Are you living in un-wedded bliss? For best-selling author Caroline Corcoran the non-conventional path feels like the right one
During the first few years of living with Simon, everyone was asking, ‘When are you getting married?’ ‘Will we have a big wedding soon?’ One friend even confessed our wedding was on his budget spreadsheet. I imagine by now he’s given up and spent the cash. Since that was ten years ago.
In the meantime, we’ve been busy. We’ve had two children and moved 200 miles out of London to the Wirral. We got a mortgage, bought our first house and did fairly substantial renovations on it. For many people, the obvious next step is to get married. But as every year goes by, that actually seems less likely.
Psychotherapist Jo Nicholl, creator of Love Maps podcast, says there’s a reason for that. ‘Long-term couples are unlikely to have a wedding because they’ve worked out they don’t need a marriage to create security,’ says Nicholls. ‘They’re using their money for different purposes, and are already not aligned to conventional ways of thinking about being in a relationship.’
Ah, the convention factor… Sometimes I wonder if we see not getting married – as we put the bins out and iron the school uniforms – as our tiny act of adult rebellion. But it’s more than that.
Simon and I have never placed much emphasis on marriage. Neither of us is religious or traditional. I’m not great with pressure. If we were spending the huge amount of money many splash out on a wedding, we’d prefer a life-changing trip. These things all contribute but when I stop and think of exactly why we aren’t married, I end up flipping the question. Why would we be?
I’ve been bridesmaid enough times to see the effort that goes into a wedding. To take on such an undertaking and all that it entails, you have to really want it like those friends did: the simple truth is that we don’t.
Now our lives are so firmly entwined, I find it hard to imagine what difference being married would make to us. I wouldn’t change my surname. Most people already presume we’re husband and wife and I’ve stopped bothering to correct them.
Of course, the upside would be that if we did marry, we’d have a lovely celebration with friends, family, way too much prosecco and some lovely salmon canapés. But I’m 40 next year, and I can (Covid-permitting) do all that then, and for every birthday that follows. Not to mention other people’s weddings, which I absolutely love.
Sometimes, it feels like Simon and I are a rarity. But actually that’s not true: unmarried cohabiting couples are the new normal. Latest stats from the ONS show cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type. Unmarried cohabiting couples now make up 17.9% of households in the UK – there are 3.5 million of us – and the number is on the rise. In the US, marriage is in the decline with the pandemic expected to exacerbate the effect.
Cohabitation agreements are also on the rise in the case of a break-up: slowly, as a society, we’re considering that there are other ways to do things.
Most importantly for us, not getting married means we’re choosing a path that works for our relationship and family. We’re doing what makes us happy, rather than ticking off an expectation. And I think that’s the best reason I can find for doing just about anything.
Caroline’s new book The Baby Group is out now