I had to laugh at Brooks Barnes' article in last Sunday's New York Times' Fashion & Style section on gay-wedding fatigue. It went around Boston a few short years ago, "the natural outcome of decades of pent-up demand," as Mr. Barnes states. His article formed a poignant contrast to this past Sunday's New York Times article on the "formerly" gay, fundamentalist mother and her daughter Isabella on the run in Nicaragua from the daughter's original same-sex parent.
There is a place that both these articles neglect, though, a place that has existed for millennia without benefit of legal blessing or moral curse. This place is situated between gay weddings and gay parenting, the same as it is between straight weddings and straight parenting. It's called marriage -- not gay marriage or straight marriage, just marriage -- and it can be a real... uh... bear.
In fact, I am not the first person to discover that marriage is hard, nor will I be the last, gay or straight, or anywhere else along that spectrum that you may belong. Marriage, when it's good, can be really, really good, but, like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when it's bad, it can be horrid.
We hear about horrid marriages all the time. Horrid marriages are the stuff of entertainment "news," the tabloids, the movies, and reality television. If I had to guess, I'd say that horrid marriages make up maybe 10 percent of marriages. Likewise, I'd hazard that fabulous marriages cover another 10 percent. But what about the rest, the other 80 percent, the majority of marriages, which are just OK in most respects, not horrid, not fab, but just OK, workable, I-can-live-with-it marriages?
Gay or straight, those marriages are the ones I'm interested in, because these words characterize most marriages. The question is how we nudge them toward the fab end of the spectrum without breaking what isn't broken. The solution my partner and I reached in our eight-year(-and-counting) marriage, and the one most of us reach for, was therapy. Now that I think of it, more than half the couples I know, of all sexual persuasions, are in therapy.
Having had a counseling practice myself for 30 years, I can say that arranging for a witness to one's process, either as an individual or as a couple, can be useful. A witness can help us slow things down long enough to hear ourselves and our partner/s. This is a good thing. What is interesting to me is that in decades of private practice, the thing I've discovered that helps almost everyone in all their relationships, but especially in marriage, is to become more of an individual, not more enmeshed in the relationship.
This notion is thoroughly embraced and endorsed by the marriage wizards David Schnarch (Passionate Marriage and Intimacy & Desire) and his partner Ruth Morehouse. My partner and I went to Denver recently to work with Ruth, and it was phenomenal. The basic premise of their work is that the more differentiated one becomes, the greater one's chance of functioning effectively in coupledom.
This will seem counterintuitive to all those who believe that we need better attachment, better connection, and better communication in our relationships. There's no question that we need all those things, but the path to get there is to become more yourself, not more like the other! When we first read David's books, we were shocked at this notion, but the more we worked with his ideas, the better our marriage has become.
As an ordained minister, I am often asked to celebrate weddings for people. It's one of my favorite parts of being a minister. I always have a meeting with the couple before the wedding to plan the ceremony and to ask a few hard questions. The reason I do this is because what we're about to do is a wedding, not a marriage. That's the job of the B & G (ministerspeak for bride and groom, sometimes amended to B & B or G & G, depending upon the preferred language of the couple).
Doing a marriage is time-consuming, demands focus, initiates change, causes self- and other-contemplation, teaches negotiation, and asks for the fullest expression of one's self of any venture on Earth. It's also one of the most worthwhile efforts there is.
So sure, some of us are tired of gay weddings, and some of us are even more tired of gay parenting, but we'll never get tired of working on our marriages, just like anyone who's married. We're worth it. And so is marriage.
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