Dianne Cox and Michael Cammer don’t particularly like being married, which doesn’t mean they don’t like it. Most of the time it doesn’t matter to them.
Dr. Cox, 64, and Mr. Cammer, 56, had lived together for nearly 25 years and were raising two college-age daughters when they exchanged vows in April 2017 in their hometown of New Rochelle, NY Now , they are empty nests who feel equally ambivalent about walking down the aisle in front of 150 guests.
“We are happy together,” Mr. Cammer said. “Was in love.” But, as he noted, “the story here is mostly one of the status quo. A happy couple gets married and it does not spoil their relationship. Neither of them ever bought into the idea that love and marriage were a whole, or that one should automatically lead to the other. Their romance has neither deepened nor slackened since their marriage, they said, and their lives have maintained the same constant parallel they established decades ago. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t tie the knot.
Both Dr. Cox and Mr. Cammer are scientists, which could explain their ultra-rational approach to their relationship. Dr. Cox is a professor of anatomy and structural biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. She met Dr. Cammer, a microscopy specialist at NYU Langone Health, in 1992 when she was a graduate student at Einstein and he was the newly hired director of microscopy training there.
Months after attending a first potluck dinner for her classmates at her apartment, they planned to move in together. But before Mr. Cammer could fit his stuff into her space, she had a reservation. At 34, she didn’t want to wait long to have children. If he was up for becoming a father, so much the better. If he felt like the bridge to starting a family couldn’t be crossed without the ringing of wedding bells, he was out of luck. “It’s fine with me,” he told her. Their eldest daughter, Rachel Cox Cammer, now 27, was born in 1995. Natasha Cammer, now 25, arrived two years later.
The principle behind avoiding marriage by Dr. Cox, who began incubating when she was a teenager, can best be summed up by Joni Mitchell. Like the pop star in her 1971 hit ‘My Old Man’, she felt she didn’t need a piece of paper from town hall to keep her tied to Mr Cammer.
Her parents, married more than 50 years before their death, would have preferred her to marry before having children. Her father was concerned that Mr Cammer, whose father was a former litigant who understood family law, would have a custody advantage if the couple separated.
But in 2009, when she wrote a New York Post article explaining why not being a wife was important to her, she had become a supporter waving the flag of cohabitation without the legal conditions. And she was gaining admirers among her students at Albert Einstein, especially her female students, for her ideals. “I was the poster child for, you don’t have to get married,” she said.
The poster began to fade during a trip the couple took to Cyprus in June 2016 for a student wedding. Mr Cammer, who had contracted a mysterious infection, was hospitalized on their first night there with a life-threatening case of septic shock. To avoid complications over whether she was legally allowed to sit by his bedside, she told a nurse that she was his wife.
Embracing that headline for real — she proposed in their New Rochelle bedroom weeks after recovering from the infection, thought about it for a few days, then agreed — was a way to hedge against future disasters that could separate them due to obscure rules around non-legal partnerships.
The decision still zaps his twinges of regret. “It bothered me,” she said. “I felt like I was kind of betraying this moral stance I had for years about government involvement in my personal life.” Students who had found inspiration in her choice to enlist without the paperwork, she said, were disappointed. “But I guess I feel like after 25 years I had made up my mind.”
Six years later, marriage amounts to “an extension of who we were,” said Dr. Cox. Mr Cammer added: ‘We rely on each other and expect the safety of having each other.’ Married or not, they enjoy each other’s company.
Twice a week, despite busy work schedules, they take the time to have dinner together. The dates are infrequent but significant. Last year, for example, they saw the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Company” on Broadway. This helped crystallize Mr. Cammer’s feelings about the relationship. “We don’t have the ironic ambivalence and obsessive questioning of Sondheim’s characters,” he said. “We are happy together without ifs and or buts.”
“I always find it strange to say ‘my wife’,” Mr Cammer said. “After 25 years of always trying to figure out what’s the right thing to say – Partner? Lover? Spouse equivalent? — ‘Wife’ should be simple. But my brain shuts down. I find it weird.” Although they now present themselves as husband or wife, Dr. Cox also struggles with the title. “It’s kind of weird to say he’s my husband after so many years of not doing it,” she said.
Their eldest daughter, Rachel Cox Cammer, now a graduate student in body and mind medicine at Saybrook University, never cared what her parents were called. But she and her sister, bridesmaids at the 2017 wedding, were both thrilled when their parents finally tied the knot. Not because they had always wanted their mother to be a “Mrs”. like the mothers of their friends, or for their father to be presented as her husband. For them, it was more of an opportunity.
“My mom and I used to watch a lot of romantic comedies, and they have a lot of wedding scenes,” said Ms. Cox Cammer of Peekskill, NY. are you sure you don’t want to get married? It would be so much fun to go clothes shopping. She and Natasha, now in medical school at the University of Miami, never doubted their parents’ devotion to each other. “We have always respected their decision not to marry. You could always see their love for each other.
Even so, Rachel will not follow her parents’ example. “I knew I wanted to get married at a very young age,” she said. On October 13, she and her partner will marry at Candlewood Lake in Brookfield, Connecticut. The couple met four years ago. they have been planning their wedding since August 2021. “We wanted a semi-long engagement so we could work out all the details.”
Mr. Cammer rolled his eyes at the news of the engagement, he said. Dr. Cox is happy for Rachel. But “she even changes her name, which surprised me a bit,” she said. Still, they’ll be there to celebrate, and maybe even wipe away a few tears of happiness when the couple are declared married.
“She’ll have the full nine yards, all the bells and whistles, including a big dress reveal, and I guess she’s been dreaming about it for a long time,” Dr Cox said. It’s OK with his parents. “It will be a wonderful party,” said Dr. Cox.