Why Would You Get Married?
For the last going-on-three years, my lovers and I have identified as polyamorous. Although I had only learned the word "polyamorous" two years earlier when I found the BDSM community, and I find that most people outside alternate-sexuality communities still haven't heard it. And explaining my whole "weird" philosophy every time both of my lovers come up in conversation gets long-winded and awkwardly personal. So I've discovered that more people recognize the term "open relationship." Not everyone has read The Ethical Slut, but "open relationships" are "normal" enough. I'm in an "open relationship" and then the conversation can move on.
Which was simple enough - until my "primary partner" and I announced that we were going to get married.
(First, I have to admit that I've always disliked the technical sound of the terms "primary" and "secondary" partner. It's nicely convenient that now I can instead differentiate my "fiancé" and my "boyfriend.")
When I first started coming out as poly, the most positive reaction I got from an older relative was that I was very young and that I should enjoy getting to do such "wild" things while I'm still in my twenties: "while I still can." As my romantic love constitutes an adolescent rebellion, which I will surely outgrow. Few of my peer-acquaintances have been so blunt, but I have still picked up comments implying that my "open relationship" must be less serious than a monogamous relationship. After all, the assumption goes, everyone wants to find "The One." "Open relationships" are "normal" enough, sure, but they are temporary phases for people with commitment problems. Then my fiancé and I screwed that assumption by getting engaged. At least a couple friends - to our knowledge - who had previously understood our "open relationship" have asked, "If that's your arrangement, why would you get married?!"
With only this amount of space, I can't possibly answer that question with as much depth or brilliant research as lesbian writer E.J.Graff did in her 2004 book What Is Marriage For? - so I highly recommend reading this book. Most explicitly, E.J.Graff argues that her marriage to another woman deserves legal recognition, which is a point with which I assume most readers of sexgenderbody.com already emphatically agree. Along the way, Graff unfolds the countless ways in which the legal definition and expectations of marriage have radically changed throughout the last couple hundred years of Western history. The phrase "traditional marriage" is meaninglessly vague, with no one historical precedent. Every generation re-inventos the laws and expectationse, and every< > couple re-negotiates from there.
So, given our "open relationship" agreement, why would my fiancé and I get married? I don't think our reasons are all that uncommon, honestly. We've been together for several years, during which both of us have grown and changed significantly, and the changes keep bringing us closer together. We love each other and already enjoy seeing each other every day. Living together feels natural. I love that he's usually the last thing I see when I'm falling asleep and the first thing I see when I'm waking up. I want to spend the rest of my life with him. Then, on the logistical side of spending the rest of my life with him, having a joint bank account makes going out to eat together and paying our housing and utility bills much simpler. When the marriage is legal, we'll get perks on our taxes and potentially a discount on our auto insurance. I also love his family. The children related to him call me "Aunt," and I love knowing that I will still be their aunt twenty years from now, when we'll find out what kind of adults they become. Why else does anyone get married in contemporary America?
To ensure that our spouse never fucks another human being ever again? Is it really shocking or reckless of me to find that less interesting?
After all, one of the the characteristics of my fiancé that makes us so compatible - after our shared sense of humor, shared interests, and shared values - is that neither one of us has the slightest interest in Being Monogamous Forevermore. I suck at monogamy: The only time I've ever tried it for more than a year, I resented it and I cheated kind of a lot. Now that I have figured out what works for me and have two wondrously wonderful, stable men in my life, I have little patience for the idea that I should still aspire to marry monogamously. We are building a marriage on the lifestyle that we are happy living.
"If that's your arrangement, why would you get married?" acquaintances have asked us. Because monogamy is not inherently a criteria of love, or commitment. Because we agree on our definitions of love and commitment. Why does anyone get married?
(And - speaking of arbitrary and offensively restrictive definitions of marriage - what's wrong with this stupid country for not affording gays and lesbians the same legal choice?)