02/16/2009 06:04 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Marriage Demonstration(s)

Gay & Lesbian Leadership SmartBrief

Marriage demonstrations held around the nation

Couples nationwide on Thursday participated in a series of Freedom to Marry Day protests, in which they visited marriage license offices to seek applications to wed. The annual protest has taken on special import this year, following the November passage of California's Proposition 8 constitutional marriage ban.

The headline graced my computer screen on the morning of Valentine's Day, and it made me laugh out loud. Not the actual events--those touched my heart. What made me laugh is how my brain processed those two words:

Marriage demonstrations.

I'm married to a woman, legally, because I am blessed to live in Massachusetts. I witness myself and my spouse in marriage demonstrations every single day.

If you are a person in private practice of any kind, you know that certain themes arise at certain times of the year. At Valentine's Day, you guessed it--Love, with a Capital L. And this year, for some reason, marriage.

This week I've heard stories from people in the goo-goo-ga-ga phase of relationship. "Everything we do is delightful."

I have heard a story about being unevenly yoked.

"She's not as spiritual as I am."

I have heard a story about an ex-wife in whom there is no longer any interest, Oh! Except that they share three children.

"I'm done. She's done. We're done."

I have also heard about a third-time really messy break-up.

"He doesn't see me. He lied to me. He's an addict."

Believe it or not, all of these are marriage demonstrations, so it made me think about my marriage, of course.

I ended up telling all these folks the same thing.

Marriage, I said, isn't perfect by a long-shot. As a structure, it doesn't handle our ambivalence, our boredom, our impatience, our criticism, our doubts, our worry.

They, to a person, came back with variations on: So how do you make a relationship work long-term?

First, you don't make it work. Not no how, not ever. You allow it to become whatever it wants to become.

Second, you are not your marriage and neither is your spouse.

Third, your marriage is made of the parts of yourselves that you choose to share in the space in between you. It is a third entity, and has its own identity.

Fourth, the only way I know to maintain the health and wellbeing of a long-term relationship is to remain interested in it.

Fifth, think on this. When you put money into a CD, what does it earn? Interest. Another phrase for that same event is: it appreciates.

Sixth, when I am appreciative of something or someone, no matter what, I am interested. What I'm interested in grows, and that's how I stay committed to my Beloved.

In my book, a marriage demonstration is an investment in the connection between me and an other. Investments, by their nature, create interest over time, and I totally appreciate that!

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