So why am I not divorced yet?

I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around the “gay marriage threatens ‘traditional’ marriage” meme. Marriage between same-sex partners was legal in California for a few months, until the passage of Prop H8; it’s now legal in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, Norway (as of January 1 2009), South Africa, Belgium, The Netherlands… I’m not getting this. Didn’t ‘separate but equal’ fall by the wayside a long time ago?

OK, I confess…I AM divorced. From Husband #1. But that divorce was in 1981, long before same-sex marriage was legalized anywhere in the United States. So golly, what happened?

I’ll tell you what: physical abuse threatens marriage. Emotional and psychological abuse threatens marriage. That’s what happened to me. Abuse that was never acknowledged by my ex; never dealt with, admitted, apologized for, or STOPPED.

We tried, mind you…or I should say, I tried. I took my marriage vows seriously. When I said, “For better, for worse…’til death do us part…” I meant it. I admit, it hadn’t even occurred to me at the time that my death might be a lot more imminent than I thought. It never occurred to me that my husband (who had sworn to love, honor, yadda yadda yadda) might try to do me in within a week or so of having taken that vow. When he told me he planned to be a triple-A husband, little did I suspect that meant Abusive Alcoholic Asshole. So when the drinking and the violence started, I insisted on counseling. I tried to keep it together. I tried to be the understanding wife.

I’m far from a perfect human, God knows. I know I have my flaws. But I don’t think ANY person deserves to have the kitchen table overturned on top of him/her, for having forgotten to put the milk on the table at supper. I don’t think ANY person deserves to be dragged down the hall of the marriage therapist’s office by the hair, being kicked in the back at the same time. I don’t think ANY person deserves to be called vicious names; to be accused of non-existent infidelity; to have dishes flung at one’s head; to be verbally and emotionally and physically battered.  

So yeah, abuse threatens marriage.

Here’s what else can threaten a marriage:

Chronic or serious illness. The death of a child. Addiction. Financial worries. Unemployment. Infidelity. Just to name a few…

I’ve had some experience with a couple of these, too. I’ve been married to my second husband for almost 24 years now, and we’ve faced money problems, life-threatening illness, and the death of our firstborn. That last was probably the toughest thing any parent can face; we lost our beloved daughter to a drunk driver, just a few months before she would have wed the father of her two young children. At least she wouldn’t have been denied that right, had she lived…we wouldn’t have had to fight for her to be able to do that.

We’ve been lucky. We’ve managed to survive those potential threats, and have worked at growing stronger as a couple as a result of those challenges.

But same-sex marriage? Holy shit, that’s not even on the RADAR as a potential cause for a split. How the hell could it be? How can the thought of a same-sex couple wanting to commit to one another in a lifetime of monogamous fidelity possibly threaten our marriage, or that of anyone else?

Rather, does it not uphold marriage as the ideal? Does it not say, that’s the brass ring…that’s the ultimate commitment goal…that’s what many loving couples want to publicly declare?

Granted, not every opposite-sex couple choose to marry, nor should they be forced to. I’m sure there are same-sex couples who feel the same way, whether out of fear of commitment, not wanting to ‘mess up a good thing,’ the costs involved, the legal hoops to jump through, or whatever. But for those who DO want a public, legal, recognized marriage, why the hell should they be denied that? If they are adults, why can’t they enter into that contract with one another? And why can’t it be a marriage, just like any other?

I’m sorry to hear that there are some folks out there whose marriages are on such shaky ground that the thought of another couple wanting that same level of commitment would destroy their legal relationship. Must have built that house on sand, eh?

I’m happy to say that my feet, and my husband’s, are on pretty solid rock. Our marriage has not always been smooth sailing, and if we live long enough, we may yet hit stormy seas. But I am confident that, should we ever face a serious threat to our closing-on-a-quarter-century marriage, it WON’T be because Adam and Steve, or Ada and Eve, decided they want the same level of legal and social recognition for their relationship that we all too often take for granted.

For those who want to ‘preserve marriage’:

Support equal pay for equal work.

Support stronger families, of ALL kinds. (Real ‘family values’ means valuing all families. Honest.)

Work to end poverty.

Work for full employment.

Work to end disease.

Work to end abuse.

Work to overcome addiction.

But please DON’T tell me that love isn’t love. Don’t tell me that the gay couple down the street, who may have been together even longer than you and your spouse, are not entitled to marry. Don’t tell me that the lesbian couple whose kids attend your kids’ school, aren’t a ‘real’ family.

It IS a civil rights issue. And America should be at the forefront of the movement to grant those rights to all its citizens, not playing catch-up.

14 comments

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  1. I’m sorry that you had such a difficult go of it.

    Peace to you, please.

  2. Organized Religions have some nerve promoting taking away any ones rights. The Christian one are especially appalling as their founder preached love. His whole philosophy was love. They seem hell bent on taking away woman’s rights too. I like your list of what affects marriages, I have one to add, authoritarian power that professes  professes divinity tears apart marriages. Calling love sinful if it’s not ‘traditional’,or sanctioned in an ancient text, written by tribal authoritarian patriarchal men damages the whole institution they claim to want to protect.          

    • pico on November 19, 2008 at 7:34 am

    The husband and I have been busy all week, so we haven’t had time to come to your house to wreck your marriage.  Can you fit us in sometime this weekend?  We’ll bring snacks.

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