Excerpt from Lesbian Marriage: A Sex Survival Kit By Kim Chernin and Renate Stendhal
Marriage is not the remedy for couple trouble! But there is a lot of magical and wishful thinking about it: marriage will give you a new start, fix your problems, fulfill your dreams… It’s the myth of the “Make-Over Marriage.” (Should we call it MOM?) The romantic investment in marriage is huge. And so is the pressure. Couples trap each other with expectations, especially if some or all of their friends have already stepped up to the altar.
Who will pop the question? When will you pop the question? Are you saying our love isn’t good enough? That I am good enough to be your partner but not your spouse? Prove to me that you love me by marrying me. Show me that you stand behind me and accept me with all my unsolved problems for better or worse.
Of course you want to begin again and be reborn a better person than you were a minute ago. Behind every oath and vow, there’s a wish to rise again from your ashes. “I will love you forever” means I will become a person capable of loving forever; “until death do us part” means I am capable of sticking around for better or worse in an intimate relationship. “I give you my soul and my body” means I would like to be free of my sexual hang-ups. “With this ring, I thee wed” means I wish that our bond was stronger than all our differences and difficulties.
Marriage is a trickster. It’s a new challenge for lesbian couples who might feel that now, as we may, we must.
• Take marriage seriously and realistically.
• Be aware that institutions, even “sacred” ones like marriage, usually don’t make people better.
• Be aware: marriage is not a guarantee for sex (and even less for sex ever-after.)
• Resist pressure, take your time, stay in the NOW of your relationship.
• Accept not being sure.
• Accept Not Yet.
• Be honest.
• Resist peer and family pressure.
• Resist your lover’s need to prove anything through marriage.
• Open up your old copy of Women Who Love Too Much.
• Make up your own mind. (You will bear the consequences.)
• Weigh all the pros and cons before rushing to tie the knot. (It’s better to break up over marriage now than suffer a divorce later.)
• Get advice from other married couples or marriage counselors.
• Consider consulting a property/tax attorney.
• Make sure you know about each other’s credit card debts.
• Spell out any conditions without fear. Do it now. (Later is too late.)
• Remember that a good marriage isn’t all that easy to pull off.
• Don’t believe that marriage will fix your lover or her problems.
• Don’t think that marriage will fix your own problems.
• Don’t marry because you believe you’ll miss out on the most romantic part of your relationship.
• Don’t marry because it’s the fashion right now.
• Don’t marry because it’s “a fun game,” and you’ll get lots of gifts.
• Don’t rush because of the historical moment.
• Don’t believe that marrying proves your love.
• Don’t believe that marriage proves you stand behind your lover for better or worse.
• Don’t count on marriage to magically make love or sex deeper or better.
Renate Stendhal, Ph.D. is a German-born, Paris-educated writer, writing coach and spiritual counselor with a private practice in the San Francisco/ Bay Area. Among her publications are True Secrets of Lesbian Desire: Keeping Sex Alive in Long-Term Relationships and the Lambda Award-winning photobiography Gertrude Stein: In Words and Pictures. Read her Gertrude Stein blog “Why Do Something If It Can Be Done”; and her cultural reviews on Scene4 as well as on her website www.renatestendhal.com. She is preparing a Kindle book on lesbian marriage and a Parisian memoir.