Friday, 14 June 2013

Mawwiage*



     There’s been a bit of hoohar recently about marriage and I’ve had a few arguments with people about it. So let’s just set out a few things before I get The Rage and go a bit ranty.

  1. I am not anti-marriage. I have been to many weddings over the years and shed a few tears to see people I love commit themselves to one another. If you want to get married, I am very happy for you. I will gladly celebrate with you. Congratulations.
     2.      People of every variety should be able to get married on an equal footing.


3         3.     I am not married.

4          4.  I am not ever going to get married.


     Alistair and I have been together for nearly fourteen years. We have two children. We are very much in love. But I am never going to marry him, or indeed, anyone else.

     Because I don’t want to get married. I don’t want a husband. I don’t want to be a wife. I am Miss Lucy Benedict, spinster of this parish and intend to remain so. I have never entertained fantasies of ‘My Big Day’, or daydreamed about which meringue I’d like to wear, despite society telling me that ‘all girls dream about their wedding day’. I just didn’t. Maybe because I wasn’t a girly girl, maybe because my parents had an unhappy marriage, maybe because I just didn’t seem the point of getting married.

     And this feeling seems to offend some people, especially now Alistair and I have children. For some reason, they seem to think our unmarried status means that we aren’t committed to one another. That our family isn’t stable. The Prime Minister certainly thinks so. This is what he had to say on the matter in 2007:

Speaking to party activists in Cardiff, the Tory leader insisted he would continue to promote marriage as the "central institution in a strong society". The Conservative helmsman said he "didn't care" if others thought he was wrong to single out marriage. Mr Cameron went on to warn of the potential damages of ignoring the fact that "one in two co-habiting parents split up before their child's fifth birthday, compared to one in twelve married parents. I think it's time we recognised that family breakdown is the central factor in the social breakdown we see in our country today," Mr Cameron concluded.

     Hmm.  I don’t agree. Let’s start with his assertion that ‘one in two co-habiting parents split up before their child’s fifith birthday’. That is not true. He’s not even being economical with the truth. He is lying. Firstly, the data he is basing this on did not take into account whether or not the child’s parents were co-habiting at the point of conception. So that figures includes:

1               One night stands
2                Relationships that were already on their last legs
3                Relationships where the parents did not cohabit
4           A woman who decides to opt for single parenthood via IVF.
5            Surrogates
6           One unmarried partner who dies before the child’s fifth birthday.

     And probably many other scenarios I can’t be arsed to think of.

     Secondly, Cameron gleefully ignores that people who get married and go on to have children tend to be older, have fewer financial pressures, and more job security – three factors that often have an impact on whether a relationship survives or dies.

     Thirdly, I don’t believe that ‘that family breakdown is the central factor in the social breakdown we see in our country’. I think inequality might be. Poverty might be.  Lack of employment opportunities might be. Intolerance might be. All of which are steadily getting worse in the UK under the leadership of David Cameron. But I don’t agree that not getting married = family breakdown = social breakdown. Last time I checked (ooh, about three hours ago) my family were a pretty strong unit.

      And we are a family. Mum, Dad, Son, Daughter. We are committed. And I find it pretty ignorant and offensive that David Cameron has the cheek, the nerve, the sheer bloody gall, to bang on again and again that marriage is special, that marriage means commitment, that marriage deserves to be afforded tax breaks. That cohabiting parents are, by their very nature, unstable family environments. No, Mr Cameron. A relationship is special. A relationship is commitment. I don’t think the country can afford tax breaks for married couples when half a million people in the UK used food banks last year. It's been eight and a half years since our son was born, hey, guess what? We're pretty damned stable.

     When Alistair and I found out I was pregnant with the eight year old we’d already been together for six years. Having children together was our commitment to one another. I would not countenance having children with someone I don’t want to grow old with. I can marry, divorce, remarry, and my ex-husband will be just that. But the father of my children will always be the father of my children, so he needs to be the love of my life (along with wine, obviously), and someone to whom I am making the ultimate commitment - sharing parenthood.

     Because of all the coverage, the eight year old has been chatting to me a fair bit about marriage (a conversation initiated when he overheard the phrase ‘aggressive homosexual community’ and shouted at the telly ‘There’s nothing wrong with being gay!’ I beamed with pride). And I’ve explained to him that some people get married, some people don’t, and that’s fine.  It’s up to each individual to decide what they want for themselves, but just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they’re lesser. And he piped up ‘But Mum, David Cameron said you and Dad are going to split up, because you’re not married.’ So I reassured him that that was utter bollocks (I may have used slightly different language), and that David Cameron was a twat (again, I paraphrase slightly). And to illustrate my point, I reminded him of the following in his own family:

     Alistair and I – not married, two children, 14 year relationship

     My sister & her partner – married, but not to each other, two children, 13 year relationship

     My brother & his partner – married, but not to each other, one child, 22 year relationship

     Alistair’s eldest brother – married, one child, has not seen wife or child for ten years

     My mum & dad – married, three children, separated (finally) after years of unhappiness that spread throughout my siblings and I, caused huge disruption and emotional upheaval.

     And the eight year old thought about this and said ‘Please don’t marry Daddy.’

* Whenever I type the word 'marriage' I never fail to say it in the style of Peter Cook in The Princess Bride. Every single time.

4 comments:

Harriet said...

Great post. I'm also against tax breaks for couples for just being married.

If we're going to have legal recognition of relationships that needs to be open to everyone regardless of gender. In fact I would go further and say I would like to see us find a way of recognising polyamorous relationships.

Would you be interested in having your relationship recognised (e.g. through a civil partnership or something) if you could do so without "getting married", and thus avoiding the connotations that "marriage" brings?

Lucy Benedict said...

Thanks!

Alistair and I talked about it and we would love to be able to have a civil partnership and the legal benefits it confers. No ceremony, no fuss, we'd just like to be able to sign something to say that we are in a committed relationship legally.

I know some people argue that a civil marriage is like that, but it's that word - 'marriage'. I don't want to get married.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Marriage isn't for us, but we worry very much about the consequences of not being each other's next of kin. It is so unfair!

Lucy Benedict said...

I'm lucky I get on with Alistair's family - can you imagine how difficult it would be in other circumstances?