(My) Marriage and the State

At The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, Jason Kuznicki asks questions about marriage under three scenarios. Two of those scenarios are relevant to me, and they’re interesting because they correlate closely with my personal life.

The first scenario:

1. The United States government, at both the state and federal levels, peacefully dissolves into anarchy. The functionaries all read David Friedman, agree with him, and close up shop. Are you still married? Or not?

My short answer is, “of course we’d still be married.”

My long answer is more complex. Danielle and I have been in a relationship since the latter half of 2003. More than six years later, we haven’t yet married, but we have a shared mortgage. That’s enough to me to signify my commitment that I’m not going anywhere. When we’ve talked about this, she’s agreed. Our relationship is what matters, not the approval of others.

In a bit of coincidental timing, we decided last week to get married. There was no traditional popping of The Question. It came up because of specific, values-based legal nonsense that makes it significantly cheaper – free versus many thousands of dollars – to have the state’s sanction. After discussing it in rational terms in our kitchen, we decided it’s time to jump through the state’s hoops.

The engagement will be short-lived, because we’ll be married soon. Neither of us wants a religious ceremony, so we have none of the time-constraining obstacles that involves. The courthouse will suffice. Packing family and friends traveling great distances into a courthouse for a “Do you? Yes. Do you? Yes.” ceremony seems rather much a waste of everyone’s time and resources. There will be plenty of time to celebrate, as if we haven’t done that by being committed for so long already.

Also, I’m not big on symbolism, in general, so adding the state’s approval means nothing. While I won’t get into the martyrdom of saying I won’t get married until everyone in my state commonwealth may enjoy their right, the fight for marriage as a way to be approved by the good opinion of others led to me evaluating state approval from minor into nothingness. If my neighbors – representing whatever boundary one wishes to draw and call the “state” – think they need their god’s judgment and blessing, that’s interesting. If they think I need their god’s judgment and blessing, and the discriminating hand of the state is the only way to achieve this, then I don’t think much of their god. And I won’t care about the state that enforces these subjective, unprovable rules.

As unromantic as it may appear, Danielle and I became married long ago through our choices, with no definitive anniversary date. The state had nothing to do with that. If it disappeared tomorrow, maybe we’d continue celebrating whatever the official wedding date turns out to be, but we’d continue on unchanged by its influence.

3. Your entire family, on both sides, and any children if you have them, all reach a consensus: You and your wife are all wrong for each other. They’re not going to recognize your marriage, no matter how happy you are, and regardless of how you conduct yourselves. Still married? Or not?

Again, my short answer is, “of course we’d still be married.”

My long answer depends on the opposite scenario. It’s the traditional story. After a couple has been together beyond the family’s opinion of long enough, the hints start appearing. Direct questions follow. If you still don’t marry, the pleas begin. Danielle and I reached the pleas some time ago.

Or, to be precise, I reached the pleas some time ago. As the man, I’m expected to take the traditional role. But I missed the script. Not intentionally or consciously. (Mostly not consciously, since I’m not oblivious.) I know and trust Danielle enough to reasonably expect her to say something if our relationship needed to change. Since she shares my opinion on marriage as well as two individuals probably can, especially when one of those people is me, she didn’t try to force anything when the hints or questions or badgering started. As unromantic as it seems to outsiders, since it doesn’t fit the frame inside which we’re supposed to place it, we decided together to get married, without a bended knee or a diamond.

Our families and friends had an image of how our relationship was supposed to develop. Speaking for myself, I never cared about that. Their validation (or revoked validation, in Jason’s scenario) is irrelevant to the extent that I’ll allow it to affect my behavior. They’re happy that we’re making it official, and that’s good, but it doesn’t sway my value of the state-sanctioned validation they sought for us compared to our voluntary choices and manner of expressing our relationship.

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