“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”
So, basically, T and I got married this week and apart from it being a whole new experience in our lives – it also really made me think about my views and truths when it comes to love, relationships, and marriage. Truths that some might find strange for someone who just said “I do” and signed their name on a legally binding piece of paper. Yet still, these are my truths.
A little history
Since everything has its own history – I would like to give you a quick stroll through mine and the experiences that shaped my views on love and marriage.
In a part of my childhood, I grew up having two parents whom I would later understand never got married. Why this was I have yet to ask – perhaps time just passed them by? Yet I remember thinking as a child that they were married – even though I never remember them confirming or dismissing that assumption. The fact that they were together, happy or not, with children and shared a roof in my young mind made them married. I remember thinking that that was what it meant to be married.
When it came to religion, another big component that shaped my views on love and marriage, I remember viewing marriage as something you needed to do if you loved someone, especially if you wanted to be with them sexually. I imagine that this was a huge reason as to why so many people married young in my church. Marriage seemed like the only way to have and create a family. To have it outside would be looked down upon, by the church and God I assumed. I also don´t remember ever fantasizing that much about “my big day” apart from the occasional theme of the wedding and aesthetics when friends would start asking about mine and sharing theirs.
Leaving religion, however, freed me from a lot of those expectations and the need to idealize such a “big day”.
Free May for life?: Redefining marriage past religion
Once I stopped being religious, I didn´t really see much the point of marrying. I could now build a family how I wanted and when I wanted – I didn´t need the state´s or God´s approval. Once marriage was no longer a gateway to a happily-ever-after, it left in clear sight what truly mattered to me; a healthy and intentional partnership/relationship. I was eager to choose my own approach to love and define my own relationships. I wanted to question everything surrounding love and coupling. From exploring open-relationships to exploring alternative ceremonies of union beyond that of conventional Western weddings. I discovered I liked the idea of sharing our union with our families since I did know that I would like to start a family and that, of course, would combine family lineages. I wanted to honor that in a way that resonated with me beyond what was represented by the state and religion. I wanted a build-it-yourself kind of relationship – we decided together what stayed and what to throw away – a Marie Kondo approach to love constantly asking “does it bring joy and most of all, does it make sense for us?”.
As I also learned more about social issues and intersectional feminism and later self-identified as a womanist, I also got sick of the whole push to make marriage the goal of all women. Even though this marriage was mostly supposed to happen between a man and a woman, I noticed how the marketing of marriage, the ring, and the dress were all geared towards women and young girls. To the point where marriage status for a woman past a certain age was the last identifier for her success or failure. “She is successful but where is her man? her ring?”
I remember being around 23 and hearing a guy who had been pursuing me say jokingly “You know May, you won´t always be this young, one day no one will want to pursue or marry you”. That moment welcomed me into the understanding of the shelf-life of my desirability by men/society and thereby, my value as a human from the female sex. A human with an expiring date. Yet that realization didn´t spark compliance or desperation as perhaps expected but rather defiance. I refused to live my life waiting or searching for a man to choose me before I became unwanted goods. I was not a product – I was not interested in being defined by my ability to be consumed by men or a society that limited the value of women to their age and desirability and who wanted being “wifed“. I was not interested in playing along to rules and ideas that were degrading and destructive. I would make my own rules.
A Womanist Perspective
Before meeting Tainã, I had decided not to bet my whole life on meeting someone I could settle down with. I would not let life pass me by waiting to share it with someone. I decided I would start preparing for a life of awesomeness whether someone showed up or not. I was not going to bet the enjoyment and fulfillment of my life on something I had no power over. Instead, I decided to focus and work on what I could manage – my own actions and plans for my life even if I had to fly solo forever. I was gonna make it a solo trip in first class at least haha. My life as a woman, as a black woman would have meaning and fulfillment even without being someone´s partner or wife. I was enough as I was and intended to live a life according to that understanding.
Fast forward to now – married May, someone´s wife and married to someone I truly love and care for yet, my views have not changed.
Meeting my partner was a blessing and something I cherish, yet I try my best not to validate my worth or value based entirely on having someone chose to share their life with me. Does that mean I don´t value my relationship? And why share it all? Because I love my partner, I am glad we found and have each other but what we have is about love more than it is about marriage. He brings love and joy to my life ( and some annoyance to balance it all up lol) and I feel grateful to have what we have and to share this journey together. Choosing to marry him came out of love and what was the easiest and best way for us as individuals coming from the opposite side of the planet to be together #longdistanceproblems. I said “I do” to give us a chance to grow our love.
The night before getting married was filled with confusion about the conflict of these two things – knowing what marriage meant to me and yet feeling conflicted for not feeling like all the women in movies and stories fed to me from a young age.
“Marriage can be a good thing, a source of joy, love, and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, but we don’t teach boys to do the same?” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s
My partner had once shared with a friend and cousin of his how he felt when he first learned about my views on marriage – how I did not aspire to it as person/woman nor define my commitment to a person through it. He shared how this disinterest in it made him feel a certain way as a man raised perhaps to believe that all women aspired to be wed. He reflected on how it bruised his ego and made him perhaps desire it even more. We had had many heated arguments and discussion about this issue previously even to the point of discussing whether we would wear our rings or not if we ever got married. I had felt as though a ring shouldn´t be of more importance than the trust and commitment a person shows in their relationship on a daily basis. Whether you wear a ring or not shouldn´t matter because a ring doesn´t automatically make you more faithful or committed to someone you love. If it did, no one would ever cheat or leave their partner once they said “I do” and a magical love-protecting-seal was placed on their fingers. Yet we all know that that isn´t the case. People with rings and people without rings and marriages cheat and disappoint each other – A healthy and thriving relationship goes beyond a ring and piece of paper.
I shared with him on the morning of his “D-Day” as his father had called it – how I still felt the same way about marriage, that I was not excited for being married for the sake of being married. I did not view being married as the end goal of our love – as the casket that validated our love and commitment to each other but rather as a piece in the casket of our love and commitment to each other and our relationship. I needed to speak my truth one last time so we both knew what this meant. He assured me that in this relationship there would be space for both our views of marriage. As long as our relationship was the focus of our love he didn´t care much about me simply seeing being married as a means to an end – as long as that end was for the benefit of our love and relationship. He even said that if we got our papers and that in the future I no longer felt like being married – we could get divorced and continue our love sans state. Crazy I know, but it made sense to us; the only people our relationship should make sense to.
It was the most peaceful discussion we had had about marriage in our relationship – it held space for both of our views – once again we created our own rules and meaning – even when it came to something with preconceived meanings and weight.
After the talk, a burden was lifted off my shoulders, I became excited about the day for the reasons that made sense to us and not for the reasons that I felt I had to value – I also acknowledged how some of the rituals of marriage did end up meaning something to me. Like the little speech, the facilitator read about love (watch video for a little snippet) that did actually make me feel a certain kind of way (*sobs).
Days later since the day and things have settled down. I am still looking forward to our own personal “love fest” as I call it, where we do get to celebrate our love and relationship in front of our families and loved ones. All inclusive with personal rituals and our own take and meaning on the concept of a wedding! :). As for now, I am at peace with my new social status though it isn´t one that I define our love and commitment to each other by. I am still May and he is still Taina and we are still choosing each other daily and committing to each other daily through the care and love we put into our relationship.
I am finishing this while Taina sits next to me, reading his book cozied up in a duvet, wearing his ring which he is so very happy to be wearing. He said in pure contentment that it suited him very well and I agreed, it truly does. My fingers, on the other hand, wore the ring when we exchanged rings (even though we didn´t have to) and later that day, I took it off and put it away with the pretty pin-on earrings I also wore that day. It is a beautiful symbol of our love and reminder of a beautiful day we shared together and I intend to cherish it simply as that. I will wear it as I plan to wear those pretty pin-on earrings, here and there. When he goes back to Brazil and I miss him, it will give me comfort just like the many shirts he has left me to wear to bed over time. They are precious tokens of love and our journey together and where we hope to continue to take it.
To end, I leave you with this. Love for me is enough by itself, it is a daily commitment and work. It has no destination or end goal – just lovers choosing to walk alongside each other on their life journey – to grow together even if it sometimes means growing apart or closer. A relationship should be a safe home for the people in that love to grow and thrive through mutual respect and support. That is something you say yes or no to on a daily basis- whether alone or with someone, love is life. It is important for me to not catch myself performing love/relationship, rather, to be present in an organic and unique love and coupling where we are intentional about our choices and what we say yes and no to, what has value and how we show that value to each other.
To end my friends, may life find you choosing each day to grow closer to the things that bring value to your life, choosing mindfully how you define a fulfilling relationship, commitment, and purpose. May you never forget that you are here to create and choose your own life script not to perform one already chosen for you, especially if you can imagine something better or truer for yourself.
with love, light and courage