Post # 1
I’m curious to know what other Bees would think of this situation!
I’m living in France where a sort of civil union called a PACS – translated: “civil solidarity pact” – is quite popular. Like in the US, it was originally introduced as a solution for homosexual couples that wanted to marry, but couldn’t as it wasn’t legal. However, unlike in the US, almost 95% of couples who get PACSed are hetero. The reason for this is no doubt that it confers many of the same benefits of marriage (but not all) while being easy to dissolve – one partner basically just writes a letter, it can be dissolved unilaterally. You are no longer considered single, there is an annotation on your birth certificate (if you’re French).
My SO and I decided to do this because it would considerably simplify our lives allowing us to get on the same health care coverage (though technically you can do that just by living together in France), declaring joint taxes, and possibly affecting my ability to stay in the country if something ever happened with my studies (I’m a grad student on a student visa).
What I found interesting is that being American, I have a different view of the impact of the PACS on an emotional level. To me, it felt like a step forward in committment and thus kind of significant. My SO has always stated that he wants to get married, that marriage is forever, etc etc. But for him the PACS is totally devoid of meaning in this sense. He said something to the effect that he would get PACSed with a roommate with whom he was not even romantically involved if it would benefit the two of them in some way (a joke, but also serious ). I explained to him my POV saying that it meant something more to me, probably because in the US civil unions are taken seriously on the same level as a marriage.
In a way I chalked his reaction up to the fact that he is French and PACS are common among young couples who don’t necessarily intend to marry. However, when we tell (French) friends, we receive congratulations, questions on how we celebrated, if we exchanged rings, if and when we plan on marrying, and so on. So apparently it’s not such a little thing after all! After that, I felt a tiny bit sad about the fact that we did literally nothing at all to celebrate it. Since then my SO has made comments to the effect that he’s happy we’re PACSED and now generally feels more sentimental about it. And this despite the fact that I did not initially mention that I felt a bit disappointed retrospectively.
So I’m curious ladies…how would you look at something like the PACS? Would you have done it? Would you have celebrated it? How would you handle the reactions? I sorely lack non French perspectives on this!
Post # 2
I mean, I think this is exactly why same-sex couples fought and continue to fight so hard for marriage
. To most people, civil unions don’t have the same meaning, even if they carry the same or similar legal benefits. While I do think that emotionally it is an indication of commitment on some level, it’s not the same as getting married. If you both want to get married someday, what’s holding you back?
Post # 3
I agree with you on that! Marriage has a lot of meaning both socially and in a religious context (though we are not religious). At this point I’m still finishing my graduate degree and won’t start working until next year, my partner is a year older and just started working. We’ve been together for two years so while we have talked about marriage, we haven’t made any decisions yet. Indeed, I signed up to this site recently because I’ve hit that “waiting” stage
So ultimately we decided to get PACSed for the practical benefits it offers (given that we live together) even though we both want to get married eventually. <br />
Post # 4
I don’t think that in the US, a civil union has ANY meaning if the couple is legally able to marry and just chooses not to. (Obviously is has meaning in those states where gay marriage is still illegal).
I don’t know a single hetero couple who has a civil union, and honestly I would think it was strange, like “why not just get married?”. To me it smacks of gaming the system – you get the benefits of being married without the commitment. I mean, anything that you can simply write a letter to dissolve isn’t that much of a commitment. I’ve had bigger commitments with roommates I’ve signed leases with.
Post # 5
To me it is the next step. We have been living together for 2 years and getting married next month. We have been having some trouble with our license since the postoffice lost our documents so they didnt arrive on time. We got PACSed last monday, because even if its not a marriage its still a legal document, witch basically does consider me his wife. So even if we cannot have the wedding of my dreams, we will still celebrate our Union and relationship in 40 days. (i still hope we could work it out and get married as planned)
Post # 6
I think your perspective is interesting! Especially the part about not knowing any hetero couples that have civil unions. Obviously I’ve made the same observation and perhaps that’s because it’s more difficult to do a civil union in the US? I’ve never checked so I don’t know about the specifics.
The way it’s viewed in France is really particular as some people choose to get PACSed instead of getting married for purely practical reasons and then some view it as I do…as an intermediary step between a relationship and marriage.
Is it really gaming the system considering the number of couples that live together before getting married? I think it’s logical that there is an arrangement to respond to the needs of those couples who feel either not ready for marriage (emotionally, financially, etc) or who simply don’t desire it.
Anyway my point was definitely not to argue that the PACS is better. I’m purely neutral on that front politically (it comes down to personal preference). I know that I personally want to get married and that my partner does as well. What’s interesting to me is to hear others’ reactions to the emotional component or how it meshes with their idea of marriage considering the same phenomenon doesn’t exist in the US.
But thanks to everyone who has responded…it’s been super interesting to hear other perspectives!
Congratulations on your civil union (if that’s correct…I’m not entirely sure to have understood your situation) and upcoming marriage!
Post # 7
I don’t think it’s difficult to get a civil union, at least in Illinois where I live. As far as I know (and I definitely could be wrong), civil unions didn’t even exist as a legal thing until states created the arrangement to deal with gay couples, rather than allow them to marry. Since gay couples could do it, straight couples can too. (Theoretically. As I said, I’ve never heard of a straight couple with a civil union).
Prior to civil unions, some states/cities allowed domestic partnerships, which is even a looser legal binding, but does provide some benefits to the partners. Individual companies have long allowed unmarried couples to prove that they are “domestic partners” for purposes of health insurance, provided they meet certain provable criteria set forth by the company. This is completely separate from a LEGAL domestic partnership (because those didn’t exist in most states until fairly recently).
What I mean by gaming the system probably doesn’t apply in France, but I was thinking of our screwy employer-based health care system in the US. I was thinking of benefits that are reserved for married couples, and it seems you could get the same benefits (health care, taxes, etc.) just by signing some paper that doesn’t really mean anything as far as a legal commitment.
Contrary to popular belief, common-law isn’t a thing in the vast majority of the US. It’s only possible in 9 or 10 states. So perhaps my thoughts stem from a very black and white place – you’re either married or unmarried. If you’re married, you get certain benefits that come along with that, if you’re single you don’t. If you choose to live in partnership with someone and not get married, that’s your own issue – if you want the benefits, get married!
Obviously people should do what they want with their lives, none of it affects me! I’m just explaining a common American point of view.
Post # 8
I think most people still consider marriage to be a stronger bond than domestic partnership. In some states, domestic partnership is exclusively for homosexuals, and marriage solely for heterosexuals. The tax benefits of being in a union depend on the incomes of the different parties, so on a tax basis, it might actually be better to be in a domestic partnership compared to a marriage.
From a gut feeling perspective, I feel like if you have both as an option, marriage just seems like the stronger bond. However, I can see how some laws might make domestic partnership more desirable.
Post # 9
DH and I were in a common law relationship before being married, and we lived more like roommates than husband/wife back then. I wouldn’t actively choose something like PACS over marriage. If common law status was more of a choice and less dictated by living choices, or if it was replaced by something like PACS, we may have choosen it before getting married.
Post # 10
It sounds like a “grown up promise ring” or a pre-engagement engagement. But it sounds cool- I am sure if we had something similar in the US I would feel differently. I think half of the reason marriage is so important to me is the emotional side and the binding of families, since it’s been happening for so many decades bringing together all the pieces of my heritage that make up me, so thats cool 🙂
Post # 11
I think this is an extremely complicated topic and answers will vary widely from country to country. For example, I certainly know that heterosexual couples in the UK (and no, heterosexual is not a typo) campaigned for many years to be allowed to enter into civil partnerships for various reasons. But then, of course, where I am then civil partnerships and marriages confer almost identical rights upon the parties entering into them, and are equally as difficult to arrange and to dissolve, unlike in other countries where they are sometimes seen as “marriage lite”…
Post # 12
Thanks for explaining! I understand your point a lot better. It’s true that trying to apply the same idea to the US doesn’t really work because of the way healthcare and other benefits are set up. I hadn’t considered it in that context.
Yup, I also agree that marriage is a stronger bond when choosing between the two! I didn’t realize that some domestic partnerships were ONLY for homosexual couples though! You learn something new every day…
I feel like your situation was similar to mine…in the sense of choosing such an arragement prior to marriage (and not over marriage). Your post sent me to wikipeida to look up common law marriages which I did not know much about as it’s apparently not available in the state I’m from!
I like the idea of a pre-engagement engagement!
It’s a lot more catchy than “PACS” or “civil union”. Anyway that’s how I think of it for myself. I agree with you that marriage has a strong appeal for famillial reasons as well…being a sort of continuation of a long tradition. I guess that’s where a lot of the appeal of marriage comes from for me as well.
That is really
interesting! I had no idea. What is the difference between the two concepts then? Simply being more dissociated from religion? I mean obviously getting married already has a mandatory civil element and an optional religous one, so I’m curious about why hetero couples are so keen on the idea. Civil partnerships and the like for hetero couples seem to be a lot
more popular in Europe in the US!
Post # 13
It gets a bit funny here. For the federal government, you’re considered to be in a common law relationship after living together for 1 year. DH and I pushed it a bit back before doing our taxes that way, as we lived as roommates during school, and he was elsewhere while working in the spring/summer semesters.
My province doesn’t use the term common law, rather it’s an Adult Interdependent Relationship, which occurs after living together for 3 years, having a child, or declaring it. It’s a bit different, as it isn’t just for romantic relationships. For example, if 2 siblings live together, helping each other out, they can be in an Adult Interdependent Relationship.
Post # 14
I live in California, where I think common law might be a thing, but if so it takes a while and never really affected me. But if I meet someone whI has been living with a partner for 5+ years, I think of their relationship as pretty damn committed. Marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships are not for everyone. My brother is gay, and he never got a domestic partnership with his ex-partner, and they didn’t get married when it became legal to do so, but at one point they exchanged rings over dinner and started calling each other husband. So that’s my experience.
I like the idea of something like the PACS as an option for people who aren’t interested in marriage or who aren’t quite there yet. If it was a thing here, I think we might have done it around when we got engaged, because we got engaged almost a year and a half after getting together and married 15 months after that.
One additional perspective, is that I’ve heard domestic partnerships and similar things can be a preferred option for the elderly. I think at one point the law in California was that you could get a domestic partner if you were in a same-sex relationship or if you were at least 55 or something like that. I think this has since changed. It makes sense to me that perhaps people who are elderly and were single or married for many years and then became widowed or divorced might not want to wed, but if they meet someone, have some level of legal commitment.