in the United States fell somewhere in the thirties for all genders, reports The Knot. Specifically, the average age for all adults was found to be 34 years, as found in The Knot's 2021 Real Weddings Study. In fact, the average age of marriage has been increasing over the past several years, with the average age being 32 years just three years ago in 2019. Now the average age for men is 35 years old, and the average age for women is 33 years old. With the average age of marriage steadily rising, it's clear that many people are prioritizing other experiences and opportunities before tying the knot, such as building their careers and enjoying independence before settling down. It also shows that long-term relationships can thrive without marriage.

Alternatives to getting married

If marriage doesn't feel right for you, but you still want the protections that getting married can afford, there are other options for seeking financial and legal protections for your long-term relationship, per Brides. Depending on where you live, you can seek a civil union, otherwise known as a domestic partnership, in which cohabitating partners with a long-term commitment to one another can seek similar legal protections to those given to married couples. Showing proof that you and your partner have shared assets, such as property or financial accounts, can help you obtain a domestic partnership certification from your respective state. With a domestic partnership, people in a long-term relationship are entitled to medical visitation in hospitals and the inheritance of assets if one partner passes away.

A commitment made between those in a long-term relationship that lays out the terms of the relationship, from financial to living arrangements to everything else, but isn't made legal by a state is referred to as a cohabitation agreement (via Brides). In between is a common law marriage, in which people in a long-term relationship adopt the same last name and tell their community that they are committed to one another. Checking your state's requirements for civil unions, common law marriages, and cohabitation agreements is the best first step to deciding if one of these routes is a good alternative for your long-term relationship.

Prioritize a healthy relationship

Many people choose to live happily in long-term relationships without trips down the aisle because they're perfectly content with the way things are, and that is a totally secure reason for not transitioning from a long-term relationship into a marriage. No one needs to justify their reason for not getting married as long as their relationship is consensual and positively benefits all partners. Above all else, it's important to prioritize positive habits that will allow you to have a healthy relationship, whether you go the marriage route or take another path with your relationship. 

Besides having a partner by your side to weather difficult times in life, long-term relationships that have a healthy foundation can actually enhance overall happiness, lower stress levels, and even lead to better mental and physical health, according to Amherst College. You can spend hours searching the internet or reading self-help books on how to improve your relationship, but the most important factor is that your relationship is respectful, which means creating room for each person to be their authentic self. By being yourself and taking care of your own well-being, including having independent hobbies and doing the things you need to do in order to connect with yourself, you can show up in your relationship more authentically. Encouraging your partner to do the same for themselves can help your long-term relationship thrive. Being genuinely yourselves means not walking down the aisle if marriage isn't what you want.