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The state of our unions

The many types of marriage

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.

MARRIED LATER IN LIFE

MARIE GAFFNEY, 49, AND NICK GAFFNEY, 48 SAN FRANCISCO

Courtesy of Subject Marie and Nick married in their 40s — the first marriage for each. Three-and-a-half years later, Marie is now a stay-at-home mom to their son, Quinlan, 2; Nick is a public relations executive.

Hard habits to break

"Nick and I both lived alone for so long that we've had to learn how to involve each other in our decisions," says Marie. "Last year, Nick decided to move his company from the office he'd set up in our home to another space. He didn't mention it to me until he was ready to move! We had to talk about how this change wasn't just about Nick and his company — it was about the family too. Things have gotten better, but we both will probably continue to work on it for years to come."

Timing is everything

"I've seen so many people jump into marriages, expecting the other person to fulfill whatever void they felt in their lives, only to end up disappointed. But Nick and I realize that no one is perfect and you have to work through challenges together. Marriage is about loving and forgiving. Until you reach a certain maturity, you don't really get that."

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