Friday, 24 May 2013

Marriage is...

"Marriage is so patriarchal," someone was saying on the television.

I looked up from my laptop. "Eh?"

The debate continued.

"Marriage comes with so much historical baggage..."

A couple, who'd been together five years, were waiting for the civil partnership bill to pass for straight couples, because 'marriage didn't reflect their values.'  I admit it came as a surprise to me that marriage should be such a complicated issue.

I suppose it comes down to how we've each been brought up. My parents have been married over thirty five years, my husband's over forty. I don't think we ever considered we wouldn't get married at some point in our lives.

Some people say it's just a piece of paper, but to me it feels a lot more than that. We vowed to love each other  through the best times and the worst times until 'death did us part'. I don't think either of us were joking, which considering how long people live nowadays is quite... optimistic? So far, so good.

I love being married and, feeling certain I wasn't the only one, I asked people to send me their thoughts on what marriage meant to them. This is what they said:

John and Paula -
September 2005 Berkshire UK 

"On the day I got married, the world came into focus. Gone were the awkward steps in different directions, the searching for something , but not knowing what. I finally knew what it was to be whole. John and I are part of the same - to pinch the words of the Beautiful South, "we are each other".
- Paula McMullen 

Alwyn and Troy -
December 2011 Australia
"To me marriage is all about team work, helping and supporting each other to become the best individuals you can be. Marriage is having a best friend who loves and supports you through everything and who doesn't walk away when things get tough. Having been with Troy for 11 years in a marriage like relationship prior to getting married, nothing much has changed in our relationship since marrying. Even though I don't see much of a difference between marriage and a defacto relationship, I believe in everyone's right to enter into marriage. Go team McNamara! - Alwyn McNamara

William Glanville and Berenice -
October 1946 - Cwmparc - Wales  

"Marriage between two people should be special and that you know in your heart that the person is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. You should never go to bed without making up after a quarrel, which naturally you will have. Nobody is perfect. There's a lot of give and take in a marriage. You always love them and yet sometimes you don't even like them!" - Bun & Glan

Thommy and Emma
- Nov 2012- Cambridgeshire UK
"For a man like me, a man with a particular view of the world, this is an important thing. When you marry someone, you’re really saying that it’s you and this one other person against the world because, when shit hits the fan, this is the individual you’re expecting to stand by you and face down the zombies. We all have family and close friends, but a marriage is something special. It’s a partnership of two (hopefully) like-minded people who share a value system, at least on some level. How could it be otherwise? Your spouse should be the person with whom you are the best version of yourself at all times. You can be angry, you can be miserable, you can be sardonic or even hateful, but you should always present them with the truth, as far as is practicable. I’m not saying always unflinchingly tell the truth to them: white lies make socialisation with other humans possible, but you should always approach your spouse, your partner in this crazy life, as honestly as you hope to approach yourself." - Thommy Heasman-Hunt
This is an extract from a blog post Thommy wrote on his First Anniversary. You can read the full post here.
Thanks to the couples who contributed to this blog post!


Paula McMullan said...

Thanks for a beautiful post!

Just to add to what I said above, I never understood what marriage would mean to me until I was married and, when I think back to my single days, I was an entirely different person. But I would never criticise anyone for not wanting to get married. In the same way, as I believe that people should be able to marry if they want to.

The fact that some people are still not allowed to marry is very sad and wrong and the sooner this changes the better.

Shop Girl said...

Two years on and it still surprises me that I'm married!

I hope I didn't come across that I thought marriage is the only way. As long as you're happy it doesn't matter how you define you're commitment to each other. And of course, I believe that everyone should be able to marry. To be honest, I already thought gay marriage had been legalized years ago!

Thanks for contributing and for your comment :)

Thommy H-H said...

I should point out that I actually *do* think marriage is inherently patriarchal and comes with a lot of historical baggage as the opening paragraph of this post mentions, but that doesn't mean I'm against it (obviously!). Rather, we made a conscious decision to address these aspects in our own union which is the main reason, for example, that my wife and I took each other's names when we married.

ShopGirl said...

The name thing is very interesting! Being half Spanish it's not the obvious things to do. In Spain women don't take on the husband's name, and the children take on both names. That's not the only reason I haven't changed it, I suppose it does seem strange that I take his name because I'm a 'Benet!' Anyway, whether I change it or not, I'll always keep my maiden name for writing.

Unknown said...

While I believe marriage is good for lots of reasons, making a public commitment to the person you love, forming a strong base for children, people who choose not to marry shouldn't be stigmatized. We are made up of all sorts of different shapes of family these days: single-parent, lesbian, gay, step-families, etc, and the mum dad, two kids, nuclear variety doesn't suit everyone.

Marriage brings with it a lot of responsibility. A little like when you have kids, your life and your choices suddenly become public property and everyone has an opinion on how you behave, how you do things. Sometimes things don't work out and people should not feel judged for it. Yes, you make a commitment. Yes, it is a contract and people should respect that, but our lives change and some people do not change well together.

I'd like to think that I will raise my children to believe that marriage is a choice, not an obligation. I think it's still bound up with this unrealistic romantic image, like finding treasure at the end of the rainbow, particularly for young women. After all, love comes in many forms, and true love is far greater than any legal contract.

Thommy H-H said...

I found out about the Spanish tradition recently, Emily, and found it odd that I'd never heard about it before. Off topic, but I think we forget how arbitrary English-language naming customs are, and it's interesting that somewhere so geographically and culturally close by should do something which, to people in the Anglosphere, seems strange. I also liked that legislation had recently been introduced to allow a child to choose whether the mother or father's name would come first.

A confession about my own experience: we got the idea to double-barrel our names from a gay couple on a property show! As soon as we saw how they'd done it and how much sense it made for them, there was never any question that we'd do the same. Which I suppose links back to the starting point of your post re: gay marriage.