The Choice Is Yours: Deciding to Get Married in a Long-Term Relationship

The term “gay marriage” is increasingly, wonderfully, becoming archaic. As more and more states recognize a basic Constitutional and human right for consenting adults, we can drop the somewhat patronizing modifier, and recognize it for what it is: just marriage. A blessed normalcy. Of course, as it gets close to being a national right, its fanged opponents resort to more and more outlandish claims about unintended consequences, like bestiality or people marrying cars. It’s absurd, but they do have a point about unintended consequences. For the first time, gay couples are being asked by their friends when they are finally going to get married.

This is something that every long-term relationship has seen, unless they got married very early (and usually not even that saves you). People are always asking when you are planning to get married, usually assigning gender roles with “When are you going to pop the question?” or “when is he getting down on a knee?” Even while saying this, the author of the piece is not immune to that, having asked friends roughly 4500 times in my life. But despite that pressure, it is important for couples to realize that they are the only ones who can decide what it right for them.

Does marriage always make sense?

Marriage is a weird and beautiful thing. It matters in a very realistic way. Of course, if you are in a long-term relationship, and then decide to get married, very little has changed on the ground. You still share the same bathroom, your sleeping habits haven’t changed, and the joys and frustrations that come with yoking your life to another human, flawed and wonderful as you are, are still the same. Something has changed though. Maybe most importantly, you can’t just break up.

I know that sounds absurd, but it means something. Even while living together for years, there is the sense that you can just break up. You don’t separate, you don’t get divorced, you break up. That isn’t mere semantic either. There are legal obligations, and with them come emotional ones. For some couples that may be too much to handle. For some people, the stresses of getting married might outweigh the joys. For some people, knowing that they might be legally obligated to share their money in case of a divorce might cause unwarranted and unintended tension. It’s a rough thing (the author of this piece has taken care of that by making sure that they and their spouse are writers, and don’t have to worry about splitting non-existent riches).

You don’t need a “special day” to be in a committed relationship- the choice is yours. Image from author.

Happiness with and without commitment

Even if you don’t think marriage will turn you into a scrooge, you might paradoxically think that potential “freedom” is enough to keep you from wandering. People don’t get cold feet because they don’t like their soon-to-be spouse; they do so out of fear of the future and the thought that they will be with this one person the rest of their lives. Maybe not getting married, for some people, gives them enough of a potential “out” that they don’t feel that fear, that suffocation, and are happy for the rest of their lives.

That sounds glib, but it isn’t. People react in different ways. Long-term relationships, whether they involve the legal state of marriage or not, are intimidating. You are with one person (depending on your relationship, but in the main) forever. It isn’t just a sex thing, either. It’s knowing that your destiny is inexorably tied to someone else. It’s scary. It is also exhilarating.

That’s why you have to decide on your own what to do. While there are legal pitfalls, there are obviously also legal benefits to getting married, not to mention what you and your partner feel are your religious obligations. Those are all factors to consider. At the end of the day, though, the most important thing is that you are honest with yourself and with your partner about what you want to do. You are walking into the future together, and that is never certain. We all age and we all falter and we all have to see someone we love slowly diminish, like a full moon whittling away over a long autumn month. There’s no need to make a move based on someone telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. The decision, like the life spread out before you, belongs to two people.

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