When you marry someone, you marry all of their shit.
One look at Pinterest will confirm it: Our culture is obsessed with marriage.
We have reality TV shows for every aspect of the process: dating, planning, dress-buying, and the wedding itself; we have an entire genre of books dedicated to teaching single people how to finally snag a spouse; we have songs written and sung by teenagers fantasizing about their white dresses and future weddings.
We often don’t even consider a relationship legitimately serious unless it’s headed for marriage. As someone who’s done it, I can tell you that while marriage works for some people, it isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be, and there are some very good reasons to avoid it altogether and enjoy the bliss of dating forever instead.
1. You aren’t bound to each other by contract.
Those reluctant to get married are prone to saying that marriage is just a piece of paper, but I’m here to tell them that they’re wrong. They’re very, very, horribly, unspeakably wrong.
Marriage is just a piece of paper in the same way that your mortgage or your employment agreement is just a piece of paper. You see, marriage is a contract—a legally binding one, at that. Once you’re in, it takes a lot more than a shredder to get out.
2. You don’t inherit all of your spouse’s financial baggage.
Getting married carries with it a whole host of legal perks, like tax breaks and enrolling on your spouse’s insurance. But that legality can carry some downsides: It also means that when you marry someone, you’re marrying all of their shit. Your boyfriend’s credit card debt might not be a big deal, but your husband‘s continued amassing of it usually is.
If your spouse starts making colossally bad decisions, like ill-advised loans or tax fraud or crashing cars like Hot Wheels, you’re likely to get pulled into the fray. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a fray anywhere but on the hem of my worn-out comfy jeans.
3. If you break up, there’s an easy way out.
Let’s face it: The majority of relationships end. People change, and sometimes they don’t change in the same directions. If you’re married, exiting your relationship requires, at the very least, legal processes and filing fees and mandatory waiting periods, sometimes of up to one year.
Think about your last breakup. How’d you like to drag that out for a year? However, if you never combine your finances or your households in the eyes of the law, exiting your relationship requires nothing but some introspection, conversations, tears, and a few cases of wine.
4. Every decision doesn’t require an in-depth discussion.
Buying a car when you’re dating versus buying a car when you’re married: When you’re dating, you figure out your budget, do your research, and go buy any car you damn well please. You announce this purchase to your significant other by rolling up to their place in your new vehicle and saying, “Hey, check out my new car!”
When you’re married, you figure out your budget, do your research, and then have roughly 25 conversations about whose opinion should reign supreme, and do you really need last year’s model when the six-year-old model seems just fine? And also, why are we even buying a car in the first place?
Now, apply this to every decision and purchase for the rest of your life. Vacations, holidays, furniture, homes, appliances, parenting…all of it. Appealing, right?
5. All responsibilities don’t fall onto one partner.
Despite the best of intentions, once a couple cohabits or marries, one partner usually ends up shouldering more of the attendant responsibilities. In almost every case, there’s going to be one person doing more of the things. Those things aren’t just household chores, either.
Research shows that marriage often shifts the responsibility for all sorts of things, like managing social commitments and maintaining extended familial relationships, disproportionately to one partner. The fix? Don’t get married.
6. You aren’t obligated to choose your spouse over your friends.
You can do certain things when you’re just dating someone that you can’t do when you’re married to them. For instance, when you haven’t put a ring on it, you can take a girls’ trip to Costa Rica over Christmas, and though your significant other might be irked, oh well—it’s not like you’re married.
When you’re married? Yup, enjoy watching your friends’ Instagram feeds flood with photos of tropical paradise while you hang out at your in-laws’ house.
7. You can do things the way YOU want to.
I dated someone recently who literally never cooked at home. Every meal he ate was purchased or provided at work. As a daily brown-bagger and home cook, I thought it was kind of quirky and odd, but it affected me exactly zero, so I didn’t worry about it.
He probably thought it was lame that I ate at home so much. Imagine if two people like us were to get married. Is he supposed to stop living the way he’s lived his entire adult life?
You don’t have to change your totally harmless ways. If one of you is messy and one of you is neat, or if one of you pays a cleaning service and the other thinks you should just suck it up and mop the damn floors yourself? None of it matters. You can do you, and it won’t be a problem.
Gwen Hutchings is a contributor to YourTango.
This originally appeared on YourTango. Republished here with permission.