Some offense taken: Please stop asking us about marriage

My fifth anniversary with my partner is fast approaching, and that’s pretty great – not only as a testament to the amount of time two human beings can be with each other and not bludgeon each other to death, but as a fabulous excuse for steak.

Anniversary, I salute you.

Sadly, not everything about this will be as wonderful as steak and cuddles. It is an unfortunate fact that other people exist in this world solely – at least it seems – to stick their nose right into your personal affairs. So while most people will congratulate you on not killing someone with a gleeful “grtz”, others will come right out and ask you that goddamn question that most people who’ve been dating someone for a little while get. The one that gets more and more bloody frequent – and frustrating – the longer you date.

“When are you getting married?”

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I hate that question. “Why, Laura?” you don’t ask. “Why hate the seemingly innocent, genuinely curious question?” I’ll tell you, curious stranger!

1. It’s part of some unwritten formula for doing hetrosexual relationships

As I said, the longer you spend with someone, the more likely you are to be asked about your marriage plans and if they’re your “one”. While no one says it – and I’m sure a whole bunch of folks are going to yell at me – it strikes me that there is some rule book out there that states time = marriage. But that’s kind of total bollocks. You could meet someone and rush into a perfectly fab marriage, get judged (it goes against the “rule”), and stay together for always. You could also spend years with someone, get married, and basically hate each other the whole time.

Time basically doesn’t factor into it. It’s about the quality of your relationship. While it might seem like the two are related, time doesn’t equal good quality. Your relationship is not a piece of furniture.

Plus, as I always like to point out at this point, I’m 21 going on 16. I still don’t feel mature enough for half these decisions regardless of time spent together.

2. No one is asking my partner this… well, not as frequently anyway

This isn’t a question that only the ladies get asked and I’m not saying that it is. But you have to question why I get this question from everyone during these sorts of occasions, and why my partner reports basically never getting asked this. As in ever. In fact the only time he gets asked about marriage is when he’s being told the benefits for a man of avoiding it like the plague.

“Those are certainly some interesting new pyjamas you’ve got there, dear. Did you go on ebay drunk again?”

If we’re both in the same room together, I am definitely going to be asked about marriage plans. All the jokes about how we should totally avoid marriage are directed at the males in the room, including my partner… who actually wants to get married eventually, kinda unlike myself. Why does my ownership of lady parts mean I should get all the serious questions about families? Maybe it’s because…

3. Everyone assumes women really want to get married, and men are the unwilling party

There’s this prevailing assumption among the people that ask this question that I want to get married. My partner reports hearing the exact opposite assumption – everyone assumes he doesn’t want to, and that I’ll have to drag him down the isle. Frankly, trying to then explain to these people that I’m not super keen on the idea of getting married ever is an idea met with confusion and revulsion. It’s almost a given that the man will be “scared of commitment”, as they so nicely put these things, but the idea that I as a chick would be anything other than obsessed with weddings is abhorrent and offensive to a surprisingly large array of people that ask me these questions.

4. The concept of bridezillas

Because too frequently my desire not to get married right now, if ever, is met with some despair about how I’ll be missing out on the biggest, most extravagant celebration of me. “But Laura!” they cry, “you won’t get to wear that beautiful dress!” Yes, obviously the clothing is the point of getting hitched. Forget signing the certificate or doing the legal bit, let’s just spend all the money in the world to throw one giant bash in honour of me (and my partner), because I really love the spotlight so much.

Me when he stops looking for two seconds to sign the papers.

It’s a total turn off.

5. It devalues our current commitment and feelings for one another

This is kinda the main reason that the constant questioning about us getting married one day winds me up so much. It’s not just that there’s a loaded, gendered expectation that we should get married, but it’s the judgement that is subtly applied to our current relationship because we aren’t married.

Despite its declining popularity and the emergence of more diverse forms of relationships, marriage is very much still championed as the relationship and familial ideal. If you don’t believe me, look at all the tax breaks afforded to married couples specifically designed to encourage the practice. The notion still exists that you find the person you love, and you settle down and commit to them through marriage, and then you maybe even have kids.

The problem I have with this is the assumption that you can’t be totally committed to your partner, forever, and love them unconditionally without having a legally binding document to prove it. I can’t imagine another scenario where you decide, “hey, I like this person, let me give them a contract to sign so they can see that!”

That shit is CRAZY.

But in this scenario, my love for my partner and our relationship is somehow lesser than those of married couples by default, simply because we don’t have that bit of paper. It doesn’t matter that we are a coherent unit, that we adore each other and are always there for one another. It is irrelevant that we’d save each other from burning buildings or pirate zombie invasions. We aren’t married, so as far as wider society is concerned right now, that makes us lesser. There’s something really sad in that.

I take your point.

Yup. So please people – stop asking me when I’m getting married. Instead, why don’t you try congratulating us and asking us how it’s all going? Cos it’s actually pretty great just the way it is.

Some offense taken: Please stop asking us about marriage

On childhood romances

I happened to notice the daily prompt today, on what attracted people to their significant other. It got me thinking – not about what attracted me to Joe so much (because I don’t have a billion years to talk about how awesome that guy is!), but actually about something I was discussing with my siblings the other day.

We were talking about childhood romances (well, more teenage for me), specifically about how those shape who we end up being, romantically, and why we entered into them. It was an interesting debate, especially since I am renowned for just having the worst relationships in adolescence. Yet, in a messed up way, I wouldn’t undo a single one of those.

But I digress!

My first relationship – at least the first that I remember – was when I was 13, with a guy called John. We’d been friends for a while, and eventually he asked me out. At first my reaction was oh hell no, boys are SO icky! 

Eventually though, I took him up on the offer – because even though I wasn’t really into him that way, I was certain I probably would be, if I gave it a go. I felt pressured into having a boyfriend, in part by my friends, and mostly by the homophobic bullying I’d been receiving. What better way to prove to everyone, even myself, that I was actually heterosexual? (Which you want to be when you’re 13 and being bullied. Trust me!)

Months went past, and the bullying didn’t stop. Neither did my feelings towards my same-sex friend, who I’d developed the hugest crush on. But I did care about John, I did have a soft spot for him. He was my defense against the bullying, for starters; I could tell myself they were wrong while ever I was with him. Plus it was nice to have someone around, for a bit of a cuddle and a chat when things were rough – which was every single day at school. He was a bit of an arse, in retrospect, and he wasn’t ‘me’ at all, but he was at least around when I needed him.

Except that time he cheated on me and we broke up. Then he was on their side, telling the whole school I was totally a lesbian. Thanks, John.

After a while, ‘Ben’ came to fill the friend-shaped hole left by John. We weren’t a couple, we were just good friends – he was there for me at the onset of all my mental health problems, and he did make an effort to understand. That didn’t really work out either, as I’m sure you read in the last post! But at least when he asked me to marry him, I knew two very distinct things: he wasn’t my type, and I wasn’t into marriage. That’s valuable information right there.

I had another boyfriend – we got together just as ‘Ben’ and I had our bust-up – and he was a total jerk. He physically pushed me to get his own way (often into things, which hurt like hell), and put enormous emotional pressure on me. He didn’t last long. I built up the courage and ended it as soon as possible – which taught me that I can be courageous and strong when I want to be, and that I’m not the kind of person to put up with other people’s shit. It also taught me that just about anyone can end up in a bad relationship. Guys like him seem wonderful, but under the surface they are actually abusive. I think that made me a bit more compassionate and understanding with other people.

So then I finally plucked up the courage, and dated the girl I’d liked forever. It was actually pretty amazing! I was completely infatuated, at the time; perhaps we weren’t so infatuated with each other as we were with knowing and accepting who we were. While in the end we were too incompatible to make it, I learnt yet another valuable lesson from the experience. I liked girls, and there was nothing wrong with that.

After *quite* a long time, I met Joe and loved him instantly, and we’ve been together since then. He’s so cool. He’s changed me too – in lots of little awesome ways!

But the point is, I took away some important messages from these life experiences – about who I find romantically attractive, and who I don’t; about what I want out of life, and what I don’t; about who I am and what I’m capable of. The people I dated sucked at the time (can’t really blame some of them, they were young and stupid), but they taught me some valuable stuff about me, and shaped the kind of person I am today to an extent. For that you kind of have to thank them.

On childhood romances