Last year was the first wedding anniversary for my partner and me and it brought some unforeseen challenges. I had many anxieties of getting and being married in the first place although none of them came from doubts about my relationship, our commitment to each other, or our love.
Rather, they stemmed from a variety of personal and political reasons, concerns, and fears. One anxiety was, that since we were in a heterosexual presenting relationship that I would lose my queer identity and he would lose his bi identity. We’ve been in LGBTQ spaces that have invalidated our identities because we are together and we’ve been in heterosexual environments that completely ignored our queer/bi identities. I did not want a marriage to undo all the work we had done as individuals and as a couple.
I also felt conflicted because, at the time, many of our LGBTQ friends didn’t have the same legal options as we did because of who they were in relationships with. I didn’t, and still don’t, want to participate in a society who places more validity on marriage than other types of relationships. Especially when that same society oppresses LGBTQ individuals and prevents them from being who they are and being in relationships of their choosing.
A decision that my partner and I made before getting married was that we would continue to celebrate the number of years we had been together rather than wedding anniversaries. We wanted to build upon the experiences and commitment of the six years before the wedding rather than start over. Since our wedding anniversary fell around the same time that we met, it felt like an easy shift to make.
However, just as people put their own perceptions and evaluations onto our wedding, they also put their own value onto our anniversary. For the first time since we’d been together, we received anniversary cards and other forms of recognition. I was furious that many of our friends and family now considered us a more legitimate couple simply because we had filed a piece of paperwork. What they were focusing on and celebrating wasn’t our truth or what we wanted. We didn’t want other people to see our relationship as any different now because we had been married.
It was difficult for me to initially separate how people valued our relationship from how my partner and I valued it. However, he reminded me that we can continue to have our relationship look exactly how we want despite how others perceive it. I refused to open the cards so I left that responsibility for him both last year and this year. I know that there are several people who will continue to give us anniversary cards and recognize the milestone years. We try to keep in mind that the cards and the words are no more than that: pieces of paper and words.
We continue to define ourselves, our relationship and our commitment to each other just as we have for the past eight years.