Marriage is a continent that you move to when you say “I do.” At first, it is a foreign country, that appears to be landlocked and filled with unfamiliar terrain. You have no way of knowing what it will feel like to be there until you actually arrive, but, after having lived there for a time, you could describe it with your eyes closed, having learned the streets in sleepless nights wandering together, trying not to get irreparably lost. In best case scenarios, you are welcomed on to the continent by people you know and trust, but most of the time, it is populated by people are struggling there, unsure of their citizenship and contemplating swimming as fast as they can away from this place, on one of the great lakes they’ve found that leads to the Sea of Singleness.
I am always interested in knowing, in honest conversation, how others are faring on the continent. Sure, my dwelling may be right next to theirs, but the walls are often double reinforced by fencing and soundproofing. And rightly so — privacy is an important part of retaining the sacredness of the pairing of each couple. However, there is nothing like a no-holds-barred account of what mountain a couple is scaling, or what waters they are finding refreshment in. It helps you fill in your own map, which always seems to be shifting before your eyes, of hills you may have to climb with your beloved, or areas of refuge to check out when you are in dire need.
Moments like that are few and far between for me, so I cherish them. I rarely have friends who are trying to live on the continent in the same way that I am, staying passionately in love with their partner while retaining the firm boundaries of the relationship, not allowing anyone else to gain a visa illegally. But I am no Border Patrol Officer: in fact I often find myself in the role of a coyote, fighting for the rights of others who have been denied access to gain citizenship on our rocky continent.
I am the kind of person who cries when she hears that someone has invited another person on to the continent. Such an invitation makes my heart soar, knowing that there are still people in this world willing to stand for something, to make a soul commitment, especially when the stakes are so high. When I hear of a couple dissolving their citizenry, setting sail for a new country, I am often unspeakably sad, but rarely am I shocked. Those are the risks of living on the continent of marriage, and in some ways it adds an urgency to those of us still residing here — the stakes are high, so don’t turn away from the peril, face it head-on and learn from it. My husband often gets really afraid when he hears of the newest defection, though – I try to ease his fears but I know that they are real.
No one is perfect, and no couple can say 100% that they will never be asking to change their passport status. That is why impossible vows are so beautiful. You state, “I will do this forever. I will love you unwaveringly.” and then you attempt to live up to this incredible challenge. You cannot do it alone. You need the other members of the continent to help you get out of the crevasses you find yourself in, hurting and unsure you can continue on. The continent has no islands — you have to exist on it in community. Your neighbors may be living on it very differently than you are, but you are dependent on them nonetheless. They may be the ones to show you the healing stream to allow the love to flow anew into your cracked relationship, to make your heart swell with patriotic pride, renewing your pledge to love with your hand on your breast, your voice quavering but true.