But They Have Civil Union, Why do They Need Marriage?

But They Have Civil Union, Why do They Need Marriage?


Because Marriage is Different.

An Opinion Piece By Nicole Buckler

When I first came to Ireland 15 years ago, as a single woman with a bunch of crazy Aussie and Kiwi friends, never did I imagine for a minute I’d fall for the big Irish eejit that rented me a room in Dublin.

My friend Angela and I rented two single rooms off him, he was our landlord. He had the master bedroom. After Ang and I moved in, we used to throw huge ridiculous house parties when he went away on weekends to see family down the country. He only ever came back early once to find several people asleep on the floor covered in wine and what looked like the recycling. We were terrible house mates, really.

But I fell for the big eejit over the course of the year, over the fireplace chats on cold nights and him pouring me wine after wine. He was totally trying to get me drunk. It worked. After my one-year working holiday visa was up, Angela jogged on back to Auz and I upgraded to the master suite.

But, there was the problem of my legal existence in the state. We could have just got married to solve this problem, but we weren’t there yet. Instead, my work offered me a full working visa and I took it. This went on for a few years, until I wanted to leave that job for a better one who couldn’t offer me a working visa….yet. Again, we could have got married, to solve a legal problem. But we weren’t there yet. So I managed to set myself up with a different job that offered a working visa. We puttered along for a while until we reached that point of…do we go for it or not? Are we there yet?

Then, my hand was forced. I had to go back to Australia for a few months to put out some fires there. I had to leave my job, which meant that when I came back, I didn’t have a legal right to exist in the state. I came back in on a tourist visa, and then became a LEGAL DEPENDENT on my boyfriend. What this meant was that I couldn’t work. I was effectively a spongiformy sponge off my then-boyfriend. I had worked since I was 14 years old and this felt really feckin weird. I didn’t like it. I was asking this person who had no real connection with me (other than a love of wine) to pay for me to exist. It didn’t feel right, even though he was utterly in love with me (he denies it).

Eventually I found another job, at a company who offered me a visa. Once I felt equal to the big eejit, I then felt it was the right time to get married. We had been through a bit of the ol’ thick and thin, and I needed to end this wild visa ride. When we decided to marry, I didn’t think I would feel differently about him or about us. I just thought it would be legal and it would make my life here easier as I wouldn’t have to ask for a work visa every time I got a new job. I wanted the problem solved so quickly that we eloped. It was just us and two unfortunate witnesses who were polite enough to act glad that we pulled them out of a pool to sign some documents. They acted happy for us, I hope they were. They had just had a big €100K wedding and were wondering how they were going to pay for it. They were jealous of my €700 of total expenditure and the fact that I didn’t have a drunk embarrassing uncle that puked on someone’s shoes on the dancefloor.

I thought marriage wouldn’t be any different to a legal agreement that made us equals. But the day we got married, and we came back home, I felt really REALLY different towards him. I now felt better about depending on him when the chips were down. Now he was my husband, I SHOULD depend on him, and him on me. Although he has never needed to depend on me, as the chips have never been down for him. He’s never been out of work, or horribly sick, or in labour. But if he is ever any of those things, I will be there because he is my husband.

While I was his “legal dependent” I felt weird, despite the fact that he was generous and supportive and it wasn’t weird for him. But it was weird for me. We were legally responsible for each other. But it wasn’t a patch on how marriage feels.

I had to rely on the big eejit again after I had my first daughter, and then my second. I was slow to go back to work full time as I wanted to be with my kids before they grew up and called me weird and swore at me and told me they hated me.

But this time around, I didn’t feel weird about being his dependent. And not just because I had produced two new humans with him. I felt like I was supposed to depend on him, because he was my husband.

I didn’t think that marriage would change our relationship. Yes we could have stayed in a legal agreement that enabled me to work and gave us a partnership that was protected by law. But the day I married him I was really surprised about the sense of security it gave me. It was a greater commitment, the oldest commitment out there, and it definitely made me feel differently towards us and our life together. And I never ever thought it would give me that sense of union. But it did.

A civil union gives legal protection, it’s true. But marriage gives the union an age-old feeling. It declares to everyone you know that this is YOUR human, and you are theirs. You are responsible for them, you will do loads of stuff for them like pick up their dry cleaning when they can’t, and you love them, even if they don’t like that weird friend of yours who keeps buying new puppies.

A civil union is just legal. A marriage is a wild, symbolic declaration of romantic feelings that says I intend to make this person a cup of tea for the rest of their life. It’s bigger, it’s high-def, and it’s the stuff of life. Let’s let everyone be equally miserable in their marriages.

Vote yes. Because everyone deserves to be equally responsible for the family’s dry-cleaning.

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