Marriage is a loaded issue. In the United States it's socially acceptable, and in many cases expected, that before a certain age women "settle down" and get married. Relationships that don't include a marriage certificate are not seen as legitimate as ones that do. As a result, if you're like me and you've been unmarried for most of your adult life, you receive a ton of unsolicited comments about your "future plans." In fact, there's more than a few things moms who waited to get married are so tired of hearing.
Moms come in all shapes, sizes, family dynamics, and gender identities so, of course, my story is my own. I'm sure it's both similar and wildly different than the stories of others, which in no makes it (or any other story) less valid. I am a bi/pansexual, genderqueer AFAB (assigned female at birth). I fell in love with my best friend (15 years ago tomorrow, to be exact) who is a straight, cisgender man. We have been in a monogamous relationship through the ups and downs of this country's economy, the births of our three children, living long distance twice, and life in general. We chose not to get married for the first 13 years of our relationship for a variety of reasons. Reasons which, frankly, are nobody's business.
In the end, and if I'm being honest, to us marriage was an excuse to have an overnight babysitter and a date that lasted longer than two hours. In all seriousness, it is not lost on me how privileged my partner and I were to not have to worry about gaining legal rights to our children, the right to visit each other in the hospital, and having joint property rights. Even before we were married we were pretty sure all of these rights would've been respected if something were to happen to one of us, based on how our culture holds respect for a relationship between someone assigned male at birth and someone assigned female at birth.
Still, that doesn't mean we didn't grow tired of hearing people's comments and questions about our marital status, especially after my partner and I decided to have children, So, without further ado, here are the things those of us moms who waited to marry are sick of hearing.
"He Finally Made An Honest Woman Out Of You"
This is probably my least favorite and most insulting comment. What a way to define a woman, only in relationship to a man. What a leftover from a time when a "dishonest" woman was code for a whore kept in the shame of sex-without-marriage. Gag me.
"If You Had Done It The Right Way Then..."
People who tend to say these things are, in my opinion, people who tend to think that everyone should do things one specific way. They blame every conflict and every life hiccup on the fact that we deviated in some way from the accepted norm.
For example, "Well, if you had gotten married before you had children then your kid would be better disciplined." I'm not even kidding about these statements. How on earth does my kid's discipline, or lack thereof, have to do with my marital status? It's total bullsh*t. Life happens and sh*t happens. That will always be true, regardless of when or if you ever get married.
"You Finally Decided To Commit To Each Other?"
On our 13th anniversary as a couple, marriage equality had passed in our state and we decided to sign the marriage contract. We had more than a few reasons why it just felt like the right time, one of which was the fact that I was acceptable to the institution of marriage. Plus, it couldn't hurt to get a tax break. For the record, my sexuality isn't defined by my partner's identity and the person's gender with whom I fell in love didn't change the institution of marriage not wanting me. (Translation: marriage was for straight people and I was, decidedly, never straight.)
Our relationship was not made more important, more serious, or more committed on the day we paid the state and mailed in a piece of paper. The fact that someone could see our lives, even from the outside, and make a statement like that shows how little they pay attention.
"It's About Time!"
This is right up there with the time a boss looked at me skeptically when I'd told her, yet again, that we weren't planning on getting married after four years of living together. "Mmm hmm. How'd he convince you to do that?"
The assumption that women are all salivating at the bit to get married and men are all afraid of marriage is as overplayed as it is false. Same goes for the idea that women are somehow being hoodwinked into staying in a sinful relationship because no one else will take them now that they're damaged goods, or that all married men were forced into it by a harpy wench. These gender stereotypes are not only untrue, they're boring.
"Let Me Give You Some Marriage Advice"
It's adorable when someone who has been married for three years, together for four, and sidles up to give me advice about how to make a marriage work. Though that person knows we've been together for 15 years (in other words, longer than they've been with their partner) marriage means "it's different!" [Insert eye roll here.]
I get that for some people the day the marriage license was signed was the day they made a real commitment to their partner. That's not the case for everyone, though. My partner and I were committed to each other well before we signed a piece of paper and paid the state for that privilege. We didn't (and don't) need a piece of paper to tell us who we are to each other.
While you were sowing wild oats five years ago, we had just welcomed our second child. While you were partying or dating or whatever it is single people do 10 years ago, we were balancing two households in two different states across the country while I went to graduate school and he kept our duplex running. While you were not even thinking about your some-day marriage 15 years ago, we were already making the intentional commitment to life partnership. So if you'd like to have a conversation about how to make a committed relationship work, you may want to sit down and listen to my time-proven tip or two. Just sayin'.
"I Bet Your Kids Are So Happy!"
My kids could not care less whether or not their parents are married. Their lives did not change at all when we signed that piece of paper. They care about important things, like earning TV time and what's for dessert.
For real, though, it would be devastating to them if their parents split up, but for us, that doesn't have anything to do with whether or not we're married.
"Why Aren't You Changing Your Last Name?"
Because my last name is mine. No hate to people who choose to change their last names when they get married. However, that's just it, it's a choice. It strikes me as truly bizarre, and a mark of how much less value is placed on a woman's autonomy and identity, that women are always asked this question and men never are. I know it's not true for everyone, but my name is a very important part of my identity that has grown with me. We accept that for men, why can't we do the same for women?
This one's fine. Thanks for congratulating us!
Marriage doesn't make a commitment. With only one exception I can think of, my partner and I have been together longer than any coupled friends we have. Relationships take work, communication, and dedication, and we knew that before we got married two years ago because we'd already been committed longer than most marriages last. So while a heartfelt congratulations on our nuptials is truly appreciated, it's OK to congratulate us on that, too.