In the wake of the New York Senate’s December 2 vote to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples, I posted the following in my response:
In my opinion, a true marriage is defined by equality in love, commitment, honor and respect between the two participants, not sexual attraction to a certain gender, not money, not convenience. Too often, a man and a woman enter into a union for the latter reasons, and we apply the word “marriage” to it without a second thought. Isn’t this more detrimental to the sanctity of marriage than my union?
I then asked my friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter to share with me what marriage means to them. Here are their thoughts:
“Loving your best friend like no one else. Waking up next to that person and knowing you can accomplish your dreams together.”
“Love. Commitment. Partnership. Mutual growth.”
“Sharing your life, your dreams, your hopes, your fears, your feelings, your trust, your heart, your mind, and your soul with with that special someone who makes you feel complete.”
“A declaration, a statement, to the world that you hold each other in such high regard and esteem.”
“marriage means someone to hold for all time, and someone to take care of you”
“the declaration of two people that they intend to love (and put up with) each other for as long as they live. It’s certainly no easy road, as evidenced by the divorce rate.”
“marriage to me means reflecting the covenant love – Hebrew word “chesed” – that God has for us.”
“partnership at a metaphysical level… love and respect ebb and flow. If that’s all we had, I could see bagging it on a bad day. Partnership is hard work/worth it”
Because marriage is so personal and individual to the partners involved, there’s no one simple answer. But the common themes I see among those who responded are of unconditional love, sharing, equality, trust, collaboration, partnership, care, and respect. I don’t see anything about gender in the responses I’ve gathered. Are same-sex couples any less capable of reflecting these qualities than opposite-sex couples? Much has been said about same-sex couples trying to “redefine” marriage. But I don’t think there’s a single way to define it. We can redefine it every day in how we interact with and treat each other.
I particularly like the “partnership on a metaphysical level” response because it implies that marriage requires equal work on the ends of both participants, and what unites two people in such a union is beyond the the physical and the intellectual. Some like to think of marriage as a spiritual or religious bond, and I agree with that, as well. Marriage is an important part of many religious traditions. But it’s just that – a part, not the whole. Marriage, to me, is no more solely about religion than religion is solely about marriage. I do believe in a power that sustains all of us on this physical plane, and whether you refer to that as “God” or “spirit” or “love” or “peace”, I think that it is what we are all striving for in our personal lives and our relationships with others. I think that our relationships with our friends, our loved ones, and our life partners, are reflections of a universal love that embraces and embues all of us. Maybe that love is a force outside of ourselves – or maybe it is the force inside all of us that, when expressed to its fullest potential, reaches beyond a single relationship and spreads to others.
Regardless of what you or I personally believe, marriage is a bond. That bond can only be strengthened by hard work in all aspects of the relationship by each participant. Those that work at sustaining and strengthening that bond are the ones who truly understand what a marriage is about.