Our Common Law Marriage
We decided to take the unconventional route and get married by Common Law nearly 8 years ago. There are many misconceptions about what common law marriage is and is not, so we're going to talk about how and why we did it and how we told our families.
Courtney: Hello, everyone and welcome. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse Royce. We are an Asexual married couple. Now as perhaps you can well imagine, when people find out that we are both Asexual and married, many questions follow. Of course, there’s the certain percentage of people who are just going to be ignorant of Asexuality as an orientation who just don’t think that Asexual people can or would want to get married for any reason, but we’re not going to be talking about those specific people. I actually today want to get into the nitty-gritty of how we actually got married because, Asexual or not, we actually picked a rather unconventional route toward getting to our legally recognized marriage. So we’re going to talk about how we did that and why.
Courtney: So we are going to actually be celebrating our eight year anniversary in a few months. And so nearly eight years ago, we decided to get married and we got married in the state of Kansas in the United States. That is going to be incredibly important information because the way in which we got married is not necessarily legal in every single US state. The method in which we got married is called common-law marriage. And if any of you comment or tweet at us or anything and say that is when you just live together for seven years, I will flip the table.
Royce: I was just going to say blocked.
Courtney: Blocked. [laughs] You will be blocked. So, yeah, I guess reason number one why we got common-law married is because we really love punishing ourselves, and we just like to have the most complicated relationship that exists that no one ever knows what the deal really is. We love to over explain.
Royce: It’s only hard to explain. It’s actually very easy to do.
Courtney: Very easy. It’s the easiest in fact. But yeah, let’s get the misconception out of the way because I think most people have an idea in their head of what they think common-law marriage is, and it is almost never what you think it is. I don’t know where this came from, but the seven-year thing, everybody thinks if you are just, you know, anywhere in the US and you live with someone for seven years that boom, automatically means your common-law married. That has never been the case to my knowledge anywhere. Anywhere.
Royce: Side note: if someone is explaining something to you, any person, any topic, don’t interrupt them with something you think you heard once to try to be like, “Oh, yeah. I know that thing.” It’ll only make the explanation take longer.
Courtney: That’s so true. Because how many times have we mentioned, “Yeah, we got common-law married.” And the other person interjects to be like, “Oh, yeah. That’s when you’ve lived together seven years.”
Royce: Every time. Every time we have explained this in the last eight years. With maybe a couple of exceptions.
Courtney: A couple of exceptions and the exceptions are people who just had no idea what this was. But, oh my goodness. Yeah, so that’s wild. If you’ve ever heard that, just throw it in the bin, that has never been the case. Ever. So let’s explain what common-law marriage actually is. It is no different from traditional marriage. And of course, we’re talking about United States and more specifically the handful of states that allow this method of marriage,
Royce: No different meaning in how it is legally represented. Like, it is a marriage. The common-law part is just a different set of steps to get there.
Courtney: Exactly. But once you are married, our marriage functions in society, in the law, in– let’s be real, taxes, as any other legally sanctioned marriage in the United States. So that– I mean, that’s kind of another thing that bothers me every now and then I’ll hear someone be like, “Oh they’re common-law married.” As if that’s not just married. Like, I don’t want anyone to think that our marriage functions any different from any other one, but I do want to make the case that our method of getting married by these means was the best possible option. I think better than the alternative.
Courtney: Because, for the states that allow Common-law marriage, it is in essence just you as the couple, get to decide that you are married and not the government saying, “Okay, you can be married.” And that was a big sort of selling point to us on the common-law thing, because it has just always seemed so weird to me that if, you know, two people in love want to get married, they want to celebrate, and make a long-term commitment, why do you have to go and apply for a marriage license to the government and pay the government for permission to do that? I’m just not really into that. And before… Oh, what was it? 2015 that gay marriage was finally legalized in all 50 states…?
Royce: That’s what I just looked up.
Courtney: That seems so recent. Oh, that kills me how recent that is.
Royce: Yeah. It was from 2004 to 2015
Courtney: Yes. So I also very much did not want to apply for a government-sanctioned marriage license during a time when an openly gay couple could not do the same. And Kansas, I believe, did not legalize gay marriage on its own. I think that just happened with the Supreme Court ruling if we’re being honest. So in the state of Kansas as with, to my knowledge, most if not all of the states that allow common-law, it’s written in a way that makes it very simple, very easy to do. The law just simply states that you must be over the age of 18, you must be otherwise legally eligible to get married, and from there it’s up to the couple to decide that they wish to enter into a marriage and to hold out to the public as a married couple. Is normally how I see it written is “holding out.” So we couldn’t try to use marriage to get a tax benefit, but then turn around and be telling everyone in our community, all our friends and family that we’re not actually married. Which, some people really get concerned about that aspect of common-law marriage. Because they’re so concerned about people abusing it or manipulating it, or running into certain legal troubles down the line.
Royce: Which, some people are quick to jump to unfounded concerns about a lot of issues that they may not fully understand.
Courtney: Oh, of course. Because everyone, I mean, anytime marriage enters into the conversation the first question is normally about divorce like, “Oh, well, if you’re common-law married, what happens if you get divorced?” You just get a divorce, just like any other marriage. It is exactly the same process. Because once you’re married, you are married. There isn’t a different set of rules depending on how you decided to get married. Which I did, just to touch on, I did try to find how many states currently allow common-law marriage or at least allow new ones. And it seems like the magic number is eight states plus the District of Columbia. I’m seeing some sites that are only saying 7, so, I don’t know if some laws have been changed recently. But I’m definitely seeing these states over and over again: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. And of course, DC as well. And some states have never allowed this, but there is a decreasing number of states who do, there’re states who are starting to ban new common-law marriages. If you entered into a common law marriage two or three decades ago they’ll say, “Sure that’s still legal and valid, we’re just not accepting any new ones.”
Courtney: And another question we often get is, “Oh, well, what if you move out of Kansas?” Doesn’t matter, we’re still married. And every state in the United States basically has an agreement that you must acknowledge the other states’ laws where it comes to marriage. If you got married in a different state, the new state is going to accept that it is a legal marriage, even if they have their own set of laws. That might be a bit different. And yeah, I don’t know. So many people think it’s weird that we got married this way. So many people think it’s weird, but I kind of think more marriages should be this way to be perfectly honest. There’s no requirement for how long you must live together, but most states that allow this do want to see some evidence of cohabitation. And then just consistency as holding out as a married couple. So the year we decided to get married we did file our taxes jointly, for example, and even though we didn’t have a marriage certificate or a marriage license, it was still fully legal to do that.
Royce: Yeah, it was taxes and Health Care, the two formal government documents.
Courtney: Yeah, absolutely. And the history of common law marriage in the United States, from what I’ve been able to tell, unfortunately like so many things in the United States’ history does have a bit of a settler origin. Because the logic that I see quoted most often as to why this is legal, and specifically why it’s legal in some states over others, is because of the “expansion West” and situations where there may be a couple who is or wants to become married but they might be out in the Wild West. And during a very Christian time, where marriages had a very religious connotation, that normally meant you needed a priest to marry you. But what happens if you have just started a new settlement and there isn’t a priest or a church yet? Can’t have those people living in sin without a legally recognized marriage, so let’s just say, “Sure, you can– you can decide to get married for lack of a Church.” And obviously those origins aren’t super cool but it makes even more sense today to have this as an option, because an increasing number of people are turning away from religion. And if we look at current marriage laws that are– I suppose we’ll call it the traditional marriage, traditional marriage versus common-law marriage, you still very much need some type of religious body. It doesn’t necessarily need to legally be in a church, but you need a clergy of a religious denomination to officiate the ceremony. Either that, or a current or retired judge. So it’s like, pick your poison, religion or government. And that’s how you get people like becoming ministers just online for the sake of just officiating their friend’s wedding.
Royce: I was about to ask, how does that work? Because I didn’t know you had to be tied to clergy or some denomination.
Courtney: Yeah, basically. [laughs] Well, we’ll have to look this up or call in an expert because, you know, we actually have a friend who became a registered officiant for another friend’s wedding. And if we did the traditional wedding she absolutely would have officiated us as well. But I’m pretty sure you have to basically register yourself as a minister at a church, that just lets you self-proclaim yourself that thing.
Royce: That’s why I was asking because I was pretty sure said friend was non-religious.
Courtney: Well, you’ve– that’s, that’s the thing. There are so many non-religious people who are sort of pseudo-registering as a religious-esque entity for the sake of skirting religion in the traditional marriage, which seems very, very weird that everyone goes through all of these hurdles.
Royce: People are jumping through so many hoops to avoid this, it just shouldn’t be a thing anymore.
Courtney: It just shouldn’t be a thing. Because aside from the officiant, who must be a judge or clergy, you need to apply for a marriage license. And in the state of Kansas that is $85. You have to pay $85 to say, “Hello state I live in, will you please give me permission to get married?” And man, I hate that. I hate that so much because, you know what I hate even more than that very concept? The fact that they also charge you like a $2.14 fee if you pay on a credit or debit card. Like what’s up with that? It’s only a $1.25 fee if you pay by electronic check. It’s kind of expensive to get married. This isn’t even the wedding, that’s just asking permission from the state. And then there’s like a three-day waiting period where you have to go back three days later and say, “Yep, we’re still serious about this. We still want it to happen.”
Courtney: And then if they issue you the license, I believe you have six months to actually have the ceremony. And if you don’t have the ceremony in those six months, you have to get another license. Think about all of the, you know, pandemic weddings that got pushed back. How many of them had to reapply for a license or had to do, like a City Hall under the table private ceremony, and not do the big reception until later. So yeah, when the time came for us to get married, it’s like, “Well, we live in Kansas, we can just decide to be married and we will be just as legally married as anyone else in this state.” So, with all that in mind, why would we do it any different? I’ll save us like, eighty six or seven or eight bucks, depending on how we pay the government.
Royce: And time and stress.
Courtney: And time and stress. And when you do have an officiant, even if it’s not a big ceremony, you still have to have witnesses to also sign off on that. We didn’t need any of that. We just said, “Great. Let’s be married. Okay. Sounds good.” Which was wonderful. And I love that for us.
Royce: And the only way that we had to pay to make up for that is in repetitive conversations over the next eight years.
Courtney: Repetitive conversations. Well, it was really the “breaking it to family” for me. That was the hardest part of doing it the way we did. Because I knew that my mother and my grandmother I’m sure were absolutely just like, dreaming of what my wedding might look like. And I think I’ve said this before on the podcast, but I do love the pageantry of a wedding. I don’t love the social implications of a wedding, but I love the pageantry. And so, thinking of getting married of course I, Courtney, want a fabulous gown. I want a great big huge party where everyone can dance and eat cake, of course I want those things. But when I actually thought about standing up in front of a crowd of our friends and family, and publicly declaring “I Do”s? Something about that seemed very, very weird to me. I was like, “Can we just skip that and do the party?”
Royce: Yeah. I’ve never thought that I could go through that and not feel like I was putting on a performance. It’s just not natural behavior for me.
Courtney: Well, I’m also good in front of a crowd. But I mean, how are you in front of a crowd?
Royce: I’m not.
Courtney: You are not in front of the crowd ever.
Royce: Yeah, that would be a very stressful and anxious day. I don’t know if I would have the sort of actual physical manifestation of social anxiety that I’ve had before, because I literally fainted in Middle School giving a speech once.
Royce: And also from that point on–
Courtney: Just avoided doing that.
Royce: Well, I couldn’t just avoid doing that because it was a part of English class, but I actually understood it well enough that I didn’t actually pass out, but I had like a four or five minute limit where I just had to cut a speech short.
Courtney: Yeah, lightheadedness. Yeah, and that’s something I knew about you as well. Just the general social anxiety that could come with that. And I was also like, you know, everyone says your wedding’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life or taking it a step further, they’ll be like, “Oh, the wedding’s gonna be the happiest day of your life until the day you have kids.” [laughs] No, all very normative, antiquated notions. But I was trying to picture a world in which a wedding day would actually be among the happiest days of my life, and I was thinking, you know, to have my happiest life I want to marry Royce, but the day of the wedding I don’t think I could enjoy myself to the extent that my imagination is telling me I would, or should, out of sensitivity to your social anxieties too. If you were all riled up and concerned and didn’t want to be in front of people, then I couldn’t enjoy myself to the fullest either, because I’d be worried about you.
Royce: Does anyone really enjoy the entire wedding day though? Because isn’t it supposed to be like one of the most stressful days of your life as well? Like, maybe it just– it sucks up until that moment where then you don’t have to do anything anymore. You don’t have to manage anything anymore. Maybe people just, they enjoy the evening and that kind of overshadows everything that led up to it.
Courtney: It depends, it definitely does. I do think people tend to put on their rose-colored glasses when they’re remembering their wedding, and they should remember the good over the bad. But the number of people I know where something just nearly catastrophic happened during the wedding planning or the day of, and I honestly think that’s just the nature of putting too great of expectations on weddings. Because in our society, people make it out to be more than just a legal contract with a party attached. People really try to make it this grand, ethereal, epitome of romance. It’s the first day of the rest of your life.
Royce: Which is probably why it all feels performative to me.
Courtney: Well, it is performative. I mean, like I said, it’s pageantry. It absolutely is pageantry. Which I’m into, but I know you’re not. And I mean, I, I think the same could be said about, you know, the first time having sex, like losing your virginity. Because society also kind of says, like, “Oh, your first time should be special.” Whether or not that’s a person who still believes that the first time should be the wedding night, people definitely make it out like the first time is a big thing and it has to be just right. It has to be perfect. And it’s just really assigning way more importance to the thing than I think is warranted. And if you build it up in your head to be this majorly important thing, then it’s almost never going to actually hit your expectations.
Courtney: So what I don’t know, because maybe, maybe this word is a little subjective as well, but could we say that we eloped? I kind of have the idea of elopement in my head, as two people run away to get married. And we didn’t run away, but we also just kind of did things on our terms under the table. Think the traditional American elopement is Vegas. “We ran away and went to Vegas.” Why is that in Vegas? Do they just not have the three-day waiting period? [laughs]
Royce: I was gonna ask because you could just go to the courthouse, but I guess that takes a while.
Courtney: Yeah, I’m sure–
Royce: It’s cheaper than flying to Vegas.
Courtney: It is cheaper. I mean, I doubt most people running away to Vegas to get married are actually flying, that seems very much like a road trip kind of a situation to me. But, you know, if you make it past the road trip and actually get to Vegas, and still like each other? Then maybe it was meant to be.
Royce: The dictionary definition of elope specifically mentions getting married without parental consent.
Courtney: Oh… Yeah, kind of. I mean, consent is a loaded word because our parents I think all approved of us, but consent implies like, “We’re giving permission,” and we were not gonna ask anyone’s permission. We were gonna do exactly what we wanted.
Royce: Yes. Our parents were not knowledgeable of our intentions.
Courtney: Yes [laughs]
Royce: Not disapproving either, but not aware.
Courtney: Which, yes, brings us to telling the family that we got married. Boy. That was a whole thing, wasn’t it? Well, let’s start with sharing how we told your family because you don’t talk to your family very much. In fact, your family didn’t know I existed until we moved in together. If I recall.
Royce: I think that’s right. But that in particular wasn’t anything too new for me, because again, I don’t really talk about things. So it’s not like I had a history of talking to my family about relationships anyway. And when it comes to pageantry, your mom and your grandmother probably wanted to see you in a traditional wedding. I didn’t really even want to do high school graduation. I did it anyway because I felt like the amount of effort it would take to not actually be present at the graduation was more than to just do it.
Courtney: Oh my gosh, that’s so funny that you say that because, oh man, my high school graduation was so boring. It was awful. It was a complete waste of time. What I did like were the graduation parties, like individual parties everyone would throw and everyone would go to everyone else’s parties. I loved those parties, but the actual graduation… hmm, very, very, very boring for me.
Royce: The parties I went to were also meh.
Courtney: [laughs] Tell them the story of the award, because you got a yearbook award.
Royce: Oh, right, right. I was voted most likely to succeed. But we were going to a graduation rehearsal and it was– it was either on a weekend or, I guess it must have been after like shortly after school had ended. And so everyone was called in to go out on the football field and go through the motions of a pretty boring and simple graduation ceremony. And then everyone started to go inside to do the student awards thing. And in my head, I was bored and wanted to go home and I thought, “Oh rehearsal graduation ceremony, rehearsal awards.” So I just left. And the only other person not present was the person who was awarded Class Clown.
Courtney: It’s so good. The class clown, and the most likely to succeed are 100% on the same page. I love that. Absolutely love that story. But yeah, and then, I mean, just general social settings. I mean, you had no interest in 10 year anniversary reunions, and things like that.
Royce: Didn’t do either of those. I didn’t attend my college graduation. I was also not in state at the time anymore, but I don’t think I would have attended had I been anyway.
Courtney: Yeah, I suppose you could even say that graduations and weddings are kind of the same in the sense that everyone talks about it as this big defining moment and this massively important thing. And yet, you think about it years later, I mean, I did not need to be at my high school graduation. I really did not. I wonder how many married couples 10, 20 years down the line or like, “Huh? We really didn’t have to have that wedding, did we?” Especially ones who pay a lot of money for it, some people really, really do tens of thousands of dollars on the ceremony, the food, the dress, the tuxedos. It can rack up in cost very, very quickly. So I’m also just very glad that we didn’t spend all of that money on a single day. However, we digress, we were telling the story of telling your family, out of the blue, that hello, hey surprise, we are married.
Royce: Right. This is on Christmas Eve because that was probably the largest gathering of my family that occurs.
Courtney: Yeah. We talked about it ahead of time. We’re like, “Well, we’re gonna see them on Christmas Eve, and that’s, that’s probably the time to do it.”
Royce: Right. And so after everyone had opened presents, we just got everyone’s attention and tried to explain that we were married, and what common law was, and that there wasn’t going to be a ceremony, and I don’t really remember how it all went. But that was it.
Courtney: How it went was Courtney kept giving you the eyes because things were starting to wrap up and you kept putting it off, and off, and off…
Royce: I didn’t want to.
Courtney: [laughs] And I’m like, [mumbling] “You know, it’s near the end of the night. I think– I think we better say something.” That was I still think the most noticeably nervous in your face I think I have ever seen you. And yeah, we got a lot of confused looks. I remember this moment of just quiet after you said that we got married because everyone was like, “What?” There’s definitely one member of the family who was like, “But what about the wedding?” We like, “Nope, not doing that actually.” Your grandmother was very sweet, I mean after you made that announcement she pulled me aside and, like, welcomed me to the family. So that was– that was a really good moment. But we had to do it all over again the very next day because you had another set of grandparents and more family at a different event.
Royce: Correct. I don’t even remember that one.
Courtney: You don’t know?
Courtney: Oh, that one wasn’t a big like, “Hello,” addressing the room thing, because there were more distant relatives, some of whom you don’t even know very well. And so it was a lot of fractured conversations. And I’m sure there were still people that I was meeting for the very first time. There were loads of people I’d never met yet. And so it was yeah, okay, every– every time we did engage in a new conversation, like, “Alright, let’s–” Because you would introduce me as your wife to people I haven’t met, but this was also the first time anyone was hearing of you getting married. So that was some more confused faces, definitely a few questions, a little tedious to have that conversation over and over.
Courtney: But my favorite moment from that second day was actually telling your cousin and his boyfriend. I think that was his boyfriend’s first holiday with this family too. So he was also like– we were, we were the new relationships who were sort of doing the rounds and meeting people. And when you told your cousin, he was so confused and he was like, “What do you mean… you just got married?” And his boyfriend leans over and touches his arm and just says, “Just smile and say congratulations.” [laughs] It was like, “Yes, he knows. He gets it.” So that was, that was my favorite moment from your family. And then we had to do it all over again with my family. Because we went down to see your family for Christmas Eve and Christmas, and then immediately after Christmas we were going up to South Dakota to see my grandmother. It’s like, okay, time to tell Grandma. And yeah, I knew she loved you, I knew she would be over the moon if I came to her and said we’re engaged and we’re going to be married. I knew that would be just huge. But I had no idea how she was going to respond with the “We didn’t do a wedding.” So I was actually a little bit nervous about that side of it. However, I mean, tell me if you agree Royce, I think my grandmother had the best reaction of anyone we ever told that we got married. Do you agree? Is your vote for anyone else?
Royce: Yeah, I think so.
Courtney: Because I was, like, sweating bullets also, because I love my grandmother to death and she was very supportive of me and she very much loved Royce, but occasionally I just could not predict how she’d react to some things. So, I was very nervous, but I told her that we got married. It is legal. It is a legal marriage. We didn’t do a ceremony. And there was just half a second where she looked at us with just a tiny bit of confusion, but then it’s like a light just went on and she’s like, “Well, woohoo! That calls for a drink.” She, like, jumps up to the liquor cabinet and she’s like, “I’ve got Windsor Canadian whiskey and peppermint Schnapps. [laughs] Which do you want?” I, at this point, had never had peppermint Schnapps, so I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll try the peppermint Schnapps. That sounds festive.” You had some Canadian whiskey which is not the best.
Royce: It’s very cheap Canadian whiskey. It’s– A handle that’s a plastic-bottle cheap.
Courtney: But you know, my grandma liked her Windsor-and-Coke’s then it became Windsor-and-Coke-Zero’s, but always a little Windsor in the house. And so I was like “Well, like I’ll try some peppermint Schnapps, sure.” So she’s pouring us glasses and she’s like, “This is a party now. Because you guys are married and that calls for celebration.” And then she plops the bottle of peppermint Schnapps down on the table and says “Now, let me tell you a story about peppermint Schnapps.” So, you know, whatever she’s about to say is going to be good. She ends up telling us this wild story of years and years ago when she worked in a photo lab of a Data Center and she worked really early mornings. Apparently, it was customary that on Christmas Eve they would all just drink peppermint Schnapps on the job all day long, and they did this for years apparently until it was found out and decided no, you can’t do that anymore.
Courtney: So my grandmother, always the party animal, said, “Well, when they told us that we couldn’t be drinking our peppermint Schnapps on the job on Christmas Eve anymore, I said fine, if we can’t drink at work, we’ll just drink before work.” And now, like 2 a.m., she invites all her early morning co-workers over to her house, they get drunk on peppermint Schnapps and then go into work. I was like, “Grandma, that is so dangerous. Did you just drive to work?” And she’s like, “Yeah. Well, if you can’t drink at work, gotta drink before work. And that’s my story about peppermint schnapps.” Those like– Okay, Grandma. And yeah, I was also very nervous to tell my mother for this same reason of, I knew a wedding was fantasized about, and I’m like 95% sure that I even told her as a caveat that we did intend to have a reception at some point down the line. I’m pretty positive that I told her that specifically.
Royce: I can’t remember in how certain of terms it was. If it was a definitive “we are going to someday” or “we might”.
Courtney: We’re thinking of it, yeah. Because I even remember having that conversation of, you know, I don’t need the ceremony, in fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t want the ceremony, as I’m thinking about it, but I do kind of want to party. So I don’t know if I was saying that more for her or more for myself, maybe a bit of both. But I mean, hey at the end of the day, I think we did exactly the right thing for us. I’m really thrilled that we happened to live in a state that allows for common-law marriage. Because I had done some research and I knew what common-law marriage actually meant. And I think if we hadn’t been living in a state that allowed it, I would have been really upset about that. Wishing that that was the case. Because at the end of the day, I mean, marriage should just be between the people who are getting married. I don’t think that the government should have a say in it, that we should need to pay filing fees to get these certificates, because our country just also doesn’t have the best track record for, you know, marriage equality.
Royce: Or current record, depending on how you’re looking at it.
Courtney: Or current record. I mean, there are still issues with the institution of marriage, as a legal entity and tax implications and all that. Because with all this talk of marriage equality. There is not marriage equality even in the US, even with the Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage is legal throughout the entire country. There are, for example, polyamorous couples, triads, people in ethically non-monogamous relationships, who also can’t legally get married to more than one other person. Which is so interesting to me that I don’t hear more of a rallying battle cry around, you know, find a way for poly-marriages to be legal, because I feel like a lot of the discourse on legalizing gay marriage just sadly a few short years ago was, you know, if two people are in love and they want to get married then that’s none of your business. And it’s like the same applies to if three people in love wanna get married, that’s none of your business or four or more. It’s not my business.
Royce: If N people want to get married.
Courtney: Yes, exactly. And I mean we’re two to talk, because we are monogamous ourselves, but we’ve got really good friends who are not monogamous. We don’t see any moral reason why it shouldn’t be allowed for people who want that. Because people also say, you know, love is love, it’s about celebrating love, and it’s kind of not. Because it’s the government’s idea of the right kind of love is really what it is, and a lot of it just comes down to finances. And the tax code. Because although many people can gain a tax benefit from getting married and filing as a married couple, that’s not the case for everyone. And in particular, Disabled people do not have marriage equality because there are several cases where getting married could mean that you lose disability benefits. And that can be especially dangerous if, say, for example, a Disabled woman loses disability benefits, is no longer able to independently acquire her own income, that now makes her completely financially dependent on her spouse, making it exceptionally difficult to leave a toxic marriage. If it becomes one. Which is always–
Courtney: Just I mean, that’s not the main point of this episode, but just in talking about what marriage is and how people use it. I very often see people who have no desire to get married sort of complaining about how society incentivizes you to get married, and in some ways that is the case, but it is also not for everyone. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that we really don’t have marriage equality just because gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states. There are just really a number of issues with marriage as it is because, even with things like common-law marriage, a lot of the critics of it come down to finances, you know, are people just using this for a tax break? Or how are we going to be able to handle the divorce that everyone thinks is so inevitable? Because how are we going to divide those assets when there wasn’t a paper trail? And…
Royce: Well, if couples cohabitate and want to have joint assets there probably needs to be a legal discussion had there, or else I guess they don’t have joint assets. That’s the thing with marriage today, a bunch of different things are all rolled into that marriage contract, that signing of marriage, and they don’t need to be, they can all exist independently. And the tax benefits shouldn’t exist in the way that they do. Like, if you take two identical families, two adults, two children that are the same in every way in finances and expenses in all of that, but one is married and one is not? They shouldn’t be taxed differently.
Courtney: Oh absolutely, 100% agree.
Royce: Because all that is doing at the end of the day is, like you said, it’s the government incentivizing monetarily its definition of marriage, which is deeply rooted in Christianity. Because unfortunately a lot of legal practitioners forget the First Amendment exists when it’s convenient for them.
Courtney: Yeah. There’s that whole thing. Well, yeah, I went with all the modern talk about “love is love, and it’s about celebrating love,” to an extent it is. But the more cynical side of me sometimes thinks, you know, there were periods of time where marriage was a financial decision, it was a business transaction. And in some ways it still is today. Because of the fact that there are tax implications of it. And if you want to get married, but still keep your finances completely separate, that’s a whole other set of paperwork. And don’t even get me started on marriage consummation laws. Because yeah, maybe we’ll need to touch on this a little more in a future episode, because it’s been a minute since I’ve looked into it. I know I’ve researched this in the past, but I don’t know how it may or may not have changed over the years. But there are definitely some states that have written into their legal definition of marriage, you know, must be over 18, must not be, you know, blood-related, must be of sound mind, etc, etc, and must consummate the marriage. Which is kind of again the government dictating what their view of marriage is.
Courtney: Their view of marriage has both financial and sexual implications. And that’s, that’s also one that I think could harm anyone, but would disproportionately harm Asexual people who may want to get married, but may not want to actually have a sexual relationship with their spouse. Because of the fact that, you know, if the marriage is not consummated in those states where that law’s written that way, you could be put in a very vulnerable situation if you get married to someone who is perhaps, you know, lying or manipulating, saying, “Yeah, this doesn’t have to be a part. But okay, well now we did the ceremony and I do actually want to have sex and we will have an annulment if you don’t do this.” Like there is definitely a possibility for abuse in those situations. Which, yeah– And I personally, every time I have had a conversation with someone about marriage consummation laws, it always seems to me that the people I speak to just think it isn’t that big of a deal, because of the fact that most people are probably going to have sex anyway, and if not, then it doesn’t really matter; you can just not have sex and not tell anybody.
Royce: But again if it’s something to be ignored or avoided, why is it written there in the first place?
Courtney: Exactly, exactly.
Royce: And that’s putting the larger issue aside, which is the case for potential abuse.
Courtney: The case for potential abuse. And, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been a situation like this but, let’s say, there is an Asexual couple who got married in a state where there are marriage consummation laws. And what if they go on to do a podcast much like our own, and talk about having, you know, a sexless Asexual marriage. I don’t really know what that could mean if they’d had really made some conservative enemies, maybe they’re political activists and are trying to make positive changes for the LGBT community in their state. I don’t actually know. But there’s theoretically an opening for someone to call into question the validity of someone else’s marriage, and any time that’s the case I’m just instantly uncomfortable. And I don’t care if it’s incredibly unlikely, I don’t care if it’s never happened, I just, I think it’s an unnecessary law. It’s kind of a gross and weird law too, because in the case where you are getting your marriage license from the state, the state is handing you permission to get married as long as you fuck. That’s horrifying.
Royce: How did this happen in ye olden times? Did the clergyman have to, like, peek in the window and confirm?
Courtney: Actually though? Yes. Yes, there have been situations– I don’t think the clergyman [laughs]
Royce: He had to be present for the ceremony, so I wondered if he was handling both jobs.
Courtney: But depending on, you know, the country, the time period, there absolutely have been situations where, you know, there would be spectators to the consummation. Like the marriage bed is a term because of the consummating of the marriage on the bed. To get even more antiquated to those times people, like, checking the sheets the next morning to make sure that the bride was a virgin, you know, was, was there blood? Which, you know, I’ll be perfectly honest, I had a horrible sex education in school, it was very nearly abstinence-only. It was, it was just dreadful, but I’m pretty sure that not every virgin woman even bleeds on her first time. But I definitely read about instances of, like, making sure to check. Oh, that’s awful.
Courtney: I almost just said, marriage is awful. I don’t think marriage has to be awful. Has it been awful for a really long time and are there still things that are awful about it? Yes. But I don’t think it has to be. I think there are things we can do to make marriage a better institution. Because, I love you, and I love us. I love our life and I love our marriage. But just the concept of marriage is upsetting to me, and yet I still wanted it. I still wanted to be married. There are plenty of modern couples who just feel, “I don’t need to get married. We can just live together forever how we are, and that’s fine.” I very, very much did want to be married.
Courtney: And I guess part of that is just the desire for affirmation for our specific brand of queerness. Because before us, I didn’t know any Asexual married couples. I knew several Asexual people who wanted to get married but didn’t think it would ever happen for them. So, in that sense, us meeting, being able to get married and to be able to get married 100% on our terms via common-law marriage, sort of felt like an act of rebellion. And to just say yes, we are here, we are real, we can and do love, and our relationship is just as legally valid as all of the others. How about you? I feel like you probably could have taken or left it. It has been good for us personally financially, I think.
Royce: Yeah, the concept of marriage has never really had any real meaning to me. I don’t really understand how it does for some people. Like, like, if you think backwards, if someone is married right now, they were with the person who was going to be their spouse from the first day that the relationship started. The only thing that changed was time. So did it actually make your relationship stronger because of the amount of stress that you put yourself through on planning the wedding ceremony? Is that what it is? Like, you have to go through hard times in order to..
Courtney: [laughs] Planning the ceremony is the last test. If you, if you can make it past this trial, these tribulations..
Royce: Right. So, I didn’t feel like clicking the joint-married box on our– when we filled out our taxes changed anything about our relationship aside from what we owed the government.
Courtney: That’s true. And I mean, larger financial decisions that tend to come up after you have entered into a long-term relationship. Like even if we wanted to buy a car together, being married makes it just a little bit easier. For things like buying a car, buying house. Even in situations renting a house I think, because otherwise, yeah, the signer and the cosigner who’s on the lease– It always just seems a little bit easier to just be entered as we are a married couple making this decision together. There’s always just a few more steps when things are separated. So, financially speaking, it has been positive overall for us. But if I wasn’t like, “Hey Royce, let’s get married.” Do you think you would have ever brought it up?
Royce: I don’t actually know and it may have depended on if I knew the ins and outs of common-law marriage or what went into it. I don’t think I would have ever wanted the ceremony..
Courtney: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I definitely get that.
Royce: From a financial standpoint, it might have occurred to me at some point that well, all of our finances are already joint, we should probably just do this anyway, but.
Courtney: Those tax benefits, might as well. Yeah, but it– With us, I don’t think it ever would have theoretically been like a traditional engagement kind of a situation. Even though I was very much like yes, let’s get married. Let’s get married via common-law, and I do want the ring. So I’m going to go ring shopping and I will pick one out. Which I also think is a very good thing to do. I mean the time in which I grew up, media kind of told me that the way you get married is: a man will secretly buy a ring, and when the moment it’s just right, will pop the question and it will be in abundance of romance.
Royce: And the ring will definitely be the right size and be something that actually looks nice to you.
Courtney: Yes, and it will be expensive, honey. [laughs] And with me like, I didn’t want, like, a De Beers diamond. I didn’t. I didn’t want you to go to Jared. It’s a jewelry company.
Royce: Oh, okay.
Courtney: “Oh, he went to Jared.” This was an old commercial. Moving on. I saw that look of confusion, Royce. But yeah, I wanted a lab grown black diamond. Partially because that is my aesthetic. It would be a heck of a lot cheaper. I could find an independent jeweler, who would hand-make a custom ring for me for less money than you could get at an actual jewelry store. So, I was quite price-conscious there. But I also really just wanted something that was gonna be my style and look really nice, and.
Royce: This independent jeweler– Didn’t you need the ring cleaned or modified in some way, and they basically did it for very cheap, if not free?
Courtney: Yeah. I did have to have the ring sized down at one point. I do have some black plating on my ring too. It’s not just the diamond that is black, but it is white gold with black plating, and the black plating comes off after a certain period of time. So by the time I needed to have my ring sized down, I sent it back to this independent jeweler, he took it down a couple sizes for me and then he, yeah, shined it up, polished, it looked like brand-new, and redid the plating. And redoing the plating was free, for basically just the cost of resizing and cleaning. So that was– that was great. That was wonderful. I also just– it is my style to have a black ring. I don’t think I would have wanted anything too shiny or anything too colorful. I know it’s more popular to have, like, a ruby ring or something with a little color in it, but I wasn’t about to do that.
Courtney: I also just really loved the idea of having a black wedding ring as an Asexual, because, even though it’s the wrong hand, there is the Ace ring. And that is sort of our secret code to wear a black ring on the middle finger of the right hand. So black to me, not only just looks better, not only was cheaper, but also it’s like– it’s kind of a nod to Asexuality also. Although the number of people in clubs pre-pandemic who would see my black ring and be like, “Does that mean your husband is Black?” Uhm… No. The first time I got that question I was just baffled, and didn’t think I’d ever hear it again. But I’ve probably heard that question a dozen times. I really– And my response to that is always, “Who said I’m married to a man?” And then they go, “Opooh, oh.” And leave. [laughs] That’s, that’s how those conversations go down.
Courtney: But yeah, that’s also one really nice thing, because the ring’s also kind of a sign to other people. It is so much easier to say I am married, then I am Asexual, if someone is making an advance on you out in public. Because people don’t always respect the I’m Asexual and I’m not interested, they tend to push that. But fewer people will push “I am married.” A lot of people are just like, “Okay. Well, she is off-limits.” I hate that society is that way, but I mean there were instances where I had a fake engagement ring, years and years ago, that I would just wear when I didn’t feel like being harassed by men in public, so. Of course, when I actually get married, I want a real ring. But hey, that’s just Courtney and your mileage may vary.
Courtney: You know, I think that’s about all for today, and we should be wrapping this up. I don’t know how many episodes we have at this point, but I don’t know how to open or close the episodes. It’s my least favorite part of podcasting. What do you say to open the show? And how do you end? And someone actually quite recently asked us if we had any intentions of creating an outro. And yeah, an outro sounds nice, but that also sounds like work and decisions, hard decisions.
Royce: And you still have to lead up to the outro a little bit. You can’t just stop talking and roll the outro.
Courtney: Listen, this is my podcast, I can do whatever I want. I can just stop talking in the middle of a sentence if I choose. It would be really awkward and uncomfortable for the listener, but maybe I want you to feel that way.
Royce: Is that how we’re ending this one?
Courtney: You mean just cut it off right in the–