Like millions of people I’ve been following the last two days at the Supreme Court with interest. It still boggles my mind that we are in a conversation about whether the right to marry applies to some people and not others. It astounds me that a good part of the conversation is about “redefining traditional marriage”. We hear some mention of the long history of marriage as a heterosexual institution and hesitation to call such a relationship between two people of the same gender the same thing. But I don’t want to write about the politics. Instead, I want to share some of my thoughts and feelings about marriage.
I didn’t dream of getting married as a child. I didn’t imagine myself in a white dress and heels, in a church, making promises. In my family, invisible husbands were the norm. With few exceptions, what I learned from my family and culture was that faithful men were like the Loch Ness monster– the stuff of legend. From my Liberian and Nigerian relatives, friends and observation it seemed a simple fact that every married man would at some point step out, have a mistress on the side, perhaps even a second or third wife. That’s simply the way it is. Yet in college I began to imagine myself married. It started because I had a dream in which I saw myself, and a green linen suit, barefoot, making promises. That dream stirred something in me, a desire that has remained. I told myself that my marriage would be different from many of the ones I’ve seen. In my marriage we would like and love each other, be faithful not just sexually but also in speaking well of each other, supporting each other, being honest lovingly and compassionately. We would have fun, be integral to a community and raise children together joyfully, among other things. It wouldn’t be easy but we would transform in honoring the commitment.
For me, marriage is fundamentally a spiritual commitment. In fact the legal part doesn’t even make sense to me without it, for myself that is. Islam says that marriage is half of your religion. I wondered why for the longest time. My understanding, as I’ve now been in a couple of relationships where we talked about marriage as a possibility (even going so far as to get engaged!) is that there is nothing like having to really consider, think about and do for a partner day in and day out. Such experiences have expanded my spirit. I rely on my faith to show up every day in my relationship. It is my faith that even makes it possible for me to show up every day. The story of Majnun and Layla (http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/mideast/mi-jcok.htm ) is a powerful metaphor, from a Sufi perspective, about treating your earthly beloved as a microcosm of the Beloved, Allah. What, if anything, would shift in your romantic partnership if you saw your partner as a microcosm of God, or something far bigger than you? Of course this doesn’t hold at every moment: ) partnership has helped me to exceed myself in ways I didn’t imagine I would have to. I’ve learned so much about holding honesty as a central value in relationship, being reliable, emotional intimacy, receiving support and help. There has been tremendous healing in these experiences. Interestingly, as I have grown in my ability to be a good partner both my faith and my spiritual practice have deepened. Inshallah I intend to marry before too long. I am indescribably thrilled at the prospect and excited to see what unfolds through the marriage door.