Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Some thoughts on marriage

This is sort of a thinking out loud post, so I'm not sure you should expect any attempts at tight arguments. Looking into this question of same-sex marriage has me pondering: what exactly does marriage mean to me?

There was a time when I wasn't sure that I would ever get married. I'm polyamorous, but marriage is illegal between more than two people in any state, never mind what gender they are. Marriage says something pretty powerful about your commitment, and since I don't accept the idea that in a poly relationship there is such a thing as First or Second (for me-- if you're in such a relationship, and the arrangement is known by all involved and is satisfactory to all involved, I've nothing to say against it), I wasn't sure that I would get married until and unless it became possible to marry more than one person at a time legally. Yet, I am legally married.

I got married because I loved and love my wife. At the time, I wasn't involved with anyone else (nor am I currently, sadly), so perhaps that made the decision easier. But I also came to a conclusion that there was no reason to deny myself and her legal benefits and rights (like next-of-kin rights, if either of us is ever unable to make medical decisions for ourselves) that are granted to married couples. If either of us ever gets in a relationship with another that develops to a point wherein we would like to marry that person as well, then we will likely have to simply have the ceremony and accept that we don't have the full benefits of legal recognition.

So anyway, I married out of love. I married because I had this wonderful partner who brought a joy to my life I'd never really known, and I wanted to express and demonstrate that commitment to friends, family, and society at large. I wanted to share in the seriousness that people treat a marriage. When you refer to someone as "my girlfriend" or "my boyfriend," people tend to not see that relationship as being on the same level of seriousness and commitment as "my wife" or "my husband," regardless of how serious the couple sees the relationship, and regardless of how serious and committed the couple is in reality. In a similar way, I don't think people take non-legal status marriage as being of the same level as a legal marriage, which is very frustrating and hurtful to those who have no choice in the matter. If you're married (or even if you're single), how would you feel if you were hearing "well, your marriage isn't a real marriage"? Just imagine that for a while. Don't just imagine that someone is saying it to you directly, because many people aren't so rude as to say that to your face, but also imagine that it's simply something that seems a subtle, yet pervasive part of the culture (like . . . pink is for girls, blue for boys, or something). Your marriage isn't real, despite all the love and commitment you've put into it. What feelings come to you?

So, love. Commitment. Sharing with society, and sharing in society's acceptance of that relationship. There is, of course, something to the idea that if the love is there, the rest of the world simply shouldn't matter. That's true, to a point. I would still be with my wife even if society didn't accept our relationship, and I would still be committed to her. But we are social creatures, we humans. We evolved as such, and we build our society and social mores around that social nature. We're so damn social that introverts like myself often have a hard time dealing with a society that doesn't understand why we need time alone. And we're so damn social that introverts like myself still want to be a part of the social world that is society. As such, most of us who get involved in long-term, romantic, loving, and committed relationships are going to want to make that relationship a part of society by publicly and legally declaring our love in the form of marriage. I am no exception.

So that's it. That's the whole and entirety of why I got married. I found someone (who happened to be a woman) that I loved deeply and romantically, someone I was committed to, and wanted to be with for the long haul, even for the rest of my life, and she shared those feelings. She and I already recognized and knew this, but wanted to have our relationship recognized and acknowledged by society. We wanted society to know that we loved each other, and had committed to being with each other, and we wanted society to take that seriously. In our society, the way to do that is by getting married.

Our ceremony was brief, but it meant the world to us. We wrote it ourselves (with a few adaptations from a marriage ceremony book, and tradition), and wrote our own vows. We invited her eldest brother to be the officiant, and he accepted. My favorite colors are black, red, and silver, while hers are black and orange. Black, red, and silver work together a bit better than black and orange, so we chose those as our colors. I wore a black suit, with a red shirt and silver tie, and she . . . she was absolutely gorgeous in a scarlet dress that she designed herself, and that was brought to life with help from a local costume designer. We chose the music, and got a musical acquaintance who had done other work for weddings to turn our choices into "wedding sounding" music ("Paint It Black" was played in a "wedding style" as she walked up the aisle; it was great :)). She choked up during our vows, and I smiled far more than usual all day long. My best friend stood as my best man (I was best man for his both of his weddings, so he owed me one; I don't think he minded though, as he couldn't stop grinning it seemed), and another good friend stood with him. She had her sister (we forgot to tell her she was expected to give a toast at the reception; whoops) and brother standing on her side. The musician gave us a discount because she mentioned Dungeons and Dragons in her vows (it's how we first bonded). For my vows, I admitted that she was right "most of the time." At the reception, we "danced" to "Little Red Riding Hood," by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. I got tipsy on white wine (but was sober by the "wedding night"). And I smile now, with something in my eye, to remember it all.

Then my smile fades, because I remember why I'm thinking about marriage, and what it means to me. I've been looking into arguments against same-sex marriage, and they mostly seem to come down to tradition (which is a piss-poor argument for denying rights), religion (but not every religion agrees on the issue, and America is supposed to have a separation of church and state), and procreation. And this last is the only one that ever gave me pause, because clearly a same-sex couple cannot have children in the biological sense. But when I look at what my marriage means to me, children simply don't enter that picture. Yes, my wife and I are planning to have children. However, children are not the meaning of my marriage. My marriage will mean the same to me even if we never have children.

Why then, do we deny marriage to same-sex couples? Am I unique in my feelings on marriage? I doubt it. When's the last time a romance movie had a couple get married because they really wanted to have kids? I can't think of one; the premise of the romance movies is always love and commitment and love some more. It looks to me like this culture has accepted that marriage has a meaning built on love, and not procreation. So, why?



  1. I didn't know you were polyamorous! Have you written about that at all?

    Russell Blackford wrote a very sensible piece on marriage which touches on same-sex marriages and polygamy. You may want to read it if you haven't.

  2. No, I don't think I have written much about being polyamorous. I may have mentioned it in an offhand way in one of my other pieces, but I haven't written anything focused on it. It simply hasn't been something that has drawn my focus for a while. The last time I was in a second relationship was almost three years ago (although, like all my relationships, that one taught me important lessons that I hope to remember next time), and there hasn't been anything going on in the news that I've noticed which directly relates to it. That doesn't mean that I won't write something about it at some point, but honestly, there are voices out there with much more experience and much more to say about it than I.

    I haven't read that piece by Blackford, but I've got it open in a tab to read later on, when I have a chance. Thanks!