Monday, April 24, 2006

I was reading a post on another blog about marriage. Because the post is old and also because I don't want to get involved in a flame war, I didn’t comment on it. But, it did make me think about my own life and my own marriage.

The gist of the post was that people that are in a relationship and that are living together aren't committed and are living in sin. To me that's largely bullshit. Mind you, I don't begrudge anyone's personal opinion, whether that's part of their religion or just some thought they had while lying in bed one night. But, that doesn't keep me from going off on my own opinion here.

A little history: My parents have been married for almost 45 years. Their anniversary is in June. They are very devout Christians. Does that mean that their marriage has been a bed of roses? No. I remember as a child wishing that my parents would divorce. They fought constantly. I always viewed my father as the bad guy. That's changed somewhat now that I'm older and I know him a little better. I was always closer to my mom though and I wanted the fighting to stop. The only thing I was afraid of was that my father would take me away from my mom. I had nightmares.

Thinking about it now, that's pretty bad. This wasn't as a teenager. This was as a child of 5 or 6.

Was it less scarring or more scarring that my parents stayed together? I don't think anyone can really say, revisionist history, and all.

Matt and I lived together for three years before we got married. We had separate apartments for a year before that, but basically lived together for that year also. I say basically because the only nights we didn't sleep in the same bed were when I traveled.

I was laid off a month after I bought my house. Matt moved in that same month. It wasn't completely to help me out. We had planned on living together. There were only three things keeping us apart -- my two cats and his allergies. We worked it out though by not allowing the two cats into our private sanctuary, the master suite. I felt a little guilty and I missed sleeping with them, but I spent time with them downstairs and they didn't seem to mind too much. It made all the difference in the world to Matt though.

Matt helped me through the time I was unemployed, which, other than a contract job for a few months, lasted for about a year. Two months after I had a stable job once again, Matt was laid off. I helped him the same way he helped me during that time. I didn't do it because I felt obligated. I did it because we had already made a commitment to be together for the rest of our lives. We weren't married.

Over those three to four years we debated getting married one day. We weren't planning on ever having children (still aren't), though we talked about the possibility and decided that if we did have a "surprise" pregnancy one day that we'd raise the child as if we'd always planned it. We talked about everything and worked out our lives together. We weren't married.

So it bothers me when someone says to me that my commitment is meaningless unless I'm married. It bothers me when someone judges my relationship and tells me that it's not real without a certificate. The certificate is meaningless to me. The commitment that we have to each other is the part that's real and that's there no matter whether we have a certificate or not. Getting married doesn't make a relationship suddenly perfect. The intangible things like love, patience, support, caring, consideration, passion, and compromise are what make a relationship good.

So why did we get married? For me it came down to my father being in the hospital. I realized that if I were in the hospital, Matt wouldn't have any rights to visit me. If I were in bad enough shape that only "family" was allowed, without a marriage certificate he would not qualify. When it came to decisions about my health, he would have to take a backseat without legal paperwork stating my wishes or without us getting married. Marriage seemed simpler.

Now that isn't to say I'm not happy about being married. I am. I just don't think we needed to get married in order to validate our commitment or our feelings towards each other. The very idea that we're not legitimate because we haven't paid court fees, repeated words after a judge, and signed in the presence of witnesses is appalling. A relationship is private. Government has no place legislating it. I don't care that there are tax breaks. I'd rather lose the tax breaks than have the government tell me how I have to marry and who I can or cannot marry.

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