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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wuv, trwu wuv, shauw bind you, forwever

When I first started telling people that I was planning to move out of state to go to law school, I got a lot of this: "Oh, that's great! Is Ian going with you?" Which looks innocent enough, but it always left me blinking stupidly, like I've just been asked whether the sun was going to continue to rise and set each day. But of course he's coming with me! I would think, whilst mentally slapping my palm into my forehead. To me this is just a no-brainer, and I couldn't understand where the question was coming from.

It finally occurred to me that if we were married, I would never be asked whether Ian was coming with me or not. It would just be assumed, even though plenty of married people also live apart for some stretch of time, particularly when one is going to school or, for instance, working in military service.

I really shouldn't be bothered by this, but, yes, it bothers me. The implication is that our relationship is not as committed as a marriage. I've been with Ian for longer than many of my friends have been married. Some have been married twice in the same amount of time we have been together. And yet their marriages are considered more committed than my relationship.

Ian has been witnessing this misconception as well. After having told his manager about our plans to move, a lot of people from work are giving him flack, saying he is making the biggest mistake in leaving his job. After all, he wouldn't pick up and move "just for a GIRLFRIEND!", they say. See, this is where the English language is failing us. I am not just a girlfriend, and he is not just a boyfriend. It feels wrong to call each other that. But there is nothing else we can say, since we aren't married. At least, there is nothing we can say that imparts to other people that our relationship is just as sacrosanct as their marriage. (If not more so, but who am I to judge?)

Am I being overly sensitive about this? If I sit and stare at the wall and try to imagine myself as someone else -- someone who longs to wear white dresses and diamond rings and call someone "husband" -- I can almost understand why people might confuse marital status with level of commitment. Almost. But it still offends me.

What would be the right thing for people to say? Maybe, "Oh that's great! What's Ian going to do while you're in school?" This alternative doesn't assume whether he is coming with me or not. But can I really blame people for lacking this social sensitivity? I don't know. I just feel... annoyed.

I should say that, on the whole, people have been very congratulatory and happy for us, and I'm grateful for that. Why am I letting the dissenters get to me so much?

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sov said...

I think your reaction is perfectly normal, and furthermore, you have every right to be pissed about it. Your relationships is far more stable than most marriages, especially Utah marriages, where the couple is generally far too young and immature to even understand the concept of a relationship. In Utah, marriage is a status symbol and a requirement for acceptance within its perverted culture, and because of that, I would argue that your relationship is FAR MORE REAL than a marriage. You have a true, loving commitment, not a sense of obligation to imaginary beings and judgmental societal concepts.

I digress a little though, because I seem to be picking on Utah. Or am I? There's this notion that marriage is the by-product of a healthy relationship, and that it's supposed to be a given that two people in love should eventually marry "before God" in order to seal their fates together. But the problem is, God isn't real and can't magically "seal" people in union, and the reality is that marriage is simply a social construct in the form of governmental law for purposes of accountability. Of course, there are historical and traditional and sociological ties to it as well, but those things are for the "faithful." People like the two of you have no need for that.

Marriage isn't necessary for any reason, with the exception of government benefits or traditional or religious values. It's not right that some people judge your relationship as "lesser" because of your right not to "conform." What you have is more real than most.

B.R. said...

Of course you are bound to feel a sting of some sort because, at least to many of us, reactions of that kind almost force one to question even for a tenth of a second the 'validity' and/or 'strength' of one's already stable relationship.
A geographic and professional move is not only exciting and informed by novelty, it's also tough and emotional.
People by and large do have a harder time with concepts that differ from a conventional norm and I don't think that they make the comments they make out of ill will. Such comments could simply be a symptom of one's lack of experiential knowledge of various forms/degrees of commitment.
As you intimate, you know what you have and that is all that matters.
I am excited about your new developments and your decision to pursue your graduate studies in beautiful Portland.
Alles Gute!

heidikins said...

I think that the reaction to you & Ian will be far more normal in Portland than it is here, and I can't wait for this new part of your lives!

I love you & Ian together, I think you are a great couple and a strong match. A poufy white dress and a sparkly ring won't do anything to change those facts (something many couples would do well to learn before saying their "I do's".


Sarah Bellum said...

People who are married are together because they are legally obligated to be so. You and Ian are together because you want to be. Fuck the naysayers in life.

tennessee mike said...

Women who want to get married are oftentimes knocked for focusing too much on the wedding (the ceremony, white dresses and rings, etc.) and not the marriage (everything following the wedding day). It sounds like your not wanting to get married may also be influenced by this.

Marriage is marriage, take it or leave it, but just so you know: a run-of-the-mill day in the life of a marriage does not include the words "husband," "wife," or "married" anyway. It's more go to work, then you come home and eat and ask each other how the day went.

Sra said...

No, it's not the wedding that's keeping me from being married, honest. After all, we could easily go down to the courthouse today and git r dun, no ceremony necessary.

There are many reasons we don't wish to be married, which I've actually written about before, so I won't rehash it here. The point is it's a personal choice that really doesn't reflect the committed nature of our relationship. I just want people to stop equating marriage with love and commitment, because one does not guarantee the other.

Now, I'm also not trying to knock people who are happy being married, or who wish to get married. That's great, really, I support you. It's just not for me. But I want the same esteem about my committed, loving relationship as everyone else gets. Basically, I want to add some language to the English dictionary that would send the message to people that the same assumptions you make about married people should also be made about people like us, who choose to be together, but not married.

I understand this is a big leap for some people, and I understand most people mean no harm when they say things that belie that they just don't get it. But that makes it no less irksome to me.

tennessee mike said...

Some extra language would be beneficial, that's true. And "cohabitor" just isn't cuttin' it. :) "Prome" maybe? That has a nice, asexual ring to it.

I think we should ask George Costanza...he could always be counted on to think of a good word or name that sounds nonsensical at first, but grows on you. If you're not a Seinfeld fan, I apologize right now.

tennessee mike said...

Aha...I knew I had seen a discussion like this before.

My vote is now "Lifener" officially.

Sra said...

It's true, I have a nasty habit of writing about things I've already written about before. Some things just don't get resolved though, you know? So I keep hacking away at them.

I've been nearly sold on calling Ian my Partner. I just hesitate because I feel like that carries a gay connotation. Not that I care if people think I'm gay. Plenty of people have thought so about me. I just like semantic accuracy. And I like being understood. I wonder if I will get funny looks for using Lifener. Maybe I try it.

Claire said...

I'll be expecting your royalty checks soon. Monthly is fine. :)

Yeah, speaking as someone who's run into this sort of thing before, I say chin up, sister. People are conditioned to react a certain way. It's the reason we freeze if a cop says "freeze!" and just laugh when a pimply teenager with a laser tag gun says it (although I have to admit I might laugh a little at any cop who actually said "Freeze!" Add in "Dirtbag," and I'm gonna be too busy rolling on the floor to freeze).

Eh, people are goobers sometimes. You know the truth, and since you can't change them, I say you rock "Lifener" like nobody's business, sister.

tennessee mike said...

Aha...I knew I had seen a discussion like this before.

My vote is now "Lifener" officially.

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