“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
It’s a remarkable vision of the ideal of marriage. What it can, might, and even should be.
Love. Fidelity. Devotion. Sacrifice. Family.
It’s an ideal that not all marriages can and do live up to, as divorce statistics routinely demonstrate. And yet, hope endures. People wed. They wed again, and again … and maybe once more. They do this for many reasons (convenience, economics, pressure, laziness, security, companionship, religion, lust), and love is simply history’s most recent criteria, as Stephanie Coontz’s essential book Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, clearly lays out. Anyone who thinks that marriage has only ever been one thing – a union of one man and one women who more-or-less love each other – needs to be corrected by reading this book (and so many others).And any time you hear a friend, politician, or talking head use the phrase “traditional marriage,” just ask them … which tradition?
This week my husband and I celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary, so I’ve been thinking about these ideals and visions for reasons not only having to do with Supreme Court decisions. I’ve also been singing along to the ridiculous Andy Grammer ode-to-fidelity song, “Honey, I’m Good,” not because I love all the lyrics (a little too much male-entitlement), but because of the video (and yes, the ear-wormy refrain).
It’s a charming litany of lip-syncing couples holding up signs indicating how long they’ve been together: 8 months. 3 years. 6 months. Just engaged. 12 years. 22 years, 29, 30, 49, even 57 years.
“Some couples are fresh-faced, others have kids, and still others are wrinkly and old. The one thing they have in common? They’re all still into each other.”
Check it out:
And let’s be honest while we celebrate. Honest about the many things that marriage is, has been, and can be. Thankfully, in this country, it’s at least an institution open to all regardless of gender.
Which is something to celebrate.