What do you call couples who live together, co-own pets and property, and celebrate the Sabbath with each other’s families, all without ever uttering “I do”? Journalist Hannah Seligson calls them “a little bit married” (ALBM), a term she coined after her own painful breakup and after watching her friends — urban, college-educated 20- and 30-somethings — build long-term monogamous relationships unbound by state law. The Forward’s Allison Gaudet Yarrow caught up with Seligson, whose new guide, “A Little Bit Married: How to Know When It’s Time To Walk Down the Aisle or Out the Door,” published in December by De Capo Lifelong Books, dissects this burgeoning trend.
Allison Gaudet Yarrow: The long-term relationship has become a rite of passage, like a first kiss. How did this happen?
Hannah Seligson: We don’t have the same rush to meet the milestones of adulthood, so people think, “I have much longer to date and figure out marriage.”
What’s the difference between marriage in our parents’ generation and ours?
Women used to marry for two reasons: sex and money. It used to be too risky to have sex outside of marriage before the advent of the birth control pill.
How has money affected ALBM couples?
There has been a huge uptick in cohabitation since the recession. People are moving in to save costs.
Why is it important to discuss religion as a couple?
If he’s Jewish and she wants a Christmas tree, how are you going to feel about that when you’re married? How about raising kids? These huge issues must be discussed, and it’s easier when you are still at the negotiating table as opposed to at the altar.
How can you get around the timeline that you set or that friends or family set for you when it isn’t going to happen?
You can’t marry a clock. People think: “I’m 30. I thought I’d reach these milestones.” It’s not the way it used to be. If your goal is to get married but you’re waiting for the perfect person, maybe it’s time to rethink your expectations.
What are the signs couples should look for when it’s time for somebody to walk out the door?
If you’re not on the same page about the big life issues: religion, money, sex. If one person in the relationship doesn’t want to move forward.
Listen to the full interview with Hannah Seligson below: