This Is What It Means to be San Francisco Married

Apr 21 at 6am

By Lauren Busley

In San Francisco, the land of pretend grown-ups, where our workplaces feed us like we’re in summer camp, we play competitive kickball in our 30s, and our wardrobe is 40% costumes, it’s difficult to decipher real adult behavior from pretend time. Add the fact that we pay more for rent than almost anyone else anywhere in the history of ever, and you’ll find that a lot of us are in relationships that are what I call “San Francisco married.” 

These types of relationships are for those of us who cohabitate without officially tying the knot (or even talking about getting married or ever settling down), because the idea of turning into our parents is terrifying, or we simply don’t believe we need a piece of paper to define our relationships, or the thought of spending $30,000 on eight hours of stress (read: wedding day) is unbearable, or because living together just makes sense right now. 

In San Francisco, the land of pretend grown-ups, it’s difficult to decipher real adult behavior from pretend time 

For most San Franciscans, sharing is in our nature (especially if you’re into Burning Man). Since we’re all a little “Kumbaya,” and because “San Francisco poor” means bringing home fewer than six figures, it doesn’t seem like a big sacrifice or invasion of privacy to move in with someone we’ve known for at least a month whom we enjoy having sex with and don’t completely hate. In fact, we’ll gladly jump to a privacy-free, pee-with-the-door-open lifestyle in exchange for an extra $1,000 in our pockets a month because (someday) we’d like to be real adults anyway. Maybe with the extra cash we’ll increase our 401(k) contribution? Maybe we’ll figure out how to roll it over into an IRA? Someone told me I should do that once. 

In a San Francisco marriage, the home we decide to live in together is determined by which person has the apartment with the best rent control, regardless of frequent ant invasions, lack of closets in the bedroom, or a leaky roof – just as long as that studio apartment we can barely afford is (sort of) big enough for the two of us or the roommates are cool with living with a couple.  

In a San Francisco marriage, the home we decide to live in together is determined by which person has the apartment with the best rent control

Once we decide on the place, the next step is to take stock of what we own together. Three Anchorman DVDs? Check. A Sodastream? Mmmhmm. An empty keg? Yup, got that. Couch? Ummm. It becomes clear that the household items we hold dearly as child-adults are rarely the things traditionally considered essential for an effective living space. As individuals we’ve accumulated home goods from all kinds of places: hand-me-down furniture from old roommates, the random IKEA splurge, and that mostly not-broken dresser we found on the street corner. As Francisco married people, we’re not the types to buy full bedroom sets from Sears just so everything matches. Instead we combine our chaotic, random pile of household goods and furniture.  

After the move, priorities look a little bit different too. Like actual married folks, San Francisco married couples do a lot of the normal official Mr./Mrs. activities. We snuggle on the couch while watching Netflix. We fight about groceries. Sometimes we even combine finances. But we’re not thinking about buying a house or having kids next. Instead our priorities include planning a trip to Thailand, getting a dog (if our lease allows it), and binge-watching House of Cards from start to finish.

People who are San Francisco married aren’t sweating the long game. Making a five-year plan – heck, even a two-year plan – seems daunting and unnecessary. We remember where we were two years ago, and we’re happy to say that we certainly could not have predicted or begun to plan all the amazingness that is our current everyday life. Overplanning is not a thing we do.

Our priorities include planning a trip to Thailand, getting a dog, and binge-watching House of Cards from start to finish

We have so many amenities and opportunities on a daily basis in San Francisco: the squillion restaurants to visit, months of amazing park weather, the proximity of snow in Tahoe. Sometimes there are just so many possibilities that, like our relationships, we can’t get our heads around the idea of choosing just one thing forever. A long-term partner in crime feels so much more right and realistic than a formal relationship in which you sit down to dinner every night at 6 p.m. and have date nights planned out like a script. 

Those of us who get San Francisco married want to have our (not-wedding) cake and eat it too. We like the comfort of a serious relationship and someone who will laugh with, and not at, our farts (because farts are never not funny). But we’re independent too and don’t feel the need to define ourselves as a unit, don’t consider the idea of changing our names, or don’t feel pressured to join that club called “married people.” 

We also don’t need the stigma of being married among a sea of single friends. And, dare I say, being a little less committed actually helps us be happy in our current partnerships. When you aren’t legally obligated to pick up one another from the airport or attend one another’s holiday parties, you still get good partner points for doing those things, and all of us could use a few “good partner” points here and there. 

We’re independent too and don’t feel the need to define ourselves as a unit

As sometimes happens with committed relationships, especially those commitments inspired by a brunch conversation that got out of hand, the relationship ends. A San Francisco divorce. Oh no! This means we’re thrown back into the apartment hunt. But the good news is that, odds are, one of us can take over the lease of someone who’s giving up their apartment to move in with their significant other. Because, seriously, those two really like each other a lot; they spend almost every night together anyway; and they’re on the same kickball team. They are going to make it.

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