Dear Richard: Getting Married? Or Not.
After the death of my long time partner of 16 years I was slow to start dating again. But I met and have fallen for a very nice, handsome man my age — we're both 49. We have been together for a year and a half. I didn't think I had it in me to fall in love again but Brad proved me wrong. Brad is a great catch. I admit he is very physically attractive but he is a attractive on the inside as well.
We are sexually compatible but at almost fifty sex isn't as primary as it used to be.
Sunday was my birthday and we had a great party. Brad organized it and even had it catered so we wouldn't have to spend the day cooking. I got all kinds of tacky presents from my group of gay friends and we all laughed and enjoyed ourselves. Then everyone got quiet. Brad came over to me got down on one knee pulled out a small box opened it up and asked me to marry him. He caught me off guard and I was overwhelmed with emotion and the tears flowed as I accepted the ring and the proposal.
We are to be married next summer in Boston.
So what's wrong with this wonderful tale?
Well, I am not a believer in gay marriage. I don't believe that I need somebody else's values to define my relationship with my partner. I don't need to mimic straight folks or their rituals to have a long lasting relationship with someone. Its like playing life by somebody else's rules.
So, I want Steve as a part of my life, so I will go to Massachusetts and get married with a smile on my face. But its not what I would have chosen. But I love this man and will gladly be his husband.
So my question is: Am I being a stick in the mud because I don't need to be "married" to have a life with my partner?
Life is full of compromises, I just don't feel the need for a ceremony to tell the man I love how much he means to me. I'll marry Brad of course, but I am not enthused. Am I just out of it?
The Reluctant Groom
What an interesting time it is that these issues are coming up. It's a luxury to be able to have an option, both regarding the choice to get married and a partner you love to do it with. A lot of guys would envy your position, especially your age peers. But none of that is a good reason to proceed with a plan you are not entirely on board with.
I want to address your question specifically. Because it seems that you are not asking whether to get married or not — you seem certain that you plan to proceed. The question circles around your attitude, willingness, and reasoning about not necessarily desiring marriage as a defining part of partnership.
Looking back at your letter a few things stand out. You were in a long term relationship that sounds like it was pretty great, and it ended with the death of your partner, which can be a life changing event. It's probably a good idea to check in with yourself about your resolution with that process. Is your reluctance to get married at all connected with an understandable loyalty to your deceased partner?
Another thing that stands out in the letter: That theatrical proposal, worthy of a reality TV show. Sure sounds like a lot of pressure. I wonder about couples who get themselves in that situation. Have they talked about marriage at all before hand as a concept? With men of your age, it seems like you can afford to be a bit more practical. There are great reasons to get married and not to get married that don't have anything to do with long term partnership plans. There are many legal pros and cons to consider. At this point I disagree with you that marriage is somehow aping heterosexual conventions. Too many LGBT folk are getting married these days to have it just be a copycat ceremony. It's fairly matter of fact now. But that theatrically forced proposal does have a whiff of forced heterosexual storybook convention.
Now, that we have all that out of the way let's say this: Marriage can be a great thing. And weddings can be wonderful events that bond you to each other as well as your friends and family. It can be a ceremony that announces your belief in the possibility of your long term partnership. And while this is not a reason to get married, it can also announce to the world that you are a part of traditional society, a society that believes in the strength of family as well as allowing for the diversity in the concept. There can also be a very spiritual aspect to ceremonialising your commitment to each other.
If I was in your partner's position, I would not want to get married to someone who was "going along with it." This is a great time to expand your communication skills with him. He should know where your head is at. At the same time, tread softly here. You have something wonderful that comes rarely. You may find your sense of this changing as you move further into the process. Keep an open mind and follow your heart.