On the 12th of October this year, I will have been married to my wife for three years. We met at a conference in Las Vegas, and as the saying goes, what happens in Vegas follows you back to Australia six months later and marries you.
In spheres of romance novels and bad Hollywood movies, marriage is described with allusion to a mythological figure termed ‘The One’. It’s with great fortune, whether through cynicism or simply sound reasoning, that I’ve never bought this matrimonial ideal. To paraphrase a certain Tim Minchin song, if I didn’t have my wife, I’d undoubtedly be with somebody else.
However, that’s not to say I’d necessarily be married to them. Not all relationships, in my opinion, necessitate a formal – religious, cultural, legal or otherwise – declaration. The reasons why I decided to engage in this institution are numerous and complex, but all boil down to one thing; my wife and I make a good team when it comes to dealing with life’s ups and downs. That was enough for us, and not a day has passed that we’ve questioned whether we’ve done the right thing.
That might last until we’re both old and shrivelled, or uploaded into the Great Singularity to live the rest of time raising pigs in Farmville while Orgrimmar gets raided next door. Or those reasons for being married might fragment and whither, and we might feel life is better shaking hands and parting ways (hopefully with a minimum of broken plates and shredded suits).
Those are the values we’ve discussed and found we agree upon. It’s what marriage means to us. Those, and other shared beliefs, make our relationship strong and enjoyable. And here’s the thing – for that reason, our marriage works. It works damn well.
Sadly, there are social and political groups who would be so-inclined as to tell me what values our marriage should be based on. For example, they promote the belief that marriage should be based on the fact that my partner is a woman and I am a man. The fact we have a child should, according to them, be a core value to our being married. After all, gays shouldn’t be married because *gasp* they can’t reproduce between them. And, if we dare to think that perhaps we don’t want to be together any more, they want to pay us to stick it out a little longer.
Why? It seems that there is the erroneous belief that the traditional nuclear family is what forms a solid foundation for a community. Not a tolerance of different values and beliefs. Not an appreciation of diversity, nor mutual respect, love and honesty. Not dignity in the admission of lost love, or acceptance that the separation of parents does not make a family ‘broken’. Nope – according to them, society’s ills arise from divorce, homosexuality and bastard babies.
As a teacher I saw frequently how important family life was for the wellbeing of my students. But ‘family’ wasn’t about a male father and a female mother. It was about a calm home devoid of barely contained (or open) hostility, where they felt safe, loved and respected, whether it was with a single parent, their dad and his girlfriend, their two mums, their grandparents, adoptive parents or a brother and his boyfriend.
Family-value political groups want us to believe that a heterosexual union is more important to the fabric of our society than the emotions, mutual respect and understanding familial relationships are based upon. The worst world I could imagine for my son is one where his parents no longer wanted to celebrate their wedding anniversary and yet stayed together in a loveless relationship for the sake of a government handout.