Monday, July 18, 2011

The Brazilian Marriage

Marriage in Brazil is an interesting thing. No, I'm not saying we are exchanging partners down here or anything like that, except that is exactly what is happening.

For a Catholic country, the new generation is surprisingly open to separating from spouses and trying to find new ones. Of course, that's if they are officially spouses in the first place. As I explained to a foreigner friend, Brazilians (at least Cariocas) feel no pressure to marry. Living together is marriage enough.

These observations of mine were confirmed in the latest issue of Istoé. Apparently the number of marriages in Brazil has gone up 28%, separations have increased by 43%s and the total number of remarriages has doubled  from 65,000 to 136,000 between the years 2000 and 2009.

So down here we are breaking up, making out, and remarrying! It kind of suits the culture, don't you think? I will say it's better than the old days of just cheating on your wife/husband. Of course the Sex Motel industry may be feeling it. Who am I kidding? If there is anything a Brazilian loves more than falling in love, it's having sex!

And that is exactly what it is. Brazilians love to fall in love (and have sex). Even the Playboys who are just trying to get laid get a kick out of that special someone who keeps them guessing. If that happens, they just may take the plunge and move in with them. Should that work out, they could quite possibly marry them after a few years. Or not.

Many of my closest Brazilian friends wear the rings but don't have the papers. Not to mention that quite of few of them are on their second or third "marriages." I say "marriages" because most of them weren't actually married but just living together. Down here people don't play semantics with relationships. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and lives with you then you are married to the freaking duck.

What do you think? Is living with someone the same thing as marriage? Should separations and remarrying be so socially acceptable?


  1. well, if it's not marriage then it's not marriage. and if you don't care and or believe in marriage then bypassing the whole thing isn't a big deal. For some people it's religious, for some economic and for some just a personal connection of commitment. it's the same in brazil as it is in the us. i see absolutely no difference. people in the us fall in love, have sex (im sure americans and the rest of the human pop love sex as much as brazilians in general!), get married, don't get married, get divorced, get remarried, etc. i think the majority of civil partners here who dont get married, and live together for many years to become legally together do it to bypass the paperwork. as with everything it's a hassle and so some people don't see any real need to waste time/money if they don't feel they have to or if they aren't romantically connected to the idea (my mil for example). overall i think people are as fickle here as anywhere and that there is no real difference from the US marriage/relationship/divorce culture at all.

  2. I think people don't get "married" on paper here because of the pressure to have a ridiculously large wedding. A simple civil ceremony is not enough for most people - you need the big 200person event - and until you can afford that - with a full buffet and everything - then there is no point in getting married "on paper" so they just move in together and say "that's good enough for now" and the women spend their lives dreaming of the big day.

  3. hahaha! In Brazil, you're married the moment you start living together. It cracks me up (and at times annoys me).

    Last year my boyfriend moved in with me (for a variety of reasons, and marriage was not one of them), and within a week, I heard someone mention that I was married. Quite loudly, I had to speak up and call BS on it. I made it very clear that I wasn't married and wasn't intending on getting married any time soon.

    Everyone just looked at me like I was crazy. After all, I was living with my bf, right? Therefore, I was married. End of story.

    So, now we no longer live together (and aren't together). Does that make me divorced? Hmmm.


  4. Mallory, I have to respectfully disagree with your last sentence. I can't speak for the entire U.S. but I can tell you that here in the southern United States, which is a very religous and conservative area, living together is REALLY frowned upon. Trust me, you would be talked about as being a "sinner" by everyone. Here, people don't just as easily move in together like it's no big deal. Not saying it doesn't happen but it's not easily accepted by families or the culture here to just live together in "sin" as people would say.

    Many people get married just for this reason alone sometimes. So they won't be living in "sin" according to society. Getting divorced is also frowned upon but happens just as much as I think everywhere else.

  5. I agree w Mallory , it's the same everywhere...( us , europe and brazil at least).
    Shay , if you tell a religious person anywhere in the world they are living together without being married is frowned upon. its considered a sin according to the Bible , Koran , Torah etc so any religious person will disagree w this practice.

  6. I have to disagree with Mallory and Anon about it being the same everywhere. My American friends who live with significant others do not consider themselves anywhere close to married. My Carioca friends call and consider their live in mate their spouse. They even call themselves that. That is very different.

  7. I think that the whole institution of marriage is obsolete. Marriage was originally created by the state to establish property rights and legal heirs. Most civilized countries have modern established probate laws and kids born out of wedlock are now generally accepted. Also, women have the same rights and earning potential as men (in civilized countries of course) so they do not need to depend on men for their livelihood.

    There is a new growing trend of hetero couples utilizing the civil union laws meant for gay couples. In a civil union, you get most of the benefits of a marriage (partner's health care plan benefits, pull the plug power for partner, etc.) without any of the detriments such as divorce, community property and alimony.

    In Brazil, marriage is a strange beast. I know some "married" couples who have amantes or even other families on the side. The crazy thing is that both spouses are knowingly practicing this but are still married, living together under one roof to provide a home for their kids. Just crazy!

  8. Whatever floats your boat I suppose....

  9. My impression is that in brazil people sometimes marry fast, split up easily and remarry soon later... In Germany not even a religious person would frown upon a couple living together without being married, I think tough if u are divorced or in your third marriage that is much more frowned upon, because it kind of implies sth. went really wrong somehow...

  10. Rachel,

    Perhaps it's because there is a law in Brazil that if you live together with someone for 7 months, you are automatically married, even if you have no papers. If you prove living with someone under the same roof for 7 months, it's called "common marriage". It has all the rights and obligations of a legal civil marriage with papers, and a possible divorce will be treated just as if the couple had married with papers. That is probably why some Brazilians do just that, they get comfortable and know that in 7 months they will have all the rights of a legally married couple.
    My sister lived with her boyfriend for 6 years, when they separated, they had a formal divorce with lawyers, judge and separation of assets.


  11. 1. If a couple isn't married and live together for two years or more, the Brazilian law qualifies them as having a "stable union", legally it means that the couple in question is in the same situation as a married couple without any prenup, or with a "full communion of assets" marriage contract. What's yours is mine and vice versa...

    2.When a couple gets married in Brazil the common text of the marriage contract is partial communion of assets (anything they attain after the marriage belong to both spouses, whatever each spouse had before the marriage, including future inheritance belong to that person and that person only)

    3. Some people even sign stable union contracts at a register office to avoid giving their significant other all those rights the Brazilian law automatically bestow upon them, like alimony and etc…… and to make it even better, they get to share the health insurance if one of their employers offer it. I actually know people who explained signing a stable union contract with those words!

    4. I am one of the most romantic persons ever, and so is my boyfriend, who I live with, and we have a married couple relationship. Actually, I think he is even more romantic than I am hehehehe… But anyway, I don't fancy getting married and I don't want a religious ceremony either. I’m Brazilian divorced from an English man, the only reason I’ve got married in the first place was because my ex was transferred to Europe after we were living together for 3,5 years, if I was to move with him I needed the resident visa, hence, the marriage. We divorced 4 years after due to… Life.

    With all that said, this is just MY opinion. I think throwing a party to celebrate your relationship is great! We should definitely celebrate the beauty of finding a person you want to share a life with. Having your relationship blessed by a religious ceremony is a question of belief and faith, if you have one, right on! Bless your union as you see fit. As to signing a marriage contract, well, that depends on the financial and legal ground rules you want or need to establish for your relationship.

    As to remarrying, I wish I had found my Prince Charming on the first try. We all make mistakes, some more than others 

  12. Actually, the Brazilian law doesn't stipulates the 2 years minimum… I was misinformed the timing is a bit vague on the text.

  13. Juliana,

    7 months is enough to be considered a stable union.
    This law was actually created to protect partners who worked and lived together for years, built a life together and then if something happen, were thrown out without a penny.


  14. You're right, every couple I know here in Rio that are living together consider themselves married, whether or not they are, and everyone else refers to them as *married*.

  15. Regardless of law or religious norm, Rachel is talking about the cultural aspect when a couple decide to live together in Brazil. And I totally agree with her. As soon as a couple decide to live together, their friends and family will start to refer to their other half as 'the spouse'... 'e ai, o maridao ta bem?" - 'vi tua mulher/esposa na feira ontem!" - It doesn't matter if they are married or not, it doesn't matter if they are religious or not. But of course, the only good thing about generalisation is that it saves time (and it is not even good then!)

    So, all I can talk about is my own experience. Moved in with boyfriend, some 5 years ago: me Brazilian, him Welsh. Before that he was boyfriend. First week, got a call from best friend " e ai, como estao as coisas com o maridinho?" (how are things with hubby?) - and my mum has since been saying: "manda um abraco pro seu maridao!" (send a hug for your hub) - They have completely different religious belief and they could care less about how long we needed to be together for it to be considered "legal union". And that goes for everyone: uncles, aunts, grandparents, padeiro (baker), o cara da banca, o farmacista... It's cultural - they might say it for different reasons, but they say it.

    It was completely normal for me - I actually refer to him as 'hubby' when I am talking to people in Brazil. But 'maridao' had one of the first of many cultural shocks that would come! He cannot conceive any of his family or friends calling me his wife.

    Rachel - 1st time posting here. Love your blog (and blog pics), but mostly your topics for discussion from an expat point of view (seasoned with a lot of Sass). Congrats! I'm an expat, but the other way around as we live in Australia. Could have gone forever but would need a blog of my own for that =)

    Um abraco

  16. Thanks Amanda! You picked up exactly what I was putting down! Glad you like the blog and the discussions :)

    And why not have your own blog? I'm sure Australia is pretty interesting from your point of view.

  17. I think this is correct to a point... I've been in this same situation both here(in Brazil)and in the US.

    Like you, Amanda, all I can say regards my own experience.
    In the US we had a joining account, lived as a married couple but referred to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend until we were married. I was 21 when we started living together. At that age it was unthinkable to me to call my boyfriend, who I was living with, anything other than that.
    I'm 31 now, I've been married and now I know the difference between having a married relationship and a "boyfriend girlfriend" relationship, regardless of housing arrangements. Maybe it's an age thing too, not just local culture at play for those couples who just live together but consider themselves married.

    Brazilian people do like to say their friends/family are married when they move in together, as opposed to Americans. But I think that is just semantics reinforced by the "common/legal/stable union" laws around here. Add to that some teasing, friends and family want to see how the couple react to the "M" word, and push them towards it (specially family!)

    Quite honestly, I don't think this is the rule , but the exception. This year alone I've been to 3 weddings and I have another 2 to go.... most of my friends who live together or plan to move in together are married or about to be. Not all of them but most of them. Moreover when I tell people I have no desire to get legally married, people (I'm talking about my carioca friends and family) find that odd.

    The falling numbers on marriage statistics and the rise on divorces, aren't a situation isolated to Brazil.

    I think things are quite similar here to the US, UK or even Spain when it comes to a couple living together, it all depends on what part of the country you are, religion, family, etc... it can vary a lot within the country, or even within the same city. The only thing is that around here we tend to use the "WORD" marriage loosely. Other than that, I think the institution of marriage is being used loosely worldwide equally.


  18. I think the increase in wedding numbers is our age ;)

    Actually, they are saying that there has been an increase in marriages. I think our generation just may bring back the romantic! Since we take so damn long (minus me) to tie the knot, hopefully it'll stick lol

  19. yep! the age ;)

    Btw I could go on forever on this subject. So the numbers went up! hummm... I have a whole new set of arguments for that too LOL

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  21. To say living together, marriage, dating, common law and such is the same in every country is not true. Culturally we are all different and we use different languages and have different meanings. Sometimes, it's very difficult for me to understand the relationships here. Ok, I understand love but you know what love is different here. It is. Maybe I over think things and stuff because society and culture is what I studied But they are truly different. I'm not saying everything is different, but we have our differences.

    My cousin is pregnant and moving into her boyfriend's household (mil's house) and both families are calling this is marriage. But that's their norm, I don't. I have another definition. I call it living at Mil because I got pregnant. direct huh.

    but we don't have this but we have, "let's live together because I got pregnant" in the u.s.. But how many americans move-in with mil because they got pregnant? Not many. Prices are so high here and income is so low you, it causes a lot of changes. Either way we wouldn't call it marriage.

    If it's all the same then why would people care about having gay marriage?

  22. Interesting. Made me remember a funny story related to the language used to identify levels of relationships. My parents had a big shock when my Mexican professor asked them if they had met my "in-laws." In Spanish, you can use "suegros" to refer to the family of your boyfriend, but it didn't quite translate to English. My poor parents thought I had gotten married behind their backs!

  23. This reminds me of meeting my Brazilian husband's Brazilian friends in the US. The ladies would talk about 'husband this' and 'husband that' but then I would ask them about their wedding and they would say they never had one. I used to think they were hecka conservative or thought I was, and that they were lying to avoid some kind of shame. My husband and I finally talked about it, and I asked 'Why do S and V and L say they are married when they are not?' It took a while, but I finally got the living together=married idea. But we did explain to them that it's different in the USA and it could raise suspicion-make one look like a liar or as if they are covering something up.

  24. can a woman living with someone in brazil claim half the property even though the man does not have permanent visa to live in Brazil, i e he has a house in Brazil but only has the normal 3 month tourist visa and he to and fro s from england to Brazil I am in this situation, I have a house in brazil and a girlfriend in Brazil, a brazilian, she is saying she has rights over my house, the house is in my name, she hasnt contributed anything financially, only stayed with me in the house when I have been in Brazil, any information would be greatly appreciated

  25. Last I heard things are getting pretty favorable for women like your girlfriend. If they have been there and slept there, they can try to stake a claim. And the courts here can take over your place if she ends up pressing charges.

    Are you guys separating or is she just trying to get the place when you aren't there? Does she go and take care of the house for you? If I were you, I'd talk to a Brazilian attorney.

  26. Btw, if you'd like I could post your question as a blog post and see if any readers know exact details...