My partner (husband) and I have been together for over six years now. We got married this February, so we have been married for about 8 months. In the grand scheme of things our wedding seemed like a small rock on the landscape of our relationship. We have been through so many more things that have had deep impact on our lives both together as a couple and separately as people. Our wedding was just one day in our lives together. It was a joyous day where we could celebrate what we truly mean to each other, surrounded by our found and from families. It was a day that will forever warm my heart, but it was truly only one day and I wouldn’t call it the best day of my life. Michael and I chose to be together long before we stood facing each other by a lake on a blazing summer day and we continue to choose together to be together every single day. The nearly six years we were together before our marriage definitely trumps the mere 8 months we have been married.
So yes, marriage hasn’t really changed anything fundamental about US and how we operate but I suppose there have been changes in how people relate to us as a unit. The main thing that being married has given us is, I suppose, a new vocabulary with which to define the parameters of our relationship. Married, husband, wife, these are words that seem to make our relationship legitimate, safe, and normal to other people in the world. In the past introducing “my partner” often resulted in people feeling entitled to ask questions to determine the strength and legitimacy of our relationship. “How long have you been together?” “Do you live together?” etc… questions that really they have no business asking. These intrusive questions are silenced when one uses the word husband instead of partner. Additionally as an Asian woman currently living in Asia I no longer have to worry about disclosing my unmarried but living with my partner status and how that can impact upon my safety in certain situations. We are now easy to understand.
That said, we of course benefit in very concrete ways by our ability to marry, particularly living internationally as we do, without being married, spousal type visas would not even be an option. In New Zealand these benefits are less obvious as ‘de-facto’ partnerships have the same legal status as civil unions and marriages. Marriage is also available to all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, so a range of different types of relationships are recognised by law. Unlike in other countries, there are no tax or insurance benefits that are only available to married couples.
It saddens me to think that it is the legal document we have signed that makes my relationship legitimate in the eyes of strangers. Not the years of work we have put into learning how to be good partners for one another, not the support we have given each other, and not the love that has allowed us to work towards becoming the best people we can be. My life was made richer by my partner long before we signed a contract.