Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Defining Marriage From the Inside Out.

About a month ago we had a camera crew parked out here for three days, documenting our lives together, asking questions about how things worked, what was easy, difficult, and lots of general queries that boiled down to, "Why?".

One of the points that came up repeatedly was about being poly AND married.  Why, in a non-monogamous landscape, where we have been poly from Day 1 of our relationship, did S and I choose to get married?  There are a lot of practical reasons.  Things like financial advantages, legal protections, labels that are easily understood by society at large and usable by my daughter, all played a part in the decision to marry legally.

The practical reasons aren't at the heart of the matter though.  I like being married.  My parents and grandparents are still together.  My first marriage was a happy and satisfying one for many years.  Where many people have negative connotations to the legal and social bonds that marriage brings, or see it as a purely antiquated patriarchal system, I've seen it as a positive, stable base to grow from, in tandem with someone I love.

When I got married the first time, one of the facets I appreciated deeply was the ability to choose my family.  Family of origin is a bit hit or miss.  Where I had a largely positive childhood, my inability to believe in Jesus has been an alienating factor since I was an adolescent.  I never quite fit, and the appeal of being able to choose my family in a legally binding way has been deep.

As my views on relationships have changed, so to have my views on marriage in general.  When S and I married, our vows were a bit non-standard, and in keeping with those views.   S's other partner, A, made the cake for our wedding celebration.  My other partner, PBD, was a witness, and, other than S's parents and the officiant, the only others invited to the actual ceremony were close community friends that I consider part of my extended family.   It was as poly as we could make it without adding more actual people to the marriage.   The reception was open to community members, and my former spouse and in-laws attended.

That part is just the ceremony though.  What about the marriage?  How is that different?  Why bother? When I look at S, in addition to the deep love and desire that is strong in our bond, I see someone who wants to entwine their life with mine, to do long-term planning together, to push and reach for things in tandem, to have a level of responsibility and commitment to each other that includes choosing to curtail  personal freedoms at times, in deference to the long-term goals we share, while still keeping growth and individual responsibility as a priority.  We're clear that non-monogamy is an innate part of our relationship, and that physical and emotional intimacy with others is our norm, and that one of our shared goals is the building of extended family and community together.

In short, we've defined our marriage from the inside out, not the outside in.  We steer what our marriage means to us, rather than going along with the societal norm in all things.  Is it still recognizable as a marriage in the semi-traditional sense?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  It IS what we've chosen to share with each other. Over time, it will likely shift and change, as any relationship does with time and shared experience.   Our marriage will be different 20 years from now than it is today.  We will be different as individuals, as a couple, as an extended family, and as part of the community.  I think we'll still define it as a marriage with each other, however we choose to continue to create that together.

Our Vows

I promise to give you the best of myself
and to ask of you no more than you can give.
I promise to accept you the way you are.
I fell in love with you for the qualities, abilities,
and outlook on life that you have.
I won't try to reshape you in a different image.
I promise to respect you as a person
with your own interests, desires, and needs,
and to realize that those are sometimes different,
but no less important than my own.
I promise to keep myself open to you,
to let you see through the window of my personal world
into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams.
I promise to grow along with you,
to be willing to face change as we both change
in order to keep our relationship alive and exciting.
And finally, I promise to love you in good times and in bad,
with all I have to give
and all I feel inside in the only way I know how...
completely and always.

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