The Ten Questions You Should Answer Before Entering into Same Sex Marriage

ImageWe have turned a corner on the question of same sex marriage.  In this last year more states have extended basic civil rights to LGBT Americans, including California, thanks to a landmark SCOTUS decision, and the trend is not likely to stop.  That is very good news.

It is time, therefore for us to have a serious talk.  Because we as a community have made strides in regard to marriage, does not mean that you necessarily need to take similar actions in your personal life.  You do not need to run off to Maine with your wonderful boyfriend or girl friend in order to make a political statement.

For the same reason, that the anti-gay and hatred communities are wrong to hold marriage back as some symbolic gesture to marriage structures of the past, pro-gay people cannot rush into it as a new symbol of political gains of the present.  Getting married is not political; it is a very big deal on a personal level.

As my Republican mother ungraciously asked me, “Why do you write in favor of gay marriage so much when you blew your own?”  She is wrong.  Gay marriage IS right.  She is right that while I worked hard on mine, it did go wrong.

So here is my talk to all of you who are considering taking this step in your lives.  I share this as one who has been through it and from what I did not know at the time.  My ex-spouse and I grew with the marriage movement.  We registered as domestic partners when it meant practically nothing.  We married in San Francisco on Valentine’s day when Gavin Newsome briefly allowed it in a move of civil government disobedience.  We divorced when we were under the full weight of state marriage laws without the dignity of ever calling ourselves truly “married”.

To be fair, I thought we had discussed much of the important list that I am going to give you.  We had not.  Not by a long shot.  We should have.  If we had, we might actually be together today, or we may have been able to separate in a more amicable way.  In any case, I offer this to you from the vantage point of 20/20 hindsight.  Dream the dream of a happily forever after with your soul mate… but also make sure that you both are clear and agreed on the following questions.

  1.  Are you prepared for mutual financial responsibility?   Public debate on marriage equality has complicated the issue with a lot of things that are irrelevant in real people’s lives.  The financial factor is supremely relevant.  When you marry, you take responsibility for each other’s finances.  Are either of you prone to debt?  Is one a higher earner with more assets?   Make a plan on how all this will work and how you will each commit to it, and make it fair.
  2. How will you resolve conflict?  This is the big foundational one.  The issue is not whether or not you will disagree on something… it is when.  What are your rules for resolution?  Who will you both go to as a third party when you can’t find agreement?  It will make matters worse if that person is someone that one of you can’t stand or does not trust.  What are your rules for arguments?  “We will never go to bed mad.” Is a good example.  How can you each confess mistakes safely?
  3. What is your growing vision of your family?   You as a couple are the seed of a family.  The anti-gay and hatred communities refuse to believe this, but it is the truth.  You may not have children, or you may, but you will certainly have pets and there will be special people that you emotionally adopt.  With all these, you need a mutual vision.  Will you adopt?  Will you choose surrogacy?  Will you become fostercare/adopt parents?  The latter, which is how I became a parent, is a path with its own character challenging issues (actually there is no path without them), and you should be well versed, together, before venturing blindly into it.
  4. How will you parent?  Should you and your spouse decide to become parents, this is the most important aspect for you to explore.  When my spouse and I considered becoming fostercare parents, I solicited advice from a friend who had adopted a fostercare child with his wife.  He shared with me that the hardest thing was seeing the parent his spouse became and realizing that he could not parent that way.  They ultimately divorced, and so, ultimately, did we.  Figure this out up front with ways to adhere to it to be successful —your children will thank you for it.
  5. What are your priorities regarding extended family?  Marriage is the seed, the end of which is an entire family.  How far will yours go, and what are the terms?  If one part of your extended family is anti-gay, how will they be prioritized against your spouse and immediate family?  I have seen this elephant in the living room of several gay couples.  And the elephant eventually charges.  Cage it.
  6. What is the state of your intimacy and how will you protect it?  This question can be subtle and have different superficial representations that get focus, but end up not resolving the real issue.  This requires you as a couple deciding your on-going standard of physical, emotional and communication intimacy.  Preserve it. Cherish it.   It will be under siege not just by the hot third party person who lusts after one of you, but also by those cherished children who zap you of time, energy and attention.   The former is pretty obvious on how to handle, once temptation is dealt with, but the latter can be tough.  It is vital that you relationship be your “favorite child”,   nurtured and grown, otherwise, your other children will ultimately pay the price.
  7. What is your spiritual plan for your family?  Yeah, the God stuff.  It is not important that you both agree on this, but if you have kids, a common foundation from which for them to grow is important.  This also gives an important touch point if you run into problems elsewhere. It is good to have a set of mutually agreed upon spiritual principles on which to reflect when you are feeling in trouble.
  8. How will you mutually nurture your careers and avocations?  Dreams can be complex things.  How will you nurture the dreams of each other as life throws “chance of a lifetime opportunities”?  Have a plan, a fair one.
  9. What is your mutual loyalty agreement?  This feeds many other areas on this list, but it is broken out here to recommend a conscious, discussed and understood agreement.   At what point is a flirt gone too far?  What porn or erotica involvement has crossed the line?  What friend confidences are too much, and how will the keeping of secrets FOR others be handled?  Decide these upfront, but also acknowledge that no one is perfect and mistakes will be made.  An agreement to pre-forgive would also be helpful.
  10. What are the terms for the end of your relationship?   I realize this has the romantic appeal of a fart during an intimate good night kiss, but, it needs to be understood up front.  The fact is, barring a meteor hitting your car as you are both driving out of the Senior Center many decades from now,  your marriage will end with one of you leaving either through death or divorce.  Each scenario needs a plan, and it is far, far better that those awful details be decided when heads are clear and caring rather than grieving, angry or potentially bitter.   One of the sad realities of the divorce system is that it only works remotely well when the divorcing parties can cooperate, communicate and come to agreement with as little friction as possible.  Since they are usually in a mindset that is the antithesis of everything that would create that scenario, having a plan up front is the best way to get there.

M. Scott Peck said that “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”   That is the basis for this list.  It is not the most warm fuzzy article you have read on the subject of same sex marriage, but I feel like it may be one of the most important as you work towards you ultimate happiness which is what I dearly and fondly wish for you.  Fight for your rights, demand the choice to marry the love of you life, and when that happens… make it right.  Opposite sex married couples are only at the 50% success mark.  Let’s do it better.

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About robw77

A single gay dad who cares. His story can be read here: http://www.imagaysingleparent.com/2013/02/02/rob/ and here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/31/rob-watson-gay-family_n_4689661.html
This entry was posted in Civil Rights, Family, Living, Marriage equality, Politics, Prejudice, Religion, US Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Ten Questions You Should Answer Before Entering into Same Sex Marriage

  1. mark bruzee says:

    Awedome,Rob.
    Excellent questions to be asking.

  2. Great words of wisdom for any couple!

    I’m sorry your mom was so unkind about your situation, though.

  3. jomaidment says:

    The same issues could also be raised for Heterosexual relationships and marriages too. Ultimately it is about communication and making sure that you are working together rather than pulling apart. All good practical sane advice

  4. Pingback: The Ten Questions You Should Answer Before Entering into Same Sex Marriage « Ripening Thoughts

  5. A wonderful post that should be shared and shared again … not only with couples of the same sex but with all couples planning to marry.

  6. kzottarelli says:

    Great piece Rob. And something everyone should do before getting married!

  7. Hey Rob. Loved the article. Away from all the mushy romance stuff that usually dominates relationships, these are practical questions to help make the relationship actually work. I’m editor or a new online magazine that focuses on everything about being gay and having faith and living in the real world, IMPACTmagazine.us, and I’d love to re-post this article in our Love & Sex section. It’s got solid truth that needs to be shared. Would you allow us to run it, with a link to your site and some bio info on you?

  8. KievJoy says:

    Loved the article. I’ve been married for 38 years and I tell couples to do what we did (ALL couples), before you marry sit down and both write a list of what you expect from the marriage. Swap the list then the next night (or day talk about it) and I mean every aspect of it. Much of what you wrote is what we talked about. I handle the money as Len is one of these people who spends money then realises he still has gas, electric and food to buy (ooops). We were both in well paid jobs, so decided that when children came along the one who earned most would carry on working and the other look after the kids. Len heaved a big sigh of relief two weeks before he was going to give notice to leave work cos he got a pay rise which took his wages just about mine, so I left. It’s also the silly things that can cause arguements. Who’se gonna cook, whose gonna wash up etc. We had a simple arrangement, first in cooked, the other washed up. Many will have a lot more on their list than this, we did.

    When you’ve done the list and talk, wait a year and see each other every day. My mother’s comment on this second point was ‘If you keep seeing each other you’ll get fed up with each other.’ Our response was ‘Rather now than after we’re married.’

    There will be other issues we didn’t have, and the other way round, but plan.

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