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

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