Marriage may be a centuries-old institution, but couples today are making it their own, reshaping it according to their individual personalities and their shared beliefs. They are choosing when they marry, whether they get hitched in their teens or wait until their 40s. They are rethinking how they marry, with some looking to their faith to strengthen their bond and others challenging the basic principles of marriage (monogamy, anyone?). And they are standing up for whom they marry, inviting us all to examine our ideas of what marriage really means. Take a peek into the lives of these nine couples that have vowed to love, honor, and cherish - and created their own visions of the ultimate commitment.
CHILD-FREE BY CHOICE
REBECCA STEPHENS, 41, AND JIM STEPHENS, 38 RALEIGH, NC
Rebecca, a pharmaceutical sales representative, and Jim, a psychotherapist, have
been married for 12 years and have always known they didn't want children.
Child-free and proud to be
"When someone asks me if I have kids, I often feel almost apologetic when I say no, like I have to provide a 'good enough' reason or they'll take pity on me and assume I can't have children,"
says Rebecca. "But I just don't have the gene for wanting a child, and I don't think having a child would improve our relationship. I usually tell people that we've chosen to go the dog-and-cat
route and leave it at that."
Just the two of us
"Being the only people in this relationship, we are each other's first priority, emotionally and otherwise. We are more communicative and can lavish attention on each other — something
we might not be able to do if we were always focused on baths and homework. We also like that we get to live a bit more whimsically without children. We can take bigger career risks — I had
my own business for a while and Jim started his own practice two years ago. We travel a lot, and we go out even more than we did when we were single."
"We don't need to watch our children grow to measure how far we've come as a couple. On our anniversary, we always think back to what we were doing 'this time last year,' and inevitably there
was something we were struggling with, whether it was new jobs, a new move, or something trivial, like when our AC died in August. It helps remind us that we can get through things together and
eventually look back and laugh."