Today is my 18th anniversary, and I’m pretty damn proud of the years my husband and I have had together. Certainly not the “happily ever after” promised in all of my favorite Disney fairy tales, “just” two people trying to navigate through the twists and turn life has to offer, together.
I am a big believer in marriage, although it seems to be ever so slowly falling out of favor which is understandable given the statistics on divorce, and the growing social acceptance of living together and/or having children without being married. It’s like, why bother with the fuss of a wedding and changing names, paperwork and all that crap when there’s only a 50/50 chance we’re going to stay together anyway?
Well, in what may be my most conservatively held view, I would like to say that I believe marriage is important, and I think it’s different from other long term relationships. When you stand up before your family and friends or even just a religious leader or judge and declare yourselves bound to each other there is a shift in your relationship that goes beyond giggling every time you can use the word husband or wife to describe your partner, and extends into every aspect of your life.
I love a good romantic comedy. I also love wedding shows and “Say Yes To the Dress“. I will admit that I love the fantasy world of gowns, champagne, unrelenting passion and yes, “happily ever after”. I do, however understand, that this is fantasy. The reality, which took years of frustrated expectations to understand, is that marriage is a discipline, like a religious life, a regular exercise schedule or an alternative diet. You can live differently, but you choose and commit to putting constraints on your actions in the belief that those constraints will make your life better in the long term.
Fidelity, teamwork, support, physical affection and appreciation…..none of these are consistently easy over a lifetime. It’s not too difficult to let one or more of these disciplines lapse, and even more difficult is that marriage can’t be marriage without both partners committed to it’s discipline and like many other disciplines, there is a slippery slope of forgetting what’s important until you have fallen out of the lifestyle you once committed to.
I went to a Catholic High School, which is, in fact, where my husband and I met, and while I can’t say there are a lot of lessons learned there that I still remember after all these years, I distinctly remember a religion class in which the teacher talked about love and how it is not a feeling, but a verb. He admonished us to endeavor to do something every day to demonstrate that we loved our partners once we found them….a romantic gesture, a supportive hug on a bad day, a word of appreciation or admiration….anything that let him/her know that they were more than just a roommate. My husband and I haven’t always been very good at this I’ll admit, but when we do remember his advice our marriage is a much more contented one.
We are very conscious of the fact that our marriage, besides being beneficial to us will have a lasting impact on our kids. We are trying to be good examples of what a marriage is and provide a stable and secure family for them to grow up in. We can either model healthy and loving interaction (even if arguing) or we can model anger, resentment and vindictiveness….because let’s face it, marriage is hard and we all have those negative emotions to cope with from time to time. The question is do we give in to our worst impulses or do we remember that the person who we may want to smack right now is actually our life’s partner and the one person we need to be gentle with, especially during those times it is hardest to be gentle. (A real struggle for me I admit.)
So, yes, I would like to defend the institution of marriage. I think it is a discipline which is beneficial to children and society in general. I do not, however, believe it should be limited to opposite sex relationships. The definition of marriage is in the discipline, not in the gender of the people committing to it. Any two people who are willing and eager to enter this type of commitment, who love each other with the depth needed to spend a lifetime together, should have the right to do so. Period. End of story.
Today I’d like to say, “Happy Anniversary” to my husband, who has made me laugh on an almost daily basis, and who is supporting and encouraging me to pursue the dream of a lifetime.
I’d also like to say to all same-sex couples who are still fighting for the right to be married, that I support you completely and I hope that very soon the discriminatory laws which keep you from legally committing to your partner are lifted. Those of us who believe in marriage equality will continue to stand with you until that day comes.