If you compared my partner and me today to who we were as a couple when we first married, you would hardly recognize our marriage as the same marriage.
In fact, today we don’t even call it a marriage. Neither of us wears a ring, and I only refer to my partner as my “husband” when I don’t see another way around a system that still often places men as the head of the home.
We got married because we felt we had to in order to live together and escape the cult. Looking back, it wasn’t my wisest decision. I was conditioned to not just tolerate abuse but to actually consider it an expression of love. The odds of my choosing someone from within the cult who would reject that kind of power when I thought it my literal duty to grovel at his feet were probably against me.
The odds of us staying together after we left and throughout our deconversion process were also probably against us.
Every cycle of growth that one of us went through often required a redefinition of what our relationship was, but somehow we managed to stay connected and in love in spite of an unviable relationship model and significant individual changes to our worldviews.
Despite being a choice that I would never recommend to anyone else, it’s been a choice that I have never regretted.
I’ve often thought about what I would do if I were still partnered with my partner but unmarried. If I could take my current feminist consciousness and give it to my 21 year old self, would I still choose to marry?
The answer has differed over the years. At one point, it was, “Yes, because it worked out.” Then it was, “No, we wouldn’t need marriage to validate our love.” Then it was, “Yes, because of the benefits.” Then it was, “No, we weren’t mature enough. It could have been a terrible thing.”
Right now, it’s a pretty solid yes, but not because of pragmatics or some ridiculously fucked up version of ownership masquerading as romance.
Rather, I’ve come to realize that while I might disagree with the history of what marriage has been (a means of transferring property and controlling/disempowering women), I actually don’t disagree with the concept of marriage itself.
One of the things that I have always deeply felt in my own marriage is a sense of belonging.
During the height of my attempts to combat my own internalization of patriarchal relationship maps, I felt that that sense of belonging was a betrayal. I didn’t want to belong to my partner. He certainly didn’t belong to me.
But I’ve come to realize that belonging doesn’t have to signify ownership. I can belong with someone without belonging to them.
Certainly I don’t need a “marriage” for that sense of belonging to be true. However, marriage is suddenly beautiful to me because it’s one of the only ways of getting official recognition for one’s chosen family.
In general, society acts as though those who are biologically related to you somehow hold more weight than those to whom you are emotionally close. People say that “blood is thicker than water.”
That is, people say that when they have the privilege of family.
When your family rejects you or disowns you…or isn’t safe for you, then the concept that blood is thicker becomes almost laughable.
The queer community has learned through experience that the people you choose to surround yourself with can be far more like “family” than the people who contributed their DNA to yours.
Marriage is one way that someone can stand up and say, “I choose to be connected to this person. I choose them as my family.”
I never want to be viewed as the ward, property, or “ball and chain” of my partner, but that is only one story of marriage.
I do want the world to know that we are a family. I’m proud of being family with him.
That is the story of marriage that I choose.