Father Tony

How has marriage changed me?

Filed By Father Tony | June 04, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay marriage, gay relationships

Dear Father Tony,

In all the talk about marriage equality, we hear about laws and rights and injustice, as well we should. But the video interview of George Takei and his husband made me wish I could hear more about the difference it's made to newly-married gay couples. What does it mean to you, now that you're married? As a long-committed newlywed, you are one whose opinion I'd like to hear, and other Bilerico contributors might chime in as well. This is the sort of message that straight people need to hear, to understand the reality of what heretofore may have been just an abstract idea. We need stories--pictures in our heads--to replace the old rhetoric.

I'm looking forward to your reply.

Bird O'Paradise

Dear BO'P,

You ask great questions. The kind that are much bigger than me. Happy tah give yah mah take on it, I do hope that contributors and readers will all chime in to fill out the picture.

I am married.

Sometimes I am totally surprised when that thought crosses my mind. I never wanted or expected to be married. I wanted love that would burn through the seasons like the eternal flame on a president's tombstone. And, once I found it, the last thing I wanted to do was mess it up with some Marx Brotherly contractual nonsense involving municipal employees and a justice of the peace, but that is exactly what we did, wondering how our relationship might be influenced by this.

What has marriage not done for us? I don't think it has made us any closer. I don't think it has made our love any stronger or more secure. It hasn't been a gateway to better sex (It's not like you come home from town hall clutching hands and saying "At last, Honey! Now we can explore those final chapters of the Kama Sutra.") Our routines remain the same.

Two things have changed.

The first is a small thing. I now literally have in-laws. For twenty-five years I have been spending holidays with his family and been a part of all the major life events that have transpired in his family. They could not have been any more welcoming and loving, and I have always felt part of their family in a very real way. The unnecessary ratification of a familial relationship that has been very important to me has given me a surprising measure of happiness.

The second change has been visible in our close friends. In general, friends never really know what your primary relationship is made of. They can only guess about the actual level of commitment and the long range plans that you keep to yourself. Getting married seems to have made a very fine statement to our friends. In some ways, it has been more significant to them than it is to us. I think we might have forgotten that some look to men who are in a committed relationship as proof that gay relationships can work and are attainable and are worth the search and the effort. I wonder how many of us in a committed relationship that has been ratcheted up to marriage would admit that we feel a heightened responsibility to those whom we count as friends, and that our relationship with our friends is altered, albeit slightly, by the fact of marriage. I would never try to sell any of my friends on marriage (and I still cringe when I watch White Christmas and hear the newly engaged Danny Kaye tell Bing Crosby that he ought to take the plunge because the water is fine) but I do want to be a man who is known among his kind as one who treats his husband well. I don't want to disappoint my husband, and I don't want to disappoint our friends. (I never did, but I think marriage may have enhanced that sentiment a bit.)

That's all I got for ya, Bird. That, and the fact that you know you are married when your husband turns to you in bed and says "I can't seem to fall asleep tonight. Talk to me."

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I could go on and on about how I agree with you regarding the public perception of my relationship when viewed through the lens of an honest-to-goodness marriage.

But I think your last paragraph says it all. There's nothing like crawling into bed after he's asleep and just taking a moment to enjoy the perfect peace on his face before turning out the light. Being overwhelmed by the love present in that single moment is, to me, the essence of my marriage.

What a great topic. My partner and I married in California last fall, after 29 years together. Despite all the many years of our relationship, living together almost all of that time, and socializing and spending holidays and other occasions with each others families and with both our families together, it always amazed me that whenever we were introduced to new persons by friends or family, so many people hesitated, wondering if it was really OK to let people know that we live together, that we are a couple, with the obvious conclusion that we are gay. Sometimes we were called "room mates" , "house-mates", "friend", and at least 50% of the time, there was no indication that we were related - just two guys at the party being introduced at the same time. This occurred even though we let it be known that we are comfortable being known as a couple.

Instantly, this has changed. Everyone seems to like identifying us as a married couple. We were pleasantly surprised that a week after the marriage ceremony, the priest at our Catholic Church came up and congratulated us. Once it became known at the church that we were married, several in the closet gays and lesbians came out to other church members.

We were really pleased that so many of our family and friends decided to come cross country, and in some instances, to travel internationally, to celebrate with us. We expected about 6 guests, and ended up with close to 50. We found that friends of ours felt that their (straight) marriages were one of the most important things in their lives, and they welcomed us into sharing this with them.

After 29 years, our marriage did not radically change our feelings for each other as a couple. It was difficult to make it happen, since my partner is from another country, and we did not have the benefit of a wedding visa for a green card. I am annoyed at Yasmin Nair for opposing this in a recent column.

I find that wearing wedding rings has attracted lots of comments from inquisitive persons who only knew us by sight, or who are acquaintances in our workplaces. They have all congratulated us on our marriage, and in some instances, the conversation served to inform them that we are gay. The subject had not come up in work situations with many people before.

Pop music mentioning weddings or marriage sound different to me now that I can identify with the word marriage.

The marriage also caused a nephew to come out to his family and to us. He now contacts us for working through some of his issues. He is 2early in the "out" process". As word has spread of noth our marriage and our long term relationship, we have been sought out by some other long term couple ( 10 years, 18 years, 22 years) who wanted to get to know us better.

When I stood at the top of the stairs in San Francisco City Hall ( right in front of the statue memorial to Harvey Milk), and look my partner in the eyes, joined hands, and exchanged vows, I felt so much less marginalized in life. Throughout my high school and college years, gays were still being fired in the federal government SIMPLY FOR BEING GAY. This was always in the newspapers, and had "in-the-know" family members fearing for me. I never expected that I would feel differently about myself after marriage, but it really has made a difference for the better. My local jurisdiction (Washington DC) is in the process of giving legal recognition to gay marriages. I hope that this will soon be a legal option for everyone everywhere, if they want to have such an opportunity in life. Even of you are not the marrying type, I think that it should make everyone feel less excluded by the fact that it is available.

We married in Massachusetts over Christmas following 12 years of living together. Gays get a bad rap about none of us having stable relationships. I think that there were some neighbors and others who wondered what the nature of our commitment was before we married. For some reason, it never occurred to us to wear rings prior to marriage, even though we were committed. It does feel more serious to wear a wedding ring. I like it . For me, it reminds me of a valuable source of strength that I have in my life - my marriage. The main difference is the excitement and respect ( I guess) that I perceive from others. I was really surprised that some rather conservative colleagues sought us out to congratulate us. Also, the entire marriage issue - in the news everywhere, on all the talk shows, everywhere you look, has eliminated gays and gay issues from only being spoken of in hushed tones. Everyone is in on our agenda, whether they support it or not.

Bill Greeves | June 6, 2009 2:26 PM

When Bob & I married in Massachusetts in October 2008, I was our intention to be able to skirt a rough Amendment 2 here in Florida, that would probably prevent a wedding from ever being legal in our own state.
The Amendment is here and in force in FL and after consulting our lawyer we knew we had to take other steps here to protect ourselves and give force to our rights to represent one another in future legal questions. The result was a change in our Designation of Health Care Surrogate. Our attorney placed the following near the top of that document notice in Caps to third parties; NAMELY YOU MUST PROVIDE MY SURROGATE ACCESS TO ME IMMEDIATLEY OR FACE POTENTAL LIABILITY PURSUANT TO FL STATUTES AND LAW PROHIBITING MARITAL STATUS DISCRIMINATION.
Other than this giving us a big dog in this
fight we have noticed other changes in our perception of others view of us. First, my former wife and mother of our children together, decided to marry her long time male companion and do it without fear it might change our mutually supportive relationships. And in addition both Bob's & my sets of children seemed prouder of our courage in doing this and added support in their being solid patrons in championing our status to relatives and friends.
Finally, as a volunteer in the Stonewall Library & Archives here in Fort Lauderdale, I would encourage anyone who would like to send a copy of their Union (Marriage) Certification to me a 1300 E Sunrise Blvd. Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304. Those copies will find a welcome place in our Archives and be available to researchers in the future to document this historic period.
Those things have all been unexpected bonuses.

As my husband has pointed out, part of being married (at least in our minds) means that the only way you get out of this relationship is in a pine box.

We're married, period. There's no going back, no undoing, no reset, no "do over!". I don't really believe in divorce, at least in the rather casual way our culture has come to treat marriage.

Marriage makes some things much simpler. It means I can be patient, it means I can trust "things" more than I am wont to do by nature.

Of course there are bad marriages. Abusive ones. My parents divorced and my mother's subsequent boyfriends were often bad news. I've lived through that, and wouldn't wish that hell on anyone.

My mother eventually remarried, and she and her husband are now on their third marriages. I pray that we can do better, not to 'honor the institution' (I don't want to live in an institution, thank you very much), but to honor each other, and to trust.

Bill Greeves | June 15, 2009 9:00 PM

I really appreciated your comments. Why should serial matrimony among heterosexuals have more legal rights than same sex couples in long term relationships.
All well-intended marriages deserve equality.