|I Know A Lot About Marriage
||[Mar. 5th, 2015|11:41 pm]
In another couple of days I'll be 70. I've been married since I was 24-and-some-months. Before you try to do the math, the last anniversary was the 45th. So on the topic of marriage, I have more experience than average. Do try this at home, if you think you have what it takes...
And that leads me to comment on some of the idiocy that's been spouted about marriage over the past half of my married life when it comes to the possibility and then the reality, of recognizing same-sex unions as, yanno, marriages. Real actual marriages that give same-sex couples or partners or whatever they've been called the same legal status as different-sex marriages. Because the idiocy being spouted has made me madder and madder over the years, since it consists of a combination of fear, ignorance, selfishness, and downright meanness.
Like I said, I know a lot about marriage, as does anyone who's been in one as long as I have. And I can definitely tell you what damages "traditional" (straight) marriage between a man and a woman: the man and the woman in that marriage. Not gay marriage. Not the rate of divorce. Not sex education in the schools. Not anything but the behavior of the man and the woman in that traditional marriage can really harm that traditional marriage.
Legitimizing gay marriage does not make straight marriage less legitimate. It doesn't make straight people gay. It doesn't make them be unfaithful to each other. It doesn't make them lie, cheat, steal, commit domestic violence, commit child abuse, go bankrupt, burn down their business to get the insurance, hire someone to kill a spouse.
There is no mechanism, no process, by which every time a gay couple marries, a straight married couple becomes un-married. It's not like there's a maximum number of married people allowed in a state, and marrying a new couple means un-marrying an existing one, and so suddenly the wife loses her married name, they have to file individual rather than joint tax returns, and their children are swept away into foster care. Does not happen. Cannot happen. All the panic about gay marriage destroying or damaging straight marriage is misplaced--is panic generated by those who want division and hatred rather than healthy communities of healthy families...or those seeking an excuse for their own lack of character and coping skills.
All marriages--all (if not legal marriages) partnerships between people who live together have stressors. Money problems. Health problems. Children problems. In-law problems. Employment problems. Recessions/depressions/wars/ epidemics/every kind of problem humans can have occurs in relationships--including marriage--as well. Been there, done that, have a stack of T-shirts. We married during a very unpopular war when we were both in the military--in different branches. You think that didn't come with some problems? We both came from one-parent families (one the middle son of a widow, one the daughter of a divorcee) and had both been told we'd probably have problems in marriage--gee, thanks for the vote of non-confidence, people. You think it was an easy transition from single to married? Of course not. From military life to civilian life? Of course not. Sometimes we barely scraped by economically. We had setbacks. Infertility. An adopted child turned out to be autistic. Careers rose...and fell. People we loved died. Plans collapsed. Our marriage has not been Easy Street...for either of us... but we each worked on the challenges as they came (sometimes more smoothly than other times.) We made mistakes; we had misunderstandings; we got mad, we got sad, we got over it. Not perfection, but we never gave up on the determination to make it better. We are still married--and happily so--because we knew from day one that it was our responsibility--ours alone--to keep our marriage alive and healthy. Nobody else could do that. Nobody else could make it fail.
And that 45 years of experience in a maturing marriage that is still a source of comfort, joy, and daily laughter for both of us--and watching both healthy and unhealthy marriages from the outside--is how I know, positively, absolutely, without a doubt, that the only people who can deepsix a marriage are the people in the marriage.
It's how I know that gay marriage does not threaten straight marriage: what other people do in their marriage is irrelevant. What matters is what the people in the marriage do in their marriage. Are they honest, are they compassionate with each other, are they generous with their time and effort, are they working to make things better for the marriage? Or are they sneaking around, are they harsh and judgmental, are they all about self and expecting the other person to do all the work (physical or psychological)? That's what makes the difference. And heterosexual, straight couples do not have a great track record in creating healthy marriages, even when they stay married. Ask any therapist.
And no, I don't expect all gay couples to do better.. Gay kids were raised in the same toxic households as straight kids, too often learning the wrong ways to interact with people--ignorant of healthy boundaries, ignorant of personal responsibility, etc. But I don't expect them to do worse overall, because, honestly, how could they? When I worked in EMS I learned very quickly how bad things can be in a hetero relationship. I expect some gay marriages to succeed for decade after decade, and some to end--some ending quietly and some with great drama. Gay marriages will succeed and fail for exactly the same reasons as straight marriages: because of the behavior of the people within that marriage.
So: no more panic, please. If you are straight and you want to marry someone, the gay couple ahead of you or or behind you in that line for a marriage license will have no effect on your ability to get a license, find someone to perform the ceremony, or live as a good husband/wife. Once married, it's all on the two of you--in any marriage. The threats to your marriage are right there in your own head and heart, and in your partner's head and heart...but the only ones you can control are your own. So do that. Put your energy there, where it can do some good. And quit using your religion as an excuse to deny others a legal right that you claim for yourself. Whatever you think about gay marriage, your opinion should not trump their rights, any more than their opinion should trump yours.