"This is why I'm NOT marrying the man of my dreams."

Holly and her partner Brent







My partner and I have two children, a mortgage and more than 10 years of history binding us together.

We love each other very much.

We are the focal point of each other’s lives, each the other’s closest friend and ally.

We share everything. His family is my family, my family is his.

But. We are just drifting along on a tide of convenience, biding time until a thoughtless, inevitable break-up, at which point we will just replace each other with someone else – just move some other ‘de-facto’ in.

At least, that’s what the Australian Government thinks.

When Kevin Andrews, Minister for Social Services said this on the weekend, he belittled the most important relationship in my life.

“What a lot of people do is drift into a relationship. They get together. They like each other. They move in together. And then they try and drift along without making a decision.

“One thing about a marriage is that it publicly denotes commitment on the part of both parties. Whereas in an informal relationship one party may be committed and one may not be.”

And not just mine. With that, around 1.1 million couples in the country had their relationships reduced.

Not everyone wants to get married.

For some of those couples, there’s a “yet” at the end of that sentence. For others, there isn’t.

Because they’ve made a choice to be committed, but not married. They’ve actively decided not to put a ring on it, for a list of reasons as varied as there are types of love.

Kevin Andrews stated

The Minister – who, it should be noted, thinks de-facto is a perfectly acceptable living arrangement for gay couples – believes that making an active choice to be legally bonded to another person is the deciding factor of commitment, the fail-safe cure-all that stops hearts from breaking and families from imploding.


One assumes that the Minister has not seen the divorce statistics.

I know that marriage is incredibly important to many (most) people in our culture. I know that for many (most) of my friends, getting married signifies something momentous. Religious, cultural and family reasons aside, they see marriage – the asking, the doing, the sticking at it – as the big I Choose You.

But here’s the thing, Mr Andrews, I see my de-facto relationship as a big I Choose You every single day. There is no legal imperative for my partner and I to be together. There is no hefty, expensive and stigmatised process to dread should we decide to go our separate ways. We didn’t ask our friends and family to take a weekend and several hundred dollars out of their lives to come and celebrate our union, so there’s no shame or guilt in disappointing them if we split.

Which pretty much means there’s only one reason to stay together – Because we choose to. Every single day.

We choose to stay together when we’re both so giddy with the exhaustion of raising two small kids that we can barely remember each other’s names.

We choose to stay together when tempers are short and memories are long about That Thing You Do that you always do that drives me crazy.

We choose to stay together through stress and illness and argument. Through temptation and trauma.

And yes, people ask us, two respectable-looking people of a grown-up age at preschool pick-up and the swimming pool sidelines and the park birthday parties why we don’t want to get married.

Holly and her family. Just as ‘normal’ as any other.

And I struggle to answer it (because they always ask me, not him). Not because I don’t know, but because it’s a topic so central to how people view love and commitment that anything I say sounds like like a criticism of their choice.


Also. Whatever I said, they wouldn’t believe me. Nobody believes that a woman doesn’t want to get married. The wanting of the ring and the dress and the handsome groom and the ‘sealing the deal’ and the “Call me Mrs so-and so” is etched in every story about every woman from Elisabeth Bennett to Carrie Bradshaw to Jennifer Aniston.

But, shoot me. It’s true. I like not being married. I’ve always valued independence. I’ve never felt the need to lock my man down, or to differentiate him from other men I’ve dated, even lived, with. Because showing the world how we feel about each other is not what matters. We show each other, and our children, every day.

And I’m not interested in promising for ever. Anyone can do that (Kim Kardashian has done that three times already). I’m interested in focussing on today, and the week, and the next month and the year, not til death do us part. It’s the doing that’s the hard part, the living it that matters, not the standing up and saying it.

And there’s one more reason: I love weddings. Of course I do. I love how they bring loved ones together for a wonderful reason and how giddy and hopeful everyone is on the day. But I know that when the party finishes and you’ve picked the confetti out of your hair and the late check-out’s passed on the hotel suite, you’re going to be someone’s Wife. And ‘Wife’ has never been on the list of words that I wanted next to my name.

Sorry, Mr Andrews, but I get to decide that. And it doesn’t matter if it boggles your narrow mind.

Because to me, and the man I love, it makes perfect sense.

Do you agree with Holly? Is there a huge difference between marriage and de facto?