I really appreciate what it says about how marriage is not the only way to find happiness. I’m coming to such thoughts out of a wonderful marriage of 12 years. I loved every day of my marriage to Kat, and I’d do it again if I could have that. But… It’s likely just the grief, but I can’t imagine doing that again now with somebody else. I think the biggest part of it is that I can’t imagine it being so good.
A part of it though is also my honest skepticism about the institution from studying its history: marriage seems to emerge in many cultures as an early human property arrangement used to control women by selling and trading them like cattle. In our modern world it is an arrangement that was one of equality for Kat and me, liberating and life-giving to us both but not because of the institution itself but the choices we made in it. Too often as a pastor I’ve seen in our world where it may not be for others what it was for us, but instead become a prison that keeps people in abusive relationships. It can be that prison because of its origins as a property arrangement to control women, and Kat’s and my relationship would have been as good, life-giving, and beautiful without the name “marriage”, the ceremony in the church, or any of the paperwork. One thing other than my own good experience of marriage sets a light of hope for me in the value of this institution that can often become a prison: Queer people and feminists. Queer people of the world and feminist-minded people of all gender expressions are paving a way for approaches to marriage that are not what its origins shape it to be. They are building marriages that are true partnerships, because they necessarily disrupt the patriarchal shape of marriage that at least in the West is at its foundations, since they overthrow the gender stereotypes traditional marriage imposes. I can perhaps embrace again that model for marriage, but I don’t have to marry to be happy either.
I may or may not marry again. I have no idea what I will want. But I could see myself becoming a person who has relationships that are deep and meaningful but chooses not to marry again. One does not have to marry to have a healthy relationship with another person, as many of my queer friends who were forbidden from marriage these long years only to have it as an option now so firmly demonstrated to me. I’m glad to see someone talking about the fact that marriage and children are not the only way to live a good, fulfilled life, or even a holy life. I’ve even see this in straight friends. I think of a long-time friend and civil rights activist who has been with his partner, a wonderful passionate woman of faith, for as long or longer than Kat and I were together. Those two have something holy but because of the same reasons I am skeptical about marriage as an institution, they have chosen not to marry.
Marriage is not the only way to have life-partnership happen. And, honestly, as a dear friend reminded me, you don’t even have to have a partner, spouse, or marriage to have and raise good children if I chose to go down that path. Whether I ever do enter a romantic relationship again or not, and whether if I do let that relationship become a marriage again will be because that path is the most life-giving and holy path for me, not because of all the ways we’ve made an idol of the fairy tale marriage that few find. It will not because of the societal pressure to fit a mold. And in many ways I feel I *have* lived pretty darn close to that fairy tale in my life already. I’m interested in what’s real, what’s life giving. That may be marriage and children. It might be any number of odd arrangements. Thankful to believe in a still-speaking God and an open life where when I get through the darkness of grief the world is fuller, not more empty, as it often feels.
I’d be curious to see how grief, loss, and changes have affected how others view relationships after going through being widowed or divorced.