There’s a picture I drew as a child of what I imagined my life to be when I was 30. In it, I had a leashed greyhound, a cute hat, and an apartment in San Francisco. (I was so naive about the cost of renting.) And I was happily single.
Now here I am now in Maine with a cat and a wife. (I do have a couple of cute hats, so I got one thing right.) And I’m happy.
First, the Rebuttal
I’ve heard time and again that my people are destroying the institution of marriage. No – not queer folks, but millennials. In my parents’ generation, women got married at a median age of 20. The median age of millennial women who get married is currently 27. While 91% of Baby Boomers were married by the age of 40, only 70% of millennials are expected to be married by the age of 40. To have stayed unmarried for another decade would not have been unusual for me.
I still have a hard time relating to people who think of life as a timeline, who are pining for The One, and who lament singlehood. I have never felt the need to find a partner. In fact, like many of my counterparts, I had my misgivings about marriage. Mine were specific to my own fears and insecurities: would marriage limit my choices and freedom? Would it limit my ability to care about the world around me? Would it distract me from pursuing God?
And as an institution, marriage is deeply flawed, having sprung from theocratic notions that women were property and that land ownership translated into political power. I neither believe that monogamy is for everyone or that marriage is some kind of life achievement to be desired more than singlehood.
So, in the face of all opposition, why did I decide to get married?
Next, the Case
Let’s start by getting one thing out of the way: logistically speaking, I want the rights and the recognition as Zora’s beloved that are given to so many straight couples who do less thinking about the weight of this same commitment we made. I want us both to have the same protections that most couples have by way of their mere existence.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s carry on.
I’m an INFJ and a 4w3. If you aren’t familiar with the Myers-Briggs or Enneagram assessments, that may sound like mumbo-jumbo to you. But I like personality tests in part because I long for authenticity. (That’s what the personality tests tell me.) And tests like the Myers-Briggs and Enneagram help me to determine which pieces of me are authentic and which are contrived of emotional reactions. Besides authenticity, I also seek purpose, affirmation, and dedication to something larger than myself. As a Christian, I’m also on a lifelong journey to deepen my relationship with God.
But what I want is not what everyone wants. While Zora is also looking for a deepened understanding of God, our other desires are less congruent: what Zora wants includes reassurance, someone who gives good advice, and someone who takes on their share of the work in the relationship. She’s an ISTJ and a 1w2.
We don’t want all the same things out of a relationship, and that’s fine – that’s normal. Each of us is still able to help the other pursue the desires closest to our hearts. I believe relationships can improve in health when the desires of each party are made clear. I believe relationships can falter when a couple assumes that each member needs to exhibit the same desires. (I also believe that single and coupled individuals alike court disaster when they assume that they are an incomplete person without a partner.)
While we certainly have disagreements and desires that the other cannot fulfill, my relationship with Zora allows my pursuits and passions to expand, not contract. And she encourages me to go deeper in my relationship with God, and she corrects me through example when I am uncharitable, small-minded, or otherwise “falling short.” To speak the language of the nonprofit world in which we’re both employed: while we share a vision, our missions are tangential – not congruent, and our strategies vary. But I’ve found my strategies to bolster hers and hers to bolster mine.
The Communal Image of God
And I also chose marriage for reasons more elusive than I can easily explain. Marriage has reflected to me that the love of God does not occur in a vacuum; God is relationship – a tripartite communal being (the verb and the noun).
Marriage to Zora teaches and re-teaches me that, as it is with the love of God, it’s not all about me. I don’t always get to have what I want. I don’t always know best. More than compromise, love requires sacrifice.
But marriage also teaches and re-teaches me, because it’s this second admonition I need more frequently: it isn’t never about me either. My needs and motivations are also important. My experiences also matter, and my dreams are just as valid as my partner’s.
And while my marriage is about Zora, and it’s about me, and it’s about us, our marriage isn’t just about the relationship between two people. As individuals and as a composite, we are in relationship with God and with humanity. Some of those relationships hurt; most of those relationships nurture. We belong to an ecosystem in which we are only two symbiotic beings. Practicing love in the context of marriage helps me to better understand how to love others, too: to listen, to advocate, heal, challenge, forgive, and celebrate.
Despite the imperfections with the institution of marriage and despite the improbability that marriage would happen to me, I chose to marry Zora. I don’t believe in soulmates, and I’m not overly sentimental about what we’ve undertaken. But while I lack romanticism, I’m in no short supply of awe. Perhaps more than anything, marriage has taught me to take the time to behold what is.
Marriage proves me wrong time and again about the consistency of love, and I am glad for that. That this woman, who is like and unlike me, could choose to spend her life with me and give of herself in extraordinary ways – and that this calling can rouse in me the desire to the same – it all reminds me of a higher love…