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Black Love, Editor’s Corner

Sis, Stop Playing House and Playing Yourself: Any Man Who Really Loves You Will Want to Marry You

Last year, I made a Facebook post that was shared more than 9K times (and copied without credit at least a few hundred more). I ruffled a lot of feathers talking about why marriage is important from a legal and consequently financial standpoint. Surprisingly, it was Black women, who seemed to give the most pushback about marriage, insisting that they didn’t need to be married to secure the financial benefits that marriage provides. The post:

Sis, yes, a marriage certificate is just a piece of paper. So are: *Birth certificates
*Paychecks
*Social security cards
*Leases
*Deeds
*Car titles
*Insurance cards
*Coupons
*Cash
*Receipts
*Wills But I bet you can’t convince them he don’t need any of those pieces of paper to benefit him like he’s convinced you that you don’t need that “piece of paper” known as a marriage license to benefit you.

The phenomenon of considering marriage merely a commitment based on love is a fairly new one. Marriage has always been intended to be a contract with financial stipulations. The best evidence of this is the dowry men would typically pay to the family of their bride. Men were demonstrating the they could provide for the woman they expected to care for and love them.

This new shit, though? Nah.

Men have convinced so many women that they don’t need to be married to solidify their relationship, but the same women are calling these men their husbands, proving that they really do know that the title matters. No, legal marriage does not automatically translate to a loving, caring, committed relationship. What it does is signify that both partners are making the minimum commitment to securing each other financially.

How can a man convince a woman he loves her, give her multiple children and then not marry her to ensure that minimally she is entitled to social security benefits that will help her make up for his income in the event of his death? How can any man who truly loves a woman not want to provide for her in life and death? How can a man tell you that he doesn’t need the government in his business when it comes to the marriage that will make you eligible for all kinds of health, retirement and legal benefits but have no problem involving the government in his business when he wants an income tax refund?

I’m calling bullshit and I want you to, sis.

If you’ve given your mind, body and soul to a man, and he won’t make sure that you are the one to make any love decisions for him if and when he’s incapacitated and unable to make such decisions for himself, there was no fair exchange. Imagine your man in a coma and you standing at the hospital arguing with his mama about his care when she kindly tells the hospital staff she wants you removed and unable to see the man you’ve spent 10 years nurturing, supporting and loving. And you can’t do shit about it.

Imagine the man you’ve spent energy prepping for interviews, pushed to take classes to increase his earning potential, and nursed back to health when he was sick suddenly dying and his adult daughter brings that same government he told you didn’t need to be involved in your relationship to collect the car that was in his name solely but used by both of you to commute, grocery shop and otherwise handle the business of running the home, leaving you to get on the bus with the three kids he left you to care for alone. And because you were willing to accept less than you deserved, not giving him the ultimatum to either marry you or lose you, you have no legal recourse because his property goes to his next of kin. And, yeah, his grown ass daughter, who never liked you, is that next of kin because y’all spent decades playing house.

Imagine being with a man 30 years and never bothering to get married. Now you’re 65 with a boyfriend who doesn’t take his health seriously and dies suddenly from a heart attack. You’re devastated and call about his life insurance to make the funeral arrangements and his pension of which he named you beneficiary. Then his still legal wife rolls up and shuts all that shit down, sliding off with that hefty insurance check, a monthly pension check (because she’s the beneficiary of that pension legally) and bars you from the funeral.

Now let me nip in the bud the common and delusional defense that one doesn’t need to be married to receive certain benefits because those benefits can be secured by wills. To begin, the average man who ain’t willing to marry a woman he’s spent years with ain’t making a will. And even if he is, that will first contradicts the reasoning of not needing the government in his business since that same government is the entity he’s relying on to enforce that will, and second can easily be contested. Even further, there are certain benefits that cannot be willed away, such as spousal social security benefits which the government administers to legal spouses and retirement benefits which must go to the spouse unless the spouse signs a notarized waiver of their rights to that benefit.

But what about common law marriage, sis? WHAT ABOUT THAT, SMART ASS?

I guess y’all got me there. There are a dozen or so states that recognize common law marriage. But even in those states, you need that same government to declare your relationship a marriage, thus giving it any legal status. And if you’re going to jump through the hoops to have your 15-year cohabitation recognized as a common law marriage, why wouldn’t you just get married?

Just do better for yourself, sis. You think same-sex couples were protesting and fighting for their right to marry and be recognized as legal spouses because it was about love? Nah, they know that piece of paper holds weight and makes them each others’ proxy, beneficiaries and next of kin. Get that piece of paper.

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Kinfolk Kollective avatar About the author: LaSha is a writer who’s obsessed with Black people. Find her work here of course, but also on Ebony, The Guardian, Essence, Salon, Everyday Feminism, Teen Vogue, HuffPo and For Harriett. She’s loves trap music & 90s R&B, watches Jeopardy faithfully and believes fried chicken is her soulmate. The clapback queen is loud and clear about loving her kids above all else and kinda digs her Yankee husband too. Anti-Blackness gives her hives. Get at her @lashawrites on Twitter.

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