A friend and me were talking about marriage recently. She said that marriage is just a legal status, and if you’re truly in love, why does it matter?
I used to belong to that school of thought. It has a lot to do with my commitment phobia and my romantic notions of love. Love is grand, why let laws be in the way? Security cannot be granted by law — if two people wanted to be together, they would be, no matter what.
That view isn’t romantic. It is cynical to think of marriage as a form of security to ensure two people will be bound legally to each other, as a protection against separation.
Now, I don’t see marriage as a legal protection against separation. I don’t see it as a romantic expression of love either. I want to have the option of marrying my partner not because I think it is to safeguard her from leaving me, neither do I think it is the ultimate commitment of love, or even to share tax benefits.
I simply want the absolute knowing that she will be recognised as my life partner when something happens to me: whether is it time to pull the plug on a life support machine, or to claim my last remains. I want her to be known as the de facto person who has invested her life into building our partnership, the person who has every right to mourn me, celebrate my life, be offered condolences to. That nobody would be surprised if her name appears in my obituary. I don’t want her to be known as “the best friend” or the “long-term girlfriend” or the words they use when they are describing someone’s gay life partner in newspapers because they cannot use the word “spouse”.
I think of it as offensive, to describe our relationship as though we are describing two people dating casually, or as if we have a shameful secret to hide. Especially when I am no longer present to challenge that narrative, or protect her from people’s diminishing of the truth because of their narrow worldviews.
I think that would truly break my heart. To die knowing that our story would be seen as less, our love less real, less deserving, less bright, simply because we are two women who deeply love each other.
That we can be as loving, productive, giving and gracious as any other person in society, but we will never have the right to term each other as “my spouse”.
Yet there can be multitudes of two people who can barely look at each other in the eye, and yet their marriage status would never come into dispute.