After LB and I became serious, I routinely ignored her hints about getting married, flicking them off my sleeves like breadcrumbs. Usually, I'd change the subject. Or I'd give her a long hug and tell her I loved her. Besides, she was a decorated marriage veteran, wearing an invisible Purple Heart from her first marriage (after her ex-husband cheated on her). Just as importantly, I had serious issues- intellectually speaking- with the the institution of marriage:
1. DOMA is profoundly discriminatory and same-sex couples should be able to marry whoever they want
2. Historically, marriage was an act of tribal consolidation and economic protectionism, connected to property rights and the ownership of female bodies
3. Radical social conservatives have been using straight marriage to rally single-issue voters forever. Therefore, every new straight marriage reinforces a complicit discrimination against non-straight couples
In some cases, I think these are still valid concerns. But something changed inside me four years ago. I had this epiphany: I don't have to get married for all the messed-up reasons I abhor marriage, I can get married for all the things that make marriage beautiful for me. For my very own reasons.
Once I returned to our Hollywood apartment, I opened the front door, ran to LB, gave her a huge hug and told her I wanted to get married. LB told me not to joke around with marriage. She said she'd wanted us to marry me for so long now that she'd given up hope. She said Latinas don't joke around with marriage, so if I valued my life at all I'd stop joking around. I laughed and told her I meant every word. I told her I wanted to be with her forever and that it was only now that I understood the way couples could shape marriage into their own creation. A collective Galatea project of passionate love, bedrock friendship and dynamic and continuous personal growth.
A month later, we drove to the Beverly Hills courthouse and got married with tears streaming down our faces again. Afterwards, we called our shocked parents to let them know the impossible had happened. Two days later, we flew to Tokyo for our honeymoon and visited as many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples as possible. We wanted to thank our ancestors and the Buddha for bringing us together.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to get married. And clearly, marriage isn't right for everyone. But after being together for almost seven years and married for four, I realize that marriage can be an intensely personal and intensely beautiful daydream that you share with the most important person in your life. The longer I'm married, the longer I realized how powerful it is to be a married man in love.
After all, what's more powerful in the whole world than a man abandoning the trite gender clichés of the male playboy and exposing himself, devoting himself, to love and its emotional turbulence? What's more powerful than being real, complex and vulnerable: your imperfections, contradictions and hang-ups flashing in your partner's face every day of your life like a strobe? What's more powerful than learning to understand, respect and celebrate your partner's sexuality and sexual desire (and of course, being able to make love whenever both of you want)? What's more powerful than being with someone for such a long time in such an intense way that it forces you to confront your own lies to yourself?
As a husband madly in love with his wife, I've changed for the better. I make plenty of mistakes, but I don't try to escape my reality anymore. I work hard at empathizing, compromising and communicating with LB every day. I never stop trying to become a better person and a more complete human being. I still strive for a healthy relationship with myself. Above all else, I no longer criticize the redemptive power of love because my marriage is the very embodiment of it.
Of course, all the great things that happen in dynamic marriages can also happen (and do happen) in dynamic relationships without the marriage vows. That's clear. But in some mystical way, marriage feels different to me. It's a sort of beautiful weight that prevents me from floating up into the sky like a weather balloon (and ultimately, crashing back down to earth). It's the awareness that my decisions will always have consequences for the person I love. It's the sacred knowledge that she'll always be there for me and I'll always be there for her, even if the world collapses into chaos, global amnesia infects the planet and the streets burst into flames. For me, marriage is a tiny promise I've made to my self, to my wife, and to the universe, to be better than I actually am.
This piece was originally published in The Good Men Project.
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