"When are you two getting married..." Well meaning friends keep asking my client. "I don't want to get married. Am I supposed to want to get married?" he wonders aloud.
The pressure to be heteronormative has escalated now that the LGBT community has finally attained marriage equality. As for myself, I used to say that "...one of the great things about being gay, is that I don't have to get married and I don't have to go into the army!"(the other part of the outdated quip). In fact, the lack of gay marriage saved me from the inconvenience and expense of gay divorce.
Another friend, in a late night conversation, worried that he "had to get married to his long-time boyfriend or separate..." that marriage now felt obligatory. "Whoa", I counseled. "The right to marry does not require us to do it." I point out heterosexual couples we know who have foregone marriage. Some of us actually think it's a rather unappealing bourgeois institution..
So often we have a file on a subject in our minds just waiting to be activated by facing the actual event or thing itself. I see this often around reaching a milestone birthday: " I thought I'd be in a certain place by the time I reached 40, 50, 60..." We are unaware of the prejudices we have internalized about aging, or in this case, about marrying.
Marriage is synonymous with maturity in our culture. However, each of us can choose to examine our relationship to those values and reflect on our personal needs and circumstances. I'm all for marriage if it suits one. Some of my best friends are happily married! Two men I know are planning a wedding for their 25th anniversary on Labor Day. Why not! I'm thrilled to celebrate their life as a couple. I'll even admit that I ponder the barefoot wedding on the beach with my (as yet to be identified) beautiful man.
When I ask newly married folk "If it feels different to be married?" many say yes. Frankly, I'm curious. What would it feel like to make a public declaration and take legal steps which not only endow us with certain rights and privileges, but make separating much more complicated? I may surprise myself one day and do it. And, I know that it is an option--not an obligation.
The commitment between two people is about the willingness to be fully in the relationship, not about the marriage license. A vital relationship reflects who we are and our particular and personal values. It can take many forms.
"To marry or not to marry", may be the question: There is clearly no right answer.