My last relationship was predicated on the worst kind of codependency.
My ex-partner was emotionally manipulative and very abusive, though it took me a long time to not only figure that out but get to space—mentally and emotionally—where I could finally leave.
We used to talk about getting married regularly, especially when my ex was upset about something, even if it had nothing to do with me. We talked about it like it was an inevitability, a bright spot, a thing to look forward to even on the darkest days. For a while, it was. Then things got worse and worse, and while marriage was still a frequent topic of conversation, the word left my mouth tasting of ash.
So when we broke up, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to get married at all.
I had only pictured my dream wedding a few times, even when my ex and I talked about it, and everything with them made me want to avoid marriage like the plague.
The thought of marriage—of legally tying myself until death (or divorce)—made me sick. Plus, at the time, even if I wanted to get married, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the same federal rights as married heterosexual people. It seemed like a pretty pointless endeavor.
My current partner and I took our relationship very slowly, especially as I tried to recover from the damage my ex had done. That’s still happening, for the record—my therapist and I discuss my ex at least every three sessions.
Marriage was something neither of us thought to bring up for a very long time, and when we did, it was only to say that neither of us was particularly interested in the institution. We loved each other, we were ready to commit to each other, but we weren’t into the hassle of getting legally married… especially when our state could possibly take away our right to marry or we could move to another state where our marriage might not be recognized.
Again, it seemed pointless.
Then on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Obergefell v. Hodges that all states must grant marriages to same-sex couples and that all states must recognize same-sex marriages from other states. It was a landmark ruling, and it followed another landmark ruling from June 26, 2013: United States v. Windsor, in which SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that the Defense of Marriage Act could not recognize only opposite-sex marriages for certain purposes (i.e. taxes) under federal law.
The SCOTUS decision impacted me far more than I thought it would. While I recognized the importance of both the right to marry for LGBTQ people and the necessity of us possessing the same rights as married heterosexual couples, I thought the fervor surrounding “the fight for gay marriage” gave too much credence to what is ultimately a very small battle for our community.
To me, it felt like too many people—especially “straight allies”—thought “gay marriage” was the ultimate battlegrounds on which to fight for the rights of LGBTQ people. And it angered me.
But then—I must admit—when I read the decision on social media, I cried. I sat on our couch, looked at my partner, and said, “We can get married.”
The strength of the statement surprised me, even as I formed the words with my own voice. Until that moment, it hadn’t felt like something I wanted to do. I hadn’t yet started seeing a therapist, hadn’t fully shaken off the effects of my last relationship. My partner and I had thrown out some hypothetical statements beginning with, “If we got married…” But it never felt like a serious consideration.
Then SCOTUS sided with us in Obergefell v. Hodges, and suddenly, it was serious. Very serious.
I wouldn’t say that the SCOTUS decision was the only reason we finally talked about getting married, but I do think it greatly impacted how we talked about it. Previous objections to getting married went out the window, and suddenly we were seeing stories all over social media of couples getting engaged or married after years of waiting.
We didn’t get engaged right away.
That would have lacked any genuine feeling and gone against everything we had said for years. Instead, we started talking about the possibility of a future not just together, but married: rings, a ceremony, a shared last name. The institution of marriage is inherently flawed and the way people approach getting married is genuinely terrifying (the money people spend!), but… we talked about it and it didn’t seem so bad.
A wedding could be nice if it wasn’t a massive, expensive to-do. And I confessed that I had never thought about what I wanted out of a proposal, only that I didn’t want it to be a big show; the proposal videos that go viral every once in a while make me cringe.
My partner agreed that we didn’t need to do anything too flashy, for the proposal or the wedding, and slowly but surely our conversations shifted from the hypothetical “If we got married…” to the much more solid “When we get married…”
We agreed that it wouldn’t change our relationship much, on a day-to-day level. It would also offer some practical bonuses thanks to the SCOTUS decision. If we got married, our marriage would be more than just a piece of paper that legitimized our relationship in the eyes of our state’s law.
SCOTUS gave us that.
Gave it to LGBTQ couples all over the nation.
I’ll never forget that feeling, even though it totally shocked me at the time.