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D. A. Wolf

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What I Hope To Learn From Gay Marriage... About Divorce

Posted: 05/10/2012 8:24 pm

I'm a straight woman, and a divorced one at that. So what can I add to the conversation regarding gay marriage?

I would like to share my thoughts, my observations, my pragmatic idealism. I would like to speak of old friends, two women, who committed to each other as a couple.

My friends lived together for a decade, sharing a home and a life. They cared for each other through happy periods, through changing careers, through aging parents and tragic incidents. They were a family, in every way except legally. In fact, they spent more time together than my (ex) husband and I, and I often marveled at their love for each other.

When their union came to an end, I watched them with a mix of sadness and admiration. They were respectful of each others' feelings. They dealt with each logistical, financial, and emotional detail with delicacy and openness -- allowing the other to speak, to take the necessary time for the next step, and all of it was accomplished without any legal intervention.

Technically of course, they weren't married, so no divorce proceedings were required. I recall marveling at that as well -- I was divorced at the time -- though I was fully aware that without children, their situation was simpler than if they were parents.

I've known other gay couples over the years, some of whom have lived in committed relationships of short duration, some of long duration, some with children, and others without.

To me, as journalist Barry Yeoman expresses so eloquently in Indy Week, I've thought of these men and women as couples, not gay couples.

And same sex marriage?

I understand that for some, religious beliefs make the concept of same sex marriage difficult to process. For others, and I include myself in this group, we see two people -- not two same sex people -- who are committing to each other in front of family and friends and yes, if they choose, God.

Beyond that, I believe the way we view marriage is formed of our childhoods as well as our adult experience. Our perception of marriage changes when we're living it, and we confront its profound meaning, the challenges inherent in its exchange of promises, and the bumpy road we endure along with genuine joy.

Regarding marriage over civil unions, I might add this: There is no question in my mind that I was accorded advantages as a married woman that I did not experience when I was single, and I no longer experience as a divorced woman. We may like to think otherwise, but marital status matters.

When a marriage breaks up?

Divorce is a dreadful, death-like ending -- for some of us. For others, it is unpleasant and unfortunate, but they move on more easily and co-parent with civility. Nonetheless, it is my belief that children frequently pay the dearest price of all. And whether we're same sex or opposite sex spouses, if marriage ends, we must focus on co-parenting cooperatively, and likewise, deal maturely with issues of custody, visitation, and appropriate support.

If I have one concern about gay marriage, it is a concern about marriage itself, as we practice it in this country. It is the possibility that more marriages will be entered into naively, and that means the potential for more divorce.

Let me state without equivocation: I believe that any couple wishing to marry should be able to do so, period. Two consenting adults who are committed to becoming spouses -- family -- is a remarkable thing, and an extraordinary act of trust and faith. I see marriage with children -- of same sex or opposite sex parents -- as a privilege and a responsibility.

Let me also say, to me, the sexual orientation of a friend, a loved one, or a co-worker simply isn't an issue.

President Obama has embraced same sex marriage publicly, speaking of his evolution on the subject. As our national consciousness works its way toward understanding that equality doesn't apply only to select demographics, I find myself reflecting on my friends who so tenderly dismantled their union.

I'm not here to speak to the potential success rate of same sex marriages, or the ways in which the inevitable divorces will be handled. I hope there will be fewer than among straight couples. Far fewer. And I'd like to think we can look forward to lessons if that is the case. When we work so hard, wait for so long, battle so many obstacles to achieve a goal, aren't we less apt to abandon it without fighting tooth and nail to save it?

I would like to think of those two women I know and admire. They were more "married" in fundamental ways than I was, despite the Missus in front of my name. They cherished their relationship. They were gentle when it ended. Five years later, my friends remain close friends.

May we all be so respectful of those to whom we commit ourselves, of endings if they are unavoidable, and always -- always -- to the children in our charge.

 

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