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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

To Marry or not to Marry

During the past two years in Torino, I have met many couples both Italian and mixed. The majority of the couples happen to be American women married to Italian men but I have also made the acquaintance of many Italian couples married and not married. Many Italian men and women live at home until they are 30+ years old and only move out when they have found someone, usually a girlfriend or boyfriend to move in and share expenses with. Nothing is wrong with this scenario in my mind as many of my friends in the States also live with their boyfriends or girlfriends. I have lived with a boyfriend or two also and even thought it was a good way to get to know someone before deciding whether we were compatible for the long haul.

In Italy, many couples who live together buy houses together, have children together whilst considering and calling themselves husband and wife. What makes a man a husband and what makes a woman a wife? Do unmarried couples deserve the same rights as married ones? If no, why not? If yes, then what would legally separate married and unmarried couples?

In many U.S. states after a couple has lived together "for a while" they are considered to common law husband and wife. Maybe Italy also operates under "common law" marriages as well.

I personally have wanted a child for many years but would never allow myself to get pregnant without being married. Maybe it’s because when I was a teenager my dad told me if I did, I would no longer be his daughter if I did. Maybe it's because if I did eventually have a child with a man, I wanted a bit more insurance that he would not walk out on me and our family without thinking twice about it. Maybe it’s because I have always wanted to be married. Am I saying a married man will think twice before leaving his family and a man who is not married won't? No, absolutely not! However, in my mind all the trouble it takes to get married, divorced and dealing with child custody makes ME think twice before I think about telling my husband, "I'm outta here." I would hope that he would do the same as well. I think that being married helps me to feel more mentally and spiritually committed to my husband. Your thoughts…

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At 9:31 PM, Blogger traveller one said...

It is strange that in a country as Catholic as Italy that people hardly think twice about living together. I'm sure the Pope isn't too happy about it. Personally I could not have done it myself because my family would have been so disappointed in me and that often guided my life choices. I don't really have anything against it but like you said, being married does give some security to a relationship.

At 2:59 AM, Blogger Typesetter said...

You see, Traveller One, the point is that Italy is not even a quarter as catholic as many think it is. While it's true that about 85% of the italian are baptized (but than there is still the 15% to which I belong and which is made of people of other believes), it's also true that less than half of the baptized ones ever go to church except for public cerimonies (marriages, baptisms, etc.) or for Christmas and Easter, and only about half of those who go to church do it regularly. And evn those who go to church regularly follow strictly the Cathlic Churuch's rules, especially the private (mainly sexual) and public moral rules: most still have sex before marriage or extramarriage or cheat on taxes (for example).
The Italian constitution established the separation of State and Church, but this separation was already, although partial, enforced by the previous Fascist regime.
Also, notice that about one third of all marriages in Italy are civil only, with about 50% of the total marraiges being civil in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino Alto Adige and Liguria. Even in the Italian region with less civil marraiges, Basilicata, the 12% of the total marriages are not performed in a Church.

Gia, to fully understand why so many couple decide not to marry while living toghether you also have to keep into account the social value of marriage, in Italy, which is mainly done "for the family".
Re the "common law", in Italy we do not have anything like that. Which is a problem for many reasons, that often are not related to the reasons why a couple decided not to marry. In fist place there is the fact that about 10% of the Itlaian coules are homosexual, and this means that they will never be recognized (under the current law), secondly there are a number of couples who cannot marry due to the ridiculus three years wait period that married couples have to wait bfore their divorce gets registered. A new law is currently being discussed, proposed toghether by two of the current government's ministers, catholic (Margherita) Minister for the Family Policies Ms Rosi Bindi and moderate leftist (Democratici di Sinsitra) Minister for Equal Opportunities Ms Barbara Pollastrini, on Civil Unions, accessible to all couples not allowed or not desiring to get married, easier to risolve in case the couples decides to split but with lower levels of protection, while still being regulated in order to avoid abuses. The law, as it is planned, spounds not fully satisfactory to me, but it's a step in the right direction.

By the way, the reason why I do not even consider marraige is that it's too hard to get out of it in case you decide to get out of it FAST. ^___^

At 3:16 AM, Blogger sognatrice said...

I currently live with my OH in Italy, and even though we're not married, people often refer to me as his wife, his parents as my suoceri, etc. I come from a long line of divorces, so official marriage or not, I think the most important thing between two people is the commitment. Also, neither I nor the OH are religious, so that's not even a factor. We'll probably end up getting married mostly because it's just easier as a couple (especially with kids) in Italy that way, but I won't feel any more "together" with a piece of paper that says we are. In fact, if he were thinking of leaving me, I would hope that it wouldn't be just a piece of paper keeping him with me. But that's just me, of course. Interesting post :)

At 4:02 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Sognatirce, What is OH?

Typesetter, I agree with you about the three year wait period. I think it is too long but am glad that the government is working on it.

I personally did not want to get pregnant without a firm legal and otherwise binding contract. I love my husband but if he decided to run off, I did not want there to be zero repercussions. Maybe that makes me a spiteful woman, I guess I just want the security that I feel a marriage contract offers, whether it is all in my head or not.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger sognatrice said...

OH = Other Half :)

I think each person needs to do what makes him or her comfortable, whether it involves a traditional marriage or not. And wanting to be married before you were pregnant most certainly doesn't make you a spiteful woman--you were just following your heart and your instincts, which we should all do, in my humble opinion.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Michellanea said...

I never was marriage-minded at all though I am now happily married. But neither of us is religious and we married for our own reasons (amore!). I'm a child of (multiple) divorces, and I never had any fantasies about being a princess bride or about being taken care of by a man. I feel like in 2007 a woman does not and should not need a guarantee that a man will take care of her. I had clear ideas from a very young age about having to get a good education and have my own career so as to be able to take care of myself and any potential children, no matter what. Unfortunately in Italy I'm constantly bumping up against that "glass ceiling" (it's pretty hard - I think they make it in "marmo" here!) but I plod ahead trying to make my own way despite the difficulties. I'm actually probably TOO fanatical about it and could chill out a bit. Again, we are all informed by our own experiences, and I think that each one of us has to do what she feels best. I'm definitely not here to say "my way" is the best. It's having that choice that is important.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Kataroma said...

Also living with my boyfriend in Italy here. And I'm also a child of divorce. I guess I feel like you, gia- gina, if I had kids I would want to be married. But neither of us are quite ready for marriage after 2.5 years (almost there but not quite!)

I'm amazed at how accepting everyone here is about us being an unmarried couple living together. I felt a lot more pressure to get married when I lived in the US!

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Old MD Girl said...

The US seems much more puritanical about the whole marriage thing than Italy does to me. My husband is Italian, and it never really seemed all that important from his family's perspective that we got married. And he tons of friends in Italy who have been dating their significant others for 10 years or more. Even his brother just recently got engaged to a woman he's been dating for 11 years.

I think it's more financial than anything else. You can't exactly get married if the two of you can't even afford to rent your own apartment!


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