Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Deegan, Mary Jo and Michael R. Hill. 1988. “We’re Partners – Not Husband and Wife.” Pp. 246-47 in Marriages and Families: Making Choices and Facing Change, by Mary Ann Lamanna and Agnes Riedmann. 3rd edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Copyright 1988 Mary Jo Deegan and Michael R. Hill


On May I, 1982- International Workers' Day-we celebrated and consecrated our relationship with friends and family. Our partnership ceremony included blessings by a Presbyterian minister, piano music played by a close friend, and readings by Frederick Engels on marriage as slavery for women and by Jane Addams on the right of all people to live in societies they created. We did not obtain a marriage license, we did not exchange "marriage vows," and we specifically chose to not be married. Our celebration cake was covered with white frosting and in red letters the slogan "Workers Should Unite-Not Marry" merrily conveyed our happy tidings.

The choice to be partners, or, as we sometimes say, "life-partners," has dramatically structured our relationship to others. Since we both had been married to other people, we had experienced traditional relationships being imposed on our nontraditional selves. Our present experiences are very different from these prior ones. People inevitably pause after we introduce ourselves as partners. Often they ask us what that means, and we explain our commitment to each other and our opposition to state control over it. One dramatic difference for a woman is the immediate use of her full name. Although "Mary Jo Deegan" is a name I have used throughout my life, when I was married a large number of people told me they "couldn't remember it!" They would inevitably address me and introduce me using my husband's last name. My name causes no lapse of memory in a partnership.