Living together, having kids, but not married

Two weeks ago I asked my driving instructor “You have two kids, why you are not married?”

He replied “why should I? why you are married?”

and the first thing that came up in my head was “because that’s what the right thing to do, right?”

He replied again “what is the right thing to do here?”.



Those statement intrigued me.

A lot of couples here in The Netherlands do “samen women’ or “samen leven” or… living together without marriage.

Living together without marriage and then having kids together until they are old and having grandchildren.. and they are still not in a marriage.

Can you imagine that?

I can imagine that.



In my home country, Indonesia, has “in complicated relationship” status with the government, including “don’t trust”, “dislike”, “not taking care of each other”.

This country, The Netherlands, has a “in a relationship” status with its government. It is like a very strong bond relationship, mostly including “trust” or “at least we trust that the government has a good will to take care of us”.

Based on that belief…

We live here by rules.

Every single things have its rules and it is in the system and connected to each other.

Really. The government even have a rules on how you throw the garbage into 5 containers, on how you drive, on how you smoke, on how you bike, on how you buy things, on where you live, with whom you live, aha!

Even when you are living together in the same address, the government knows that!..and automatically you are registered in the city council as “samen leven”…living together!

So, living together here, in my opinion, is actually almost the same as “a marriage” because it is registered.

You even can have a contract agreement of living together or fiscal partnership. You have the same rights with subsidies, allowance for the kids, etc.

Why should people married then if they have the same rights as people who are married?


In my home country, a marriage is seen as a family celebration that the kids are finally having their own life and living outside the house (finally..).

The structure of a living is first you graduate from university then working then having a marriage.

A marriage is a tool for some people to live outside the house or at least people see them as a grown up people. For some girls even will skip the “working” part and want right away to get marriage…

So then when you attend an Indonesian wedding, you will feel that it is a (big) family celebration..It is not only for the couple but mostly it is for the parents. The guests who attend the party are minimal 500-1000 people, range from the colleague of the parents, the friends of the parents, the old friends of the parents, the big extended family of the parents, and the rest are friends and colleague from the children (the couple). Who pay the wedding? Mostly the parents because it is their celebration, yes! finally my children are an adult.

In here, children are expected to live outside the house at age 18 and are expected to do self-finance of their own study. By that, means that people will see them as a fully grown up person by age 18. Parents are very excited when they live outside the house and have their own adventure of life…meaning working, falling in love, failing, standing up and trying new things… The parents will not interfere your life…

So… in here, a marriage is not like a schema that you have to do it. Not at all.

A marriage is not even a tool to hold your partner to stay faithful to you. Not at all.

A marriage is not a sign that you are an adult. Not at all.

A marriage is probably not even priority in people’s life here.

Because people are seen as an adult not only from the marital status….

and.. remember.. the government knows all.

People are getting married to celebrate their love. They are not getting married or having a wedding party to start a new life. So there are many cases that they are getting married when the kids are grown up already, or even when they are old already.


What if you have kids?

Remember again… if you are not married, but you have already contract of living together or fiscal partner contract then you both agree to have children together and it is easy to registered your children. Yes, you have to declare yourself as a parent (mother and father) of the child but in this case, the mother and the father already have a bond together as a family (by the contract that has been signed in front of the notaris).

In my opinion, if you already have the contract of living together that means two people are willingly to live together under the law and if you have to declare your children… it is not an issue. It is just a matter of a paper. The parents will get also subsidies en allowance.

My friend @misskania said “So, samenwonen and marriage here in NL is basically the same: the union of people living together and documents to be signed and submitted and paid.”

I don’t want to go into very details with the rights and what is the difference between marriage and samenleven and fiscal partner.

I just want to give perspective that there are another contract of living together in here in Holland. If there are two people live together, having kids, without married, it can be (and mostly) they have a contract of living together.. and that’s legal.

It is different if you don’t have any contract, you are single mother, and the father of the child doesn’t want to declare the baby… that’s another issue…like everywhere in the world.


When people agree to live together, it means they (really) live together, they pay tax of the house together, they raised the children together, they manage the house together… the same as a marriage life.

When they decide to get married (after having children) is because they want to throw a wedding party, and they want to celebrate it with friends and they have money!

Yes, getting married here is so expensive…also getting divorced is so damn expensive here.

When your wedding is on the weekend and you asked the people from city council to come to the party, it costs fortune.

It was cost more than 1200 euro on Saturday, in my wedding day, only to be registered and the city council people were coming to the wedding location. Can you imagine that?

…plus the church (if you want to do it in the church), plus the gala party in the night, the dinner… It is very costly..more than you can imagine.

But there is always 1-2 days in a month that’s free of charge. Usually people will have their wedding day on that day, in the city council. 🙂


(To be able to do this witness signing in the party location on Saturday, it was costly…super expensive… but yet it was once in a lifetime!)

The Last….

So, I hope I can give a little bit of perspective that “samen leven” in The Netherlands is not because of sex. It is not, it is never like that.

I think, being in a marriage and getting married are two different term.

For me, samen leven is the same as being in a marriage but without getting married (having a wedding day).

The rights in front of the government can be slightly different but.. still samen leven required a lot of documents and being signed and paid.

The united of two people, living together and having kids together are requiring a lot of responsibilities..

Some countries needs the official wedding-marriage paper to start those phase of life, some countries doesn’t need that. But for me, when you want to understand a culture of another country, you must see the whole bigger picture of that country. Try not using our own culture to see another culture. That will lead a judgement.

But there is one thing…one thing.. that’s why.. deepest in my heart, I still love the fact that I’m married to someone I love..

There is one thing that “marriage” can’t be compared as “samen leven”…

I can call my partner as “MY HUSBAND” and he can call me “MY WIFE” officially.


Those 2 terms, are only can be done when you are married.

So, you want to get married or not?


(This photo was taken in front of the church! Yes, he is my husband!)



Greetings from Zwolle,

Sekar Steenwelle-Nareswari






14 thoughts on “Living together, having kids, but not married

  1. misskania says:

    I would like to add something. It is different if you have children, with a marriage, any children born will be ‘yours’ for both mother and father. Outside marriage, it is only the mother that is recognized unless the father submit to the gemeente (municipality, therefore government) that the child is his, before birth, and again after birth. They must declare first that they (the unmarried parents) are the legal guardian of the children.


    • Sekar Nareswari says:

      Yes. I forget to mention that. But.. if they have already contract of living together or fiscal partner.. it means if the mother delivered the baby, the father of the baby already has a bond with the family (by the contract)…so it is not like.. a single mother whose the father of the child is somewhere out there…


    • Sekar Nareswari says:

      Thanks for stopping by!! Really appreciate it.. and by the way.. you have a very informative blog as well!! I used to watch as many as you (before having kids) :))) but now.. not anymore… Good informations ! Btw I watch Mad Max the old version : Mel Gibson’s and I don’t like it at all…


      • jensen99 says:

        Understandable mbaksis. I found myself with plenty of time to watch hundred of movies yearly these past few years, but sooner or later maybe I will not have that much luxury anymore when life moves on. Let’s see. 😛
        BTW I never watch Mad Max’s first trilogy, so I don’t know how bad or good they are. :mrgreen:


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