On Sunday morning I picked up Sunday Life, one of the supplements (and my favourite weekend lift-out) within The Sunday Age and started reading. I came across an article by Lena Chen, on marriage.
Chen’s article made some valid points – on social justice and who’s allowed to get married and why people get married and why it’s not just about big dresses and seven tiered cakes. All points that I nodded to and agreed with. Except one. This one:
“There’s nothing inherently ‘special’ that marriage brings to a relationship.”
That’s the point when I stopped and thought, ‘Hmm, I don’t think so.”
And so I tweeted that despite the fine points made in the article, I disagreed with that one and wondered how Chen could claim that to be so when she has not ever been and is not married.
Chen has since contacted me via Twitter and raised various points as to why she sticks by what she says – backing it up with statistics and stating that a marriage is only one because it’s legal and that ,“Marriage doesn’t imbue relationships with meaning,” and the only reason people marry is for Government incentives and that marriage does not necessarily equal love and so on and so on.
Despite all of her efforts, I still entirely disagree with her statement. And, in true Sandi Sieger fashion, I let her know that. That despite Chen’s fine points, I cannot and will not ever agree that marriage does not offer anything special, or meaningful, to a relationship.
Chen is unmarried. Try as she might, assume as she will, she cannot know what it is like to be married. She can guess, imagine, empathise and use as many stats as she likes, but the fact remains that she’s unmarried.
When I raised this with her, she said, “I (also) don’t need to have been married to be able to make statements about the institution if I back up claims with logic.”
Well, yes Lena, yes you do.
I’m not a mother. Assume and guess and use logic all I like, until I am one I will not fully, completely be able to make statements about being a mother with any form of credibility.
More so, as a married person, I do not assume that people who are unmarried aren’t in “special” and “meaningful” relationships. So I don’t really appreciate it when people make statements about my relationship that are entirely incorrect.
The truth is, when it comes to love, you can take the graphs and stats and logic and throw it out a window because it’s irrelevant – there’s no place for logic in love. You can talk about reality, and divorce, and how marriage is a, “Western and privileged idea,” all you like and it will not make a squiddly do of difference.
Perhaps some people that get married don’t do it for love. Perhaps they do it for comfort or convenience, or in countries that I would label as ‘backward’ perhaps they do it by arrangement or to provide their family with eighteen goats – but they are not my reasons. I did not get married by force or because of expectation, due to ease or comfort, or because I wanted to start a small farm.
I got married because I, and my husband, wanted to. We chose to. Because marriage is something we value.
Has marriage strengthened our relationship? Yes. Has it enhanced our relationship? Yes. Are we happier? Yes. Do we love being married? Yes. Do we believe that our marriage has meaning? Yes. That it’s special? Yes.
Yes, yes and yes.
To suggest that what we have isn’t special, or meaningful, is entirely incorrect. To suggest that what we had prior to marriage wasn’t either is also incorrect. My point is, that for us, marriage only added to something already great and made it even better. And how or why that happened is something beyond a survey questionnaire or a logistical explanation – something shifted, slowly, and changed, slightly. Something about the way that we feel and the bond that we have and that something is between us – and us alone.
I wasn’t to know that was going to happen – but I wasn’t self-righteous enough to assume that it wasn’t ever going to either.
You cannot sweep ‘marriage’ up into one exact category and stick a label on it – just the same way you can’t do that with ‘family’ or being ‘single’ or ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’.
And whilst I can only hope that, one day soon, all people will be allowed and granted the right to marry, I cannot and will not apologise for being one of the lucky ones who is able to. Chen is right, marriage is a privilege, and one I take as being so.
In reality, I care not about people’s relationships – I believe everyone should be able to do as they please and live as they like. But what riles me up is people that make statements, on my behalf, that are unfounded and unfair.
I get questioned, more than you’d believe, as to why I got married – imagine if I asked someone in a relationship why they were not? I get questioned, more than you’d imagine, as to why I changed my surname after marrying – imagine if I asked someone why they didn’t? I get questioned, all the time, from people I hardly know, about everything to do with my marriage – and all the assumptions and jokes that along with that – and I never question anyone about their relationship.
I’ve had people raise their eyebrow at me when I’ve said, “My husband.” It’s as if I’m someone that’s bound to a house, dust brush and mop in hand, slaving over a stove, devoid of an opinion and far too young to be bound up by it all. And I wonder, ‘Is that really what people think of a wife?’ If it is, no wonder they have such a low opinion of marriage.
I’m a wife – an independent, opinionated, hard working, young, spirited, loving, compassionate, happy wife. I love cooking. I even have an apron, or three. I clean our house, and do the washing, and pick up socks, and run errands, and iron clothes, and god damn, I even bake blueberry pies. I also run two businesses and juggle jobs and passions and interests and hobbies and a social life. I do things alone, often, and I’m as capable as clever.
I don’t need a husband to help me form an opinion, or to help me navigate a map, or to make decisions for me, or to hold my hand when I need to buck up, or to pick up the pieces when the pastry crumbles.
I was raised to walk, not crawl. Stand up, not sit down. I was taught to do, not delegate. Act, not talk. Bake my pie, and eat it too. It just so happens that, along the way, I found someone amazing and talented and funny and smart to share life with. Someone that picks up the pastry, even when I don’t ask them to.
What we had was always special, but it’s been made even more so by being married.
And Lena Chen can say all she likes, however she wants to, but our marriage is special and it has meaning – a ton of it – and we’re the kind union that doesn’t slot into a list of statistics, or fit into a graph. Perhaps a pie chart is something we’re much more suited to…but even then, if it’s not blueberry, or apple and rhubarb, we probably won’t be.
There’s a reason thousands upon thousands of people worldwide are fighting for the right to marry – because they want to be married. They want the option of being able to participate in a marriage. And they wouldn’t be fighting, so hard, if there was nothing inherently special about marriage or if it was entirely devoid of meaning.