I see a lot of ink in my job, in fact sometimes I recognize somebody’s face, but I don’t really remember who they are until they get on the table and I see their ink. This week one of my irregular clients was in. I’ve seen her 2 or 3 times over the last year and half, so I didn’t immediately remember her. She has a tattoo that reads: “I am my own before I am anyone else’s”. That helped me remember and in prior sessions she was fairly quiet.
Her tattoo, however, made me think about commitments in a big way. Not just the commitment of ink, but in the message it, and she, conveyed.
She spoke of having a fiancee, someone she cared about and was committed to, but then she also spoke about not getting married ever. She referenced all the problems that happen in regards to marriage. She spoke mainly of financial concerns based on a book she had read encouraging people to navigate the system in beneficial ways. They were all thoughts that had crossed my mind early in mine and Nathan’s relationship. She’s right, there are lots of reasons to not want to get married. I have experienced some of them in my own marriage and in watching my parents marriage. Financial concerns, strife and arguments being the biggest factors that I’ve noticed in mine and my parents marriages.
I admired her commitment to herself, and genuinely hope that it works out for her. For me I see the compromise that we make just living life, and acknowledge that myself comes first in most ways, all which I’m able, but it’s still life. My goal is to live my best life and take care of myself as best as possible, but in some cases that means extra challenges. It is that which leaves me acknowledging there are also lots of reasons to do the commitment of marriage. That is why many of the old masculine paradigm are still drawn to it.
Even the government acknowledges that once you’ve lived together, shared finances for so long, and had children, you’re essentially already married. And let’s face it if you’re that entwined, augments are inevitable to some degree. Most states acknowledge this with “common law” marriage rules. And let’s be honest if you’re having children, either you’re living together and sharing everything anyway, or you’re separated and one parent is automatically the non-custodial parent. Said parent has limited visitation and limited rights and required financial commitments (child support). States do frequently pursue child support from non-custodial parents even when marriage was never addressed, and often when there were supposedly amicable agreements. On the other hand, if you’re living together you share all the rights and all the responsibilities, and it’s still up to both of you, as to how that is handled. The choice of getting married or staying unmarried doesn’t do anything to solve the puzzle of having children. There are pros and cons to both sides of that fence, and if you want to be an active participant in your childrens’ lives then common law or traditional marriage are your only real options. Otherwise you get the short end of the stick in most ways, and still have to pay for them.
In mine and Nathan’s marriage it has meant a big factor was making certain that his daughter would be cared for should anything happen to him. Right now due to legalities he is solely responsible for education and medical concerns for her, and has been since her mom died. However because her mom is already deceased, if anything happened to Nathan, all I would have to do is present both death certificates to proper governing bodies and assuming there were no other petitions for custody, I would be granted legal guardianship. It has been a huge relief factor considering Nathan’s health concerns beginning early in our relationship, starting 6 months after we decided to marry. There have been other concerns over children as well, since I’ve now produced two more of them.
Yet we are polyamorous.
Polyamory struggles with this conundrum because in most of the United States only one marriage is legal. So, you play the dance of trying to decide: 1-do I marry one person and call everyone else my significant other, or 2- do I marry none legally and just have a bunch of significant others, or 3- do I marry no one legally and hand-fast my partners to have multiple non-legal spouses.
It creates hierarchical structure concerns, and then when children get involved, it creates further custody and responsibility concerns for every adult in the family. United States law simply has not addressed polyamory in any way to date. So, most polyamorous families end up attempting to solve the problem with legal guidance, and legal documentation, to sometimes still have biological grandparents/aunts/uncles throw kinks into postmortem processes. There have been more than a few polyamorous families, and many polygamist families, end up in long legal battles after one adult passed away.
That is why Nathan and I drug our heals at making the commitment. We both acknowledged that marriage was a huge risk by itself, and being poly from the onset of our relationship made it an even larger risk as a commitment. We discussed it for hours on end, many times over 4 years, before finally sealing the deal. We weighed pros and cons and all the risks of both sides.
For me it boiled down to love. I knew I loved Nathan and his daughter enough to take every last one of the scary risks we had acknowledged, especially after his miserable divorce completed. I was willing to walk through fire if it meant they knew I loved them and wanted the best that I could manage for them.
I also knew that my own health battle meant I regularly fought both inside and outside of myself. My brain was frequently intent on making me see the worst in everything and it would often cause a strong desire for either death, suicide, or escape, no matter the circumstances. I knew that for me the commitment had to be extra hard to get out of, mostly to make certain I would fight hard enough to win the war waged in my brain and emotions. I wanted to make sure that my inner me, who loved them truly and deeply, had a trigger in my mental sphere to encourage the fight for good. I didn’t want the negative ninny in my brain to win simply because it was easy to escape. Marriage ultimately became my insurance to fight for my own life and to keep reaching for the love I knew was there.
I knew my love for Nathan and his daughter was worth fighting for. Every good moment felt amazing. Every time my brain was in a good space, there wasn’t a shred of doubt that I loved them. It was a deeply felt knowing, that when my brain was clear, was easy access. I wanted to preserve that even when my brain malfunctioned, and being married with divorce as a consequence enabled me to win against my brain over and over again.
To this day I still acknowledge that divorce really would do me no good. It won’t solve the role of finances and could make it even worse. It won’t solve my brain’s function. It won’t make taking care of myself any easier. It won’t be helpful for children, and could potentially traumatize all of us. Divorce simply won’t fix anything that is broken, and could lead to even greater damages. So it is still my safety net to continue to fight the good fight for love. May it always work and love overcome all.
I hope that one day there will be another that feels as I do, and we can commit through all of those legal hoops, to make a solid attempt at protecting a poly family. Anyone willing to go through that definitely has love and all of our best interests at heart.
May you always know how to put yourself first and care for yourself as fully as life allows. May you know that occasionally legal commitment is the route to enable that. May you know that not all commitments must be legal to be truly valid, that a commitment is really demonstrated in many ways on a daily basis, sometimes as simply as surviving the rough parts. May you know that everything has a reason and a purpose, and that our goal here on Earth is to find ways to improve upon everything as best as we are able. May you see that improvement in yourself and know that you win a war every time that your brain would prefer you don’t. Regardless of your decisions may you see that everything works out just as you need. Above all my you know that the divine loves and supports you in all that you do.