Dave and I got married one year and five days after we first met on a blind date. I had felt a sense of something – comfort, rightness, fit – the day we met, and as it turned out, so had he, and we were engaged within months and married soon after that. When we got married, we’d never actually lived together officially, and were maintaining separate households, although we rarely spent much time apart. I changed my name in the week after we married, when we also combined our finances, and I moved my things into his house, which became our first marital home, as husband and wife.
It all sounds so picture perfect, so story-book, until the details are filled in. His family were virtual strangers to me – I met his parents for the first time when I was Dave’s girlfriend of six weeks, and for the second time when I was his wife of six days. He’d been married before. We’d already had one pregnancy and one miscarriage before our wedding day. We had four witnesses at our registry wedding, but within a matter of a few years, we’d lost contact with all but one of them.
Our first year of marriage was tough. I was (and am) strong-willed and incredibly bossy, and didn’t want to compromise on anything. We were renovating a house, trying to have a baby, and butting heads with great regularity. We fought a lot, talked of separation several times, and both, separately and silently, wondered what the fuck we’d been thinking when we’d decided to get married.
But the fact is, we were married, and that meant something – a great deal actually – to both of us, so we soldiered on, working hard at making things less like hard work. We grew together, leaned on each other, came to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and realised we were far better individuals when we had the team of us to rely on. Finally, in our third year of marriage, after flooding rivers of tears and angst and pain, we got our baby, and we became married parents, husband and wife, mummy and daddy, a united force in the face of the cyclone of change that a child brings.
Funnily enough, what we thought were the hard years turned out just to be the warm up. Early on, our marriage was all about a struggle for ascendancy; the storming before the norming. Most of our marital angst was self-perpetuating because it was all about ego, which diminished every time we made the decision to stick it out rather than walk away. Then, seemingly the moment we got to situation normal, all hell broke loose. In a litany of disasters that would have Alf from Home and Away wishing he was as stoned as the crows, in a five-year period I had a miscarriage, we tried and failed at IVF , fell naturally pregnant in a total surprise and then had another miscarriage, our house was extensively damaged in a flood which we then had to fight to have the insurer cough up for, Dave’s grandmother died, I got cancer and then my Dad died.
If I wasn’t married to the person I am, I cannot imagine how I would have survived any of these things, let alone all of them. That’s not to say that I am, as an individual, somehow a lesser person because I’m married, or that someone who isn’t married is a lesser person than I. But I was allowed to choose to be married, allowed to choose who I married, and have chosen to stay married, and that freedom to choose to define who I love and how we live has given me the ability to find the wherewithal to survive and thrive. Being bound, by my choice, to the person I love has empowered me in ways that I cannot explain, but that are demonstrated in the way we live our lives, as a partnership and as individuals, on a daily basis.
The man I chose to marry is of Irish extraction, and I chose to swap my family’s very Scottish surname for his family’s very Irish one. And in Ireland over the weekend, a referendum resulted in a resounding vote in support of same-sex marriage, so now in that country, as in many others around the world, every adult, regardless of sexual orientation has the right to choose to marry. In Australia, that isn’t the case, and I have yet to hear a single, logical, sensible argument as to why. Just as the choice of a heterosexual couple to marry, or never marry, or marry five times or for five months or for a television show has no impact on my marriage, neither would the choice of a same-sex couple to marry. I’m not interested in anyone else’s marriage. All my thoughts, effort, love and focus is on my own, because it’s the only one that matters to me, that keeps me afloat, that raises me up.
According to the polls, the majority of Australians are in favour of marriage equality, yet neither the previous nor the current government will move to a cross-party conscience vote in federal parliament on the issue. We – you and me, those of us who have the right to marry, whether we chose to or not – are the ones who must push for this. We must contact our local federal members, and let them know where we stand on the issue, and we need to show our support to organisations like Australian Marriage Equality.
What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories? – George Eliot