Only a few weeks ago I wrote complaining that same-sex couples couldn’t get married in the state where I work. So make no never mind, NY just passed a same-sex marriage law so that everyone can now make it legal. Governor Andrew Cuomo worked harder than anyone could imagine possible to get this legislation through the Senate, and it came down to the wire and had a margin of only 2 votes. Immediately, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey—the state where I live— responded that he would never, ever in a million years make same-sex marriage legal in New Jersey. But nothing he said could rain on the Gay Rights Parade, which occurred the next day, where New York’s Governor was treated like Caesar, heady with victory.
But wait! Now I have another complaint. And it goes like this: same sex couples have been forming lasting bonds for years and years, and even longer than that, but now “normal” is the new radical and there is a rush to the altar faster than, well, faster than a New York minute. Slow down!
As an example, Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York has nudged two of his top staffers, who are partners, toward the altar and insisted that they let him perform the marriage in his official capacity as Mayor of the city. One of the men said wryly, “We’ve been together 16 years, have two lovely daughters, and suddenly the Mayor and my partner popped the question, and the wedding is scheduled in two weeks!” It seems the Mayor wants to officiate at the very first legal gay marriage in New York – ever!
I can well imagine that all over the state, less high-profile people are suddenly asking their gay friends, “When’s the wedding?” And partners are busily shopping for wedding rings – skipping the engagement. There is commercial pressure, too. We’re talking millions of dollars in wedding planners fees, venues, presents, etc. I’m worried that in all the euphoria, lots of folks are skipping an important step. What exactly will marriage mean to them?
So that’s where—yes—I come in and other couple’s therapists as well. Wouldn’t you rather be seeing me for pre-marriage counseling, now, when you can actually savor the challenges of becoming a married couple than coming in a few months down the line to save a marriage that hadn’t quite been thought through?
Same sex couples have unique issues. Over the years, I’ve discovered that one of the greatest challenges and serious risks to a couple’s union is found in the differing levels that each is accepted by their in-laws as a gay person, and to what degree each side of the family is comfortable with being “out” around the marriage of their son or daughter. These days, children are often already a part of the couple’s lives, and the shift into marriage needs to include real communication with the children as well. It’s a family affair before the altar is even reached.
Actually, I think that every couple should go through a period of reflection and pre-marriage counseling before taking this important step. But these days, with all the pressure mounting from friends, family, and, yes, even politicians to have a wedding, same-sex couples need to take a deep breath and give themselves some time and space to reflect on this major life transition. Talk to a therapist—and bring the kids!
One other thing: the hero of the moment, Governor Cuomo, is living with his girlfriend of five years in the Governor’s mansion. Hey, Guv, “when’s the wedding?”
Kent Jarratt, LCSW
Got thoughts or opinions on this topic? A helpful anecdote you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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