Why Do We Say I Do?

Corey and I were having a debate the other night that I found quite interesting, even more interesting upon reflection. It was about marriage as an institution. His stance was that marriage was nothing more than the government’s way of forcing people to comply with societal expectations so as to receive benefits, i.e., tax, insurance, mortgage, etc. He said that he simply did not believe in the “institution of marriage,” which caught me completely offguard as we have been together quite a while, and married for almost eight years. Now he affirmed quite vigorously when I began to get upset that he was not saying that he did not believe in being married. He was saying that he believed that the actual institution of marriage was something that society forced on people and that he would be with me whether or not we were married.

Of course, my response was to get upset and say that he did not want to be married to me and we never should have gotten married in the first place if he didn’t believe in marriage, ya da ya da ya da . . . and it took several hours and much talking before I would even listen to what he was saying and not to what I was hearing (which, I am not admitting, I tend to do).

But, not saying this in defense of his position or anything, I did do a couple of research papers on marriage traditions for both an anthropology and a sociology class that I had as an undergraduate, and I remember a few things from the research. Such as the fact that in many cultures, marriage was nothing more than a contract for land. Arranged marriages had nothing to do with love, and women truly had no say in who they married for thousands of years. If it was not a barter for land, then it was a political negotiation, depending upon how much power the interested parties had. Marriages were often for bloodlines, hence interfamilial marriages. Shotgun marriages or marriages to save face are actually still around, although they are not nearly as prevalent as they used to be. And the idea of actually marrying for an emotional tie is a relatively new development in the overall scheme of things (last hundred years or so).

But let’s look at the governator’s quote for a moment: “I believe that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman.” Now we all know what he was trying to say, or at least I think we do. But silliness aside, I know of several gay couples who have been together longer than some of my straight friends who have married and divorced twice. Yet these couples are not recognized in most states as being LEGALLY married. They cannot make decisions regarding each other’s care if one of the partners is hospitalized unless they have a legal document, and even that may not be honored. They cannot put one another on insurance as spouse, etc. So what is the legal institution of marriage? Yet another way in which the government can intrude upon our lives? Yes. Do we as married couples benefit from this intrusion? Yes. That married filing jointly box on the 1040 does save us some money, doesn’t it? But at the same time, yet again, the legal institution of marriage in the United States is an institution that is exclusive. It does not recognize everyone.

Corey and I live together under one roof. We have children (his step children). We buy groceries together, have bills together (boy, do we), insurance (auto, homeowners, life, health), make joint decisions regarding the house, the kids, the dogs, the vehicles, vacations . . . hell, we even make joint decisions on what body wash we’re going to buy. How does that make us any different from my gay friends? Corey and I love each other. We have made the decision to be a couple, and that means that we will trust each other, be truthful with one another, respect each other, not harm one another, not degrade one another, be true to one another. How does that make us any different from my gay friends? Now this is the point at which some people will jump in with their sweeping generalizations and say, well gay people just aren’t like that. Like what? Monogamous? Loving? Respectful? Caring? Please. Your intolerance is showing.

First Dance
First Dance

Listen, I’m not living in some bubble. Corey and I argue. We disagree. We have our moments just like anyone else. I don’t see us as living in some kind of fairy tale marriage in which life is perfect and nothing bad ever happens. Don’t you read my blogs? That’s what marriage is about. That’s what living with another person is about. But I believe in being married. Not for the sake of what the government gives me. Not for the big wedding. Not for the sake of our parents. I believe in being married because of something much more personal. I believe in promises, heart promises. That’s what marriage is for me: it’s a heart promise from one person to another. Just living with someone and saying that you promise is too easy. There’s something about standing up with your family (it doesn’t need to be with anyone else; we could have done it with just us and my kids) and promising out loud that makes it real. So I suppose that’s the one thing about me that is traditional. I wanted that, and despite his feelings about the institution of marriage, Corey wanted a bigger wedding than I did, so make of that what you will.

And I believe that that option should be available to anyone who wants it, who is willing to make that sacrifice, make that promise. Anyone who is willing to dive into marriage–as long as they aren’t 16 and stupid–should have that option available to them. Just don’t talk to Corey first because he’ll tell you that it’s just another government intrusion into your lives, but he  will also be the first to take that deduction on his taxes . . .

I wonder sometimes if he doesn’t just bait me to see how far he can push me . . . hmmm

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Captain Corey
Captain Corey

After being home with me for many long months, my husband is about to go back to work again. We are both conflicted about this change. I know that it is well past time. He has been increasingly antsy and impatient, and we have been sniping at each other over insignificant things since I finished school. It’s not that we don’t enjoy each others company, but he had a mission before when he was out of work: to help me get through school, and that mission has been accomplished. And he has accomplished his own mission–to finish the training that he needed to upgrade his license so that he could get back on a boat. So we both know that it is time. But after being together daily for such a long period, it is going to be quite an adjustment for the whole family.

I used to say that the only reason that my parents stayed married for so long was because my father spent so much time at sea and so little time on dry land. He was in the Navy for 20 years. He retired and tried to work at a job on dry land and hated it, so he joined the merchant marines. He sailed all over the world; his boat was even hit during the Viet Nam war. He worked on big boats until he was 67. He tried to retire when he was 62, but he just couldn’t do it. Not working drove him crazy, so he went back to work for another five years. He finally retired at 67 and spent the last six years of his life fishing and gardening, and he and my mom spent that five years in an uneasy kind of detente. It worked for most of the time, but then there would be flair ups, and I would be the U.N. It was like that for most of my life, but by that point, I had gotten really good at it. But my father was never comfortable anywhere except at sea. Anyone who really knew him, understood that about him.

I wouldn’t say that about Corey. He doesn’t sail on the big boats for months at a time. He is on near coastal tug boats for weeks at a time. That I can handle. I can understand the call of the sea myself. I am comfortable on the water. I love driving over bridges and looking out over the water when Corey is out and imagining where he is at that moment. The sea is alluring and hypnotic. I even toyed with the idea of buying a boat and living on it when I was in college–a Tartan 27′. To this day, I still wish that I had done it, but the more practical side of me won out. But that is why I understand why Corey likes his time on the water and enjoys his job, and I don’t begrudge him that time. I do worry because it isn’t a typical 9 to 5 job in any sense of the word. But I know that’s part of the appeal for him. And so I know that he needs to go back to his boats for himself just as much as he needs to go back to work for the family.

Which brings me to another point. My sons love Corey intensely. He has been there for them since they were in grade school. My older son in particular relates to his step-father very well, and he is at an age at which he would rather go to Corey than me when he has a problem because, well, I am female, and therefore, I supposedly do not know anything about his problems. I understand my son’s reluctance and am glad that he feels this closeness with my husband, his step-dad. It was one of the things that endeared me so much to Corey, how well my children adopted him. That was a prerequisite for my bringing someone into our family in the first place. But it was my oldest son’s easy love for Corey that showed me what kind of man he really was.

The separation from their father was very hard on all of us, and I did not date anyone seriously before Corey. In fact, I only went on a few dates as I really was not looking for nor expecting anything, so my connection with Corey was unexpected and surprising, mostly because of the difference in our ages. I deliberately did not introduce him to my children for a while as I did not know where things were going, but once I did let him get to know my kids, they began to open their hearts to him after their initial trepidation, and he did the same. I won’t try to tell you that the road has not had its bumps and curves because of course, it has. But he has learned from them, and they from him. So when he first started to go to sea, it was an adjustment for all of us, and they would count the days just as I did.

Now that he is going back, part of my anxiety is how Eamonn will act with Corey not at home. I am hoping for the best, but not expecting it. But I will try not to be a pessimist and give Eamonn the benefit of the doubt, so I must wait and see how things play out. Things will be new for all of us. Corey will be with a new company. I will be taking care of my own health problems and the house and the boys. The boys will be handling things with just me, just mom as mediator. And for a few weeks at a time, it will just be the boys, the dogs, and me. I’m sure we’ll be fine, and if not, I’m sure you’ll hear about it . . .