One year ago, on June 1, 2013 I got married. I wrote about marriage a lot last year — what it felt like to be getting married as a gay person and as a 45 year old, what it felt like the day it happened, what it felt like when the ban on same sex marriage was struck down in my state, and what it felt like when we got legally married in July. And now I am going to write a little bit about what it feels like to be married, a year later.
First, let me provide some context. Last year was — aside from the wedding, our legal marriage and honeymoon, and short periods of time surrounding those events — one of the hardest years of my life. It was rife with challenges. From the beginning of the year, I was working a lot outside my comfort zone artistically (which I advocate for, but ain’t always easy). I wrote a book (which I am now quite proud of, but the process of writing it was grueling). And last fall, I went through a fairly public issue regarding copyright infringement of my work, during which time my own work was scrutinized. And that particular experience was so dark and so painful that I almost did not come out of it. It was, for me, the single worst three months of my life. I almost quit making art. I wanted to move far away and never go on the internet again. I was this close –> <– to giving up.
But I didn’t give up. Not on writing the book and, most notably, not on my work as an artist. And that is because of my wife, Clay.
Some people say that marriage doesn’t actually change your relationship too much, that it’s just a piece of paper. And maybe for some people that is what marriage is — mostly a legal agreement. Countless unmarried couples live committed and beautiful lives together. I do not think marriage is necessary for intimacy or commitment. My community hasn’t been allowed to marry until recently (at least legally). But for me, the act of getting married, expressing my vows to Clay, in the presence of our closest family and friends, was an act of saying to the world: I will do everything in my power to protect this person from pain, comfort this person in her grief, love this person with every bone of my body, honor this person in every way possible, and to be absolutely truthful to this person.
So I knew marriage would change me. I knew that I would be a better, more thoughtful, more truthful, more loving, more accountable partner because of what I had committed to. But what I hadn’t given too much thought to was how marriage might change Clay. Let’s be clear: I married Clay because she is one of the most thoughtful, grounded, spirited, genuine, easy-to-be-in-the-presence-of humans I’ve ever known. And she’s pretty adorable, to boot. But I had no idea of the bounds of her love and the seriousness with which she took our relationship (er, marriage) until last October.
If you have ever gone through something so horrible that you could not sleep or eat or concentrate and where crying and panic attacks were regular occurrences, you know something of my state between October and December of last year. And you might also know that often when you are in that kind of state, all you want is for someone to tell you, maybe every 10 minutes if necessary, that everything is going to be okay. You don’t want them to necessarily fix it or tell you what you should be doing differently or tell you what might make you feel better. You just want comfort. That’s all.
And that, my friends, is exactly what Clay gave me, every single day for three months straight. She didn’t tell me I had to get over it. She didn’t make me feel worse about what was happening. She stood by me (often taking time off of work), without complaint, and provided me love and comfort and a sense of safety. She also helped to handle many of my legal matters, aspects of my business, and communication with important people in my life. I have never felt so loved or protected by someone, ever.
So I am not sure if the vows Clay made in marrying me are what caused the depths of her commitment to me last year. But I do know that something felt different during that time, and has continued to feel different since that experience faded. Instead of destroying us, the experience bonded us in a way I never thought possible with another person (and I also learned a lot of valuable personal and professional lessons). And that is the thing: often the most beautiful things come out of the most ugly piles of crap-shit.
So, yah, I love being married — and not just because I have a wife who is the bomb-diggity when it comes to being right there for me when things feel scary. I love being married, because I love Clay. I love everything about her, even the stuff that annoys me. Every day I cannot wait for her to come home from work. I never tire of her. She is my joy, my comfort, my world.
Here’s to marriage. May every single couple who wants marriage get to experience its beauty!
Have a good Monday, friends.
(Photo credit: the amazing Bonnie Tsang)