For heterosexual couples, we are raised to believe that marriage is the finish line. It’s the end zone you reach that indicates your relationship is “successful” and you’ve made it through enough obstacles and stuck together that now it’s time to put on fancy clothes, grab a couple hundred of your closest friends, spend a crap load of money, and have a party.
Oh, and legally bind yourself to another person for the rest of your life. Or until you can’t stand the sight of them and need to spend your life savings arguing over your kid’s college tuition, who put $10,000 worth of debt on the credit card, and why you absolutely must have the NEW couch in the living room instead of the OLD couch in the basement for your apartment.
Divorce is no joke. Our legal system is not set up to help families easily break apart; most lawyers are in it for the fight and billable hours and aren’t really concerned with your best interest or that of your children. I’ve been there, more than once. So has my boyfriend. Which is why we decided early on in our relationship that marriage was not in the cards for us.
I’m in a different place than most; I’ve been married. I’ve had my children and I’m not having any more. We were both in the same boat when we entered this relationship. We were interested in building a family together out of my kids and his kids, and we hoped they would become “our” kids. The one guiding principle that has never changed in our relationship was choice. I choose to be here every day, not because I’m legally required to. Because I love him, and I’m invested in our family. It is the same for him. If, at any point that changes, we can CHOOSE to end our relationship without dragging the legal system in it. We will not be forced to stay together because there is a piece of paper that says we are supposed to.
Cynical? Maybe, but I feel better every morning knowing that the man I wake up next to WANTS to be there.
This past December, he told me that he thought we should get bands. An outward sign of our commitment to each other. And when I freaked out a little about the wedding thing, I realized that how easy it is to get caught up. That being a female some how has gender-programmed me to turn into a whirling mass of jello at the thought of weddings, commitment and jewelry. Once I pulled my head out of my ass and the fog lifted, I remembered that we could have bands with out the “wedding” nonsense. After all, it’s our life. Don’t we get to make the rules? (And, quite frankly, I’d be an idiot to turn down jewelry).
I know it’s not “conventional”. They don’t call it a “wedding” ring or “wedding” bands for nothing. That’s what most people use them for. But we didn’t have to. We’ve always said that we wanted a commitment to each other without the bullshit of the government and the legal system getting involved. Have you seen the “post-it-note-wedding” from Grey’s Anatomy? THAT is what we wanted.
While their vows are specific to their characters, the sentiment is the same. We don’t need the other stuff. What my relationship needs to make a marriage are the words and promises we make to each other. The quiet conversations and decisions we make for our children. The continuation of a chosen partnership that’s been through a lot over these last six years, and is stronger, more loving, and more understanding of the deep value we place on each other. The wings we give the other to fly towards dreams, knowing that there is always someone standing behind them, and beside them, cheering them on.
I was surprised today with a ring. Yes, it’s a ring that I picked out on one of the times that we went shopping together, but getting it today was still a surprise. He didn’t ask me to marry him because that’s not what we are about. He asked me to spend the rest of my life with him – until I don’t want to anymore. Someday soon, I will put a ring on his finger and ask him the very same question.
Today, I choose him. And while I look down at my hand and absolutely love the symbol of the commitment we have to each other, it’s doesn’t mean I love him more in this moment than I loved him when I woke up this morning. I may call him my husband, I may still call him my boyfriend – who knows?? It doesn’t matter really what I call him as long as I choose to be with him.