Skepticism

How the Debate over Homosexual Marriage Changed My Mind about Heterosexual Marriage

I grew up never wanting to get married. By that I don’t mean there was simply a lack of an interest in formalizing a permanent relationship, but a decided rebellion against the concept of marriage itself. I grew up in a disastrously broken home, so there was clearly not a ready example of coupled success to draw from. Possibly related to that, I was, and remain, a solitary, independent personality. It never seemed to me, given the messages and images of marriage our society likes to heap upon the heads of young girls, that marriage would be something I would ever champion.

But I found myself in the position of doing just that in recent years when seeing the – still ongoing – challenges to the rights of gay and lesbian individuals to legally marry. Of course, the essential issue here is that gay people deserve all rights afforded to other citizens – but it also brings to the forefront this question of the importance of marriage. I had to admit that maybe I didn’t personally understand why some people wanted to be married so much. That didn’t affect my support of the cause, but it did lead me to think a little more carefully about what I thought about marriage and, more to the point, why I thought that.

We make a lot of assumptions and expectations about marriage. You’re supposed to do it. If you don’t, there must be some reason why. And you probably should figure out what it is, so you can fix it, and then go get married. Stories and movies typically close at the dawn of a new relationship – in our cultural mythology, marriage is the end goal of a journey, rather than the beginning of one.

Also, while I don’t want to completely dismiss the societal pressures put on men when it comes to marriage (they’re real and sometimes unfair), I do feel those placed on women are heavier and more pervasive. We’re told that weddings are one of the most important events in our lives and our chances to be princesses. We’re targeted with fairy tales and romantic comedies and reality shows where we can spend tens of thousands of dollars on dresses or send our bridesmaids under the knife so they look appropriately beautiful to support us on our big day. Even leaving that ridiculously extreme end of the spectrum aside, the reality of marriage and family is generally harder on women. We’re constantly told we have to choose between children or a career and to try to do both is doomed to failure for everyone involved (and men are rarely forced to make such a similar decision). Want to get married but not have children? Prepare yourself for ceaseless questions about why not. Really, it seems there’s no way to win.

Then it happened that, as a militant anti-marriage-ist, I found myself joining a fight for the rights of marriage. And I saw that for other people, marriage was something very different than I had thought. None of these discussions rested on ritual or expectation or sacrifice. These were people who had profound stories of discovery, understanding and love.

Instead of being blinded by the Disney princess-infused visions of submission, of loss of self, of singular happiness in life resting on the shoulders of a man, I learned how to strip away the unnecessary bits and realize what was underneath was what the GLBT community was fighting for: two individuals who loved each other and wanted to be with each other so that they could share and help each other in the strange, difficult fight that is life. That’s it. That’s all that really matters.

Maybe that’s even something more straight people can take a lesson from. We’ve taken our own rights to it for granted for so long that maybe we’ve forgotten that. Rather than the line we so often hear that gay marriage is “destroying the sanctity of marriage,” it seems to me more likely that’s the thing that might restore marriage’s true meaning.

However, the real lesson here is one of self-analysis and thinking critically. I had accepted something as fact for so long in my life I was missing the reality. In fact, I was missing a very beautiful reality, one that enriches our lives and culture. I still may never get married, and that’s perfectly okay. But not only can I more fully appreciate the happiness of others who have done so for the right reasons, I can rest assured I have a clear understanding of it. As well as the knowledge that sometimes clarification doesn’t come from where you expect it to.

(Note – I developed this piece a while ago. Yesterday, Pixar’s release of their “It Gets Better” video and particularly the gentleman at the 5:22 mark of the video reminded me I should polish and publish it.)

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

Related Articles

49 Comments

  1. Nice post! I felt the same way about marriage, seeing only the downsides and the foolishness of fetishising (is that a word?) the rituals.
    But marriage can be a way to help with the practicalities of living as a couple, especially as most societies accord greater privileges and responsibilities tho married people.
    Still don’t know whether I will get married, but I sure hope that in the future the privilege is not restricted to those whom society deems appropriate couples.

  2. I felt the same way growing up – I liked the idea of having my own space as an adult and didn’t want to be “tied down” by marriage. As it turns out, I ended up getting married quite young, at 23. I was still wary of tradition, and the wedding day was pretty much just a big party. My husband was just as much involved in the organizing (possibly more) so it was as much his day as it was mine. If I’d thought about it though, I would have fought to have a civil partnership!

  3. A great piece. I hadn’t thought much about the impact that gay marriage would have on heterosexual marriage, casually tossing aside the moronic claims that it would ruin marriage and families. I was simply assuming they were completely separate ideas, but after this piece I’m not really sure why I thought that.

    My current ideas on marriage developed almost reverse of how you describe. I grew up under a “stable” marriage (or so I thought at the time). My parents have been married since ’77 (the year Star Wars came out… it must be destiny!). I viewed it as a perfect fairy-tale union and I couldn’t wait to grow up and start my own family.

    As I grew up, I realized how wrong I was and how bad that type of traditional view on marriage can be. My dad worked himself to death to provide for us all so that mom wouldn’t have to work. My mom, being pushed into the submissive role you quite accurately mention, never complained. Only recently did she admit she wanted more. She wanted to go to school, work on her own and BE someone. She feels like, beyond her children, her life has been sort of thrown away. Having married and run away from home at 18 (dad was 30 at the time), her independence basically was squashed there. I wouldn’t say I blame my dad for it. I mean, that is how they were both raised. Just… at some point the chain of tradition has to be broken in such cases.
    Beyond all of that, they barely seem happy together anymore. They hardly know each other because they were married for the sake of being married… it was rushed and they felt they would disappoint everyone if they admitted the mistake and separated.

    Now, most of my friends/co-workers have been married and divorced. I just can’t bring myself to see it the way I once imagined it was, even though I’d like to sometimes. It is still something worth fighting for though and hopefully I get married one day, but it definitely would be a slow development. It seems that one of the few pressures on men, in terms of marriage, is ‘popping the question’. The issue of how long to wait, how to do it, where to do it has always put knots in my stomach, even though I’m not in a relationship :-p. But, that is a digression for another time.

    “two individuals who loved each other and wanted to be with each other so that they could share and help each other in the strange, difficult fight that is life. That’s it. That’s all that really matters.” <– that is marriage. Nothing else. When we can stop role playing the fairy tales and end the religious ownership and cut out the patriarchal traditions of past generations, marriage can be perfect.

    (wow, sorry for the long comment. I had never written on this topic before… going to have to think some more on all of this. Thanks!!)

  4. I think nowadays marriage primarily provides legal protections to a spouse. Particularly in case one person dies. Not sure why precisely that seems to be the bit the fundies have such a problem with when it comes to gay marriage. It’s not like they’re demanding to be wed in a church.

    Other than that, it seems to me that you don’t need to have had the ceremony and the dress and the cake and party and the drunk uncle and whatnot in order for a couple to stick with each other in sickness and in health. Although I suppose it may help on some psychological level to have that commitment publicly visible and registered somehow.

    Up until now I’ve always just figured that if the person I was with wanted to get married, I’d do so, and if not, then that would be fine either.

    But after hearing some horror stories, I figure that “legal protection” is not something to dismiss so casually. And that specifically is why I understand what the gay community is so angry about as well. For what it’s worth, gay marriage has been legalized in Belgium for several years now.

  5. The current “institution” of marriage is an unsteady pile of ceremony and ritual that resembles whatever you wish it too be. As such there really is no such thing as “traditional marriage”. That is a lie perpetrated by a certain segment that wishes to brand theirs as the “traditional version”.

    Start with the original reason for marriage (as a means of combining property and power) add “new traditions”* like a white dress (inspired by Queen Victoria) and an engagement ring (a marketing ploy by DeBeers) and you have the current version that is the very definition of NOT traditional.

    Because of this I think it is time to do away with the idea of civil marriage altogether. Let marriage be a strictly ceremonial (probably religious) ritual. I say we should, as a society, encourage pair (or more) bonding, as it seems to help the society in large. So we should allow any people that are legally able to enter into a contract combine their resources and have a civil agreement (not a civil union, too much baggage) and agree to support and take care of each other and be legally bound to do so. The beauty of such a system is that, for most people, very little would change, a man and a woman would enter into a civil agreement and celebrate that agreement with a ritual (possibly religious) or party. But it would allow same sex couples the same advantages (and trials) of those who can currently marry. It would also allow for agreements between siblings, adoptive parents and children, cousins, and others who have close relationships that are not necessarily based on sex.

    Too many people (not all of them religious, wedding industry hello) would feel attacked by this kind of agreement however and it has no chance of even gaining a voice. Damn, yet another idea shot down before attaining flight.

    Next, Professor Smartypants will explain how to force increased fuel economy with a targeted tax on cars and why we should end automatic tax credits to religions.
    Just kidding.

    *oxymoron alert

  6. @fernalana: My wife and I were just married last month, and, while we’re in our late instead of early twenties, our story is similar to yours. We did consider a civil partnership, though, but it wouldn’t have offered nearly the legal protection for the relationship as an official marriage. Our state (Maryland) doesn’t have any official way for opposite-sex couple to have a civil union, and what we could get wouldn’t necessarily be recognized in other states, and since there was no legal database for it could essentially be wiped out by a slight change in laws regarding civil unions and marriages (which is, of course, not an unlikely thing to happen).

    In the end, the only legal way for us to recognize the relationship the way we wanted was to get married. We did, however, put together a pre-nup spelling out our expectations to try and remove some of the annoying cultural baggage associated with marriage (i.e., neither of us will be pressured to change our names, or have children, or take a greater share in housework/financial support due to anything other than ability, etc.) It worked for us.

  7. *fistbump* Thank you, Jen.

    All any of us really want is to just live our lives within the same world as everyone else. We’re just people. We don’t want to convert anyone, we don’t want to take over anything, we don’t want to be a spectacle. We just want to work, love and live just like everyone else. And if we want the same protections and benefits that other couples have in marriage, the same protections in our daily lives, all that should be available to us. It’s that simple.

  8. @mrmisconception: Oh, Jinx is not a superstition. There’s nothing paranormal about it. It’s quite clearly an unwritten agreement pertaining to all parties with a strict set of clearly delineated rules. You unequivocally invoked the “Coke” clause, which states that exarch may not post again until they supply you with the aforementioned Coke (or another agreed-upon soft drink).

    Had the “Coke” clause not be invoked, of course, they would have had to maintain internet silence until someone posted their name. Such are the rules of Jinx.

  9. Nice post, Jen!

    I have been sort of like you my entire adult life; maybe not anti-marriage, but I never considered it was for me. But I can definitely see wanting to be one of . . .

    two individuals who loved each other and wanted to be with each other so that they could share and help each other in the strange, difficult fight that is life. That’s it. That’s all that really matters.

    There’s something very romantic in that “minimalist” approach.

  10. I have never believed in Marriage. My parents are miserable together, my Mom having “settled” for my father when she felt she was getting to old. My siblings are a string of failed relationships and as the youngest I saw no reason to believe that marriage(or even dating) was worth it. As a lesbian I believe the fight for equal marriage is important, because what if I find myself in that situation someday? And being denied something, just because I love another woman is ridiculous and unfair. This article was well written. Also that Pixar video made me cry, damn you!

  11. Yeah, my parents aren’t a shining example of “best practices” when it comes to marriage. However, I don’t really reject the idea of marriage entirely. I hope I can find someone some day who might see marriage in the same way as Homer Simpson once envisioned it…driving around in a van solving mysteries.

  12. I think the real issue was spelled out quite clearly by Fran Lebowitz: ” “If you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture, you would pretty much be left with Let’s Make a Deal. Just admit it; everyone knows that once same-sex marriage becomes legal, no one will ever want to attend a heterosexual wedding ever again.”

  13. I too, came from a dysfunctional family. So did my wife. However, I somehow have managed to stay married for 31 years so far. My sister (the fundamentalist) has been married five times..or it is six? I forget. There’s a moral there somewhere. Have fun digging it out.

    FWIW, my wife and I were both terrified of being single and married very young, something I now regret. Reminds me of a line in one of Carly Simon’s songs, “That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be,” that “I’ll never learn to be just me first…By myself.”

    So yeah, there’s good reason to wait to marry.

    I couldn’t care less if gays can marry. Why should I? It doesn’t affect me or the institution of marriage at all.

    I think mrmisconception has a good idea and that I think we’re drifting in that direction in the US, as long as we avoid a Right-wing theocracy.

  14. @BlackCat

    You are absolutely right, the engagement ring existed before the DeBeers solitaire push, but it wasn’t something everyone did or had to do. If I am not mistaken DeBeers was also the first ones to come up with the whole three months salary thing. What a racket, imagine telling your customer how much they “must” spend on your product.

    DeBeers has stones to coin a pun.

    Hateful, bloody, racist stones.

  15. So…the prop 8 thing had me really upset and I wrote a rant about it. A long boring rant. I think it kinda fits here:

    Ok, I’ve been mulling over why I’m so upset about this. Let me try to put it into words again.

    Question: If 2 happy legally adult heterosexuals have a church ceremony in front of their family and friends with their pastor or priest officiating, are they legally married?

    Answer: No.

    So if you think marriage is a church, a cake and a white dress, I’ve got bad news for you – us gay folks have been having these ceremonies for decades. If that’s what you’re trying to stop, that ship has sailed (with gay seamen on it).

    Question: If 2 happy legally adult heterosexual atheists wander down to city hall without family, friends, or clergy member – sign their names on a marriage license and have a brief meeting with a judge, are they married?

    Answer: You Betcha.

    So, if marriage isn’t about family, social recognition or religion – what the hell is it?

    Marriage is a legal contract that identifies one relationship in your life as unique – so unique that this other person is legally given the right to make decisions about your real estate, your financial benefits and your health care if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.

    There are between 170 to 350 state-sanctioned rights you never think about that you are legally granting to the other person when you get “married” – and 1,138 rights that are granted by the federal government. There are the well-known rights like hospital visitation and inheritance – but there are others that don’t get as much press: You don’t have to testify
    against a spouse in court, you dont have to pay taxes on property transferred between spouses, you can get reduced rate
    memberships at health clubs…

    But that’s not what people are voting against, is it?
    And it’s not what we’re fighting so hard for either.

    People who voted to pass prop 8 aren’t concerned with who talks to the doctors about your life support or who gets your awesome vinyl record collection after you die. As far as I can tell from the arguments they give, they’re really concerned about 3 things – legitimacy, religious rules, and how they explain sex to their kids.

    Religious groups have been told all their lives that being gay is a sin – an abomination if we’re going to use the exact wording. And people in general feel uncomfortable – sometimes to the point of terror – about discussing sex of any kind with
    their kids. It’s bad enough when they have to talk about the kinds of sex they understand, but if they have to add sex they actively disapprove of into the mix – well, that’s just more than they can deal with.

    So let’s dispense with two of those reasons right now:
    The religious thing is illegal – we have freedom of religion in this country and one, even more than one, even a majority of religions are not legally able to force their version of morality onto the law.

    The sex talk thing is frivolous and people need to get over it. But we have to be aware that it is a real motivating fear for many people. People have an underlying discomfort with sex and\or just talking about sex. And when straight people think of “gay” their minds go straight to the sex aspect of it. Most of the time they never even consider that there are
    emotional, political, romantic, or social aspects to being gay. They may not even know these aspects exist. They do.
    And they are often more important to us gays than the actual sex is. Here’s a suggestion – don’t talk to your kids about
    gay sex, talk to them about love and tell them love transcends gender. Cause it does.

    The real crux of the matter is legitimacy. That’s what we’re fighting for and that’s what they’re trying to hold back. We
    already have committed relationships – but legal recognition of their legitimacy would help solidify the foundations of those relationships and make them more real in the eyes of ourselves, our families and society in general.

    Currently, there is apparently a majority of voters out there who believe that a gay relationship is not worth as much as a
    straight relationship is and therefore does not deserve the same legal recognition. For them, gay anything equals less than straight anything – and gay people count for less than straight people do in all situations.

    For most of these people, this is an unconscious prejudice. They don’t understand that this is bigotry. That this impulse
    is coming from the same place that said African Americans could ride the bus – as long as they sat in the back. Once
    they see it and make the connection, it’s enough to clear their heads and hearts.

    So, let me say this clearly – I am a human being first. I have the same basic rights that any other human being has. My
    relationships are just as valid as anyone else’s and deserve the same recognition. In the words of a very wise woman,
    “This is my world, too.”

    Official 2nd Class Citizen

  16. Thanks for such a lovely post. My own parents didn’t just have a broken marriage. Their marriage and divorce was more like an atomic bomb blast… much carnage and damage and long lasting effects on all involved.
    It was decided that I should see a therapist (as a child I tried to point out that maybe THEY should be seeing the therapist). The therapist seemed very worried that I had a very negative view of marriage. She pointed out that I should look to my friends parents or perhaps a marriage on tv or in the movies for a role model. I rather liked this suggestion. Surely there were good examples of marriage out there I might like to follow when I was grown up.
    The therapist suggested that wonderful and at that time popular tv show “The Waltons”. I almost threw up. Poor, wearing anapron, living in the mountains and having FAR too many children? No that was not the role model I was looking for!
    The therapist then told me if I didn’tlike the Waltons to think of another marriage for my role model.

    I thought a bit and said “Nick and Nora Charles!”

    What I took away is that my therapist thought I was a very shallow little girl to pick the marriage full or riches, adventure, partnership and laughter over the marriage where the family all pulls together in pious poverty.

    I also took away that marriage is how you define it. I got married, and somehow my husband still seems to be hanging around and I rather enjoy having him hang around. We may not have the money of Nick and Nora, but we have the partnership, love and laughter.

  17. Stand mixers and espresso machines are expensive. Everyone has the right to have someone else buy those for them.

    I really think marriage is just a way of expressing exactly how serious you are about your partner. People don’t like uncertainty, so publicly committing in a marriage ceremony removes the uncertainty about your commitment. You are then rewarded for easing the uncertainty with stand mixers, espresso machines, china, and measuring cups..

  18. Jen, good post. I, too, am a strong supporter of gay marriage but I still have no desire to ever marry (and my tag team partner of 13 years feels the same). But then I don’t have a problem with anyone else wanting to do it either – I quite enjoy wedding cake. But if anyone wants to read a bunch of viewpoints about the topic I would recommend the Alternatives to Marriage Project: http://www.unmarried.org/
    A lot of very diverse folks with diverse stories. Happy Thanksgiving!

  19. Well, that’s a good post; all fine and good. However, it still does not, at least not for me, answer the question “Why marriage?”

    While your post is, with some exceptions, quite rational, well thought out, and reasonably sensible, it does not answer the marriage question rationally.

    I mean, there are almost as few rational reasons for marriage as there are rational reasons to have children. It is almost exclusively an irrational, emotional, i.e., R-complex (so-called lizard brain) phenomenon.

    All the so-called rational arguments for marriage are mis-directed, in that they are predicated on social and anthropogenic phenomena of “rights” that in reality should be offered to all couples, regardless of their “marriage” status.

    Why should married couples enjoy/receive more “rights and priveleges” than non-married couples? I can think of no rational or logical reason to support such an idea. We most certainly do not need any kind of extra-traditional rights for couples to have kids — there’s far too many people on the bloody planet as it is. Non-married couples should have access to exactly the same “couple’s rights” as married couples. Anything otherwise is just elitist, in a sense, and certainly ridiculous.

    … two individuals who loved each other and wanted to be with each other so that they could share and help each other in the strange, difficult fight that is life. That’s it. That’s all that really matters.

    OK, fine. But why should they have to marry to attain/achieve that? Because God, the Church, and the Holy government say so? Because the neighbours say so? Because Ma and Pa say so?

    It seems that the flaw is in the social construct and the social control, not in the wish to “help each other in the strange, difficult fight that is life”.

    Maybe that’s even something more straight people can take a lesson from. We’ve taken our own rights to it for granted for so long that maybe we’ve forgotten that. Rather than the line we so often hear that gay marriage is “destroying the sanctity of marriage,” it seems to me more likely that’s the thing that might restore marriage’s true meaning.

    No. Absolutely no. The problem is the entire fabricated nonsense that is the so-called “sanctity of marriage.” Get rid of that foolishness, plan proper social constructs that reflect real human beings with rational and logical concepts rather than ludicrous dogma and top-down, ultimately meaningless social controls.

    However, the real lesson here is one of self-analysis and thinking critically. I had accepted something as fact for so long in my life I was missing the reality. In fact, I was missing a very beautiful reality, one that enriches our lives and culture.

    That is, in my opinion, as clear an example as any I’ve seen today of non-critical thinking claiming to be otherwise. Such a ” beautiful reality” is entirely a construct of the mind, in particular, the non-rational, non-critical thinking, non-logical R-complex.

    I think @mrmisconception puts the point quite well: “… it is time to do away with the idea of civil marriage altogether”.

  20. And enjoy being an asshole lecturing other people about feeling love and beauty.

    Wow!

    Never disagree with an angry, romantically inclined Skepchick. Lesson learned. Again.

    /hides in the bushes of doublethink.

  21. @John Greg: The absence of rational reasons does not imply or mean the inverse (irrational reason/s) is/are the de facto motivations of a decision maker. This notion appears to be a common misconception which never seems to contribute anything to a discussion.

  22. @John Greg: I met your attitude with a matching one. It wasn’t your disagreement – it was your condescending rudeness. If you don’t like it when it’s directed at you, maybe you should be more careful about how you speak to people in the first place. Sorry to bust your “romantically-inclined” theory – turns out I’m just a bitch who doesn’t tend to let people talk down to me or the other commenters on this thread who have posted their personal stories. The tales on here are heartfelt and you can show a little more respect for them taking the time to share them.

    You were also so eager to prove your point that you neglected the essential point in mine – that I was not even trying to “answer the marriage problem.” This was a personal story about my own thought process. There is nothing in it that says, “This is the final, rationally based answer for everyone, everywhere.” Where is the rationality in a response that presumes statements that weren’t actually made?

  23. @James Fox:

    Yes, you may have a point, though I must admit to having some trouble wrapping my head around it. (I mean, I hate black and white thinking, and I’m fully aware that the following staement appears as such, nonetheless….)

    However, the facts of your argument do not, so to speak, add or imply rationality to a phenomenon that is, in my opinion, lacking it.

  24. Jen, please excuse me for my apparent “condescending rudeness”. I did not and do not see my disagreement with your points as such. Clearly, we see this differently. And at least I did not call you an asshole, thank you very much indeed.

    Nonetheless, and even though I think you are wrong about my condescending rudeness, I will apologize for the misunderstanding.

    You say:

    You were also so eager to prove your point that you neglected the essential point in mine – that I was not even trying to “answer the marriage problem.”(sic)

    I’m sorry, but I took the general thesis of your post, and in particular this:

    Maybe that’s even something more straight people can take a lesson from. We’ve taken our own rights to it for granted for so long that maybe we’ve forgotten that. Rather than the line we so often hear that gay marriage is “destroying the sanctity of marriage,” it seems to me more likely that’s the thing that might restore marriage’s true meaning.

    … as attempting to answer what I actually called the “marriage question,” in that it not only told me what I, as “we”, am thinking, but what I in fact should be thinking, about the “marriage question” in what I felt was a not particularly critical-thinking fashion. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Your hostility is, I think, unwarranted.

  25. @John Greg: I get hostile when people are careless with this community I care about and put a lot of time into. We care about our community here, which means we care about each other and we’re kind and polite to each other. There were other comments on this thread that expressed similar opinions to yours without outright lecturing other people about what we should or should not do, or attacked me for their own misinterpretation of my words.

    I do not understand how a paragraph at the close of a personal story about how my life experience has changed my opinions – a paragraph that contains nothing but “maybes,” “seems to me,” and “mights” – translates into a thesis that dictates to you what you should think. The process of critical thinking I referred to was not finding a rational marriage answer, but an ongoing, imperfect process of examining my own prejudices. My suggestions of what maybe it seems to me we might do are not the end results of my thought process, but the beginning of an entirely new one.

    I never said at any point in the post that I was trying to formulate a rationally-based answer to the “marriage problem,” and I never said at any point this was an answer. You made all those assumptions yourself, and addressed them in a very heavy-handed and dismissive way. Hence my hostility.

    There are much better ways to disagree. If you are unclear about any of my posts’ “theses,” ask. I’m happy to talk to you about it. It’s better to do that before you make such bold statements about my wrongness so we don’t have these issues of hostility.

  26. As far as marriage goes I’m all for it and support the right of anyone who wants to, to get married. My parents divorced when I was ten and in retrospect I think it was a great thing for my mother and me, but I certainly didn’t think so at the time. My wife’s parents have been married nearly 60 years and her three older brothers have been happily married for 25, 27 and 29 years respectively. My wife and I will be having our 25th anniversary next year and so far it’s worked out pretty well. One thing I’ve noticed about my in-laws and the marriages of their four children is that everyone seems to be married to their best friend and most loyal supporter. And when I see a good marriage, that’s when I don’t take the institution for granted, and feel even more strongly that any two adults who want to make this personal, legal and social commitment should be allowed the opportunity to give it their best shot.

  27. Jen, I love your work!

    “….two individuals who loved each other and wanted to be with each other so that they could share and help each other in the strange, difficult fight that is life. That’s it. That’s all that really matters.”

    Beautifully put, and I agree with the rest of your post 100%. Don’t let a few detractors put you down – I have’nt been so moved by a post on Skepchick since Rebecca and Sid got married.

    As far as I am concerned, marriage happens when two people shout out to the Universe that from now on they are going to be together, come what may, and everybody else better get used to it. Same applies to gays – it is really none of our business to try and stop that union – even if we wanted to.

    Sadly there are many who have had bad experiences with marriage. I can only say that my wife and I have been together for 37 years and we still love each other and keep on pushing shit uphill against the world together just like at the start.

    Life is indeed a strange and difficult fight, our latest being against breast cancer.

  28. I have a very similar history, what with growing up through a vicious, ugly divorce and the resulting long-held belief that marriage was at worst a joke and at best, not for me.

    But you know, just because it’s hard work to continue to like someone your entire life, just because it’s improbable, doesn’t mean there isn’t value in trying. And even if your marriage does eventually fail, it doesn’t mean that partnership wasn’t valuable while it lasted.

    I still don’t feel any need to get married- I will have a full, happy life whether I go through it with a partner at my back, or simply my friends, family and my own strength to surround and support me. But hey, if I do meet a true lifelong companion, someone who not only could get through all of this with me, but who wants me to have their back too? I’ll give the adventure my best shot.

  29. @John Greg: Argument from personal incredulity. Just because you can see no rational reason for people to want to get married, doesn’t mean that others don’t.

    And you are totally ignoring the legal ramifications. Without some kind of contract, you are creating a quagmire.

  30. I have to admit getting married for just one reason. I was crazy head over heels in love. I still am.

    The facing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune together has been hard, but we’ve found it easier to face together.

    Remember, single or married, life will throw poop at you like a bored monkey at the zoo.

    Or as perhaps Diddy might say “I got 99 problems but my marriage ain’t one”. For both of us, having a relationship has proven a strenght. Batman and Robin work better as a team. Other people want to be a solo Spiderman.

    Also, if my husband and I did divorce, I would never ever call or consider my marriage a failure. If you have children, if you go on some interesting trips, if all you learn is what you don’t want in you next relationship… that marriage is not a failure. I know many people that have had very happy marriages that have ended in very civil divorces. This whole ‘if you are not married for 75 years you had a bad marriage and should never been married in the first place” is just so wrong.

    Marriage is a risk. The best advice I ever got was from my grandmother. “NEver marry anyone you could not picture being happily divorced to”. What she meant was “you never know”. I married a man that I knew would have paid child support on time and would be fair and civil if we ever divorced. Before I said “I do” I thought “what is later on we don’t?”

    And that might just be why we are still together…

  31. Like so many others,I came from a family with a poor track record in marriage.My mother was divorced 3 times before I graduated high school.My sister and brother both married and divorced twice.I had a string of monogamous relationships that failed.Then I met ‘the one’.Within a year of meeting her,it just occurred to me one day that this was a woman (and my best friend) that I could spend my life with.I hadn’t even considered the idea before that moment.I never looked back,and never regretted that decision.We had a wonderful 28 years together before illness took her away.Marriage is definitely not for everyone,but when it works,it can provide enrichment,comfort,and stability in an uncertain world.

  32. @Jen:

    There were other comments on this thread that expressed similar opinions to yours without outright lecturing other people about what we should or should not do, or attacked me for their own misinterpretation of my words.

    Yes, I guess I did somewhat attack you, though honestly I think that’s too harsh of a term. I think it would more realistic to say I disagreed rather vociferously and somewhat rudely in my occasional misunderstanding of your points. Overly verbose, I know, but….

    Jen, on re-reading my post I fail to see where I lectured anyone on what they should or should not do. I did state forcefully that I felt the institution of marriage was passe, and certainly that holding it as something sacrosanct is ridiculous, and that I felt we need new social rules for and about couples’ “rights”, but that’s pretty much it, isn’t it? If I’m being blonde, blinde, and stupide, as sometimes happens, please point me to the error in my ways — i.e., please quote me.

    The process of critical thinking I referred to was not finding a rational marriage answer, but an ongoing, imperfect process of examining my own prejudices.

    Fair enough. Clearly I misunderstood that. I’m sorry. I felt that the paragraph in question was somewhat didactic — I know, I know: Kettle meet pot.

    If you are unclear about any of my posts’ “theses,” ask.

    Of course … except I thought, in some cases obviously incorrectly, that I was clear on your various points.

    Ok, Jen, OK, I get it that I made some mistakes in my interpretation of your post, and I to some degree agree, though not wholly, that I was heavy-handed about it. But please, let’s not get back to an allowance for Skepchicks to call other folks assholes or other ad hominems just because they can. Is that a fair request? I’ve frequently been ad “hominemed” by the powers-that-be here at Skepchick, and I really don’t think that is fair — for anyone, not just for me.

    @Buzz Parsec:

    Argument from personal incredulity. Just because you can see no rational reason for people to want to get married, doesn’t mean that others don’t.

    Absolutely correct. But that does not mean that when choosing to marry, that someone else does see it as rational it is then necessarily so. And I think we can all agree that “love”, upon which the choice to marry is usually made, is not a rational phenomena in the first place. I mean seriously, Buzz, can we say that because someone sees Allah, faith, and genital mutilation for the purpose of keeping the evil shaitanic forces of sexual inducement away as rational, it is therefore rational? I don’t think so.

    And you are totally ignoring the legal ramifications. Without some kind of contract, you are creating a quagmire.

    Actually, no, I don’t think I am. That is in part what I was referring to when I stated that I felt new social definitions of “rights” for couples of any kind (not restricted to just “married” couples) need to be determined and put in place.

  33. My parents have been married for almost 40 years, and only after my divorce a few years ago did I find out that my mother isn’t really all that big on marriage. Basically she told me she and Dad got married so that they could live together without her (extremist Catholic) parents cutting her out of the will. She was sad about my divorce because I was heartbroken about it, but luckily it didn’t mean that she doesn’t respect me and she wasn’t super disappointed in me over it.

    That experience really changed my perspective on marriage from a sentimental one, to a more utilitarian one – I see it as a useful legal contract now. And I don’t see why I (as a queer transexual person) shouldn’t have as much right to that contract as anyone else.

    I might get married again someday (actually, I really hope so) but I am certain my ideas of marriage are very different now than they were in 2004 at my previous wedding.

  34. @John Greg: Did it ever occur to you that there are not only people who shared very deeply-felt personal stories here but GLBT people who trusted the Skepchick community enough to talk about what this fight meant to them? That is not something I take lightly at all and I will not tolerate anyone else doing so. There is nothing ad hominem about that. If you want to not be labeled what your behavior is indicating you are, be more careful about your behavior, make sure you have your facts straight before you make such strong judgments and respect the community here. This is not about people saying things to you just “because they can,” but us fulfilling our responsibilities to take care of this community.

    That said, I am sorry this happened.

  35. I grew up thinking I would never get married. Then I thought I would never get married before 30. Now I find myself engaged and not quite 25! How did this happen?

    I met someone worth marrying. I met someone with whom I want to spend the rest of my life. I trust him more than I trust my family when it comes to decisions in the hospital or when I die. And I want to acknowledge this relationship and our commitment in front of a whole lot of people.

    But that doesn’t mean I’ll wear a big white dress, damn it.

  36. Getting married was for me a profound experience.
    Previously I’d been a vaguely blokey bloke. Not prone to being very emotional, fairly cold and logical in thought and with no real feelings about marriage.
    However getting married seemed to expand my emotional range as it were. I felt much more connected to other people. More connected to life and humanity. More connected to my family and of course more connected to my wife.
    Almost like Dawkin’s consciousness raising but on an emotional level.
    I know it sounds hokey and touchy feely but there you go.
    And then…we had a baby…and WHOAH that opened up previously unexplored levels of emotion too. The ultimate in joy and happiness and the ultimate in fear and worry.
    Each stage has been a revelation. Each stage has shown that previously I wasn’t seeing the full picture or having the full experience.
    I think as skeptics and atheists (if you are) we can sometimes forget that old customs and traditions can actually contan something of real worth despite the religious or traditional trappings.

  37. @Dale Husband:

    No. Not even slightly. Rand and her “philosophy” repels me, utterly repels me. I am not in any way an Objectivist, nor a Libertarian, nor any one of those oddball pigeon hole things. I am, like I suspect most people really are, a mish mash of this and that.

    But I think marriage, as an institution, an anthropogenic construct designed, for the most part, for social control, is far past its sell-by date.

  38. @Buzz Parsec:

    I wasn’t going to touch this at all, but now i have to ask…
    When did expression an opinion become a logical falacy? I haven’t looked through the post you’re refering to to re-read the particular statement you are objecting to, so my apologies in advance if there is more to it than is implied by your post here.

    If I say that, since I’m not going anywhere today, I see no particular reason to change out of my jammies, are you going to demand I cite some sources?

  39. In my opinion there are two issues in the marriage debate. One is emotional and the other is legal. Fairly or unfairly, there are many legal advantages to marriage – plenty have been mentioned here, so I feel no need to go there. As fas as government is concerned, marriage should be nothing more or less than a contract entered into by people which brings certain benefits. End of story. Anyone who is capable of entering into contracts (i.e. is of age, competent, whatever other legal requirements have to be met before someone can sign a lease or take out a loan) should be able to enter into this one also. Legally, it’s that simple (or should be, anyway).

    But then there is the emotional side of it. The basic fact is that that is not generally the reason why people get married. They do it for emotional reasons, and not even necessarily love. Which is why the response to the issue of gay marriage is irrational. I know, I used the i-word. I’m going to use it again right now too – most of the really important decisions we make are irrational. The other day I was jokingly telling a friend that if only I didn’t care, I’d just go be a phone psychic instead of working through graduate school to become a highly-qualified and highly-underpaid teacher. From a rational point of view, the pay, and the hours would be much better. Less work involved. I could sit home in my jammies and spout BS on the phone all day long, instead of getting up way to early to teach, then spending my nights grading papers and making plans without being paid for my time and effort. I would never have to deal with abusive parents, tenagers with hormones and attitudes, miles of red tape, or history textbooks that don’t have Jefferson in them.
    My decision to be a teacher is totally irrational. My only reason has nothing to do with reason – I know, standing in front of a class full of 5th graders, that this is where I belong. The way I feel when I’m teaching is how I always want to feel.

    I don’t see myself ever getting married. I grew up surrounded by good marriages and bad ones. My parents had their moments, but overall I always got the feeling that they loved each other and were basically happy together. I have always had a different view of the world, however, and it always seemed to me, looking at the people around me, that they could have been happier if they weren’t married. It was always the little things, the taking each other for granted, the not trying any more. The sense that not that he/she had been successfully locked into marriage, their high opinion wasn’t quite as important any more.
    I also got the feeling, from the marriages around me, that the ceremony was not so much a ritual to let the world know that you were together as a sort of asking the church’s or society’s permission to be together. I certainly don’t need anyone’s permission to love and be loved, to share my life with whomever I chose. In fact, I would feel my feelings lessened simply by the asking.
    The emotional connection most people associate with marriage I would welcome. But the institution is not for me.

  40. @gwenwifar: Looking back, I think I was mostly reacting to when John Greg wrote Why should married couples enjoy/receive more “rights and privileges” than non-married couples? I can think of no rational or logical reason to support such an idea. We most certainly do not need any kind of extra-traditional rights for couples to have kids — there’s far too many people on the bloody planet as it is. Non-married couples should have access to exactly the same “couple’s rights” as married couples. Anything otherwise is just elitist, in a sense, and certainly ridiculous.

    Lots of people *do* have what they think are rational and logical reasons to support having special rights for married couples or for families. If someone wants to dispute this, then I think the right thing to do, as a skeptic, is to sort through these reasons and logically examine them and accept or reject them, not just say you can’t think of any rational reason and therefore reject the conclusion.

    I got the impression from John’s comment that he rejected the whole notion of marriage as a really bad idea, but that wasn’t really clear from this comment. However, in another @comment on today’s AI, he puts his views in a form that seems to me much clearer, and much less needlessly confrontational, which makes much more sense to me.

    (John, if I’ve misrepresented or misunderstood your views, please correct me.)

    What seems abundantly clear to me, though, is if you want to enable people to form marriages/families/legally recognized contracts providing some or all of the hundreds of federal and state rights currently granted by marriage, there needs to be some sort of legally recognized framework, which makes his statement Non-married couples should have access to exactly the same “couple’s rights” as married couples meaningless. It is exactly by doing whatever legal steps are required to assert these “couple’s rights” that people become married. That’s how we (the rest of society) knows that they have mutually agreed to assert these rights together.

    Whether this should require a church service or signing a marriage contract at the town clerk’s office or walking 3 times counterclockwise around a holly bush is a separate argument. My only stipulation is that any pair of consenting adults should be eligible.

    Whether it should be called “marriage” or “civil union” or whatever is not too important to me, but calling it “marriage” seems to have worked just fine here in Massachusetts.

    Whether more than 2 people should be allowed to do this is also separate argument. I don’t really know one way or the other, but unless there is some compelling reason not to allow this that I don’t know about, then sure.

    What the exact list of rights that entering into a marriage entails is yet another separate question (I have my doubts about some of the tax consequences and such), but it seems to me appropriate to start with what currently prevails. I do think it is ludicrous that my landladies have to complete all their tax forms two (or more) times because their marriage is recognized under state law but not under federal law.

  41. @Buzz Parsec:

    No, Buzz, I don’t think you have misrepresented or misunderstood my views … except perhaps I’d say it’s not that I think marriage is a “really bad idea” so much as I think it is an impractical, outdated idea who’s time has come and gone; an idea that in my opinion no longer serves any particularily relevant, useful, or essential function or service — aside from the “fun factor” that some of its participants attest to.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Enjoy

Close
Close