Happily Ever After?
Will same-sex marriage alter divorce rates?
The other day, I was serving a table of middle-aged, middle class women with too much time on their hands when I overheard (Okay, I was eavesdropping) them discussing the recent legalization of Gay Marriage in the UK.
“Well I think it's great that they can get married now!” one exclaimed, perfectly annunciated and very politically correct. Well done, her.
Which got my back up a bit... Shouldn't it be: “I think it's great that WE can ALL get married now”? But as you're not allowed to verbally abuse customers, I held my tongue and kept listening.
I wish I hadn't. The rest of their conversation was a barely politically correct array of phrases congratulating “my kind” on being allowed the same legal rights as the rest of the country. Lucky us, eh? But the snippet of their conversation that baffled me the most was this question: “I wonder if them getting married will mean the divorce rates will rise?”
Seriously. That actually came out of someone's mouth. As though gay people (the flamboyant, erratic breed that we are) will be more likely to just flippantly decide to get married and ruin the statistics for the rest of the country when our childlike enthusiasm ends in inevitable divorce. I mean, if we're quirky enough to “decide” to be gay in the first place (*clenches fists*) then how are we going to handle this privilege now bestowed upon us? Won't we mistreat it?
Now this got me thinking. One in three marriages currently ends in divorce, a number that is swiftly rising. My own father has been married four times, my mother twice, so I couldn't care less about whether or not people want a divorce... do what makes you happy. And with marriage no longer linked (legally) to religion, it's become less taboo to break out of a marriage without feeling damned to hell for the rest of eternity.
Marriage is no longer once-in-a-lifetime. Multiple partners used to be frowned upon, and past generations were brought up to marry for life, but that just isn't the norm any more. So this is the reason divorce rates are rising. Gay people are not going to change this, we may just raise the average spend per wedding—matching white dresses and cabaret acts aren't cheap.
Yes, it's a nice idea to find your life partner, but with statistics showing that women are marrying later (average UK age is 30) and divorce rates rising, it looks like we're changing our minds. Although it is worth noting that these are STRAIGHT statistics. My table of women seemed to think that perhaps if the numbers were based on gay couples it would be different? Which was worth considering as I glowered over the counter at them.
We've all seen the “fusion effect” when two women find a partner: Date three and we usually arrive with a moving van and are kitten-shopping by the end of the month. Do lesbian relationships tend to have more longevity than straight ones? In my experience, my male gay friends in relationships are also inseparable, and where my best friend Charlotte and her boyfriend are forever bickering, all I see from the guys is constant and relentless displays of affection and glee. Which makes me happy and jealous in equal measure.
Multiple marriages also suggests that bisexuality will become more accepted. When only one marriage a lifetime was the goal (not that I'm saying it shouldn't be) you had to be pretty damn sure which side you were on. Or at least pretend you were. But now that it's common to have more than one “life partner,” is it finally time for bisexuals to be accepted?
What I detest about saying I am bisexual is the constant questioning I endure after declaring it.
“Hang on, what sort of bisexual?” people ask. “Are you more towards men or women?”
That's easy. Women. However, I do accept that if Johnny Depp asked *really nicely* then I'd consider it, so it feels dishonest saying I'm 100% gay, even though it would be easier. I stick with declaring myself as gay, but I get “Manesia”—where you forget you're gay for a bit until they whip it out.
Let's be clear... you wouldn't ask a straight person what sort of straight they are. And damn right you aren't asking a gay woman how much of a lesbian she is... you'd get punched in the face. So why can't I say I'm bisexual without having to explain it? Why so many questions? Bisexuality isn't “halfway in-between”... which suggests transition. It's not what you call yourself while you're moving from straightness to being completely gay. It's a whole other category.
The other day, I was forced to sit at a table with possibly the best example of why I prefer women that I have ever come across. Let's call him “Alfie.” Now Alfie is your typical straighter-than-straight man, the kind you'd find in the corner of the gym, flexing menacingly and knowing just slightly more than you do about every topic you bring up. And this is how he reacted to my dating women.
“Hang on, seriously?” he scoffed. “But you're hot, you could totally get guys!”
Me: “Yes, thank you. That's not quite the point.”
“What is the point then?” He seemed genuinely baffled. “Who are you trying to annoy? Like, do you want to upset your parents or something?”
Me: “No, I upset my parents by being perpetually 21, swearing loudly, and having vodka for dinner.”
“Right, but, like, how long have you been gay...?”
This question is a classic. It's designed to see if you're serious or if this can be put down to “just a phase.”
Me: “I came out at 21. But I've been gay since Angelina Jolie starred in Tomb Raider.”
Alfie starts to nod approvingly, but then regurgitates this oh-so-funny and overused phrase: “You know it's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve...?” He quipped, ever so proud of himself.
“Which is handy,” I told him. “Because I don't want Adam *or* Steve...”
At this point he looked confused, so I distracted him with something shiny and went to talk to actual grown ups.
I am getting bored of being categorized, but I have to say, gay women can be worse when it comes to hating bisexuals. Mention you've seen a penis and you may as well have scuffed their Superdry leather jacket. It's just not OK. How very dare you.
But that's a whole other topic. As far as divorce rates go, no-one ever marries with the expectation of getting divorced. That's like buying an iPhone with the intention of cracking the screen... yes it may be likely to happen, but that's not at the forefront of your mind when you start out.
Personally, I would only ever marry if I planned on procreating, but everyone has their own reasons for getting married (love, obviously, being the most important) and equally their own reasons for getting divorced. As far as I'm concerned, a gay couple getting divorced is just the same as a straight couple doing it, only we'll probably all be friends after. So if divorce rates rise, let's not blame gay people. If there are fingers to be pointed, let's start with the Kardashians.
And as for my table of women, I added a PITA charge to their bill (pain-in-the-ass-charge) and winked suggestively at one of them on the way out. If gay people are going to affect divorce rates, it will be because those “straight” people in sham marriages will now finally be able to divorce and marry someone they actually love.
Personally, I'm looking forward to a year of my same-sex friends’ weddings and celebrating being part of the era that normalized gay marriage. It may have come around too late for my liking, but it was a fight worth waiting to win. Let's celebrate the victory. With sparkly confetti and luminous cocktails all round!
About the author: E. J. Rosetta, 26, is a writer and coffee addict living in Hampshire, UK with her spoiled cat, Hendricks. More ramblings can be found via twitter - twitter.com/ejrosetta or at http://jottify.com/writer/ejrosetta/