Get up close and personal with exclusive, inspiring interviews and taste profiles delivered with a cheeky twist to your inbox daily.

Success! You’re all signed up. 🎉
Please enter a valid email address.

By subscribing to our email newsletter, you agree to and acknowledge that you have read our Privacy Policy and Terms.

So Your Boyfriend Wants Kids, But Not a Wedding?

Should you get married before having kids? Former family law attorney Kelsey Eisen weighs in on the logistics.

Love And Sex
So Your Boyfriend Wants Kids, But Not a Wedding?

Dear Coveteur,

I am 31 years old and have been with my partner for over seven years. We plan to be life partners and intend to have children together, but he isn’t interested in getting married. The pageantry and cost don’t appeal to him, especially after attending many of our friends’ weddings. I’ve never been too attached to the idea of marriage, but after being in so many bridal parties it’s hard knowing we don’t have that benchmark ahead of us. While I agree that marriage isn’t a must, having kids without marriage makes me (and especially my mother) hesitant about the commitment we’re making to each other. Is it old-fashioned to think marriage should come before kids? Should I just trust the strength of our commitment if he plans to start a family with me?

Thank you,


First of all, many couples in this generation—especially following in the 60%-divorce-rate footsteps of our Boomer parents—approach marriage with far more caution. Some people dismiss the institution as archaic, most Millennials are delaying their nuptials (56% are unmarried), and others are simply skeptical of the trappings of long-term commitment. Now, I would normally just say “fuck it” when it comes to marriage. It is totally normal to bypass this landmark in a relationship if it’s not a priority for either party. When it comes to conversations around having kids, marriage is—when stripped down from the romantic ceremony—a legal agreement that offers many financial and legal benefits as it pertains to starting a family. Lawyer and family law attorney Kelsey Eisen says, “I don’t recommend getting married purely for purposes of having children. For example, shotgun weddings are obviously not great, and marriage for reasons other than a genuine desire is asking for trouble down the line, but there are definitely many benefits to being married before having kids.” Eisen will elaborate on the legal side of marriage after we cover the emotional bases of this nuanced question.

In your situation, I think it’s beneficial to break down exactly what your partner finds unappealing about the institution of marriage. Thankfully, neither you nor your partner views a marriage-less relationship as a dealbreaker, but it seems you’re not entirely on the same page. For you, marriage might add a bit of extra reassurance before you commit to creating a family with this person. For him, it seems like his dedication to the partnership is enough, and the wedding itself isn’t his style. As you approach these conversations, I am curious to dig deeper into his reasons for not wanting to get married. If there are moral or personal reasons at play, that is undoubtedly something to unpack. If he has no other reasons besides an aversion to pageantry and ceremony, there are many ways to legally marry without the ceremonial rigamarole. From small backyard weddings, eloping to Vegas, or even a straightforward courthouse wedding—a variety of options avoid the cost and frills.

If he is averse to compromising on a courthouse-style wedding but has no other concrete reasons not to get married, there might be some underlying fears at play. A marriage can be intimidating because it is, in all its unromantic glory, a til-death-do-you-part legal contract. Tying your finances and assets to another person can cause a lot of anxiety. If that is a concern, I would encourage a frank conversation about a prenuptial agreement where both parties can enter into this legal contract without fear of a gruesome and expensive divorce. If, through these conversations with your partner, you are still not getting a clear reason why he is averse to marriage, it may boil down to a fear of long-term commitment. If this is the secret culprit of his marriage aversion, that is definitely something to take to couple’s therapy if you still plan to start a family with this person.

To be clear, I wouldn’t normally be pushing marriage on anyone—especially two people who haven’t prioritized it—but when you’re planning to have a kid, there are a lot of legal, financial, and logistical aspects of a partnership in which marriage would provide a lot of safeguards. As a former family law attorney, Eisen is well-versed in the legal ramifications of having children for both married and unmarried couples. “Custody issues tend to be more complex with unmarried couples. In California, for example, you have to file documents to prove you are the child in question’s father, instead of it just being assumed, before you can have any rights to engage in litigation about custody. However else you feel about marriage, it’s undeniable that the system is set up to favor married people when it comes to having children.” With better tax breaks, family healthcare plans, and automatic benefits in case of death or emergency, there are many protections that marriage offers in terms of family planning. Eisen elaborates, “In the event of death, benefits like spousal support and rights to marital assets are not guaranteed like they would be upon the dissolution of a legal marriage.”

Aside from the legal aspect of marriage, Eisen cites a recent article and elaborates on the psychological effects of holy matrimony. “Psychologically, married couples are more likely to share labor equally and are more likely to take the long view on investing and saving. Married couples are more likely to buy property together and accumulate wealth in the long run—this leads to more financial stability for any children,” explains Eisen. She continues, “Discussions of marriage, assets, and prenups help ensure any couple is on the same page about finances. Without an actual marriage, they would not be entitled to any support or compensation after a breakup, even if they made big financial sacrifices for the relationship.”

In conclusion, Eisen cautions, “If these guys were my clients, I would advise them to do a lot of talking to ensure they’re on the same page. Treating marriage as a greater commitment than children is a huge mistake. You can divorce someone, but I guarantee that sharing custody, co-parenting, and sharing children’s expenses is a much bigger commitment.” So regardless of the legal steps you two are taking as a couple, be sure you are totally aligned on your commitments to yourselves and the partnership before embarking on parenthood as a team. Unmarried parents are much more the cultural norm in places like Europe where they have better government protections for childcare, healthcare, and parental support—unfortunately, Americans aren’t afforded the same protections on modern arrangements. In your particular situation, the conversations you have around marriage will be an excellent barometer of the challenges you will face as parents down the line.

If you would like to submit your own question to “Asking for a Friend” please send your submissions to

Want more stories like this?

Dear Coveteur, How Do I Mentally Prepare For My First Threesome?
Advice for Your First Gay Date
Was It Good or “Fake Good”?

More From the series Love And Sex
You May Also Like