We can no longer use the failing heterosexual model as our guide for healthy lesbian relationships. We must build our own template for success.
Since the 70's we have been in an active battle for marriage equality. The great news is that we are on the precipice of realizing our dream in full. As of January 2014 we can legal marry in 17 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington), as well as the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, although the Illinois law will not become effective until June 1, 2014. And we will be successful with the rest of the country…I truly believe that marriage equality is inevitable.
So the question is, are we really ready for the great responsibility? For clarity, my question is not regarding the right to parity. Of course, without question, we are deserving of the same civil rights that the rest of the country enjoys. But rather my query is about our readiness for this vast responsibility on an intimate level. See, being denied equality has afforded some of us the room to play house. In other words, we get the emotional benefits of referring to someone as “wife” without all of the duties and responsibilities for what that means. Conversely, some of us have done a fabulous job at crafting a marriage, legal or otherwise. But if we are family, and I believe that we are, we have to be honest with each other for the sake of our growth. There are those in our family who have not done a great job; and they have been able to hide behind the fact that our marriages have been illegal, until recently.
It is imperative to ask yourself some very serious questions about your readiness to step into the world of marriage. We know that anywhere from 40 to 50% of heterosexual marriages end in divorce. And second and third marriages have an even higher failure rate. So the template for same gender marriages must be crafted by us for us. That is our only hope to long-lasting unions. Ask yourself are you ready for “until death do you part?” Are you ready to forsake all others? Are you ready to share half of your acquisitions? Are you ready to have your wife make decisions about your health care in the event that you are incapacitated? Of course there are no guarantees in anything, but if you answered yes to most of these questions then you just may be ready to take on marital bliss!
Below are some suggested steps to consider before walking down the aisle:
1) Don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations: Romance and passion has a unique way of anesthetizing those things that can later become quite frustrating in a marriage. The hard conversations include, but are not limited to, some of the categories below.
- --Finances – how will bills be paid? Will it be based on income equity, or will it be half of everything? Will you share bank accounts, or will you have independent accounts, or some combination they are of? What is your fiancé’s credit score and how will it impact marital goals?
- --Parenting – if you have children how will you co-parent? Who will be the disciplinarian, if there are minor children? If there are no children will you adopt or pursue artificial insemination?
- --Coping skills – this is one not often explored enough, but I believe it is critical in a relationship of any kind. How do you deal with life’s challenges? How do you solve arguments? What do you need to feel emotionally, financially and physically safe in the marriage? Do you retreat when life gets hard or do you need to rely on your mate?
2) Premarital counseling-- I strongly recommend this step. If you do nothing else, contribute to the success of your marriage by seeking premarital counseling before taking the plunge. Seek out the support of a counselor or spiritual leader to help you have the hard conversations, explore core values and say all that needs to be said. You might be surprised at how much we assume about our partners, which can be uncovered with professional help.
3) Identify your village -- according to an African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.” But it also takes a village to support a marriage. These are not people who will cosign destruction but rather they will encourage, embrace and celebrate your union with love and sometimes even tough love. However they never seek to divide, destroy or dismantle your relationship unless you are facing abuse and/or violence. Your village supports your relationship unless the two of you have adamantly decided that your marriage should meet its demise. Sometimes the village will not include people you might expect. Choosing your village should be done meticulously, intentionally and most of all TOGETHER!
It is my greatest hope that we all forge toward a future wherein marriage equality is commonplace. So we must do everything possible to prepare for our success. Equality is not a gift that this country gives to us--It is a right to which we are worthy by simply being human without discrimination. We must be willing to make proud all of those advocates and activists who have fought, and continue to fight, on our behalf.
I honor you for taking the steps toward this LOVE REVOLUTION…Nya Akoma!