Note: This is the sixth in the series of imaginary conversations with my next girlfriend.
Dear Next Girlfriend,
What a difference 10 days makes. A little over a week ago hundreds of same-sex couples in Wisconsin were getting married legally after a Federal District Judge, the Honorable Barbara Crabb, overturned the ban on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin. Many of the newlyweds (or newly registered) were people I knew, some who have been together 10, 15, 20 years or more, some raised children together, purchased homes, planned their lives as a family, and supported each other emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually. At least 637 marriage licenses have been applied for since Crabb’s ruling.
Yes, these couples had been married in every way, but until this ruling was made, they were unrecognized, unprotected, their relationships were unequal under the law of this state. Couples who were married in other states were able to benefit from federal laws, like tax law, yet remained unrecognized in their home state. Sure, couples could register as domestic partners and have civil unions, but they would remain second class citizens. Their relationships were separate, not equal.
Love is Love
Friday, June 7th was a joyful day. At Madison, Wisconsin’s City-County Building, both marriage ceremonies and wedding receptions were conducted with friends, family, community members and supporters present. Judges and the clergy volunteered their services to marry the couples, while children delivered flowers and police officers furnished wedding cakes for the celebrations that followed. Like every wedding their were tears and smiles, vows were shared and photos snapped the moments of bride kissing bride and groom kissing groom. Social media was on fire with wedding announcements, status updates, and photos capturing the special moments.
Today, there’s a stay on same-sex marriage until a Federal court rules on the pending appeals. The stay would not be in play if our Republican Attorney General, J. B. Van Hollen with the tacit support of Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker did not appeal the decision.
“The Wisconsin I know deserves better than a Governor defending discrimination and an Attorney General prosecuting progress.” U. S. Senator from Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin
Today, U. S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin joined Wisconsin Members of Congress, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan and wrote the Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States and asked him to formally recognize all same-sex marriages that have been performed in the State of Wisconsin since a federal district judge invalidated the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage on June 6. See the full text here: June 16, 2014
When I went home to visit my parents for Father’s Day this past weekend, my Mom asked me — with tongue in cheek, “Did you get married?” We laughed. She knows I’m single and not seeing anyone. A few moments later, I learned my niece married her partner quietly the week before. Yes, I’m not the only LGBTQ person in my family.
Next girlfriend, these recent events stirred up a lot of feelings for me. I rejoiced in the happiness of my newly married friends, and the friends married in other states whose marriages were at least momentarily now recognized in Wisconsin. I anticipated more announcements of upcoming weddings by the newly registered and expected invitations to some long overdue celebrations.
I was also sad. I was feeling a little more alone than before. Now, I was not simply single, I was unmarried too. All the self-esteem issues of the past returned, many of them which had been resolved earlier, or so I thought. I was suddenly comparing my insides to everybody’s outsides, my solitary life to all the happy newly-married brides and brides and grooms and grooms, in addition to the brides and grooms in my life and family. Now, I felt single times two.
Then I remembered. I’ve been married before to my former husband, Frank. I don’t regret my marriage. I loved him and I still love him, only differently today. I was happily married and then I was not. Like 50% of marriages today, mine ended in divorce. Like many of the couples who married in the past 10 days, my wedding was more impromptu then planned. We had made a decision to marry, but the event itself unfolded with a degree of spontaneity. Like the recent weddings, friends and family stepped up, supported and celebrated with us, some on very short notice. There was joy, there were tears, and there were kisses.
I also looked back at the committed relationships with the women I loved. I had a two-and-a-half year partnership which included a stepson and a four year relationship where I co-parented a daughter, followed by my most recent 15 year relationship, no children except our family of dogs. There were other meaningful committed relationships in between my marriage and my current single status. Like many other lesbians I am a serial monogamist.
What stands out for me is that I’m not sure any of those relationships would have become legal marriages if we had had the choice. I‘m a romantic at heart and I believed each of the women were my soul mates at the beginning of our relationship, but entering into a marriage requires a lot of pragmatic thinking, assessment and negotiation. I learned this when I divorced. I also learned that divorce, like marriage, is a lot of work, emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually.
Next girlfriend, after the waves of feelings passed through me, I was reminded that I‘m single by choice. I’m unmarried by choice. I’ve remained single for a number of years because I don’t need to be in a committed relationship (or marriage) to be happy and to live a full and rewarding life.
I took a sabbatical from intimate relationships and learned to have a more intimate relationship with me. I must admit in the spirit of complete disclosure, I want to be partnered and in love again, I may even want to be married again. I believe in soul mates, and yet I believe there’s more than one potential soul mate out there. It is a matter of many factors including: readiness, synchronicity, serendipity, alignment and mutual intention.
Next girlfriend, there are a lot of things to think about, and like the lyrics to the children’s playground song, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, “first comes love, then comes marriage,” it remains a one day at a time proposition with choices in between on how we may want our relationship to look and how it will work. I’m ready to begin the conversation, and I’m hopeful that once all the courts weigh in, we’ll have the same rights and choices enjoyed by everyone else. One more thing in the spirit of complete disclosure, there won’t be any baby carriages following our marriage unless they’re filled by your grandchildren.
Note: This is Episode 6 of the series, Conversations with My Next Girlfriend, imaginary conversations with the new girlfriend I haven’t met yet, replacing the one-sided talks that I was having with my ex in my head. For Episodes 1 -5, click on the links below: