Thursday, April 24, 2008

Can you have one without the other?

I was in a car recently, on a long drive, with a professor and some fellow students. During the course of the ride, I referred to Zack, Zeph's brother, as my brother-in-law. The immediate response, understandably, was, "Oh, so you guys are married?"

"No, we're not. In fact, we're going to try and avoid it for as long as possible."

Later I felt the need to explain, especially to the married individual in the car, that this is not because I am anti-marriage in general. Sure, I think there is a lot to be said for standing in solidarity with those who cannot be married, and that has definitely influenced my decision, and marriage does work for some people. Just not me.

My reason behind not marrying has always been that the institution is meaningless to me, and I refuse to go through the pageantry for the sake of other people. I was willing to do it when it still meant something to Zeph, but it doesn't anymore. Marriage brings us no more security in the permanence of our relationship than we feel now.

Did my parents' divorce somehow influence that decision? Probably. Just because I marry you doesn't mean I am not going to leave you. It just means that I have to complete some paperwork after I walk out the door. Is that a harsh way to view it? Yes. Is it cynical? Yes. Is it unromantic? Yes.

But that doesn't mean that my life is unromantic. Romance is what happens in your day-to-day routine as you interact with your partner. Romance is being awoken daily by a freshly-showered body crawling back into bed for one more dose of warmth before starting the day. Romance is brushing somebody's shoulder, or leg, or face, as you walk past him when entering a room. Romance is falling asleep late because the conversation after the lights go out is just that interesting.

And I don't need a ring or vows or a slip of paper in order to experience any of those things. I just need his word. That's enough for me.


Blogger indil said...

I once thought about what it means to marry someone, celebrations and parties and gifts aside. I've never been close to getting married or even proposing to someone, so I wouldn't know from personal experience. It seems to me that marriage forces two people to really make a sound decision about the rest of their lives. Personal property merge into "our" property and children usually follow. It makes sense to take a step back and ask yourself if that is what you really want with this person. Otherwise, you would just keep going with your current relationship and wake up one day and realize that it isn't what you want. Maybe it's important to have that single moment where you're asked a question and you have to answer. The wedding ceremony is ancillary to the question. The fact that most cultures have some notion of marriage suggests to me that there is a universal quality to marriage that distinguishes it from all other relationships.

April 25, 2008 12:14 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I agree that marriage, for some people, is a cause to step back and evaluate a relationship. But, I think there are those of us who can evaluate a relationship sans nuptials. Furthermore, what is so wrong with waking up 10 years into a relationship and saying, "I don't want this anymore"? People change, and I think relationships should be able to grow, morph, or dissolve as the participants see fit.

It's interesting that you mention merging of property because after living together for a year there is plenty of "our" stuff. Also, whenever we discuss what would change if we ever got married, we decide that bank accounts should continue to be separate.

In regards to the "universal quality" of marriage, you may be correct. I haven't studied it enough to know whether or not that assumption is true. However, in western society at least, marriage was invented not as a way of cementing a loving relationship; It was a way to form kinship and alliances while at the same time increasing one's social status and wealth. Marriage was a father selling his daughter (when a dowry was involved) to another man so that the man married to his daughter would not kill him during times of war. Wow, I forgot how much marriage angers the feminist inside of me.

For more on the history of marriage, I have always been recommended Stephanie Coontz's book Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my summer list.

On an unrelated note, are you going to be in SF at all this summer?

April 26, 2008 8:40 AM  

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