There is no shortage of opinion pieces where the writer stands on a soapbox and loudly and proudly states that marriage is unnecessary. Whether it is outdated, sexist, or just too contractual for the writer’s liking, the idea that choosing to be together out of love and not obligation is superior. I understand the perspective of these writers, and in some ways, this does feel like a highly evolved stance to take. Why should someone need a legal document or ceremony to show that their relationship is real, and isn’t it more significant when a couple stays together because they make that choice again every morning?
My objection to this is the fact that not every couple has the luxury of making this choice. For myself and my husband, along with an increasingly large number of others the world over, bureaucratic powers will not allow us to live together indefinitely without a marriage certificate. Because my husband and I weren’t born in the same country — he’s Turkish — we have gone through a long and expensive process in order to live together in the US. We are not alone in this — the US State Department issues over tens (or hundreds) of thousands of spousal and fiance visas every year alone. The numbers suggest that we are a population who is not going away, especially the more people have access to travel and mobility, bumping into (and beginning relationships with) people from other countries.
While we listen to others say, “Marriage isn’t really for us,” we lose sleep wondering if the immigration officer will believe that our relationship is real or if we will continue to be separated. I remember well the sleepless nights before my husband’s visa interview, wondering if we were about to be reunited or if we’d be quickly figuring out a plan B for life together.
There is a level of testing that comes from being in an intercultural marriage that compares well with the idea of “choosing to be together every day.” When you have to prove your relationship on paper and then in interviews, you are forced to question and examine whether you really want to be in this relationship at all. Couples who are from the same country miss out on this, for the most part. Sure, your parents or friends might want to make sure your partner is “good enough” for you or ask questions about their employment status or living arrangements. But when immigration becomes the issue at hand, the level of scrutiny is far greater, and it can only be navigated with patience and endurance. You don’t “accidentally” end up in a marriage like this; it doesn’t just happen to you. It is a choice, it is intentional, and often it is something you have to fight for.
This is not to say that those of us who do not necessarily choose to get married but must are somehow superior. It is merely pointing out the fact that we do not live in a world that is very friendly to couples with mixed nationalities. And I am under no delusions that we are the only couples that deal with this. Same-sex couples continue to face the same challenge in many parts of the world and have only recently won the right to marry here in the US. It is simply interesting to me that those of us who have the right to marry who we choose sometimes choose to opt-out, while at the same time others are fighting for that same right.
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out Marriage Is Hard AF