Samhain

This pagan threshold of the living and the dead is my marker of a New Year begun.
It is also the date that marks the very first vows my wife and I exchanged.  The words of our handfasting were for a year and a day to give ourselves time to reconsider – but I knew as clearly then (11 years ago) as I do now that they are for the remainder of our lives.
I don’t earn as much money as I should, I don’t keep the house as clean and tidy as I could, I recklessly fell in love with someone else, I often cry for no good reason, regularly eat all the cheese and rarely cook but still she loves me.
She spends on fripperies for others and skimps on her own needs, is always losing something about the house, is hopelessly forgiving of her demanding family, has dreadful PMT and steals my chocolate but still I love her.

And so I say again:
I promise to take you as my best friend, and as my lover; to be yours and to keep you in my heart and soul through whatever we may yet live through; to support you, and to protect you – since we are one. I promise to learn to have faith in myself and to not falter in my trust of you and I promise to listen, and to give, so that together we can be strong. Lastly, I vow to live every day in consciousness of this gift and to remember and thank-you for our love.
And 
everyday I choose you, choose to spend the rest of my life with you. I take you as my wife, my friend and my lover, through the bad times and the good- through every twist of our lives. I promise you my respect and my trust, I promise to share my hopes and my dreams and to offer you my strength and my care.

Darling wife, you have ridden with me through the storms of our depressions and put aside your fear to live with my polyamory and I feel so privileged and so humbled by your love – tell me how to show you my joy and trust in you, how to demonstrate my love and trust in you. Together we are stronger than any storms, together we can face the unknown and build our dreams, even if we have to leap into the unknown. I will always be yours. Ta ghra agam duit my wolf

Outside the sanctuary I would pray for her, and to the last I shall continue to seek her.
From her blossoming to the ripening of her grape my heart has taken its delight in her. My foot has pursued a straight path, I have sought her ever since my youth.
By bowing my ear a little, I have received her, and have found much instruction.
Thanks to her I have advanced; glory be to Him who has given me wisdom!
For I was determined to put her into practice, have earnestly pursued the good, and shall not be put to shame.
My soul has fought to possess her, I have been scrupulous in keeping the Law; I have stretched out my hands to heaven and bewailed how little I knew of her;
I have directed my soul towards her, and in purity I have found her; having my heart fixed on her from the outset, I shall never be deserted;
my very core having yearned to discover her, I have now acquired a good possession.

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Why Church and State should be separate in the issue of marriage.

According to a number of religious groups calling the union of a same-sex couple marriage under law fundamentally undermines the institution of marriage..

….So in light of the recurrent hissy-fits thrown by various religious leaders, politicians and feminists alike (albeit for radically different reasons -usually), I propose the government of the UK abolishes the term marriage entirely and institutes new terminology:-

  • a word meaning relationship sanctioned and solemnised by a religious organisation,
  • a word meaning relationship recognised and protected by the state; and
  • a word for all other fucking arrangements

Christians may have matrimonia, Jews nissuin, Muslims Nikah etc. or choose some other word that denotes the change in status (as befits their traditions and language – which lets be honest I’m not an expert on). Civil ceremonies can have partnership. Then anyone who confused marriage and parenthood or got antsy about the role of a person in their domestic partnership because it was called marriage could be fined for whining about a word that has been outlawed and told to mind his own bloody business.

What I mean is that the key issue that I see within the debate is a complete failure of separate parties to comprehend the values attached to a word by the opposing side. Realistically I understand that if your idea of relationships involves following the strictures of your religious leaders seeing others do it differently is threatening to your situation because it suggests that either you are wrong or that they completely fail to respect you or simply that they are risking their immortal soul (insert equivalent here) by not following your guidelines. Similarly if you are a hard-line liberal suggesting that there is a right way to do relationships fundamentally threatens someone’s freedom and putting a label pre-owned by religious institutions on it might suggest ownership or restrictions and degredation of women – ideas that might seem horrific to people whose religious ideals are being judged.

It therefore seems clear that there should be provision for separate commitments. All religions can therefore be treated equally – each of them can be recognised as offering a form of union with its own rules and privileges within the community but none of them automatically conferring state rights. Then a civil union can be sought with or without religious involvement with exactly the same rights and responsibilities invoked no matter who is concerned.
Would it really destroy the Christian church if instead of sanctifying and legalising a marriage in one go the state’s involvement was done before or after as the individuals saw fit? They could go about their affairs, choosing who entered the sacrament and keeping that sacrament ‘holy’, and the choice of the state to protect and equalise (for example) next-of-kin rights or tax benefits between gay or straight couples would not be tantamount to forcing the Church to change their position.

I realise that the key issue is emotive – some gay couples want the ability to call their union marriage, just as some couples (gay and straight) hate the word and want recognition regardless. Similarly certain religious groups feel the word belongs to them.
Hence my proposal is that if you can’t play nicely and share then none of you can have it.

Marriage is outlawed.

Edited to add: I am by no means anti-marriage and am in many respects deeply happy with my civil-partnership. See Here. I am however deeply frustrated by a debate that appears to focus on an attachment on the idea that one word will change the way people form relationships – well sod it!

What Does Marriage Mean to Me?

The institution of marriage gets some serious stick both from liberal commentators and people with ‘alternative’ lifestyles and from the people who choose to commit themselves to it with disastrous consequences, be that 17 day publicity-stints or 40 year abusive hell-holes. At the same time laws across the world protect it and prosecute those considered unfit to enter into marriage. So what can we realistically mean when we choose marriage and should we bother?

This is perhaps a complex issue for me; more difficult than your average heterosexual, monogamous, quasi-christian pairing at least.

Anthropology does not agree on definitions of marriage, suggesting that different cultures have different expectations of the rights and duties in confers on the individuals concerned (sometimes including but not limited to – legitmisation of children, sexual access rights and financial concerns) and this is evident simply in the variety of expectations people within one country can bring to the table.
Personally, I am forced to disavow the unions set up under civil law in this country not because I despise the notion of a legal contract but I cannot under any good faith feel part of a marriage that is described as the union of One Man and One Woman and yet nor am I happy with a Civil Partnership defined solely as a partnership of two individuals of the same gender. Religious expectations are even more complex and perhaps more relevant to people of any given faith than legal stipulations but have little relevance to those outside those spiritual boundaries. Thus my natural inclination tells me that ‘marriage’ can be either spiritual (and/or ‘church’ sanctioned) or civil and although you may have both of these forms if you do not you are simply in a relationship (with whatever degrees of commitment, involvement and responsibility you have agreed).

Perhaps surprisingly I find that I am very much in favour of the insitution of marriage and of my marriage in particular. No matter how many time people tell you that its just the same after marriage as before (especially if you are long-term co-habitees) that wasn’t my experience. My ‘religious’ union was my first step towards life-time commitment but the civil ceremony was a relief and a genuine source of delight.
I am comforted by the legal protection and the recognition in documentation and simultaneously saddened that I can’t offer anything vaguely similar to B. But my marriage is more than a vague contract; its not just something to hang our legal rights on in courts and custody, or an expression of joint culpability. It is more than simply an agreement to spend my life with another, or to live with them and yet it is also not defined by the requirement of excluding all others, emotionally or physically. Perhaps this makes it more honest than many marriage contracts or perhaps it is an uneasy formality.

As I have commented before commitment is an important issue for me – my marriage is a commitment to share my life as completely as I can and to offer love and support through good and bad times; to make an effort to work through the problems we may have personally and jointly as they arise and put in the time and energy to make our relationship work. Marriage is nothing more or less than something I work on and within everyday, it is part of my identity and I adore it – being someone’s wife.. its an amazingly good feeling of connection and belonging.
The only things that bug me about it are the law (and its special sets of restrictions) and feminists etc who tell me I’m restricting myself rather than realising it allows me to become greater than myself.

Banging the Drum

In bored procrastination I tend to flick through a variety of blogs and one thing that tends to be obvious is that the advocacy is a big deal. I guess its not surprising that I have read a variety of blogs about Polyamory and read other people’s thoughts and advice.
I am grateful for the fact that the internet allows me that opportunity to read that, but advice isn’t what I set out to offer. On the other hand I am not interested in hiding my feelings and the fun and challenges my lifestyle brings- does that make me an advocate?

I am able to maintain 2 simultaneous relationships with the knowledge and co-operation not only of the people involved but also our mutual friends and even B’s parents. I am open about our relationships when people ask because I am not cheating on either person and I want people to know that. But I don’t advertise it or go on marches because I am too lazy to explain to most people the intricacies and because some issues are just private.
It is important to M that people know that she is my wife and that I am committed to her – sometimes that includes them knowing I have a relationship with someone else and sometimes it doesn’t. Most of all I won’t let people question my commitment to the woman in my life just because I also have a man. Nor of course is it fair for me to allow people to assume that B is just a fling and that I use him for sex. And I refuse not to offer my point of view if people want to understand more.

Should I do more? Without earlier pioneers on the LGBT scene I wouldn’t be able to walk down the street holding her hand let alone be allowed to wed her. Should I be offering something similar to other people in my position in the future? Should I fight for the ability to marry again? To share parental rights? Do I have the nerve?
For me visibility is the first thing I can do. Within my friendship group several people are in open relationships (which was perhaps my first experience towards poly) and a handful have longer term multiple relationships but if you were to read most media you would think it far more unusual.

So there we go this is my contribution to visibility. This is my life and I live it and I try not to harm others. For good or ill here it is.